Andrew Breeze

Rosnat, Whithorn and Cornwall

Early Mediaeval, History

TDGNHAS Series III, 83 (2009), 43(WARNING large file size: 5.11 MB)


For nearly four hundred years, historians have been perplexed by the location of ‘Rosnat’, a British monastery and house of studies mentioned in the lives of various Irish saints. It was long taken as Whithorn in Galloway, and this is still argued, as we shall see. However, what follows discusses the problem and then (on the basis of new evidence) suggests that the place was Old Kea in Cornwall, on a tidal creek between Truro and Falmouth. If so, it allows us to identify (somewhat unexpectedly) a home of Celtic learning and spirituality that for centuries enjoyed international fame, was the intellectual centre of Cornish or south-western Christianity in the sixth century, and has implications for our understanding of religion in early Scotland, as elsewhere in Britain and Ireland. The present paper may here seem ungracious in trying to show that a home of early learning was not at Whithorn. But, being published in Dumfries and Galloway, it perhaps suggests that, if there was not much learning there in the sixth century, there is a great deal in the twenty-first.