Sunday, 11 August 2013

Christianity in Devon, before A.D. 909 – Part 2

Sundays are going to see a change for the moment in a rather different direction on this blog. I shall be posting sections from "Christianity in Devon, before A.D. 909" by John Frederick Chanter. This was originally published in 1910, and forms source footnotes on many publications on that subject. It is probably one of the best collations of source material out there, but it is difficult to track down.
Why Devon? The reason is simple. We have, in Jersey, one Saint from that part of the world, St Brelade, or Branwallader, as he was also known.
In this extract, we see that two saints have been confused in most details given on St Brelade. Bishop Grandisson, in his search for the ancient Celtic Christians, lists:
St. Branwalethri, a martyr son of King Kenem.
SS. Branwalader and Mellenus, confessors and bishops. St. Branwalader is also commemorated in a Winchester calendar, and one at Treguies in Brittany. In the Exeter Litany, cited by Mabillon, there is also an invocation of him. On January 19, 905, King Athelstan translated the body of St. Branwalader to Milton. William of Worcester says before it reposed at Branston, eight miles from Axminster. His days were June 8, January 19, June 5.
It's clear that Branwalethri is the saint mentioned when Branwallader is said to be "the son of the Cornish King Kenem" in the Exeter Martyrology, and that explains why he should be in that document-  he was a martyr. But it is also the case that he is quite distinct from our Branwallader (alias Brelade) although the names have been confused at some point.
Far from being a martyr, Branwallader was one of the Celtic bishops in the Brythonic Eastern Church of Damnonia, and is not cited as a martyr. And that is clearly our Brelade, who is also mentioned in Winchester and Brittany, and whose bones were translated to Milton Abbas.
In the final section, we will see the church of which he formed a part has an ancient pedigree which quite probably goes back to Roman times, and the earliest beginnings of Christianity in Britain, and why his name appears in Winchester and Brittany but not in Cornwall.

Christianity in Devon, before A.D. 909 – Part 2
Rev. J. F. Chanter

Let us now see what records and traces still exist of early Christianity in Devon, and what accounts and names of early missionaries have survived.
I propose to gather together here all that I can discover, dividing them into different classes.
Inscribed Stones and Probable Celtic Crosses.
I. Yealampton — In the cemetery an inscribed stone. Inscription : " Goreus X-"
Huebner thinks that the cross in St. Andrew style may possibly be a later addition {Archaeolog. Journal, 1851, p. 424).
II. Ivybridge. — The Fardel stone, now in the British Museum. A stone with a double inscription, Ogham and Latin.
Ogham inscription : '' Svaqquci Maqiqici."
This has been read as an abbreviation for '' Svaq Quici Maqui Quici " ; or, " Sex Quici filii Quici."
Latin inscription : ''Fanoni Maquirini Sagranui."
This inscription may be compared with a somewhat similar one at St. Dogmael's, Pembroke, ' Sagrani fili Cunotami," and Ogham, "Sagramni Maqui Cunatami"(Archaeolog. Camb., 1873, p. 75).
III. Buckland Monachorum, — Now at Tavistock : a stone with a double inscription. Ogham and Latin.
Ogham inscription : " Nabarr."
All that has been deciphered.
Latin inscription : " Doburini fabri fili Enabarri "
{Archaeolog, Camb., 1874, p. 92).
IV. Buckland Monachorum. — Now at Tavistock ; inscribed stone : " Sarini fili Macco Decheti."
This inscription may be compared with one at Penrhos, Llugwy, Anglesey, " Hie jacet Maccu Decceti " (Ann. Camb., 1874, p. 92).
V. Tavistock. — Inscribed stone at site of abbey : " Neprani fili Conbeui."
The second name is the earliest known form of the Welsh "Cynfyu" (Archaeolog. Camb., 1874, p. 333).
VI. Stowford, Lifton. — An inscribed stone : " Gurgles," " Gumglei," or " Gunglel."
This reading is uncertain ; the latter is that of Mr. Westwood ; it is an inscription of the same period as the
Yealmpton stone (Archaeolog. Journal, 1851, p. 424).
