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 Nectan Nasciens Nicodemus

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St. Nectan

St. Nectan is said to have settled in a forest near Hartland in the 6th century. 

He was the eldest and most illustrious of the many children of St. Brychan and was followed to Devon by many of his brothers and sisters ). 

He was the brother in law of 'St. Brannock.'  

The respected Devon historian R. Pearse Chope writing in 'The Story of Hartland' (1908) details the tradition that St. Nectan was beheaded by Arthur, the leader of the Britons at the nearby hill fort of Clovelly Dykes

As with many beheaded saints, Nectan is said to have carried his head half a mile to a spring.

There are five chapels dedicated to St. Nectan in Cornwall and Devon;- Ashton, Hartland, Welcombe, Ladywell (Wyle) and Chulmleigh. The precise location of the chapel at Chulmleigh is uncertain. The name of St. Nectan is also connected with holy wells at Ladywell and Welcombe.


"Our knowledge of St Nectan comes principally from a Life written at or for ~the church of Hartland, probably during the 12th century. The work, however, is short and lacking in detail, showing that very little was known i*bout him even then and at the principal centre of his cult. The anonymous
*Uthor asserted that Nectan was the eldest of the 24 sons and daughters of ~roccannus’, i.e. Brychan, prince of Brycheiniog in Wales, and his wife ~ladwisa, but Nectan does not appear as one of the sons in the mainstream Welsh versions of this legend (above, p 45), and the statement cannot therefore be regarded as historically accurate. The Life went on to relate that Nectan crossed the Bristol Channel to north Devon and lived at Stoke in Hartland as a hermit. His brothers and sisters followed him to Cornwall and Devon where they settled dispersedly as hermits, acknowledging Nectan as their senior brother and assembling at his cell every 31 Decem­ber—a claim evidently reflecting the self-importance of Hartland’s church. After being befriended by a local man named Huddon who gave him two cows, the saint was beheaded by two robbers at a place called Neweton on 17 June, but was able to carry his head back to the well near the hut where he lived. He was subsequently buried in the hut.
The Life is followed by an Inventio, or account of the rediscovery of the body in the 10th or 11th century, and its translation on 4 December to a shrine within the church of Hartland, which in that period was a minster served by Saxon canons. After the Inventio come Miracula or miracles, narrating how the Saxon minster was patronised by Earl Godwin of Wessex and his wife Gytha, and was later turned into an abbey of Augustinian canons, following the observances of Arrouais, in the time of Bishop Bartholomew of Exeter (1161—84). Fifteen recent miracles by the saint or his relics are also described, including cures from paralysis, sickness and madness. Some occurred locally, others at a distance, for the relics were taken around the neighbouring countryside (like those of St Piran, later on), as far as Marhamchurch in Cornwall in one direction and a village near Barnstaple in the other. A least one man is mentioned coming to visit the relics at Hartland on pilgrimage: this was a knight of Dunster, who was cured of a paralysed arm as he caught sight of the abbey while approaching it. The Life is undatable within about the 12th century, the Inventio probably predates the entry of the Arrouaisian canons, and the Miracula seem to have been written soon after that event (Grosjean, 1953, pp 376—414, including the Latin text of the three writings; an English translation was made by Doble, l940c, pp 3—28).
The cult of St Nectan appears to have reached Brittany at an early date, giving rise to the place-names Lan-Neizant and Ker-Neizan in Plonéour­Lanvern and Ker-Neizan near Loctudy (Loth, 1909, p 150; Grosjean, 1953, p 392). Eventually, it also became widespread in the west of England, second only to St Petroc among local saints in the extent of the cult. In Devon, the abbey church at Stoke near Hartland, the parish church close to the abbey, the dependei~it chapel (eventually a parish church) at Welcombe, and the parish church of Ashcombe in south Devon were all dedicated to the saint. So were two important chapels in Cornwall: St Nighton’s (still extant) in St Winnow parish, mentioned in 1281, and St Nighton’s (now lost) in Newlyn East parish, discussed below, pp 159—60. A chapel of St Nectan in Chulmleigh parish, Devon, is recorded in 1421 (Dunstan, 1963—72, i, 34). A waterfall in Tintagel parish called St Nighton’s (now Nectan’s) Kieve also commemorates his name, though the antiquity of this and the reason for it are not clear, and the name is not attested until 1859 (Doble, l940c, pp 52—60). The saint’s festival was observed in churches not dedicated to him, probably widely. The 12th-century Miracula mention Marhamchurch in this connection, Launceston Priory kept his feast on 17 June (Worcestre, 1969, pp 88—9; Wormald, 1938, pp 7, 13—14), and the same feast-day is
Notes 159

