Neot

Saint Neot
FMIB 33068 St Neots Window.jpeg
A drawing of a stained glass window at St Neot, Cornwall, illustrating the life of St Neot
Hermit
Died 9th Century
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
Major shrine St Neot, Cornwall (original)
St Neots Priory (destroyed)
Feast 31 July
Patronage Fish

Neot is a saint of the ninth century who lived as a monk and hermit in Cornwall. He is mentioned in an interpolated passage in Asser's Life of King Alfred[1] and died around AD 870. He is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic and Western Orthodoxy. His legend is preserved in two Latin "lives" and one Old English "life," dating from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, with other mentions preserved in later chronicles.

Life

Neot, who is said to have stood four feet tall,[2] seems to have begun his adult life as a soldier, later renouncing a martial lifestyle for life in a monastery.[3] He served as sacristan at Glastonbury Abbey but later lived in Cornwall, at first alone, then with a growing group of other monks near Bodmin Moor. He was remembered because of his good work in caring for the poor.

Tradition states that King Alfred visited him for his counsel and it is in a book about Neot that we read about King Alfred burning the cakes when hiding from the Danes at Athelney.[3]

Two of the fifteen stained glass windows in the church of St Neot, Cornwall portray the saint: one of them consists of scenes from the life of the saint.

Relics of St Neot

Neot's bones were preserved as a holy relic in the Cornish village of St Neot. St Neot's body was removed from Cornwall to Eynesbury in Huntingdonshire in around 980 when a monastery was founded there (renamed St Neots Priory in his honour).[4] The monks returned with their prize, pursued (according to some versions) by angry Cornishmen. The bones were housed in the priory for many years but were finally 'lost' during the reign of Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. His feast day is 31 July (celebrated at St Neot on the last Sunday of July).[1] He is also the patron saint of fish.[5]

Mosaic in memory of St Neot

Legacy

The Cornish village of St Neot and the Cambridgeshire town of St Neots are named after him. There are many churches dedicated to St Neot and at least one holy well.[3] Legend has it that the well contained three fish, and an angel told St Neot that as long as he ate no more than one fish a day, their number would never decrease. At a time St Neot fell ill, and his servant went and cooked two of the fish; upon finding this, St Neot prayed for forgiveness and ordered that the fish be returned to the well. As they entered the water, both were miraculously returned to life.[6]

There is a commemorative mosaic of the saint in the Market Square in St Neots. The mosaic is based on a Saxon ornament, the Alfred Jewel.

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