VII. Lustleigh, — Inscribed stone, formerly sill to church door : " Dettuidoc conhinoc."
This inscription is probably of the eighth century and is perhaps Brythonic.
VIII. Bowden, Totnes.— Inscribed stone : " Valci fili V . . . aius."
This inscription is taken from a letter of Browse Trist, Esq., AD 1744.
IX. Winsford. — Inscribed stone on Winsford Hill.
Though now in Somerset Exmoor was in Devon formerly. " Carataci (N)epus."
Professor Rhys says this is a formula that is highly Goidelic — it means nephew or sister's son of Caratacus, the descent being reckoned on the mother's side {Archaeolog, Camb. 1896, p. 29).
To these, perhaps, I should add two in Dorset, which was once probably within the Damnonian realm : —
(i.) Frampton, — Inscribed stone, Latin characters with : "Chi Rho" Cross.
(ii.) Wareham. — Inscribed stone : " Catgug . . . ie fius Gideo."
In Cornwall there are twenty-two which I believe have been previously fully described and collected together.
There has also been found an Ogham inscription as far east as Silchester ; it is " The grave of Epicatus, son of Muco ." In Latin " Muco " equals "nepus." Compare with Exmoor stone.
X. — Copplestone Cross, — By some considered Celtic, though more probably Anglo-Saxon.
XI. — Dolton, — Parts now made into a font in the church ; this is, however, probably early Anglo-Saxon, AD. 709 (Trans. Devon, Assoc,, Vol. XXII, p. 197), though the sculpture is of a Celtic character.
XII. East Worlington — Stone with cross on each face.
XIII. Lustleigh, — Cross.
There is little in the stones to connect them with Christianity, but agreeing as they do with the Welsh and Cornish contemporaneous stones in the characters of the letters, the contents and form of inscription, in their grammar, and in two cases by the accompanying of the Latin words with an equivalent in Ogham characters, they are probably Christian because the Welsh and Cornish parallel class are demonstrably so. The only light thrown by them is that the Goidelic race who erected them were more probably connected with Wales than Ireland, and this view is strengthened by the more recent ones discovered at Winsford and Silchester. The occurrence so far east is all against Oghams being of Irish origin.
These stones are probably Christian memorials, because in pre-Christian days the Celts disposed of their dead by cremation, the burnt ashes being placed in rudely baked urns and deposited in the earth, the place being marked by a mound, a circle of stones, a row of stones, or a menhir, or a combination of these. When Christianity was introduced a change in their methods of burial took place.
(a) They were not burnt.
(b) No objects were buried with them.
(c) Burials were in consecrated places.
(d) Place marked by a cross or inscription.
Contemporaneous and Later Records
I. Gildas. — The Welsh historian, AD 646, refers in one passage to Christianity in Devon. It is : —
" Of this horrid abomination Constantine the tyrannical whelp of the unclean lioness of Damnonia is not ignorant. In the habit of a holy abbot, amid the sacred altars, did with sword and javelin murder two royal youths with their two attendants."
II. Aldhelm. — Letter to Gerontius or Geraint, which, Bede says, brought many of the Britons to the Catholic celebration of the Dominical Pasch, AD 705.
In the time of William of Malmesbury this letter had disappeared, and it was believed that the Britons had destroyed it, but it has since been found among letters attributed to Winfrith ; the letter was evidently preserved by them. Aldhelm was himself a pupil of Maidulf , a Goidel missionary. The address is : —
" To the most glorious Lord wielding the sceptre of the western kingdom whom I as the discerner of hearts is my witness embrace in fraternal charity to King Gerontius and also to all the priests of God dwelling throughout the Domnonian realm Aldhelm unworthily exercising the office of abbot a greeting in the Lord."
The letter itself is somewhat lengthy to quote; the following is an abstract of its contents : —
(a) A statement of the origin of the letter.
(b) A statement of reports that the British Christians were at variance among themselves and an argument for peace.
(c) A statement of reports that the British rejected the circular tonsure, and an argument that his was the tonsure of St. Peter, theirs the tonsure of Simon Magus.
