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The Death of St. Clair

From: Niven Sinclair <>
Date: Sun, 06 Jun 1999 20:01:00 +0100

I am forwarding the story of Clair's death (later St Clare or Clair) to John Quarterman who may wish to include parts of it on a web page.

Briefly, Clair was born in Kent in England of a noble family and, naturally, his father wished him to marry a rich heiress who lived close by. She, being aware of Clair's austere and celibate life, used all her feminine charms to try to seduce the young man. She failed miserably. Being rich and accustomed to getting her own way, her love turned to hatred. She swore to revenge herself on this hapless young man.

Clair's only hope in escaping the murderous intentions of this female was to seek refuge on the Continent. He landed in Neustria (now known as Normandy) where he lived as a hermit. His fame as a healer began to atttract attention and, although he moved his hut from place to place within the forest, it became the focus of attention for people seeking cures.

Clair's abrupt departure from England further inflamed the rich heiress who sent her agents to France with instrctions to find and kill him.

On the 4th November, in the year of our Lord 884, they found Clair in his simple hut on the edge of the River Epte. His end was swift because one of the agents beheaded Clair whilst he knelt in prayer. (That is why he is frequently depicted, like St Denis, holding his head in his hands.) The blood flowed copiously from his neck but a new spring came out of the ground and washed away all signes of it.

The manner of Clair's death increased his renown. The simple hut was transformed into a Chapel and eventually a Church was built on the spot. Ten years after the murder enough houses were built at the spot to establish a village which was named, St Clair, after the martyr.

Another of your correspondents quite rightly points out that St Clair-sur-Epte is situated on the left bank of the River Epte and was part of the Isle-de-France which belonged to the Chaumont-Quitry family with whom the St Clairs were inter-related.

There has always been some 'confusion' as to which of the many places called St Clair or St Clare in France, the St Clairs took their name from. You have a wide choice but the distinct branches of the family emanated from St Clair-sur-Epte, St Clair-sur-Lo and St Clair d'Eveque.

I will give a list of the St Clairs of France when I can find that particular file amongst the numerous files in my possession. In 1994 I sent a research team to France to trace the St Clairs there and the families with whom they were or became inter-related such as the Chaumonts, Gisors, d'Evreux, de Bar, de Courcy, Plantard, Blois etc. The St Clairs were the Earls of Senlis and Corbeil and protected Paris from the North which is why that City has the St Clair engrailed cross in its coat-of-arms.
—Niven Sinclair

The Hermit Saint Clair The Hermit Saint Clair

The name Sinclair comes indirectly from the hermit St. Clare or St. Clere, or St. Clair, or in Latin, Sanctus Clarus. He lived near the town that is now called St. Clair sur l'Epte, and is northwest of Paris in France, on the edge of what is now called Normandy. His feast day is 16 July. In 1999 an emissary of the Sinclair family attended St. Clair's feast in the town of St. Clair sur l'Epte.

There were nine saints in all at different times and places named Clarus.

(Our namesake St. Clair is not to be confused with Saint Clare, or Sainte Claire in French. She was the founder of the Poor Clares, a monastic order associated with the Franciscans of St. Francis of Assisi. She is the namesake of Santa Clara, California, just as Francis is the namesake of San Francisco, California, where Spanish missionaries left their names.)

Reports from St. Clair-sur-Epte

The Correct Date, 884

From: <>
Date:Sat, 5 Jun 1999 15:18:23 EDT

High Street I have just returned from St Clair sur Epte. I met with the mayor; he opened both the shrine and church to me. He explained that the 834 date was a result of a mason's incomplete work. (The church is being restored.) The correct date is 884. He showed me the 1000 year mark: Chapel Hut 1884. St Clair was born in 845 and decapitated in 884. His pupil lived with him Saint Cyrin. He also showed me the 912 date for Rollo it is his date of Rollo's Baptism Baptism in Rouen. Photos will come from England and much more. St Clair was an Englishman who landed in France at Cherbourg. There are at least five towns named for him.


