Who was St Neot?

We were just driving along when there was a mention of the town of  St Neots on the radio and I mentioned it was near where I’d lived as a child. When I hear the name ‘St Neots’ I think of the place in Cambridgeshire. What I didn’t realise – thinking that he must have been a saint local to my home county, his body or at least his remains were removed from the Cornish village near where he’d actually lived, and also named after him, and taken to Eynesbury in the Huntingdon district of Cambridgeshire. This was in around 980, about a hundred years after his death; his remians were housed in a monastery which was renamed St Neots Priory  in his honour. although it wasn’t very honourable to kidnap his corpse. This was very cheeky of the Cambridgeshire monks, and as you can imagine their Cornish brothers were not exactly thrilled and pursed them. However, St Neot stayed in the place he’d been kidnapped to until he was lost some time during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Neot lived in the ninth at the same time as King Alfred who supposedly visited him for advice, some time before 871. Alfred was born in about 846 AD in Wantage, Berkshire, and died at about the age of fifty and was buried in what then was Winchester Minster. Back to Neot; he’s strongly associated with Cornwall where he was a monk and a hermit, but he seems to have spent an earlier part of his live first as a soldier then as a sacristan in Glastonbury Abbey, so maybe he was born in what is now Somerset – where I now live. That’s only an uneducated guess on my part! No-one seems to know when he was born, only that he probably died .  At Glastonbury he was ordained as a priest but then felt called to become a hermit, which he did near Bodmin Moor, gathering followers around him. When he died at what was then considered to be an old man some time before 893, his body was was enshrined in a church named after him in a village which also took his name.

I dscovered all these facts because when we heard the name on the radio my husband said ‘Who was St Neot?‘ and I confessed I didn’t know. Well, I do know now, and also that he was the patron saint of fish, hence my featured image, and a further also coincidentally his saint’s day is tomorrow, 31st July!

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