The Celtic Pilgrimage – Cornwall (Kernow)

There were probably over 20 monasteries in Cornwall that were part of the Celtic church in the mid to late part of the first millennium, but by the Norman period there had been a significant decline.

Our pilgrimage takes us across Cornwall from Padstow (Cornish: Lannwedhenek in the north to Fowey (Cornish: Fowydh, meaning ‘Beech Trees) on the south coast. It follows the probable route early Christians took from Ireland and Wales to Brittany.

We start in Petroc’s Place, old English Petroc-stow which evolved into Padstow. St Petroc, little Peter landed from Wales in around AD 500. It is said that he founded 4 churches in the area. Petroc may also have taken his mission to Brittany, where there is a number of churches dedicated to him, under the name Perreux.

Saint Sampson’s Church, Golant

We continue our journey from Padstow to Fowley in the company of Samson (also spelled Sampson). It is probable that Petroc and Samson, they both had a missionary veal, became co-patron saints of Cornwall.


Samson is seen as one of the most successful Celtic missionaries, born 490 and died about 565. He was born in southeast Wales to a wealthy and devout family. At about the age of five, he was sent to study at the Monastery of Llanilltud Fawr founded by St Illtyd. Samson would have studied scripture, philosophy, poetry, rhetoric, grammar and arithmetic. It was a comprehensive education that prepared him for his missionary work.

He also spent time at the monastery’s daughter house on Caldey Island in Pembrokshire and from there he later visited Ireland, before returning to Llanilltud Fawr, where he became abbot and consecrated bishop in about 520.

Samson left Llanilltud Fawr and travelled with friends and family to Cornwall as a pilgrim of Christ. He landed in Padstow and began his ministry to Cornwall. Travelling from Padstow across Cornwall to Fowley building up a fruitful ministry.

Samson left England and went to Brittany where he spent the rest of his life and founded monasteries, including one at Dol and another at Pental, in Normandy. He was one of the foremost missionaries of his century. For more about Samson, I suggest you go to Also, on a separate page, there is a map of the Saints Way, produced as a tourist guide but is thought to follow an ancient route between Padstow and Fowley.

Pilgrimage is, however, more than a tourist trip. It is the opportunity to get a sense of place and the early Christians. Samson of Dol must have been a man of stamina but also one of learning, prayer and appreciation of ascetic living. He never lost the enthusiasm for mission and drawing others into the Christian journey.

Why not use the map and the web to explore the Saints Way.


Pause and Pray

While our knowledge of so many Celtic saints is
shrouded in this mist of not knowing, we do, however, see women and men who so often did not seek greatness. They were journeying or as Samson of Dol put it being a ‘Pilgrim of Christ’. They tried to live out the Gospel message.

Samson of Dol despite all his missionary work was a man who sought to embrace the ascetic and solitary life. Our collect and readings reflect Samson’s deep-seated desire for a simpler and spiritual way of life.

Being on a pilgrimage should involve (besides the physical journey) times of stillness, of reflection and making connections with life today. Samson of Dol endured times when fellow monks rejected his vision and his passion to live out the Gospel.

As we join this virtual pilgrimage and walk the Saints Way let us remember that the tracks from Padstow to Fowley are not an easy stroll, there are risks and it is strenuous.

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+ In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Opening Prayer
Heavenly Father,
your Son battled with the powers of darkness,
and grew closer to you in the desert:
help us to use these days to grow in wisdom
and prayer that we may witness
to your saving love in Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Word of the Lord

verses from Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High •
and abides under the shadow of the Almighty,
Shall say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my stronghold, •
my God, in whom I put my trust.’


Gospel Reading
Luke 4.1-2
The Temptation of Jesus
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.


In our prayers we remember those who are searching for faith.

Lord, bless our journey through this coming week. May the pace be steady, paths made safe, no obstacles impede, and conversations with fellow travellers be fruitful and uplifting. Lord, bless our journey through this coming week. (John Birch)

Forgive us when we forget how much you desire our involvement in the unfolding of your plans, when rather than be an active participant we are content to be the passive bystander often heard to grumble that nothing seems to get done. Forgive us, and involve us, Loving God, we pray! (John Birch)

Bless those who, with a word or hug, can bring a smile onto the face of someone who is struggling with life – a simple, inexpensive but infinitely precious gift from one heart to another (John Birch)

Let us draw into our circle of prayer our:
Family and Friends
Local church and its leaders
wider community
widening our circle to include:
those in government and positions of authority
those who are oppressed, those who are hungry and homeless
those who are ill, those facing death
Merciful Father, accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

The Lords Prayer

Lord of creation,
whose glory is around and within us:
open our eyes to your wonders,
that we may serve you with reverence
and know your peace at our lives’ end,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Common Worship Alternative Collect for the 16th Sunday of Trinity)

+ In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The blessing of the God of life be with us in our journeying
The blessing of the risen Christ be with us in our following
The blessing of the Holy Spirit be with us in our questioning
The blessing of the heavenly host be with us in our worshipping
Bless, O God, each hour, each day, that we shall walk with you. (John Birch)

You may wish the finish this time of reflective prayer sitting silently and enjoying a peaceful moment or two. You may also think about listening to some music that has touched you or a favourite hymn or song. Enjoy these moments! God bless!

Derek Akker
(Derek is a retired Anglican Parish Priest and a member of the congregations of All Saints & St James)

The prayers of John Birch are from ‘Ripples’ and are reproduced with his permission

Parish of Kirklees Valley, Bury, (All Saints, Elton & St James, Woolfold)
In the Diocese of Manchester
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