Saint Buriana

Local legend suggests that the village of St Buryan takes its name from Berrian, the daughter of an Irish king, who came to Cornwall in a coracle (curragh) in the 6th century to convert the local inhabitants to Christianity. 

Some think it may be closer to the truth to suggest that Berrian took her name from the village, Buriana meaning a woman of Buryan. However, one of the older spellings of her name, Berriona, could possibly derive from the Latin word for Ireland in the 5th century, Hiberione, which gives us Hi beriona - 'the Irish Lady.'  In Cornish the name becomes Beryona or Beryon; so perhaps local people called her that: Beriona - the Irish Lady. 

The earliest record of Buriana found is in the 11th century Exeter Martyrology which states -  In hibernia sancte berrione virginis cuius seritis filius regis gerentii a paralisis so(rbo) curatus est - (In Ireland there is a commemoration of St Berriona the virgin, by whose merits the son of King Gerentius was cured of the disease of paralysis.)

In 1593 her name appears as Burrian (which is how people in the parish now pronounce the name) and in Carew's Survey of Cornwall 1602 it appears in the form of Buryan.  In the 1740's John Wesley's Diary records it as Beryan. Another version, Buriana, which occurs today in official lists (Crockford's, the Truro Diocesan Directory and on the banner in the chancel) occurs in John Leland's writings, 'St Buriana, a holy woman of Ireland who sometime dwelled in this place and there made an oratory.' He visited the parish in 1538 and may well have read about the saint's life.

Nothing remains today of St Buriana's small prayer oratory but it would have been a very small building, and the cross in the churchyard, which dates from the 6th century, was probably erected to mark the enclosure as consecrated ground.

Buriana’s Feast day in the Exeter  Martyrology is the 1st May, but it is kept here in the parish on the Sunday nearest 13th May, the old May Day in the Julian calendar. In the Roman Calendar she is commemorated on 4th June and in the Irish Calendar, St Bruniec Feast is kept on 29th May.