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"This at once carries it beyond the sixth century. Now the boundary of this particular merthir 1 is: 'The head of the dyke on the Usk, along the dyke to the breast of the hill, along the dyke to the source of Nant Merthyr, that is Amir' (pp. 225, 226, 377). Here we have a merthyr of Julius and Aaron in the neighbourhood of Caerleon." 2 The date of the martyrdom may be placed during the Persecution of Diocletian, 304.
The passage in the Book of Llan Ddv alluded to by Professor Williams is important. In the reign of Meurig, King of Glywyssing and Morganwg, the contemporary of Fernvail, who died in 775 according to the Annales Cambria, Nud was Bishop of Llandaff, and a grant was made to him of all the territory of the martyrs Julius and Aaron "which formerly had belonged to Saint Dubricius." (Immolamus . . . totum territorium sanctorum martirum iulii et aaron quod prius fuerat sancti dubricii in priori tempore.)3 This certainly shows that in the sixth century there was a Merthir Julii et Aaron at Caerleon, under the jurisdiction of Dubricius. It was in fact solely on the strength of his possession of this church that the fable grew up in later times that Dubricius had been "Archbishop" of Caerleon.
Giraldus Cambrensis mentions two churches, with their convent and society of canons, at Caerleon, dedicated to Aaron and Julius.4 Bede paraphrases the words of Gildas, but, not understanding that his "urbs Legionum" was Caerleon on Usk, transferred the martyrdom to Chester.5 But Bede was very ill informed concerning British matters.
According to Bishop Godwin (1595-1601) there existed in the recollection of the generation preceding that in which he wrote, two chapels called after Aaron and Julius, on the east and west sides of the town of Caerleon, about two miles distant from each other. Probably S. Julian's, now a farm house, but once a mansion—the residence of Lord Herbert of Cherbury—occupies the site of S. Julius's Church.
The reputed site of S. Aaron's chapel is near the Roman camp of Penrhos, between the Afon Lwyd and the Sor Brook that flows into the Usk above Caerleon, and here stone coffins have been found, showing that it was a place of Christian interment.
Soon after the Norman Conquest there was a church in Caerleon itself dedicated to Julius and Aaron, which was granted by Robert de Chandos to the Priory of Goldcliff, founded by him in 1113.1
1 In the text "Territorium."
* Gildas, ed. Hugh Williams, note p. 27. 3 Book of Llan Ddv, p. 225.
* Ttin., ch. v. They are also mentioned by Walter Mapes, and Geoffrey of Monmouth. 5 Hist. Eccl., i, 7.
Llanharan, moreover, a chapelry in Llanilid parish, in Glamorganshire, is dedicated to S. Aaron, according to the Iolo MSS.; a and according to the same authority the Corau of SS. Julius and Aaron at Caerleon belonged to the Cor of S. Dyfrig.3
There is a Cae Aron (his field) near Caerleon, and a Cwm Aron (his dingle) in the parish of Llanfrechfa, in the neighbourhood.
The two saints are commemorated together on July 1, according to Whytford, who says, "In englond the feest of saynt Aaron andsaynt Iule martyrs, y' in the passyon of saynt Albane were couerted, and this day with many other Chrystyans put to dethe." Wilson also in both editions of his English Martyrologie, 1608 and 1640, on the same day; also Nicolas Roscarrock.
S. AARON, Hermit, Confessor
A Saint, presumedly from Wales, in the first half of the sixth century was in Armorican Domnonia, where he is venerated. He is locally known as Aihran; the Latin form of the name is Aaron. He made a settlement a few miles north-east of Lamballe, where he is still commemorated as titular saint of the parish. To the west, in Cotes du Nord, is a chapel dedicated to him, that may indicate his presence there for a while, at Pleumeur-Gautier, on the tongue of land between the River Trieux and that of Treguier. But he would seem to have retired in old age to an islet near the ancient city of Aleth, at the mouth of the Rance. Off this coast are several islands, the largest being Cesambre, on which a colony of Irish monks was settled under an abbot named Festivus.4
The islet, now occupied by the town of S. Malo, was then much more considerable in extent than at present. It has been reduced by the action of the sea. At the time when Aaron was there, a vill or two was situated on it; they have been submerged.1
1 Dugdale, Monasticon, v, pp. 727-8; Tanner, Notitia Monas., 1787. Janauschek, Originum Cisterciensium, tom, i, Vindobon, 1877, p. 190.
2 Iolo MSS., p. 222. According to other accounts to Julius and Aaron conjointly.
3 Ibid., p. 151. This is in agreement with the statement in the Book of Llan Ddv.
4 "Pervenerunt ad insulam quae vocatur September, ubi sacerdos fidelis Deo serviens, Festivus nomine, cum schola plurima habitabat." Vita S. Machuti, auct. Bili, ed. Plaine, cap. 35.
The town of Aleth was either abandoned by its ancient inhabitants or was occupied only by pagans. Bili, author of a Life of S. Malo, asserts the former, but this is inconsistent with the rest of the narrative, and is in contradiction with the statement in another Life which says, "Civitas ilia eo tempore populis et navalibus commerciis frequenta." 2
According to the most trustworthy Lives of S. Malo, this latter saint, on leaving Britain with his companions, came to that isle where was Aihran or Aaron, and there remained for a considerable time till elected Bishop of Aleth; but Bili says that it was not till later that he paid Aaron a visit. The former authority is best; according to it, "ingressus insulam vocabulo Aaronis, ab ipso monacho nuncupatam, exceptus est ab ipso officiosisime." 3
Here Aaron lived, as says Bili, "desiring to avoid the sight and conversation of bad men." Possibly his mission had not been very successful, and he himself may have been broken with age. He gladly welcomed Malo as coming from Wales, and as having the energy of youth, to enable him to overcome the obstacles that had been perhaps too great for himself. Aihran died in the middle of the sixth century.
The chapel of S. Aaron at S. Malo stands on the highest point of what was once the island that bore his name. It is surrounded by lofty houses, and has been threatened with destruction. Mass is said in it every year on June 22.
There was formerly a chapel of S. Aaron at Ploemeur in Morbihan, in the hamlet now called Saint Deron. At S. Aaron (Cotes du Nord) is a statue of him. He is represented habited in a long monastic garment, girded with a cord, his head bare. His right hand holds a book, in the left is a pastoral crook. Although titular saint of the parish, he has been displaced to make way for S. Sebastian, and his pardon suppressed. There is a fine painting in the Cathedral of S. Malo representing the reception of Machu by S. Aaron. According to the Breviary of S. Malo, printed in 1537, a Missal of S. Malo, fifteenth century, and the Missals of 1609 and 1627, his day is June 22.
1 "Asinam habebat, et quocunque mittebatur exiebat, maximeque ad villam Laioc, quam nunc mari deglutiente derelictam esse videmus, et ad illam villain qua e vocatur Guoroc." Ibid.
* Vita S. Maclovii, cap. 10, in Acta SS. O.S.B. saec. i, p. 219 (ed. 1733).
* Vita S. Maclovii, cap. 15, ed. De la Borderie.