St Morwenna carrying stones

Our first commission in this series of new, original compositions was for an icon of St Morwenna. Strangely enough, our second commission was also for an icon of St Morwenna.

There is something special about this little known Saint that deeply touches my heart. Not much about her life has been preserved, but what has been remembered is the image of a simple woman, dedicating her entire life to serve all those around her. There are no spectacular miracles. No extraordinary deeds. No mountains moved.

St Morwenna’s holiness lies somewhere else. The foundation of her faith is simple, humble, silent love for people who hardly even noticed her sacrifice. Up on the top of a steep cliff – known as the Raven’s Crag – just above the stormy waters of the Atlantic, she built a small church so that the local faithful may have a place where to pray for their salvation.

She is remembered carrying stones on her head up the mountain unassumingly, in silence and humility. Day by day, she spent her life for everyone else but herself. Stone by stone, she climbed that mountain focused on the needs of those around her. Any of those people could have built that church, and yet none of them did. Only this simple woman found the love to let go of herself, to empty herself of her own needs, of her own suffering, and live for the happiness and the salvation of everyone else.

It is a story that resonates with me, as I am sure it resonates with you, too. It reminds me of all the countless, small, hardly ever noticed sacrifices that women everywhere are making for everyone else. St Morwenna built a church: slowly, silently, stone by stone. Her selfless love reminds me of mothers, wives, nuns, friends everywhere who, simply out of love – day by day, meal by meal, advice by advice, smile by smile – build this world and give it a heart.

Thank you for the opportunity you have given us to paint the icon of this wonderful Saint. May she, through her prayers before Christ, bless us all. May she, through her love and prayers, build a small church for all of us in God’s Kingdom.


14 Responses

  • Thanks for sharing this story about St Morwenna! On international women’s day (3/8), St Morwenna’s life if service and sacrifice is an inspiration to me on the influence that we can have when living our lives for the happiness and salvation of others!

    • That is what touches me, too. How strong and how profoundly influential silent resilience, humble persistence and sacrificial love can be. We very often focus on and celebrate those visibly powerful, while ignoring the ‘underground’ engines that make everything possible. Her life definitely helped me understand a lot of things concerning the women – mothers, sisters, nuns, friends – I have met in my life.

    • That is the beauty of this iconographic project, dear Sarah. There are so many beautiful examples of holiness, so diverse and so relevant to our lives today! Unfortunately, most of them remain unknown to most of us. Each commission of an icon of these forgotten Saints (forgotten by us, but not by Christ) is a wonderful way to bring them back, to re-tell their stories, to learn from their experience. I am so very happy that the Monastery has started working on this project – I look at it both as a wonderful opportunity AND as a duty to the Saints of these Isles.

  • I hope to see you recognizing St Adomnán soon! He deserves just as much attention, and other saints from Iona. Pádraig Ó Riain’s recent publication may be of interest.

    • That is so, so kind of you to say, dear Stephanie. This is such an exciting new project, I am immensely grateful to those who (like yourself) had faith in an idea and commissioned these works. The more people do that, the more new, beautiful icons of little known, almost forgotten Celtic Saints we can create.

  • Thank you so much for this. St. Morwenna is special to me. I have a small postcard-sized icon of her from the Bulgarian iconographer, Marchela Dimitrova. When I was in the U.K. last summer, I went to Morwenstow. There’s a medieval mural inside the Church of St. Morwenna that purportedly depicts her. The church was locked up, and I was running short of time, so I was unable to see it. I did, however, walk out to the cliff and down the side of the bluff to the site of her Holy Well, as I understood it. I’m going to try again this summer.

    • Thank you for that information, dear Terry. I’ve not been to Morwenstow. To tell you the truth, I’d never heard of St Morwenna before one of our friends commissioned this icon. This is why I am so happy with this iconographic project – ideally, it will create icons for little known (yet wonderful) Saints, and more people will discover their lives and see their relevance to their own life-story. It’s not only about an icon, it is about making these almost forgotten Saints visible and relevant again.

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