« PrejšnjaNaprej »
to include the immediate ancestors of those chieftains who rose into power upon the departure of the Romans. It has been already observed that the Triads and the poems of the Bards allude to no affairs which were transacted in the third century; and if the arrangements just made be correct, the genealogies afford no information as to the Saints who lived in the same period. This chasm in Welsh tradition is due to the quiet submission of the people under a foreign power ; and if those accounts which relate to the age preceding prove uncertain, and occasionally incorrect, the remoteness of the time, as well as the interruption, must in fairness be sufficient to account for their inaccuracy and uncertainty. The third and early part of the fourth centuries include the usurpation of Carausius and the accession of Constantine, both of which happened in Britain, but these events more especially concerned the Romans. As regarded the history of the Britons as a nation, this was an eventful period. The Christian religion, doubtless, continued to make progress; but as for those who were engaged in the work of promoting it, no friendly Bard has preserved their names.
Nocte, carent quia vate sacro.
The Welsh Saints from A. D. 300 to A. D. 400.
In the year 303 occurred the persecution under Dioclesian, in which St. Alban, the Proto-martyr of England, and his contemporaries, Amphibalus, Aaron, and Julius, are said to have suffered martyrdom; and though their history is obscured with fable, the credit of their existence may be maintained upon the testimony of writers of great antiquity;* but as their names are not noticed in any catalogue of Welsh Saints, it will not be necessary to say much respecting them. They appear to have been Romans rather than Britons, which may account for the circumstance of their having passed almost unregarded by the Welsh people. There is no church in Wales dedicated to Alban, or Amphibalus. Julius and Aaron are said to have been inhabitants of the Roman city of Caerleon upon Usk, where, according to Walter de Mapes, Geoffrey of Monmouth, as well as Giraldus Cambrensis, two illustrious churches were dedicated to their memory, and adorned with a convent of nuns and ciety of regular canons. But as those authors, who flourished from A. D. 1150 to 1200, admit that these establishments did not exist in their time, but were among the glories of Caerleon which had passed away, the whole account may be regarded as a monkish fable, it being inconsistent with the history of the age to which it is referred. Soon after the Norman Conquest there was an ordinary church at Caerleon, dedicated to Julius and Aaron jointly,
* Constantius of Lyons, who wrote the life of St. Germanus about A. D. 500, Venantius Fortunatus, and Bede.
which was about the same time granted by Robert de Candos to the priory of Goldcliff.* According to Bishop Godwin, there existed, in the recollection of the generation preceding that in which he wrote,t two chapels called after Julius and Aaron, on the east and west side of the town, and about two miles distant from each other; but so little respect appears to have been paid to these edifices that antiquaries are not quite agreed as to their situations. Llanharan in Glamorganshire, considered to be dedicated to Julius and Aaron, is but a chapel; and its mother church, Llanilid, is also of late dedication, being consecrated to Julitta and Cyrique, French Saints whose homage was introduced probably by the Normans.
In A. D. 306 Constantine was proclaimed Emperor of Rome upon the death of his father Constantius, an event which took place in Britain. From this circumstance the Armorican chronicle has taken occasion to fill the world with the story, that he was a native of this island, and that his mother, Helen, was the daughter of Coel, a British king. This tale has been much controverted, and since the time of Gibbon the decision of most historical writers is in the negative. The best authorities in support of it are, the following passage from Eumenius, the Rhetorician,-“O fortunate Britain, and now happier than all countries, which hast first seen Constantine Cæsar:" and the following from another panegyrist ;—“He (thy father Constantius) delivered Britain from bondage, but thou by arising from thence hast made it illustrious.”But these passages can surely mean no more than his accession, as
Dugdale's Monasticon. + Sometimes called Julietta and Cyr, their Welsh names are Ilid and Curig.
# These passages are originally thus :-“O fortunata, et nunc omnibus beatior terris Britannia, quæ Constantinum Cæsarem prima vidisti,”“ Liberavit ille (pater videlicet Constantius) Britannias servitute, tu etiam nobiles illic oriendo fecisti."—With respect to the meaning of “ oriendo,"
Cæsar, to a share of the Imperial government. The opinion of Archbishop Usher is to the contrary, * but it is surprising that the learned Primate should not have examined the subject with his usual chronological skill. Constantine was of full A. D. 306, when he was proclaimed Emperor upon the death of his father ; indeed Usher produces authorities to show that he was created Cæsar before that time. Now Constantius visited Britain, for the first time, in 296; and allowing that Constantine was born that year, he could only have been ten years old at the time of his accession to the empire; he was, therefore, not born in Britain. Besides, Helen was the wife of Constantius's younger years, and, as she was divorced by him as early as A. D. 286, ten years before his arrival in this country, she was not likely to have been a Briton. But chronology and the monkish historians are always at variance, and the attempt to reconcile them would be a fruitless undertaking. A modern writert asks, how has it happened that such a tradition, as that of the British parentage of Constantine, should become perfectly national? To this it may be replied, that in all the works of the earlier Bards, the catalogues of Saints, the older pedigrees, and all the Triads, except one, there is not the slightest allusion to the circumstance ;+ and the omission of a fact, which would have gratified the national pride of the Welsh, is a presumptive proof that they were not acquainted with it. When the story was communicated to them by the monks in the middle ages, they received it with avidity. The solitary Triad to the contrary is No. 6, second series, in the Myvyrian Archaiology ; but a
it is sufficient to say that Eumenjus describes the accession of Constantius, the father of Constantine, in similar terms.
* De Brit. Eccl. Primordiis, Cap. VIII.
# It appears to have been unknown to Bede, to the author of the composition ascribed to Gildas, and to the compilers of the Saxon Chronicle translated by Dr. Ingram.
single reading of it will discover its monkish origin. The only Triad besides, in which even the name of Constantine is mentioned, is the Triad respecting Archbishopricks,* which may also be referred to the same manufactory.
Helen and Constantine were canonized by the Romanists; but the name of the latter does not occur in any Welsh list of Saints, and that of the former is omitted in almost all the existing catalogues.f There is a church in Glamorganshire, called Eglwys Ilan, which is supposed by Browne Willis to be dedicated to Ilelen; and to render the dedication more complete, the subordinate church of Llanfabon, despite the name it bears, is attributed to Constantine. Another church, in Cardiganshire, is called Tref Ilan; but the identity of Ilan with Helen is, at least, questionable, as in all the current stories respecting the latter the name is never corrupted. A church in Monmouthshire is called distinctly Llanelen ; but not to lay too great a stress upon names, it may be allowed that these churches, as well as a chapel of St. Ileleng which once existed at Carnarvon, were dedicated to her in the
and if the story of her British origin were true, it would be surprising that such dedications were not more numerous. A church in Carnarvonshire, called Llangystennyn,|| is perhaps dedicated to Constantine the Great; but this must be uncertain, as soon after the departure of the Romans there was a sainted king in Britain, called Cystennyn Fendigaid, or Constantine the Blessed.
* No. 62, Third Series, Myv. Archaiology.
+ It is mentioned in only two of the MSS. cited in the Myvyrian Ar. chaiology.
Llanfabon is called after Mabon, the brother of Teilo, Bishop of Llandaff; and Eglwys Ilan may derive its name from a Welsh Saint, of whom all other memorials have perished.
Rowlands's Mona Antiqua, Section XI. || This church does not appear to be ancient, as in the time of Edw. I. it was a chapel under Abergele (St. Michael.)