(d) A still more pernicious offence that they kept Easter on a wrong calculation, and that they carried to an extreme pitch their scorn for all who differed from them — this part is worth quoting in full, as it illustrates relationship of British and Saxon Christians : —
" What a wide departure it is from the Catholic faith and from gospel tradition that the priests of the Demetae on the other side of the Severn Sea, priding themselves on the nicety of their private and personal living, shrink in abhorrence from communion with us. So much so that they will not condescend to join us in divine service in church nor to take their meals with us side by side in friendly fellowship at Table. . . . They offer us no friendly salutation, no kiss of holy brotherhood is given according to the apostolic precept ... if any of us visit them for the purpose of taking up our abode with them we are not admitted to the society of the guild before we have passed forty days in penance."
(e) A strong appeal in the name of Catholicity.
(/) A declaration that to hold the Catholic faith is not sufficient without the observance of Catholic
III. References to Devon in early books of Wales.
(a) Death of Geraint, AD 530.
" In Longborth Geraint was slain,
A brave man from the region of Dyvnaint,
And before they were overpowered they committed slaughter."
Black, Book of Caermarthen, IX, 9.
 (6) St. Teilo, said to have visited Geraint at Dingevin on his way to Brittany during the yellow plague and to come back in seventh year, circ. AD 590 {Liber Landavensis pp. 102, 107.)
(c) Iolo MSS. have a large number of references to Damnonia and west country saints.
(i) They tell us that the royal residence of Damnonia was formerly at Gelliwig, and later at Caervynyddawg. I am unable to identify these places.
(ii) Motto of the chair of Dyvnaint in the chair of Bleisgawen was: "Nothing is for ever that is not for
ever and ever."
(iii) Various accounts of Geraint,. for instance, his saying : —
"Hast thou heard the saying of Geraint,
The son of Erbin the Just and Generous,
Short-lived is the hatred of the saints ?"
(iv) In its calendar of saints various names of many to whom there are Devonshire dedications.
IV. Bede mentions two British bishops as assisting at the consecration of St. Chad, AD 666. Bishop Browne shows that these were Damnonian bishops and not Welsh.
V. Submission of Bishop Kenstec, AD 846: —
''In the name of God most high and our Lord Jesus Christ.
' I, Kenstec, elected, though humble and unworthy, to the episcopal seat in the Cornish nation in the monastery which is called, in the language of the Britons, Dinurrin, in the first place confess to thee most holy father, Ceolnod Archbishop, that without any doubting I believe in God the Father Almighty, etc. etc. . . . and I profess to thee with all humbleness and sincere devotion, most pious and learned prelate, that in all things without any scruple of false and frivolous imagining, I am ready to become for all the term of my transitory life the obedient poor servant and suppliant client of the Dorovernian Church,
and of thee and thy successors.
I, Kenstec, subscribe this with the confirmation under my own hand of the sign of the Cross of Christ."
VI. — English chroniclers : —
(a) William Malmesbury, AD 1120:
(i.) Mentions that a King of Damnonia on the petition of Abbot Worgrez, in the year AD 601, granted to the old church at Glastonbury or Ineswetrin, five cassates of land, and that the instrument containing
this grant has : " I, Mawom, Bishop, wrote this grant. I, Worgrez, Abbot of the place, signed it."
"Who this king might be, the antiquity of the instrument prevents our knowing," says William (Gest
Reg.. 127).
(ii.) He preserves some ancient names inscribed on a pyramid : " Her Sexi " and " Bliswerh," with image of regal dignity, etc. (Oest. Reg.y i. 21).
(iii.) Tells us that AD 926 the Britons inhabited Exeter with equal privilege with the Angles, and that Athelstan then cleansed Exeter by purging it of its contaminated race, and fortified it with towers and surrounded it with a wall of squared stone {Gest. Reg., i. 134).
(iv.) Tells us St. Rumon was a bishop much talked of, with comment "nothing known but the name"
(Gest. Pont.).
