(Born c.AD 515)
(Welsh: Rhufon; Latin: Romanus;
Rumon is a saint of some
controversy. He is chiefly the patron of Tavistock in Devon, but also
apparently of several churches in Cornwall and Brittany where he is
variously called Ruan or Ronan. It is not completely certain that the
character referred to in each was the same man.
According to the relic lists of Glastonbury,
Prince Rumon was a brother of St. Tugdual
and, therefore, one of the sons of
Hoel Mawr (the Great) of Brittany. Tradition says he was
educated in Britain - probably Wales - but that he later accompanied St.
Breaca on her return from Ireland to her Cornish homeland. Like
Tudgual, he had presumably travelled to Ireland to learn the Holy
Scriptures. He is said to have lived in a hermitage on Inis Luaidhe, near
Iniscathy, and was eventually raised to the episcopacy. In Cornwall, he
founded churches at Ruan Lanihorne (on the River Fal), Ruan Major &
Minor (near the Lizard Peninsula), a defunct chapel in Redruth and at
Romansleigh in Devon; but he quickly moved on to Cornouaille in Brittany,
with St. Senan as his companion.
Rumon met up with St. Remigius in Rheims, which would place him in
Brittany around the early 6th century, the probable time of his birth if
he was a son of Hoel Mawr. At any rate, he settled first at St. Rénan and
then moved on to the Forest of Nevez, overlooking the Bay of Douarnenez.
He seems to have acquired a wife, named Ceban, and children at some point.
He may be identical with Ronan Ledewig (the Breton), father of SS.
Gargunan and Silan. His lady wife took a distinct dislike to Rumon's
preaching amongst the local pagan inhabitants and considered him to be
neglecting his domestic duties. The situation became so bad that she
plotted to have Rumon arrested.
Hiding their little daughter in a chest, Ceban fled to the Royal Court at
Quimper and sought an audience with the Prince of Cornouaille - supposedly
Gradlon, though he lived some years
earlier. She claimed that her husband was a werewolf who ravaged the local
sheep every fortnight and had now killed their baby girl! Rumon was
arrested, but the sceptical monarch tested him by exposing the prisoner to
his hunting dogs. They would have immediately reacted to any sign of wolf,
but Rumon remained unharmed and was proclaimed a holy man. His daughter
was found, safe and well, whilst his wife appears to have received only
the lightest of punishments. Despite this, her troubling making persisted
and Rumon was forced to abandon her and journey eastward towards Rennes.
He eventually settled at Hilion in Domnonia, where he lived until his
There was much quarrelling over Rumon's holy body after his demise. His
companion had thought to keep one of his arms as a relic and brutally cut
it off. A disturbing dream soon made him put it back though. Later, the
Princes of Cornouaille, Rennes and Vannes all claimed the honour of
burying him in their own province. The matter was decided by allowing him
to be drawn on a wagon by two three-year-old oxen who had never been
yoked. Where they rested, he would be interred. However, the body would
not allow itself to be lifted onto the cart, except by the Prince of
Cornouaille; so it was no surprise when the cattle chose Locronan in the
Forest of Nevez, near his former home.
It is unclear when Rumon's relics left Locronan - despite the 16th century
shrine still to be seen there today. It was suggested by Baring-Gould
& Fisher that they were removed to safety in Britain during the Viking
coastal attacks of AD 913 & 14. Tradition says they were taken to
Quimper, thence to Ruan Lanihorne in Cornwall. In AD 960, however, Earl
Ordgar of Devon founded his great Abbey
of Tavistock, on the edge of Dartmoor. He translated the body of
Rumon into the abbey church with much pomp and ceremony and there it
remained, working miracles for nearly six hundred years: until the
Dissolution of the Monastery in the late 1530s. Some relics, however, may
have made their way back to Brittany, by the 13th century, including,
perhaps, his head.
Rumon's feast day is variously given
as 1st June (in Brittany), 22nd July (in Ireland) and 28th August (in
England); perhaps around AD 560.
Records of Rumon/Ruan/Ronan date back to the 10th century. It is possible that he is historic.