« ForrigeFortsett »
done than he went to Emly again to found monasteries, how many we are not told. Thereafter he departed for Leinster, and laid the foundations of another, Cill Abbain. Then to Wexford, where he planted "multa monasteria et celiac." Not yet satisfied, he found his way into Meath, and established there two monasteries. After that the King of the Hy Cinnselach gave up to him his cathair, or dun, to be converted into a home for religion. This abbot must have been the founder of some twenty monasteries and cells. And he is not unique. All the saints did the same as far as they were able. They did not content themselves with this in their own lands; they crossed the seas to Cornwall and to Brittany, and made foundations there as well.
When we come to the extant Lives of the Celtic Saints, we have to regret that so few of those which are Welsh have come down to us. The majority of these are contained in the MS. volume in the Cottonian Collection in the British Museum, Vespasian A. xiv, of the early thirteenth century.
This was laid under contribution by John of Tynemouth, who, in the first half of the fourteenth century, made a tour through England and Wales in quest of material for the composition of a Martyrologium and a Sanctilogium. Of his collection only one MS. is known to exist, now in the British Museum, Cotton MS., Tiberius E. i, and this was partly destroyed, and where not destroyed injured by fire in 1731; but of this more hereafter.
The MS. Vespas. A. xiv contains the following Latin Lives :— S. Gundleus, S. Cadoc, S. Iltut, S. Teilo, S. Dubricius (two lives), S. David, S. Bernach, S. Paternus, S. Clitauc, S. Kebi (two lives), S. Tatheus, S. Carantocus, and S. Aidus.
The twelfth century Book of Llan Ddv adds the following:— S. Oudoceus, S. Samson, and S. ^Elgar the Hermit.
Capgrave gives a few more Lives:—S. Caradoc, S. Cungar, S. Decuman, S. Gildas, S. Jutwara, S. Justinian, S. Keyne, S. Kentigern, S. Kened, S. Machutus, S. Maglorius, and S. Petroc, but of these only Caradoc belongs exclusively to Wales. There are besides Latin Lives of S. Winefred (two), S. Monacella, and S. Deiniol.
Of prose Lives written in Welsh there are only a few, namely, those of S. David, S. Beuno, S. Winefred, S. Llawddog or Lleuddad, S. Collen, S. Curig, and S. Ieuan Gwas Padrig; but there is a fair number of poems written in honour of saints, which are of the nature of metrical Lives or panegyrics. They are mostly by authors of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but the information they supply of the saints themselves is of a varying quality. The Cywy. ddau extant are to the following:—S. Cawrdaf, S. Cynog, S. Doged, S. Dwynwen, S. Dyfnog, S. Einion Frenhin, S. Llonio, S. Llwchaiarn, S. Mechell, S. Mordeyrn, S. Mwrog, S. Peblig, and S. Tydecho, not to mention others to whom there are Latin and Welsh prose Lives.
John of Tynemouth, in his peregrination, cannot have visited North Wales, as he does not take into his collection S. Asaph and S. Deiniol, and he certainly omitted Devon and Cornwall.
In 1330 Bishop Grandisson, of Exeter, wrote to the Archdeacon of Cornwall, complaining of the neglect and accident which had caused the destruction or loss of the records of the local Cornish Saints, and he directed that those which remained should be transcribed, two or three copies made, and should be transmitted to Exeter, to ensure their preservation; and he further enjoined that the parish priests who failed to do this should be fined.3 Yet when Grandisson in 1366 drew up his Legendarium for the use of the Church of Exeter, he passed over all these local saints without notice with the exception of S. Melor and S. Samson. Had John of Tynemouth visited Exeter, he would have used the material collected by Grandisson, now unhappily lost.