The Mayor

Date: Sat, 5 Jun 1999 15:38:52 EDT

The mayors name is Destouches, Perres; the first name follows the surname in the French manner. He has met one other Sinclair, a family from the United States Minnesota? The feast of St Clair the spelling is Clair is the 16th of July. His bones which rest in the church are carried througt the streets on that day. It is an honour to be one of the four men who carry the bones; the mayor has invited me. The date of Saint Clair's death is 4th November 884; please excuse my earlier error. The stained glass window bearing the date 912 (Rollos Baptism) was erected by the towns people for the end of WW I. St Clair was born near London.

Rebuilding and Restoration

From: "Privateers" <>
Date: Sun, 6 Jun 1999 21:04:20 +0100

The information that none of us could have the blood from the celibate Saint make me wonder who we are descended from?

The Mayor seems to be ofey with the name William de St Clair; any infomation?

church If any of us wanted to contribute to the rebuilding and restoration of the Medieval reconstruction of this church, the Mayor says a plaque would be erected to the contributors and our Clan.

From: "Privateers" <>
Date: Wed, 9 Jun 1999 07:38:07 +0100

I have no idea where this quote is from. As a a lad I learned this from my Mother, God rest her soul, some fifty odd years ago. She called storie/poems "Tales of the Lion in the North." As close as memory serves me:
"My mothers broken Heart
Now my severed head
shall attest to thy parental care
but could these few short summers be mine
the world would cry Sinclair
and echo with our fame
My castles are my King's alone
 from turret to foundation stone
 but the hand of Sinclair is his alone.
I die Canmores obediant servant
and he the lesser for it"
My mother told on a winters eve of Sinclair deeds victorous. She claimed that we served Malcom Canmore as he booted the Kingdom in to unity until Sinclair came to stand as large as the King himself. It is only my mothers tale that I have never seen documented nor have I ever found the quote reference for the fragment above.


The Hand of Sinclair

From: "Privateers" <>
Date: Sun, 6 Jun 1999 23:29:55 +0100

I photoed the date I don't remember it but I do have a date for you once the photos are returned. The Mayor is sending me the name and correspondence from the Americans. His English is not good, thankfully I had, God rest her soul, a French mother nee Jaquelin Jacquet D'Orleans.

La Behottiere La Behottiere is a celebrated place in France Charles Ritz the hotellier wrote about it in his book A Fly Fisher Life. Erwin Rommel lived in the house before his sucide in Berlin. I was invited for this and certain British considerations to participate in carrying the Saint's remains. I have drunk from the waters of the Holy Well Holy well. I have touched the rock upon which St Clair was beheaded and I have given my hand and yours to M. Destouches, Mayor St Clair sur Epte.
``My castles are my King's alone from turret to foundation stone but the hand of Sinclair is his alone.''

Origins of the Hermit

The Salle de Fete

From: "Privateers" <>
Date: Mon, 7 Jun 1999 17:27:26 +0100

The Salle de fete of St Clair sur Epte was completed in 1987 AD; they keep the dragons head to remember. The stained glass in the church was to commemorate the conversion of Rollo. It bears the date 912 it is subscribed by the people of St Clair (I could not find one St Clair or Sinclair in the town) to mark the end of WWI.

From: "Privateers" <>
Date: Mon, 7 Jun 1999 12:24:14 +0100

Niven Sinclair's account appears to be correct. Saint Clair's Father apparently bethrothed him to this English woman. I was given the Decapitation stone information that she was from somewhere near London. The record of his death was, in french, was "decapite", in English "decapitated".


The statues of Saint Clair show him holding his head in his hand. He is always dressed as a monk. At the place of his beheading, there is a small chapel directly across from the rock on which he was beheaded. In the town of "Saint Clair sur Epte" their is an ancient chateau, the ruins of which are still visible, it predates the arrival of the Saint. The chateau sur Epte, the chateau De Ville Arceau, the fortress Gisors, all predate Saint Clair's arrival.

