Home  »  Volume V: May  »  St. Maden, or Madern, Confessor

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume V: May. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

May 17

St. Maden, or Madern, Confessor

HONOURED in Brittany, where he is patron of a parish in the diocess of St. Malo: and probably of another in the same diocess, called Plu-Mauden, as F. Lobineau takes notice. 1 His name was also in the highest veneration in Cornwall, where he lived and died in a hermitage near the Land’s-end, where a chapel which bore his name was long famous for pilgrimages and miracles.  1
  Among the miracles ascribed to St. Madern, that which follows was attested by Dr. Joseph Hall, the Protestant bishop of Exeter, who in his last visitation of this diocess before he was translated to the see of Norwich in 1641, made a juridical and strict inquiry into all the circumstances of this fact, and authentically declared the evidence of the miracle to be incontestable. The strong prejudices and inveterate hatred against the Catholic religion, which he discovers in his Dissuasive from Popery to W. D. revolted, (viz. a late convert to the Catholic faith) and in many other parts of his voluminous writings, and of which the history of his whole life is a constant proof, render his testimony the more unexceptionable. In his treatise On the Invisible World, 2 he speaks of a miraculous cure wrought at St. Madern’s well, in the following words: “The commerce that we have with good spirits is not now discerned by the eye, but is, like themselves, spiritual. Yet not so, but that even in bodily occasions we have many times insensible helps from them; in such manner as that by the effects we can boldly say: Here hath been an angel, though we see him not. Of this kind was that (no less than miraculous) cure which at St. Madern’s in Cornwall was wrought upon a poor cripple, John Trelille, whereof (besides the attestation of many hundreds of neighbours) I took a strict and personal examination in that last visitation which I either did or ever shall behold. This man, that for sixteen years together was fain to walk upon his hands, by reason of the close contraction of the sinews of his legs, (upon three admonitions in a dream to wash in that well,) was suddenly so restored to his limbs, that I saw him able to walk and get his own maintenance. I found here was neither art nor collusion: the thing done, the author invisible.”  2
  Another writer, a curious searcher into nature, and of great learning, who lived in that country about the same time, gives a fuller account of the same miraculous cure, as follows: 3 “I will relate one miracle more done in our own country, to the great wonder of the neighbouring inhabitants, but a few years ago, viz. about the year 1640. The process of the business was told the king when at Oxford, which he caused to be further examined. It was this:—A certain boy of twelve years old, called John Trelille, in the county of Cornwall, not far from the Land’s-end, as they were playing at foot-ball, snatching up the ball ran away with it; whereupon a girl in anger struck him with a thick stick on the back-bone, and so bruised or broke it, that for sixteen years after he was forced to go creeping on the ground. In this condition he arrived to the twenty-eighth year of his age, when he dreamed that if he did but bathe in St. Madern’s well, or in the stream running from it, he should recover his former strength and health. This is a place in Cornwall from the remains of ancient devotion still frequented by Protestants on the Thursdays in May, and especially on the feast of Corpus Christi; near to which well is a chapel dedicated to St. Madern, where is yet in altar, and right against it a grassy hillock (made every year anew by the country people) which they call St. Madern’s bed. The chapel roof is quite decayed; but a kind of thorn of itself shooting forth of the old walls, so extends its boughs that it covers the whole chapel, and supplies as it were a root. On a Thursday in May, assisted by one Periman his neighbour, entertaining great hopes from his dream, thither he crept, and lying before the altar, and praying very fervently that he might regain his health and the strength of his limbs, he washed his whole body in the stream that flowed from the well, and ran through the chapel: after which having slept about an hour and a half on St. Madern’s bed, through the extremity of pain he felt in his nerves and arteries, he began to cry out, and his companion helping and lifting him up, he perceived his hams and joints somewhat extended, and himself become stronger, insomuch, that partly with his feet, partly with his hands, he went much more erect than before. Before the following Thursday he got two crutches, resting on which he could make a shift to walk, which before he could not do. And coming to the chapel as before, after having bathed himself he slept on the same bed, and awaking found himself much stronger and more upright; and so leaving one crutch in the chapel, he went home with the other. The third Thursday he returned to the chapel, and bathed as before, slept, and when he awoke rose up quite cured; yea grew so strong, that he wrought day-labour among other hired servants; and four years after enlisted himself a soldier in the king’s army, where he behaved himself with great stoutness, both of mind and body: at length in 1644 he was slain at Lime in Dorsetshire.” The author takes notice that Thursday and Friday were the days chosen out of devotion to the Blessed Eucharist and the Passion of Christ.  3
Note 1. Hist. des Saints de la Bretagne, p. 11. [back]
Note 2. Bb. Hall on the Invis. World, l. 1, sect. 8. [back]
Note 3. Ex R. P. Francisci Conventr. Paralipom. Philosoph. c. 4, p. 68. Referam adhuc unum miraculum in patrâ nostrâ paucis abhinc annis, &c. [back]