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General Observations on the Welsh Saints, as distinguished from those
of the Roman Catholic Church.
The three Saints,* whose churches have been examined, happen to be the best specimens that could have been selected to represent so many classes of foundations; and it is hoped the arrangement will not prove inconsistent with the testimony of ecclesiastical historians. The oldest churches in Wales are called after the names of certain holy persons, who are reputed to have been their founders; but a difficulty presents itself in the question—to whom were they dedicated ? for their patron Saints are unknown, and it cannot be supposed that their founders would raise churches in honour of themselves. The objection, that they must have been erected to the memory of these persons after their decease, would perhaps be admitted as insuperable, if it could not be shown from authentic documents, that the belief current in the Principality since the eleventh century has been to the contrary. The popular explanation is, that they were called after the names of their founders, upon the principle that a house is
* The pre-eminence of these Saints did not escape the notice of Gwyn
the concluding lines of his poem are,
“Cyfodwn, archwn arch ddiommedd, Drwy eirioledd Dewi, a Duw a fedd. Gwae a nad gwen-wlad gwedi masw
Drwy eirioledd Mair, mam radlonedd,
frequently named after its builder ; and if they never had any other patron Saints, the inference naturally follows, that they must have been founded before formal dedications were customary. It must have remained for the superstition of succeeding generations to dignify these founders with the title of Saints; but, as they flourished in the fifth and sixth centuries, it
may be urged that formal dedications were at that time usually practised on the continent. The superstitions of Britain, however, were those prevalent in the Catholic or Universal Church in the fourth century ; for shortly after the commencement of the fifth, the communication between the Britons and their continental neighbours was interrupted; so that while the Catholic Church was inventing new ceremonies, the Britons continued stationary; and in the seventh century the discrepancy was so great, that the Christians of Wales would hold no communion with the Saxons, who had adopted the Roman ritual.* In Italy and the Eastern Empire, instances occur of churches formally named after Saints as early as the time of Constantine; how rapidly this practice may have spread westwards is uncertain; but Bede mentions two churches so dedicated in Britain in the beginning of the fifth century. The first is the church of St. Martin at Canterbury, which however is intimated to have been built by the Romans rather than the Britons. The second is the church of Candida Casa, or Whithern, in Galloway, North Britain, dedicated also to St. Martin; but it is stated that Ninia, its founder, received his religious education at Rome, and it is added that this church was built of stone contrary to the usual custom of the Britons. About A. D. 710, Naiton, king of the Picts, upon conforming to the Romish ritual, desired that architects should be sent him, to build a church of stone in his country according to the fashion of the Romans, which he promised to
* Bede's Eccl. Hist. + Ibid. Book I. Chap. 26. Book III, Chap. 4.
dedicate to the prince of the Apostles, adding that thenceforward he and his people would adopt the customs of the holy Roman and Apostolic Church, so far as they could be learnt by persons so distant from the language and nation of Rome. * Though the Britons of Wales were not so remote from Rome as their brethren of Scotland, they persisted more obstinately in their non-conformity, and are described by Bede, in his own time, as celebrating the Passover without fellowship with the church of Christ. The full amount of difference is not stated, but it is a satisfaction to remark that the historian does not charge them with errors of doctrine. That their religious ceremonies were conducted with a degree of primitive simplicity might be expected from their poverty and seclusion. It is evident, however, that the churches of the Britons were built of wood, and covered with reeds, or straw; and from the
situation of their representatives in Wales, it would further | appear that they were not formally dedicated to Saints. The
grounds upon which this opinion rests are, that the churches, which from their endowments are shown to be the most ancient, have no other patron Saints than the persons alleged to have been their founders; the next in point of antiquity are called after St. Michael, the Archangel, being the first advance in the way of superstition; afterwards follow those dedicated to the Apostles and other Saints, still retaining certain marks of distinction. But not to depend entirely upon speculation, however well supported by existing circumstances, two passages in the writings of Bede will perhaps decide the question. The first is to the following effect.
“Aidan, the Bishop, having departed this life, I Finan, who had been ordained and sent by the Scots to succeed him in his Bishoprick, built, in the island of Lindisfarne, a church fit for an Episcopal See; which however, after the manner of the
* Bede, V. 21.
* Eccl. Hist. V. 21. I A. D. 652.
Scots, he did not erect of stone, but of sawn timber, covering it with reeds. At a later time, it was dedicated by the most reverend Archbishop Theodore in honour of the blessed Apostle, Peter. But Eadbert, Bishop of that place, stripping off the reeds, covered the entire building, both roof and sides, with sheets of lead." (Eccl. Hist. III. 25.) From this
passage it is clear that Finan, who was a Christian of the British school, founded a church of cathedral rank without appointing a patron Saint; and though he presided over the See of Lindisfarne ten years, and was succeeded by Colman, one of his countrymen, it may be collected that four years intervened between the resignation of the latter and the arrival of Archbishop Theodore in Britain.*
The next passage is important, as it describes the mode of consecration practised by the Scots. It must be premised that the historian is speaking of Cedd, Bishop of the East Saxons,t to whom Oidivald, King of Deira, had given a spot of ground for the purpose of founding a Monastery.
“ The man of God, wishing by prayer and fasting to purge the place of its former pollution of wickedness, and so to lay the foundations of the Monastery, entreated the king that he would grant him the means and permission to dwell there, for that purpose, during the whole time of Lent, which was then at hand. In all the days of this time, except on the Sabbath, he always prolonged his fast, according to custom, until the evening; and even then he took only a small piece of bread, and one egg, with a little milk mixed with water. He said that this was the custom of those from whom he had learned a rule of regular discipline, that they should first consecrate with prayer and fasting those places which had been newly obtained for founding a Monastery, or church. When ten of the forty days were remaining, a person came, and summoned him to the king; but that the sacred work might not be discontinued on account of the king's business, he desired his presbyter, Cynibill, who was also his own brother, to complete the pious beginning; who having readily complied, and the exercise of fasting and prayer being completed, he (Cedd) built there a Monastery, which is now called Laestingaeu, and established it with religious customs, according to the practice of Lindisfarne, where he had been educated. After he had held his Bishoprick for many years in the aforesaid province, and by appointing superintendents had conducted also the management of this Monastery; it happened that he arrived at the Monastery about the time of his mortality, and, being taken with infirmity of body, he died. He was at first buried without; but in process
* Bede's Eccl. Hist. III. 25, 26, and IV. 2. The Saxon Chronicle translated by Dr. Ingram, A. D. 664 and 688.
+ From A, D, 653 to 664.
of time, when a church was built of stone in the Monastery, in honour of the blessed Mother of God, his body was laid within, at the right side of the altar.” (Eccl. Hist. III. 23.) This mode of consecration was so different from that
practised in the Romish Church, that Bede thought proper to describe it at length; and from the analogy of their situation, it may be presumed that the practice of the southern Britons was similar. No patron Saint is mentioned, and the church of stone, in honour of the Virgin, was not built until after the death of the original founder of the Monastery. If the consecration of a place depended upon the residence of a person of presumed sanctity, who for a given time should perform certain religious exercises upon the spot, it will at once appear how the Primitive Christians of Wales were, at first, the founders, and afterwards, in default of the usual mode of dedication, were considered to be the Saints of the churches which bear their names.
In the Eastern Empire, the invocation of angels commenced so early that the Council of Laodicea had occasion to condemn it in A. D. 366. It was a more easy deflection from the purity