The Chapel at the Holy Well

From: "Privateers" <>
Date: Mon, 7 Jun 1999 12:59:25 +0100

The chapel at the site of the martyr is a small, slightly rectangular building, which lies approximately 100m from the Holy Well Holy Well. It bears the mark 884 as you face it and 1884 on the right. It is approximately 10 Decapitation stone metres directly across from the covered rock on which Saint Clair was decapitated. The masonry canopy over the rock shows the beheaded Saint Clair showing his head in his hands to the left of the rock, his disciple Cyrin to the right. The statue of Saint Clair, over the Holy Well, has been removed to the safety of the Church. The well allegedly sprung from where the blood of the martyr flowed. The chapel is built entirely of stone; the ceiling inside is painted sky blue with golden stars. The chapel is not lit, save by natural light. There is an altar that I have been informed has not been used in a number of years. The chapel and rock are completely enclosed by a stone wall. It has metal gates on both sides and a gravel interior. It is extremely well kept. Large old trees lay just outside the walls. The inner floor is in the French manner covered with stone.


Monsieur Le Mayor Destouches would be pleased to receive correspondance, though he has no email facilties (It would simply be "Le Maire, St Clair-sur Epte, Val-d'Oise, France") the town has approximately 1,100 people. In 1962 an archeologist excavated a site close by the chapel of Saint Clair, which shows the earliest beginnings of the town, approximately 400 years after the birth of Christ.

The Salle de Fete (Every French town has a party hall for weddings, baptisms or other important events) of Saint Clair-sur-Epte is built entirely of wood from Norway. The Gables are marked with dragon heads to remind the townspeople of the viking, who ravaged all of Normandy. The Normans besieged France as Vikings or Norsemen.


I will return to St-Clair-sur-Epte for the third time in attempt to find answers to your questions. St. Clair-sur-Epte was apparently called before its renaming Chateau-sur-Epte. In the church itself which apparently is being rebuilt by stripping off the modern masonery, many of the heraldic symbols are seen. I will have more information for you shortly. I am sending a second email concerning the Holy well and the chapel.


The Nine Saints Clarus

All the Saint Clairs

Date: Wed, 09 Jun 1999 11:45:10 +0100
From: Niven Sinclair <>
Our preoccupation with Saint Clair and St Clair-sur-Epte from where the family is said to have taken its name encourages me to throw further light on the various Saints who paraded under the name of Clair or, as he or they were known in Latin, Clarus.

For this further information, I am indebted to a translation from B.L.Fontana's Dictionannaire Saints-Bretons which was published in Paris by Tchou in 1979.

A History of the Saint and Places which have been named after him:
In the 3rd Century, Saint Clair became the first Bishop of Nantes. Very little is known about him historically. In the year 280, the Pope had Saint Clair sent to Armorique entrusting him with a sinnal relic: the nail which was used to pirece the right hand of St Peter at the time of his crucifixion.

However, legend concerning Saint Clair seems to be much older than this founing of the Holy See at Nantes. Legend has it that in the year 69 he was consecrated Bishop by Saint Linus, who was St Peter's successor (as the head of the church) and that he died in the year 96.

This oral tradition of having a Saint Clair alive in the 1st Century has allowed a fabulous hagiography in which he is placed in relationship with a disciple of Joseph d'Arimathie, named Drennalus who went from Great Britain to Armorique at this time. This Saint Clair is said to have died at Requiny near Vannes on October 10th - hence the Feast Day of all Saint Clairs is on this day.

To the present day, the church of the Requiny Parish still prreserves a trepanned skull which is said to be that of Saint Clair as well as a cenotaph which is consecrated to him.  The latter bears the folowing inscription: ``Saint Clair buried here October 10th, 868.''

However, we learn from other sources that the corpse of the Saint was transported from Nantes to Angers in 878 at the time of the Norman invasions and that, until the Revolution, it was protected in a silver reliquary in the Benedictine Church of St Aubin.

Elsewhere, we learn that his skull was venerated in the Cathedral at Nantes. The historian, La Borderie, has seen in this duality of skulls ``an unimpeachable proof of the tow personages''.

