« PrejšnjaNaprej »
of Christianity than the invocation of Saints; the latter, however, soon followed; but the custom of dedicating churches to them arose from purely local circumstances. About the end of the fourth century, it was a practice to erect a church in memory of a martyr over his grave. St. Augustine, who died A. D. 430, says,—“We do not erect temples to our martyrs, as if they were Gods; but memories as to dead men, whose spirits live with God." This extract is given on the authority of Bishop Burnet in his Exposition of the twenty second Article, who in a preceding part of the same Exposition says, —
“It was a remnant both of Judaism and Gentilism, that the souls of the martyrs hovered about their tombs, called their memories; and that therefore they might be called upon and spoke to there. St. Basil, and the other Fathers, that do so often mention the going to their memories, do very plainly insinuate their being present at them, and hearing themselves called upon. This may be the reason, why among all the Saints that are so much magnified in that age, * we never find the blessed Virgin so much as once mentioned. They knew not where her body was laid, they had no tomb for her, no, nor any of her relicks or utensils. But upon the occasion of Nestorius's denying her to be the Mother of God, and by carrying the opposition to that too far, a superstition to her was set on foot, it made a progress sufficient to balance the slowness of its beginning; the whole world was then filled with very extravagant devotions for her.”
If this view of the learned Prelate be correct, the churches generally founded in the fourth century were those called by ecclesiastical historians "martyria," or "memoriæ martyrum.”+ They were necessarily confined to the spot where the Saint was buried, in honour of whom, therefore, only one church of
* The fourth century. + Bingham's Antiquities of the Christian Church, VIII, Chap. 1. Section 6. this description could be erected. The custom would, howeyer, lead to the erection of churches to the memory of Saints in other indifferent places; and the belief, that martyrs could hear themselves called upon over their graves, would lead to the practice of invocation generally. But the concurrence of the view, here taken, with the preceding arrangement of Welsh foundations, is most obvious in the late introduction of the homage of St. Mary. The heresy of Nestorius occupied the attention of the Church, in the East, from the third General Council at Ephesus A. D. 431 to the fourth General Council at Chalcedon A. D. 45). Sufficient time must be allowed for the spread of these superstitions, and they would hardly reach Britain before most churches of the earliest foundation were built. The secluded state of the Britons, and their refusal to submit to the authority of the Pope, interposed a further delay, until long after the conversion of the Saxons.*
To the class of St. David belong all the foundations of churches erected by the Primitive Christians of Wales, from the earliest period to the middle of the seventh century. The mean peirod of their establishment is from the
500 to 550.
* In the works of the “Cynfeirdd,” or Primitive Bards, the second person in the Trinity is often called “mab Mair,” or the son of Mary; which would indicate the side the Britons would have taken in the Nestorian controversy if it had reached them. But in the poems, which, there is reason to suppose from their style, were written before the year 900, the intercession of the Virgin is mentioned only in an ode the author of which is not known. (Myvyrian Archaiology, Vol. I. pp. 187, 188.) Her name is spoken of in terms expressive of superstition in three other poems which have been attributed to the earlier Bards, but the language in which they are composed is too modern to allow them to be genuine. (Myv. Archaiol, Vol. I. pp. 16, 26, 552.) In the Ecclesiastical History of Bede, the Virgin does not occupy the re-eminent situation to which she afterwards attained; the favourite Saint of the Anglo-Saxons, in the infancy of their Church, being St, Peter.
