Died in the sixth century. The lives of the 6th century Irish saints are typically filled with shocking details, and Saint Mawes’ is no exception. His birth itself was amazing. His mother’s name was Azenor, and she lived in Brittany. She was dumped into the water near Brest one day, with only a barrel for a boat. Mawes was born there. Mother and son were trapped in the cask for five months before being discovered alive on the coast of Ireland.
(This is the same account as Saint Budoc’s birth) (Beuzec; f.d. December 8). Budoc’s name is related with Mawes; no doubt they were both Welsh missionary monks who established monasteries in Cornwall and Brittany, maybe at Dol.)
As an adult, he left Ireland to live as a hermit near Falmouth in Cornwall, where he founded the fishing village of which he is the patron. Then, during the reign of King Childbert I, Saint Mawes decided to return to his mother’s homeland. On his route to Brittany, he stopped in Devon and Cornwall, preaching in the open air and establishing a town named after him on the Fal River.
Then he and his company sailed towards Brittany. Landing on Ile Modez (Maudez), an island off the coast of France near Leon, the saint demonstrated his abilities by ridding it of vermin by lighting fire to the dried foliage. He also earned a reputation as an excellent teacher. Many churches in the area are named after him, demonstrating his impact and missionary passion.
Saint Mawe’s return to Brittany is reported to have been driven by his desire to avoid yellow fever in Ireland. He later became famous for his ability to cure a wide range of illnesses. Following his death, the ground beneath which he was buried was frequently removed, mixed with water, and used as medication.
On Saint Maudez Island, the saint ultimately founded a monastic community. The last fire on the island was inadvertently extinguished one day. At low tide, Mawes dispatched a servant boy to cross to the mainland and fetch back a flame. The tide began coming in when the boy was walking back. The waves grew higher and higher, threatening to engulf the flame; nevertheless, the lad stood on a rock, prayed to Saint Mawes, and observed the rock miraculously rising, never sinking beneath the sea. The flame was successfully transferred to Saint Maudez as the tide retreated (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, D’Arcy, Encyclopaedia, Farmer).
Saint Mawes is pictured as a schoolmaster in art (according to Leland). He is revered at Falmouth and in Brittany (Roeder), where 60 churches and chapels bear his name. Saint Mawes’ relics are venerated at Quimper, Treguier, Lesneven, and Bourges (which claims his body). He is invoked to protect against headaches, worms, and snake bites (Farmer).
Troparion of St Mawes
Despite thy royal birth thou didst embrace the monastic life in infancy, O Father Mawes, boast of ascetics and banisher of snakes.
As we are blessed to have thy precious relics with us to this day,
pray O Saint, that we may be worthy of Christ’s mercy and that our souls may be saved. Paraphrased from [ Celtic and Old English Saints – 18 November (celticsaints.org)]