From Brittany we obtain some important Lives of Saints who crossed from Wales and settled there, as Gildas, Paul of Leon, Samson, Malo, Maglorius, Tudwal, Leonore, Brioc, and Meven. Ireland furnishes a good many Lives, and these of value, as the revival of Christianity, after a relapse on the death of S. Patrick, was due to an influx of missionaries sent into the island from Llancarfan and Menevia; as also because of the close intercommunication between Ireland and Wales. Very few Welsh Saints found their way to Scotland, at least permanently, and the only saint who may be said to belong to Wales as well as to Scotland, whose life has been preserved, is Cyndeyrn (Kentigern).
When we come to estimate the historical value of these Lives, we must remember that none of them are contemporary. The nearest to approach is that of S. Samson, composed by a writer who took his information from a monk aged eighty, who had heard stories of Samson from his uncle, a cousin of Samson, and who had conversed with the mother of the saint. All the rest are much posterior, composed, mostly in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and later by writers who piled up miracles, and altered or eliminated such particulars as they considered did not comport with the perfection of the hero, or did not accord with their notions of ecclesiastical order. Joscelyn, in his Life of S. Kentigern, admits having done this.
3 Register of Bp. Grandisson, ed. H. Randolph, Pt. I, p. 585.
One flagrant instance of bad faith is found in the Life of S. Gundleus. The facts relative to the history of the father of S. Cadoc are given in the Vita S. Cadoci, but as they displeased the panegyrist of Gundleus, he entirely altered them, and represented the early life of the saint in a totally different light from that in which it is revealed to us in the other document. Other writers, again, deliberately forged Lives to support certain pretentions of the see or monastery to which they belonged.
In the ninth century the diocese of Dol had been made metropolitan, with jurisdiction over all the sees of Brittany, removing them from being under the archiepiscopal authority of Tours. But several endeavoured to slip away and revert to Tours. Among these was that of Curiosopitum, or Quimper. To justify this, a Life of S. Corentinus. the founder, was fabricated, which represented him as receiving consecration and jurisdiction from S. Martin of Tours, who had died half a century before his time.
Some Lives were composed out of scanty materials, mere oral tradition. Rhygyfarch wrote his Life of S. David apparently between 1078 and 1088. The cathedral and monastery had been repeatedly ravaged and burnt by the Northmen, and the records destroyed; nevertheless, some records did remain "written in the old style of the ancients." To what extent he amplified by grafting in legendary matter picked up orally we are unable to say.
With regard to the miraculous element in the Lives, that occupies so large a part, we are not disposed to reject it altogether. The miracles are embellishments added, in many instances, by the redactor, as a flourish to give piquancy to his narrative. He often could not appreciate a plain incident recorded in the early text that he had under his eyes, and he finished it off with a marvel to accommodate it to the taste of the times in which he wrote. He dealt with a commonplace event much as a professional story-teller treats an incident that has happened to himself or an acquaintance. He furbishes it up and adds point and converts it into a respectable anecdote. To the mediaeval hagiographer an incident in a saintly life was not worth recording unless it led up to a miraculous display of power. Very often the miracle is invented, either to account for the possession of a certain estate by a monastery, or as a deterrent to the sacrilegious against violation of sanctuary, and these stand on the same ground as the terrible "judgments" in Puritan story-books on profaners of the Sabbath. A little criticism can generally detect where fact ends and fiction begins.
In Joscelyn's Life of S. Patrick we are told that the natives of one place made a pitfall in his way, covered it with rushes and strewed earth over them, hoping to see Patrick fall into the hole over which he would ride. But a girl forewarned the saint, and he escaped the pitfall. Joscelyngoes on to say that in spite of the caution given to him, Patrick rode over it, and the rushes were miraculously stiffened to sustain him. Here is an obvious addition.
Some lepers clamoured to Brigid for beer, as she was a notable brewer. She jestingly replied that she had no liquor to dispose of but her bath-water. The writer of her Life could not leave the anecdote alone, and he tacked on the statement that the water in which she had bathed was miraculously converted into ale. Where the hand of the editor has been so obviously at work, we have deemed it sufficient to tell the tale, omitting his addition, but calling attention to it in a footnote. Where, however, the miraculous is so involved with the historic record as to be inseparable from it, we give the tale as presented in the original.