Their general antiquity may be shown by the methods of proof already employed, and accords well with the notion that they were founded by the persons to whom they are ascribed, who are also ascertained to have lived principally in the fifth and sixth centuries. Very few of these persons have been admitted into the Romish Calendar; and, if credit be given to the authority of the Welsh Triads, only six of them were canonized.* They also differ from Roman Catholic Saints in one important particular, that few of them have been dignified with the title of martyr. They lived at a time when Christianity was the common religion of their country; and if some individuals of their number met with a violent death, it appears to have been at the hands of the enemies of their nation rather than their faith. That they were men of holy lives is recorded in all the scanty accounts which remain respecting them; and it is evident that many of them made a formal profession of religion according to the system of Monachism prevalent in the early ages of Christianity. But the character, in which, more especially, their names have been handed down to posterity, is that of founders of churches. Many of them had more than ordinary opportunities of conferring this blessing upon their country; for they were related to its chieftains, and the churches they founded were often situate within the territories of the head of their tribe. Others, not so fortunate as to birth, are ascertained to have founded churches in places connected with ther own history, and probably they depended upon their influence with some neighbouring chieftain. In nearly all cases, the assumption of their names, so far from depending upon chance, is attributable to local causes.
The second class of foundations, or those dedicated to St. Michael, commenced when the Britons were beginning to
* Cambrian Biography, vocibus Gwrthefyr, & Teilo.
conform to the religious observances of their neighbours, and the mean period of their establishment may, for various reasons, be assigned to the time from A. D. 800 to 850. Shortly before this period, it is recorded that the affairs of the Church made unusual progress. Charlemagne had established the civil obligation of tithes over his dominions in France, Germany, and Italy; and a similar ordinance had been passed by Offa in England. It is probable that the example of these might so far have had effect upon the people of Wales, as to cause generally the erection of churches in places not yet supplied with them, and to assign for their maintenance the tithes of lands not appropriated by previous endowments. This notion, though highly probable, is only a supposition ; but it is recorded, that in the latter part of the eighth century the Welsh were brought gradually into communion with the Church of Rome, for during the time the primitive founders flourished the British Church was independent, The first public act, which acknowledged a submission to the Papal See, has been thought to have been the resignation of his kingdom by Cadwaladr, that he might make a pilgrimage to the eternal city, where it is said he died in 688. But great obscurity seems to hang over the accounts of this performance; and as this, and other actions in the life of that Prince, are related in almost the same words of his contemporary, Ceadwalla, King of the West Saxons, who died at Rome in that year, there is reason to believe that the monkish historians* have confounded the one with the other. It is clear, however, that the Welsh did not conform to the Romish time of the celebration of Easter till the year 755. The Britons had been accustomed to calculate this festival from a cycle, according to which it was generally held a week earlier than it was observed at Rome; and the subject, though trifling in itself, was considered to be of such importance that it was made the test
* Walter de Mapes, Geoffrey of Monmouth, and their followers.
of difference, and those who refused to adopt the Romish computation were deemed without the pale of the Catholic Church.* In 755, Elfod, or Elbodius, became Archbishop of Bangor. A modern writert states that he was appointed by the Pope ; and though the assertion is not supported by a reference to authority, the circumstance is by no means improbable. Upon his accession, he induced the people of North Wales to adopt the Romish cycle. The Bishops of South Wales, however, refused to comply ; in consequence of which the Saxons invaded their country, and a battle was fought at a place called Coed Marchan, in which the Welsh gained an honourable victory.f What further measures were taken is not recorded, but in 777 the time of Easter was altered in South Wales.g In this state it appears to have continued until the death of Elbodius in 809, when the South-Welsh Bishops refused to acknowledge the authority of his successor.|| The controversy of the celebration of Easter was again renewed, and though it is not stated how soon it subsided into compliance with the Romish computation, there is reason to suppose that the Welsh were still slow to surrender their ancient custom.*
Those Welsh Chronicles, which are generally deemed authentic, commence about A. D. 700; and it is to be regretted,
* Bede's Eccl. Hist, passim.
+ Warrington; in his account of the Church at the end of the “History of Wales.”
Brut y Tywysogion, or Chronicle of the Princes, the second copy, Archaiology of Wales, Vol. II. page 473.
§ Archaiology of Wales, Vol. II. p. 474. || Ibid. Vol. II. pp. 474, 475.
* The following is extracted from Hughes’s Horæ Britannicæ.-“ We find in the Greek life of St. Chrysostom, that certain clergymen, who dwelt in the isles of the ocean, repaired from the utmost borders of the habitable world to Constantinople, in the days of Methodius, (who was