Usages, Customs, Legends, Songs, Sayings
Saint Clair is invoked for the recovery of eysight and for weather favourable for good harvests. Until 1890 at Requiny, people immersed the skull of the Saint in a basin of water and, those suffering from eye inflammation or blindness, used this hallowed water for washing their eyes.

A Latin Hymn from 1400 is chanted to implore the grace of the Saint as a means of curing blindness:
We praise by pious hymns
Saint Clair who gives light to blindness
The Chapel of Requiny has the honour of possessing a Chapel built on the tomb of the Saint. Nearby is a fountain dedicated to Saint Clair. Situated not far from there is a house called ``kerbelec'' (the priest's house). Local tradition has it that it was built on the same site where the Saint lived or, at least, where he sheltered during the last moments of his life.

Saint Clair is the patron saint of Saille (Loire-Atlantique) where formerly a Priory was founded and of its annex of Plesse; likewise the Church of Chantenay (Loire-Atlantique). A Chapel is dedicated to Saint Clair in the Cathedral at Nantes; another at Limerzel (Morbihan) and a third at Lannedern (Finistere). A chaplaincy honouring the Saint was founded in 1504 at Saint Donan (Cotes-du-Nord) and another at Plonevez-du-Faver (Finistere). There is a fountain Sarzeau (Morbihan) bearing his name. There is also a ruined Castle near Deval named Saint Clair.

The Church of Requiny possesses a tomb with a reclining statue of Saint Clair whilst another stautue of the Saint can be seen in the Church of Notre Dame of Doulas (Finistere) A more modern statue has been placed in the Church of St Yves at Ploudaniel (Finistere).

Whilst there are connecting threads it will be seen that the above account(s) of Saint Clair(s) various from the account given in L.A. St Clair's Genealogique de la Famille de St Clair 1005-1905 which was published in Paris and that given in the Saint Clairs of the Isles by Roland St Clair which was published in Auckland, New Zealand in 1898.

There have been nine separate St Clairs according to the Dictionary of Christian Biography.

Niven Sinclair
(who may be the 10th)
Date: Tue, 08 Jun 1999 00:13:23 +0100
From: Niven Sinclair <>

It would appear to be quite simple: Forest - Hermit - Hut - Death 884 - Chapel - Church - Village - Town - Rollo - Treaty of St Clair-sur-Epte 912 some 28 years after the death of Clair (which is the spelling which is used on the three feet high altar in the shrine to the hermit).

The only name which could have existed before the death of the hermit would have been the name of the forest itself.

Another account of Clair states that he was born in Scotland (where else?) and wrote the "Ritual of Divine Duty" and lived about 600 A.D.

In the Dictionary of Christian Biography, Vol I (London 1877) there are notices of nine saints named Clarus. The account there states that the Clarus, after whom St Clair-sur-Epte was named, was a personage of the IXth century and hailed from Rochester in Kent. This is the generally accepted version. It is of little consequence because there is no suggestion that the Sinclairs had any blood connection with any of the Saints. When surnames came into vogue people simply adopted the name of the area in which they lived or, in other cases, the name of their trade or profession.

There is another interesting territorial connection because the Sinclairs became the Governors of Rochester, Dover and Colchester castles after the Conquest - protecting the gateways to London just as they protected the gateway to Edinburgh (Rosslyn and Hermandston Castles) and the gateway to Tunsberg (the then Royal Palace of Norway) by being Governors of Bergen Castle. The Sinclairs had a strategy which transcended national boundaries. They were, according to a Professor at Moscow State
University, one of the two most important families in Europe.

Thankfully, there is evidence of a resurgence of interest in our lineage and in our heritage which can only augur well for the future.

We are nothing without our roots. It is knowing our roots which gives us stability; which allows us to realise and then release the true potential which lies within each one of us and, with that knowledge, to forge a better future for all Mankind.
"We are too few"
I hear people say. Well it has always been the few who have changed history. Our forefathers did. We may not be able to do so on the same scale but I'm reminded that
"If every man could mend a man, the whole World would soon be mended"
which brings us back to St Clair who was a great healer.

Niven Sinclair
Last changed: 00/04/10 10:53:32 [Clan Sinclair]