Certain miracles seem to be commonplaces grafted into the Lives promiscuously. Such is that of the boy carrying fire in the lap of his gabardine from a distance to the monastery, when that at the latter had become extinguished. There may well be a basis for this story. Fire was scarce, and most difficult to kindle from dry sticks. If that on a hearth went out, live coals would be borrowed from the nearest village, and a lad from the abbey would be sent for it. The so-called incense pots found in tumuli of the bronze age were probably nothing else but vessels for the conveyance of live coals, and with such every household would be provided. A boy might well convey fire in such a vessel in the lap of his habit. It would be too hot for him to carry in his hand.
Nor are we disposed entirely to relegate to the region of fiction the tales of dragons that recur with wearisome iteration in the Lives of the Saints. In some cases the dragon is a symbol. When Meven and Samson overcome dragons, this is a figurative way of saying that they obtained the overthrow and destruction of Conmore, Regent of Domnonia. In other cases it may have had a different origin. It may possibly refer to the saint having abolished a pagan human sacrifice by burning victims in wicker-work figures representing monsters. In the legend of SS. Derien and Neventer, we read that the saints found a man drowning himself because the lot had fallen on his only son to be offered to a dragon. He was pulled out of the water, the boy was rescued, and the dragon abolished.
Such sacrifices, we have reason to believe, were annually offered by the non-Aryan natives for the sake of securing a harvest, the ashes being carried off and sprinkled over their fields. Caesar speaks of human victims enclosed in wicker-work figures and consumed by fire, and there are indications, as Mr. Fraser has shown in The Golden Bough, that this was practised throughout Europe and the East. It has left its traces to this day in Brittany. Wicker-work figures are represented on a cross-shaft at Checkley, Staffordshire. That the form assumed by these cages of woven osiers were that of a mythical monster is not improbable. Caesar indeed says that in Gaul the shape given to them was that of a man, but this need not have been so invariably.
Or take the story that recurs in so many of the legends of the saints, of the Saint Corentine, or Neot, or Indract, that he had for his supply a fish out of a well, that was miraculously restored to life daily, to serve him as an inexhaustible provision. There were two sources whence this fable sprang, we may suppose. Possibly enough, on the tombstone of the saint was cut the early symbol of the fish. Possibly, also, there may have been cut on it an inscription like that of Abercius of Hierapolis: "Faith led me everywhere, and everywhere she furnished me as nourishment with a fish of the spring, very large, very pure, fished by a holy virgin. She gave it without cessation to be eaten by the friends (i.e. the Brethren). She possesses a delicious wine which she gives along with the bread." This is allegorical. The Fish is the 'I^tfi"?, the symbol of Christ. The Virgin is the Catholic Church, though some have supposed the reference to the Blessed Virgin Mother.
The epitaph of Pectorius of Autun is even more obscure, but it turns on the same theme. "Celestial race of the Divine Fish, fortify thy heart, since thou hast received, amidst mortals, the immortal source of Divine Water. Friend, rejoice thy soul with the everflowing water of wisdom, which gives treasures. Receive this food, sweet as honey, of the Saviour of saints, eat with delight, holding in thy hand the Fish." 4 The reference is to the Eucharist, through which Christ, the Divine Fish, communicates Himself to His faithful, born of water to Him. In the case of Abercius we possess his legend, drawn up probably in the sixth century, and it is significant that it is based on the inscription which it misinterprets and has converted into an extravagant and fabulous narrative.
* Numerous treatises have appeared on the monument of Abercius, of which Mr. Ramsay discovered two fragments. The whole matter is summed up in an article in Cabrol (F.), Diet. d'Archiologie Chritienne, Paris, 1903, i, pp.16-87.