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The Devon Flag - St Petroc's Day - 4th June
Discussion started by Tansy (IP Logged), 04 June, 2008 08:17
04 June, 2008 08:17
The Devon Flag is dedicated to Saint Petroc, a local saint with numerous dedications throughout the West Country and particularly in Devon. The flag was created in 2003 after two polls run by the BBC Devon website, the winning design taking 49% of the votes cast. The design was created by student Ryan Sealey. Since its launch in 2003, the Devon Flag has gained popularity, and in October 2006 it gained "official" recognition when Devon County Council raised the flag outside County Hall.

Although the Devon Flag is a new invention, the colours of the flag are those popularly identified with Devon (e.g. the colours of its Rugby Union team and Plymouth Argyle F.C.). Lord Exmouth flew a dark green flag with white circles at the Bombardment of Algiers (now on view at the Teign Valley Museum). The Devon Flag is made of three colours green (Pantone 348), black and white. The green represents the colour of the rolling and lush Devon hills, the black represents the high and windswept moors (Dartmoor and Exmoor) and the white represents both the salt spray of Devon's two coastlines and the China Clay industry (and mining in general).

The creation of the flag has drawn particular criticism from Cornish nationalists, who accuse it of being an attempt to 'hijack' their culture. It is also claimed the flag is too similar to Cornish flag, however the flag also bears resemblance to other flags of the United Kingdom. Another issue is its identification with St Petroc, who is also associated with Cornwall (though not with the Cornish Flag).

Saint Petroc is a 6th century Celtic Christian saint. He was born in Wales but primarily ministered to the Britons of Dumnonia which included the modern counties of Devon (Dewnans), Cornwall (Kernow), and parts of Somerset (Gwlas an Hav) and Dorset. He is also known to have ministered to the people of Brittany.

Old Welsh genealogies record that he was a younger son of King Glywys of Glywysing (now Glamorgan) and a brother of Gwynllyw, and there are local dedications to him at St Petrox near Pembroke and Ferwig near Cardigan. He has also given his name to Llanbedrog, a village on the Lleyn peninsula. He studied in Ireland where he is said to have been the teacher of Saint Kevin.

After studying, he began his mission to Cornwall, where he founded monasteries at Padstow and Bodmin. Padstow, which is named after him (Pedroc-stowe, or 'Petrock's Place'), appears to have been his base for some time. There are numerous other dedications to him throughout Cornwall and he is even said to have converted its king, Constantine of Dumnonia, to Christianity. After thirty years, legend says that he went on the pilgrimage to Rome by way of Brittany.

Upon his return, Petroc passed through Devon, where ancient dedications to him are even more numerous: a probable seventeen (plus Timberscombe just over the border in Somerset), compared to Cornwall's five. The position of churches bearing his name, nearly always near the coast, reminds us that in those days travelling was done mainly by sea. The North Devon towns of Petrockstowe and Newton St Petroc are also named after Saint Petroc and the flag of Devon is dedicated to him.

In iconography, Petroc is usually shown with a stag and his feast day is 4th June. His major shrine was always at St Petroc's Church, Bodmin. In 1177, a Breton stole his relics from Bodmin and gave them to the Abbey of St Meen. However, Henry II restored them and, though the relics were thrown out during the English Reformation, their beautiful ivory casket is still on public display in the church. With Saint Piran and Saint Michael, he is one of the patron saints of Cornwall but Piran is currently favourite.

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