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The Welsh Saints from the Introduction of Christianity to the end of the
To proceed chronologically with the notices of such Saints as are to be found in the Welsh accounts, the commencement should be made with the introduction of the Gospel into Britain.
The credit of this glorious work has been claimed for the Apostles-St. Peter, St. Paul, St. James, and Simon Zelotes, as well as for Joseph of Arimathea; but without entering further into the subject, it will be sufficient to observe that the Welsh records and traditions are silent as to their pretensions, and their claims must rest upon the support they receive from testimonies in other languages. According to the Triads, * and more especially the Silurian copies of Achau y Saint, the blessed instrument was “ Bran ab Llyr,” the father of Caradog or Caractacus. It is said that he and his son were betrayed to the Romans through the treachery of Aregwedd Foeddog, generally understood to be Cartismandua. He was detained at Rome as a hostage for his son seven years, and by this means obtained an opportunity of embracing the Christian faith. Upon his return, he brought with him three, or according to others, four teachers of the names of Ilid, Cyndaf, Arwystli Hen, and Mawan; and through their instrumentality the Gospel was first preached in this country. Such is the collective statement of the Welsh authorities, and it is so far plausible, that Stillingfleet, without being aware of this testimony, conjectured that a similar circumstance was likely to have taken place.* If the account were correct, the return of Bran must have happened in A. D. 58, allowing seven years to elapse from the capture of Caractacus, which occurred in A. D. 51.7 It is, however, beset with difficulties which it is
* Triads 18 and 35, Third Series, Myv. Archaiol. Vol. II.
? to be feared are insurmountable. In the first place, Tacitus, • who mentions the capture or surrender of the several members of the family of Caractacus, and describes the appearance of the same persons seriatim before the Emperor Claudius, I says nothing of Bran. When the historian particularizes twice the wife, daughter, and brothers of the captive chieftain, the omission of so important a personage as his father affords a strong presumption that he was not at Rome, and had not been taken prisoner. If an attempt were made to account for the omission, it would be met by another difficulty. Dion Cassius states that the father of Caractacusg was Cunobelinus, who died before the war with the Romans had commenced, and was succeeded in his kingdom by two sons, of whom Caractacus was one, the name of the other being Togodumnus. The latter testimony precludes the possibility of Bran being ? Cunobelinus under another name; and would imply that Caractacus was not originally a chieftain of Siluria, but of the Trinobantes in the neighbourhood of London, where he is said to have fought a battle with the Romans in the first year of their invasion. In the ninth year following|| he was taken
Origines Britannicæ. + Tacitus's Annals, XII. 17. # Ibid. Annals, XII. 35 and 36.
Dio, or Dion Cassius composed his History of Rome in Greek; and, according to the usual practice, altered the name of Caractacus to Kataratakos, to accommodate it to the sound of the language in which he wrote. (Lib LX.)
ll “Nono post anno, quam bellum in Britannia coeptum.” (Taciti Annales, Lib. XII. cap. 36.)
prisoner, having opposed the Roman arms the whole of the interval, in the latter part of which the war had reached the Silures.
In a conflict with classical historians the Welsh traditions must give way, and if the foregoing prove a correct interpretation of the meaning of Tacitus and Dion Cassius, the claims of Bran ab Llyr to be considered the founder of Christianity in Britain must be surrendered. That traditions which relate to so early a period as the first and second century should prove inaccurate might be expected; but as they may have originated in an obscure notion of facts, they are deserving of respect, and should not be relinquished without a careful examination. That the story of Bran is not a modern forgery is clear, as the inventor would have taken care to avoid the difficulties presented by classical writers, which, if he were unacquainted with the original languages, he could have learnt from various histories of England. The Triads which support it, are professed to be taken originally from the Book of Caradog of Llancarfan,* who died in A. D. 1156; so that the opinion may have been current in Wales before the publication of the romance of Geoffrey of Monmouth. When these and other Triads were first written does not appear ; but as they relate principally to circumstances which took place in the sixth century, most of them must have been formed after that time. They, however, belong to different dates, being a method of arranging ancient traditions together, as they occurred to the mind of the inventor ; and as they are insulated compositions, the incorrectness of some of them does not necessarily affect the authenticity of the rest. If Bran were the first British Christian, it might be expected that the Bards of the sixth century would celebrate him in that character. The only poem of that era in which his name occurs, is attributed to Taliesin, in which he is alluded to as the hero of a mytho
* Myv. Archaiology, Vol. II. p. 75.
