Saint Nectan was born in Wales and lived in the sixth century, but we know few
details about his life. He was the oldest of the twenty-four children of Saint Brychan of Brecknock (April 6). While he was
still living in Wales, God inspired him to imitate the example of Saint Anthony (January 17) and other ascetics, and to embrace
the monastic life.
Seeking greater solitude, Saint Nectan and his companions left Wales,
intending to settle wherever their boat happened to land. Divine providence brought them to the northern coast of Devonshire
at Hartland, where they lived for several years in a dense forest. The saint’s family would visit him there on the last
day of the year. Later, he relocated to a remote valley with a spring.
Saint Nectan found a stray pig and returned it to its owner. In gratitude, the swineherd gave Saint Nectan two cows. The saint
accepted the gift, but the cows were soon stolen by two robbers. Saint Nectan found the thieves who took the animals, and
tried to preach to them about Christ. They became angry and cut off his head. Then the saint picked up his head and carried
it for half a mile, laying it down near the spring by his cell. Seeing this, the man who killed Saint Nectan went out of his
mind, but the other thief buried him. From that time, miracles began to take place at Saint Nectan’s tomb.
In 937 Saint Nectan appeared on the eve of the Battle of Brunanburgh to a young man from Hartland
who was in a tent near King Athelstan’s pavilion. Suddenly, he felt himself afflicted with the plague which was then
destroying the English army. The young man wept and called upon God and Saint Nectan to help him. His cries were so loud that
he woke the king and others around him.
Saint Nectan came to the young
man just after midnight and touched the afflicted area of his body, healing him. In the morning, he was brought before the
king and admitted that it was he who had disturbed Athelstan’s sleep. The king asked gently why he had been crying out
during the night.
The young man explained that he felt himself stricken with the plague,
and was afraid that he would die. Therefore, he entreated God and Saint Nectan to help him, and his prayer was answered.
Athelstan asked for more information about the life and martyrdom of Saint Nectan,
which the young man provided. He also urged the king to turn to Saint Nectan with faith, promising that he would be victorious
in battle if he did so.
The king promised to honor God and Saint Nectan, and so his faith was
rewarded. Not only did he win the battle, but the plague disappeared and his soldiers recovered. The first time that King
Athelstan visited Hartland in Devonshire, he donated property to the saint’s church. For the rest of his life, the king
placed great confidence in the intercession of Saint Nectan.
is the patron of Hartland, Devonshire. The fullest surviving Life dates from the twelfth century (See Vol. 5 of THE SAINTS
OF CORNWALL by G. H. Doble for an English translation).
There is an Orthodox house chapel
(Russian diocese of Sourozh) dedicated to Saint Simeon and Saint Anna at Combe Martin, N. Devon where Saint Nectan is venerated.