St. Rumon
(Born c.AD 515)
(Welsh: Rhufon; Latin: Romanus; English: Ronan)

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. RĂ©nan 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 death. 

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.


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