listed in two calendars associated with South Molton and Tawstock in north Devon in the 15th or early 16th centuries (BL, Harley MS 2367; University of London, MS 906, discussed by Orme, 199lb, pp 345—50). Roscarrock derived his incorrect date of the feast on 18 May from BL Harley MS 3776, where the scribe of the MS misread xv kalJulii (l7June) as xv kalJunii (18 May) (Wormald, 1938, p 14).
At Exeter Cathedral, Nectan’s feast is listed on 17 June in the 1 2th-cen-tury martyrology, but not in two later cathedral calendars, and no special liturgical material was assigned for it in Bishop Grandisson’s 14th-century Legenda Sanctorum (Dalton & Doble, 1909—40, i, pp xxxviii-ix; ii, 410; iv, 40). An unidentified west-country calendar of the late 11th century also contains the feast (Wormald, 1934, p 77; for other calendar evidence, see Grosjean, 1953, p 390). Part of a mass in his honour is preserved in BL, MS Cotton Vespasian D xii f 157 (printed in Doble, 1960—70, v, 78—9), and there was a revival of interest in Nectan at Exeter Cathedral in the 15th century when his image was erected in the south tower—apparently in about 1462. Small donations to the image are recorded intermittently up to 1488, but it is not known who instituted or supported the cult (Exeter Cathedral Archives, D&C 3750/5—6, 3754). Ashburton church had an image of St Nectan by 1500 (Hanham, 1970, p 27), and a fair in his honour was kept at St Winnow (in which St Nighton’s chapel lies) on 14 February (Doble, 1940c, pp 58—60). Further afield, the parish church of Cheddar in Somerset possessed an altar of St Nectan in 1493 (Weaver, 1901, p 304), probably established by the Fitz-Walter family who had connections with both Cheddar and St Veep (near St Nighton) in Cornwall (Coleman, 1907, pp 114—15). There was also an image of the saint in front of the choir door at St Edmund’s parish church, Salisbury, in 1484—5 (Swayne, 1896, p 369). Nectan’s name is recorded in the Hartland parish registers being given to several boys from the 1560s to the 1590s (DRO, Hartland, PR 1). The registers are in Latin and give the name in the Latinised form Nectanus, but people probably used vernacular forms like Neghton: a boy called Naighton Mosaven was baptised at Braunton in 1545 (DRO, Braunton, PR 1)." -
Nicholas Roscarrock ‘s Lives of the Saints: Cornwall and Devon



"Sainct Nectane was the sonne of Sct Brechanus by his wife Gladwise and lived ane austere and Eremiticall life att Hartland in Devnshire, ane eminent promontory called by Ptollemy ‘Herculis promontorium’ and wher allso he dyed, was buyried and had his reliques reserued ther with great reverence, wher the wife of Erle Godwine erected in the honour of God and of him a church and a monestary, beinge perswaded that her husband (the rather by his prayer) was admirably preserved in a sea storme or tempeste, which monestary was afterward encreased by Dinant or Denhame, wherof the last was lord highe Tresurer of England vnder Kinge Henry the seaventh, of whom Zouch, Fitezwaren, the Arundells of Lanherne in Cornwell and Carewes are discended. The life of Sct Nectan was written att the end of a booke very Auntiently in the library of Martine Colledge in Oxford, which my learned and laborious friend Mr Camden seinge tooke a breef note of which he imparted to me, and when I importuned him {f323r] to gett me a coppie of the life at lardge, which by his report was not very longe, Hee found att the second search that it was imbazled, beinge cutt out of the booke and carried away by such as perhapes observed his earnest vewinge of itt. I haue besides a maniscripte that telleth me that the day of his feast is the 18 of May and that hee was a martyr and buryed att the monestary of Hartland in the Confines of Cornwall and Devnshire, and sonne to Sct Brachan or Brechanus, a great manne of wales, and this is as much as I canne finde of him, savinge that which is contained in this note folloing which I received of <my fore named frmnde> Mr Camden and necessary, I thinke, to bee layd downe her verbatim as I had itt of him, as foiloweth:

Brechanus Regalus Wallie a quo Brechnoc provincia nomen sumpsit, cx Gladwise vxore viginti quatuor filios et filias genuit, quorum haec sunt nomina: Nectanus, Johannes, Wensent, Endelient, Menfre, Dilie, Tedda, Malem, Wenon, Merwenna, Wenna, Juliana, Yse, Morwenna, Whimp, Weneder, Eleuder, Kerie, Jona, Kanaunt, Kethender, Adwen, Helie, Tamalanc; isti filij et filiae postea facti fuerunt martires vel confessores In Devonia et Cornubia, vitam Eremiticam agentes.