' (b) John of Glastonbury :
Records the names of Damnonian bishops not given by other writers, St. Conoglas and St. Coventinus.
VII. Grandisson's ordinate, circ. AD 1330.
In 1330, Bishop Grandisson, when he was compiling this, wrote complaining of the neglect and accidents that had caused the destruction or loss of the records of the Cornish saints, and directed all that remained to be transcribed.
Unfortunately he has not handed down what then survived, but it is evident that at that early period most of the records of the Celtic saints and Church had disappeared ; but in his calendar he preserves items of great value.
(i.) St. Brannock's body rested at Braunton, his feast had nine lections, and directions are given for its celebration if his feast fell on a Sunday.
(ii.) St. Branwalethri, a martyr son of King Kenem.
(iii.) St. Kierrian, a bishop and confessor.
(iv.) St. Petrock, who, divinely moved, forsook the footsteps of this earthly kingdom and the warfare of this worldly life to win by the sweetness of the lonely life the glory of the heavenly kingdom ; his day had nine lections.
(v). SS. Branwalader and Mellenus, confessors and bishops. St. Branwalader is also commemorated in a Winchester calendar, and one at Treguies in Brittany. In the Exeter Litany, cited by Mabillon, there is also an invocation of him. On January 19, 905, King Athelstan translated the body of St. Branwalader to Milton. William of Worcester says before it reposed at Branston, eight miles from Axminster. His days were June 8, January 19, June 5.
(vi). St. Rumon, several days of commemoration of this saint are given : January 5, translation ; August 30, " depositio " ; October 30, his death.
(vii.) Commemoration of various other Celtic saints, as St. Melanus, St. Gildas, St. Cadox, St. Kywere, St Nectan, etc.
A Saxon MS. of the Church of Sarum mentions a bishop in connection with Mellenus Wilperrizi, which may be a corruption of Branwallader.
VIII. William of Worcester, AD 1478, made a journey through Devon and Cornwall and examined the calendars of Tavistock, Launceston, Bodmin, and St. Michael's Mount, etc. The value of this from an historical point of view is the names he gives ; the lives based, as they are, on Capgrave's Nova Legenda, are the inventions of an uncritical and credulous age, eight hundred years after the events, and are not only unworthy of credence, but absolutely misleading — the Goidel of the early age had long before this time been interpreted as meaning an Irishman, a late Welsh use of the word. It is this use of the word Goidel that led him to confound the Damnonian saints with somewhat similar sounding Irish names. He gives, however, the names of several Damnonian bishops of apparently Celtic dates.
There were however, no doubt, visits of Irish saints to their Damnonian brethren, for their activity and love of wandering are almost incredible. We may take from him such names as Rumon, Conoglas, Kierrian or Piran, Carantoc, Withinoc, Barnic, as being probably Damnonian bishops, especially when there is confirmation from other sources.
IX. Leland, — Sixteenth century.
Our last informant on what had survived of tradition in the old monasteries and on their records ; he however adds Uttle to William of Worcester, though he is less credulous and leaves out much of the absurd legends of William. For instance, his whole account of St. Petrock is :
Petrocus genere Camber
XX annos studuit in Hibernia
reversus est ad suum monasterium in Cornubia
obiit prid. non Junii " (Vol. VIII, p. 52),
his disciples being Credanus, Medanus, Dechanus, all buried at Bodmin. This latter piece of information is probably late monkish apocrypha.
X. Breviaries etc.
Aberdeen. — Some account of Constantine, and informs us his retirement was caused by the untimely death of his daughter.
Cornish. — Missa St. Germani (Frag. MS., Bodleian), ninth century, claims St. German's preaching and relics for Cornwall — a quite unhistorical legend.

XI. Celtic Dedications in Devon,
This last source is perhaps the most valuable of all, for it shows us first of all that the native Christianity in Devon was sufficiently strong to be able to resist the levelling process of Anglo-Roman domination. And next it is a noticeable point that Celtic churches were not originally dedicated to saints then dead, but called by the names of their living founders, so the presumption is that a church called after a Celtic saint is his own individual foundation. The Celtic saints, as I said before, were distinguished by their love of wandering — they never remained long stationary, but moved from place to place, dotting their cells wherever they could obtain a foothold.