logical story or romance now extant.* After this there is no mention of his name in an authenticated composition until the twelfth century, when he is described by Cynddelw as a distinguished warrior.f The weight of evidence would show that if the Triads, which relate to his character as a Saint, were as ancient as the twelfth century, they were then comparatively recent and not generally received.
Bran, on account of the supposed introduction of Christianity, has had the epithet of “ Bendigaid” or Blessed attached to his name; and in the Triads he is classed with Prydain and Dyfnwal, as one who consolidated the form of elective sovereignty in Britain. Nothing further is related of him, except as the subject of romance. In the “Mabinogion," or Juvenile Tales, is described an expedition of Bran to Ireland to revenge an insult offered to his sister, Bronwen, by Matholwch, the Irishman. From this expedition, only seven returned, after having destroyed nearly all the people of the country; and Bran, being mortally wounded, ordered his companions who survived to carry his head to be interred in the White Hill in London, as a protection against all future invasions, so long
*“Bum i gan Vran yn Iwerddon.” (Kerdd am Veib Llyr ab Brychwel. Myv. Archaiology, Vol. I. p. 66. See also Turner's Vindication, p. 284.) t“Rhudd ongyr Bran fab Llyr Llediaith,
Rhwydd ei glod o gludaw anrhaith.”
Myv. Archaiol. Vol. I. p. 212. “Rhybu Fran fab Llyr, llu rwymadur mad,
Ynghamp, ynghy wlad, ynghâd, ynghûr.” Bran the son of Llyr has been,--the excellent coinmander of the host, In the games, in the assembly of the country, in battle, in anxious care.
Ibid. Vol. I. p. 248. I No. 36, Third Series, and Cambrian Biography voce Bran.
as it remained there. * It was afterwards removed by Arthur, who would not have this island defended by other means than his own prowess.
Ilid and Cyndaf, the reputed companions of Bran from Rome, are said to have been “men of Israel,” which would imply that they were converted Jews; while Arwystli is styled a man of Italy,” or a Roman. In the Silurian catalogue he is said to have been the confessor or spiritual instructor (periglor) of Bran; and by some modern commentators he is identified with Aristobulus, mentioned in the Epistle to the Romans, xvi. 10. It is, however, remarkable that according to the Greek Martyrology, as cited by Archbishop Usher, # Aristobulus was ordained by St. Paul as Bishop for the Britons. Cressy also says that St. Aristobulus, a disciple of St. Peter, or St. Paul at Rome, was sent as an Apostle to the Britons, and was the first Bishop in Britain ; that he died at Glastonbury A. D. 99, and that his Commemoration or Saint's day was kept in the Church, March 15.
Two of Lewis Morris's authoritiess state that Meigent or Meugant, was the son of Cyndaf, “a man of Israel ;” but this is probably a mistake, as the catalogues of North Wales make no other allusion to Bran or his companions.|| The Saint intended appears to be Mawan, who according to one of the copies of the Silurian catalogue is said to have been a son of Cyndaf, and to have accompanied Bran from Rome to Britain.
The descendants of Bran are styled in the Triads, one of the three holy families of Britain. It is not stated that Caractacus himself embraced Christianity; but Eigen, a daughter of Caradog ab Bran, or Caractacus, is recorded as the first female
* Dr. O. Pughe, in Preface to Gunn's Nennius.
Myv. Archaiology, Vol. II. 47.