In Englishe thus: Brechanus, a petty prince of Walles of whom the province of Brechanocke taketh name, had by his wife Gladwise 24 sonnes and daughters whose names were these: Nectane, John, Wensent, Endelient, Menfre, Dilie, Tedda, Malem, Wenon, Merwenna, Wenna, Juliana, Yse, Morwenna, Whimpe, Weneder, Eleuder, Kerie, Jona, Kanaunt, Kethen­der, Adwen, Helie, Tamalanc; all these sonnes and daughters were after made martyres or confessors in Devonshire and Cornwall, leadinge the lives of Eremites. To this I will add that I find in Girald[us] Cambren[sisj in Itiner[arium] Cambr[iae], l{ib]: 1 chap: 2. Ther was antiently (sayeth he) of that region which is called Brechnoc a noble and potent governour named Brechanus of whome Brechnockshire taketh name, and of whom it is worth the noting that he had, as the Brittishe Historyes doe witnesse, 24 daughters all which geven from ther childhood to the service of god ended ther hues most happely in ther vndertaken course of holinesse. If you will read more, repayre to Sct Brechanus wher I haue layde down a Welch Pedegree or two of Sct Brechanus and his wife. He hued, as I gather by conference with soome welch men, about the year 550. The church of the monestary of Hartland which was bulded in his honour by Gytha Earle Godwens wife and had many benefactors, to witt Richard Pictavensis Arch[ijd[iaconus], Geifrey Dynan the elder and Roger his brother. Ther was a boane of his reserved as a rehique in Waltham Abbey: l[iber] Waltham." -
Nicholas Roscarrock ‘s Lives of the Saints: Cornwall and Devon



In the French Vulgate cycle of Arthurian Romance both the 'Merlin' and 'Queste del Saint Graal' feature a character called 'Nascien li Hermites'.

 He appears in 'Y Seint Greal' as 'Nasiens ueudwy.' 

In all of these tales 'Nascien' is descended, through his mother the 'Dame de la Blanche Nue', from the sister of 'Joseph of Arimathea.'

There is a second (or other) 'Nascien' in the 'Queste del Saint Graal' and the 'Estoire del Saint Graal.'

 In both of these romances an ancestor of Galahad's called 'Seraphe' is baptised as 'Nascien.'

 In the 'Y Seint Graal' the name appears as Naciens

'Nascien' appears in the Welsh Triads  as 'Nasiens m. brenhin Denmarck.' 



According to the Gospel of St. John the unguents for the burial of Jesus were bought by Nicodemus, another secret follower of Jesus. - 'And there came also Nicodemus, which at first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices. ' - John 19:39 -40.

' Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus and the centurion Longinus were among the secret followers of Jesus ... Joseph was highly respected as a member of the Sanhedrin (high council of the supreme Jewish authorities); Nicodemus, who was initiated by Jesus under cover of night (John 3:1-22), was also a Jewish councillor.' from 'The Jesus Conspiracy.'

The apocryphal 'Evangelium Nicodemi - The Gospel of Nicodemus' tells how Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, spoke up for Jesus during his trial before Pontius Pilate.

Chretien de Troyes tells how 'He (Joseph) and all his friends, and also Nicodemus, who was a marvellously wise man, and a sister of his."



The term used in the original Greek manuscripts for the thrust of the lance by the Roman soldier into the body of Jesus at the crucifixion was 'NYSSEIN.' This word means a light scratch, puncture or stab to the skin, not a thrust with full force nor a deep penetration.



In the story of Branwen, Bran has two half brothers. 

One called Nissyen was renowned for his peaceful nature. 

The other half -brother called Evnissyen was known as a trouble maker. 

Evnissyen mutilates the horses of Matholwch, the Irish King. 



According to the 'Anglo -Saxon Chronicles; in the year 508 'Cerdic and Cynric killed a British King called Natanleod( also spelt Natan, Nazanleod) and five hundred men with him.'

 Cerdic was the leader of the West Saxons. 

Some authorities have identified 'Natanleod' with Ambrosius.


Nechtan the son of Collbran

Nechtan the son of Collbran in the voyage of (irish) Bran

Bran has ? followers with him; the only one named is Nechtan. 

Could Collbran be two words. Coll Bran?


More Nectans:-

= Nascien le Hermites in 'Merlin' & 'Queste del Saint Graal'of Fr.Vulgate Cycle.

(Nasiens ueudwy in 'Y Seint Graal'

Nascien was a desc.of Joseph's sister.

In 'Estoire del Saint Graal' & 'Queste'

Nasciens = of Seraphe.

'Y Seint Graal' = Naciens




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The Holy Grail
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