So these Celtic dedications are no mere whims of name fanciers, but commemorate founders. In the eighth century, however, the practice of dedicating churches to founders was superseded by dedications to St. Michael. Thus the frequent Llanfihangels we find in Wales show the later churches, and it is noticeable that they are most frequent in the wildest parts, showing, as we should expect, that paganism survived longest in the wildest parts.
We might be inclined at first to except from this rule Celtic dedications found in parishes where the land belonged to an abbey with a Celtic dedication, and think the names were given in sympathy with the dedication of the abbey. And in Devon there are many of these, Petrockstow, South Brent, Zeal Monachorum, all with Celtic dedications, were the lands of the Abbot of Buckfast. This religious house, better known as a Cistercian abbey, founded in 1137, was before the Conquest Benedictine and of unknown antiquity, and we have every reason to believe it was a Celtic foundation.
So Hollacombe and Newton St. Petrock were the lands of the priests of Bodmin in Domesday ; the last is certainly suspicious, as it is said to have been given to St. Petrock's, Bodmin, by King Eadred in AD 946, and Rumonsleigh doubtless owes its dedication to Tavistock, for Tavistock, though with a Celtic name, was a Saxon foundation. But monasteries in the Celtic church had a different rationale from later ones. In the Saxon and Norman ecclesiastical polity a monastery was a refuge for those who fled from the evils and temptations of the world, a haven where they might serve God better ; so Bishop Grandisson in his description of St. Petrock speaks of him as divinely moved to forsake the warfare of this worldly life, and win by the sweetness of the lonely life the glory of the heavenly kingdom, ascribing to this Celtic saint an idea that was entirely foreign to him, for a monastery in the Celtic Church was mainly a training - place for missionaries.
There the converts were gathered for instruction and preparation for the Christian priesthood, not that they might forsake the warfare of the worldly life, but that they might be fitted for that warfare, and fight in the world the good fight with all their might. The Celtic churches in lands that belonged to a Celtic monastery or their successors mark the offshoots, perhaps, from the abbey — the scenes of the labours of those trained in them.
Let me, then, give a list of the Celtic dedications that exist or did exist in former times in Devon, for they will show us the footsteps of the Celtic missionaries in our county ; the ones that still remain, or of which we have record, are probably only a part and perhaps a small part of those that once existed. With the strengthening of the Saxon factor in Devon there must have been a tendency to displace the unknown founder by a more fashionable dedication, or to alter it into something that sounded much alike but more familiar. Thus, many a St. Petrock was changed to a St. Peter under Saxon and Norman influence ; the wonder is not that there are so few, but that there are so many. 'The following list may doubtless be capable of alteration by erasure and addition. I have rejected some names given by others. For instance, All Hallows, Exeter, given as Celtic by Kerslake, is undoubtedly Saxon ; probably also St. Mary Arches, Exeter ; but Zeal Monachorum, now St. Peter, was in all probability originally St. Petrock. And with this preface I make, I believe, the first offer of a complete list of Devonshire Celtic dedications, including those that show Celtic influence. The authorities are chiefly Oliver, Brooking Rowe, Bishops' Registers, Wills, Miss Arnold Foster, and Thesaurus Ecc. Prov, 1782.
St. Alban, Beaworthy, Parish Church
St. Brannock, Braunton
St. Brandon, Brendon, Parish Church,
St. Brandon, Stokenham, Chapel
St. Budoc, St. Budeaux, Parish Church,
St. Bridget, Bridestowe, Parish Church,
St. Bridget, Bridgerule, Parish Church,
St. Bridget, Swymbridge, Chapel
St. Bridget, Virginstow, Parish Church,
St. Bridget, Wembworthy, Chapel
St. Constantine, Dunsford, Chapel
St. Constantine and St. Teilo, Milton Abbot, Parish Church,
St. Cuby, Exeter (Cowick), Chapel
St. Cuby, Widworthy, Parish Church,
St. Cyriaeus and St. Julitta, or St.Curig, Newton St. Cyres, Parish Church
St. Cyriaeus (and St Nicholas), South Pool, Parish Church
St. David, Ashprington, Parish Church
St. David, Ashprington, Chapel
St. David, Awliscombe (Dotton), Chapel
St. David, Culm Davy, Parish Church
St. David, Exeter, Parish Church
St. David, Thelbridge, Parish Church
St. Germanus, Germansweek, Parish Church
St. Helen (Elen ?), Abbotsham, Parish Church
St. Helen (Elen ?), Lundy, Parish Church
St. Heligan, Hartland, Chapel
St. Hergyth, Chittlehampton, Parish Church
St. Hergyth, Swymbridge (Stowford), Chapel
St. Julian, Maker, Parish Church
St. Kierrian, Exeter, Parish Church
St. Marina (=Morwenna), Mariansleigh, Parish Church
St. Melor, Thorncombe, Chapel
St. Nectan,  Ashcombe, , Parish Church
St. Nectan, Hartland, Parish Church
St. Nectan, Hartland, Abbey
St. Nectan, Welcombe, Parish Church (from 1508)
St. Nonn, Bradstone
St. Patemus, North Petherwin, Parish Church
St. Pol de Leon (or Pawl Hen), Churchstow, Parish Church
St. Pol de Leon (or Pawl Hen), Exeter, Parish Church
St. Pol de Leon (or Pawl Hen), Filleigh, Parish Church
St. Pol de Leon (or Pawl Hen), Landkey, Parish Church
St. Pol de Leon (or Pawl Hen), Staverton, Parish Church
St. Petrock, Anstey West
St. Petrock, Bampton (Petton), Chapel
St. Petrock, Brent, South, Parish Church
St. Petrock, Buckfastleigh, Abbey (anciently)
St. Petrock, Charles. Chapel
St. Petrock, Clannaborough, Parish Church
St. Petrock, Dartmouth, Chapel
St. Petrock, Dunkeswell, Abbey (anciently) 
St. Petrock, Exeter, Parish Church
St. Petrock, Exeter (Cathedral) Chapel
St. Petrock, Harford, Parish Church
St. Petrock, Hollacombe, Parish Church
St. Petrock, Kenton, Parish Church
St. Petrock, Leigh, West, Parish Church 
St. Petrock, Lydford, Parish Church
St. Petrock, Newton, St. Petrock, Parish Church
St. Petrock, Parracombe, Parish Church
St. Petrock, Petrockstow, Parish Church
St. Petrock, Tor Mohun, Parish Church
St. Petrock, Totnes, Parish Church
St. Petrock, Zeal Monachorum, Parish Church
St. Rumon, Rumonsleigh, Parish Church
St. Rumon, Lynton, Chapel
St. Rumon, Tavistock, Abbey
St. Sidwell, Exeter, Parish Church
St. Teilo, Ide, Parish Church
St. Teilo, Ideford, Parish Church
St. Teilo, Iddesleigh, Parish Church
St. Teilo and St. Constantine, Milton Abbot, Parish Church
St. Twinnel, Portlemouth, Parish Church
St. Wenn, Hartland, Chapel
To these I ought to add St. Brendon, at Brendon, and St. Beuno's cell, at Culbone, which is Cyl-Beuno, or St. Beuno's cell. This gives a total of fifty-six parish churches and twenty religious houses and chapels ; and to these should be added a certain proportion of the dedications to St. Peter, as being probably originally to St. Petrock. Also a proportion of those to St. Michael. If we take ten per cent of these it will add seven more. Again, in Devon there are four churches and one chapel dedicated to St. Pancras. Miss Arnold Forster considers these are all to St. Pancras of Taormina and of Celtic origin. I would suggest some connection between St. Pancras at Rousdon near the birthplace of St. Branwallader, and St. Pancras at Exeter, which is considered a Celtic foundation by Mr. Kerslake ; this will bring up the number of parish churches now existing of Celtic origin to sixty-seven.

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