Celtic Christianity.

Christianity reached Britain, could be first Century AD; certainly at least as early as the second century AD.

51AD: It is said that Caratacus the leader of the Silures who inhabited the Monmouth and Glamorgan area, after his defeat by the Romans was taken and led in triumph through the streets of Rome, was pardoned by the Emperor Claudius and was converted to Christianity.  He returned to Wales to preach the Gospel, which certainly gained a very strong hold early on among the Welsh.

177AD: Influx of Christian refugees from Gaul.

209AD: First British Martyrs.

Welsh Bishops present at the conference at Nicea.

410AD Romans withdrew.

Late 5C: The monk Gildas wrote that the former kingdom of Demetia was ruled by King Voteparix and was at that time called Dyfed. The kings were reputed to be of Irish origin. It is known from a memorial stone that Vorteporix had inherited the throne from his father Aircol and he from his father Triphure.

500 approx: Age of the Saints.

The monastic system appears to have been well established and during the Dark ages the Church remained the only national institution and one of the main influences in Wales . Monks from the area became missionaries spreading the Gospel to England and abroad.

597: St Augustine of Canturbury arrived in Britain  and as can be seen from his unsatisfactory meeting with the Bishops  of the Celtic Church, there was a viable and highly independent Celtic Church in Britain long before he came. After the two abortive meetings between St Augustine and the Celtic bishops, when the later refused to acknowledge the supremacy of Rome, that proud and irritable saint gave his blessing to the Saxon armies, and prophesied:  "If the Welsh will not be at peace with us, they will perish at the hand of the Saxons. The Saxon chronicler the Venerable Bede recorded the great victory of Aethelfrith at Chester in 613 when the King slew numberless Welshmen including all the monks of Bangor Yscoed.

Ogham Stone Caldey island: Inside the ancient church of St. Illtud a 6c stone which bears the remnants of an Ogham inscription on both edges of the face and originally across the top as well probably.  It is feasable that the inscription refers to the servant of Dubricius  meaning Piro. In about 750AD a cross and a latin inscription were added.   The stone was discovered in the ruins of the priory in the 19c St. Dubricius set up the first monastery and Piro was appointed abbot. He is reputed to have enjoyed a drink or two and one night in about 520AD he had one too many, and on returning to his cell in a state of drunkenness he fell into the monastery well. When his fellow monks pulled him out they found he had drowned.  In spite or maybe because of this, he was still regarded as a saint. Samson was then appointed as Piro's successor.  He tried in vain to curb the monks drinking habits. Finally, defeated, by problems of discipline he left Caldey and retired with some of the more temperate monks to Stackpole where they took over an abandoned camp and Samson settled in a cave in the side of the headland.

St. David: 520 - 590c was the son of a petty king whose domain was situated in West Wales.

Asser a monk of St David's was one of King Alfred's advisers. St. Samson was a pupil at the monastry Llanlltwid Fawr on the site now known as Llantwit major, under St. Illtyd. It is possible that Dewi Sant was also educated there.

St. Samson was appointed Abbot of Caldey and later consecrated Bishop by St. Dyfrig or Dubricuis.

Samson visited Ireland then settled in a cave in a rock near Bosheston near a camp and Church he had built for his disciples. A Farm, a Cross and a bridge within a mile of the cave are known to this day by his name. He later went to Cornwall and to Brittany were he founded the monastery at Dol. He died at Dol about 565 and is generally regarded as the patron saint of Brittany.

St. Teilo: Teilo was one of the earlier Bishops of Llandaff Cathedral was held  in  so much  reverence that nearly 20 churches in Wales were dedicated to him. When he died 3 Churches insisted on receiving his body. To settle the dispute the body is said to have miraculously divided into 3 separate corpses. Consequently each church had the honour of burying his remains, but the church at Llandaff has always claimed to contain the body of the real St. Teilo. Said to have been a cousin of St. David, born at Penally, educated by St. Dyfrig whom he succeeded. Principle monastery was Llandeilo Fawr in Carmarthenshire, according to some accounts founded Llandaff. Left Wales in 547 to escape the yellow plague returned to Llandaff after 7 years.

577 accompanied the British forces to do battle against the Saxons invoked divine aid for their leader, Iddon ap Ynys who thereupon won a decisive victory on the Banks of the Wye. 3 churches contended for his remains when he died, Penally, Llandeilo and Llandaff.

There is a legend however that when he was on his death dead he called to him a devoted maidservant and charged her straightly to perform for him this last service: a year from the day of his burial she was to take his skull to a small church he had built at Llandilo in Pembrokeshire beside a spring of clear water, so that all ailing folk who drank the water from the skull should be cured of their infirmities. The girl did as she was told, and for hundreds of years the well water drunk in this way wrought cures of all kinds of ailments, including the whooping cough. In the 19c the little church fell into disuse and decay, and the skull was kept at a more recently built farmhouse where a Welsh family by the name of Melchior lived, traditionally they were descendants of St. Teilo's maidservant. In 1850 and even later sick people were travelling from distant parts to take the miraculous cure but about the turn of the century Miss Melchior, the last of the family, sold the skull for 50 to a  "person representing himself as acting on behalf of some museum or other" and it has never been heard of since.  

[Behind the Penally Arms Hotel are the medieval ruins of St Deiniol's Chapel. A Celtic monastic  establishment which was dissolved or moved elsewhere before 1500 scanty remains].

Roscrowther.

Caroe  suggests possible site of St. Decuman's cell.

Font Norman   Caen stone 

14c richly decorated monument N wall of Chancel.

Nearby St. Decuman's Well  a local Saint  alleged to have had his head cut off brought it back to his home country here in Pembrokeshire and where he placed it on the ground holy water has flowed ever since  martyred 706 near Dunster in Somerset.

1098### Benedictine cell founded at Monkton by Arnulf de Montgomery subordinate to St Martin at Sees.

1138 The practice of Clergy being allowed to marry in the Celtic Church finally ended.  

1442 St. Mary's parish church of Tenby with the priory of Monkton was presented by the Earl of Pembroke to his friend the Abbot of St. Albans who passed the church on to his sisters in the Convent of St Mary de la Pre. Founded by King John for the health of his own, His ancestors and his heirs souls and built for God, lepers and diseased women in a meadow near St Albans.

1484 The Archbishop of Canterbury received a bull from the Pope to inspect the religious houses of the realm and found that the Abbess of St Mary de la Pre, Elena Germyn, was married, separated and mistress of a member of the church and the convent was run as a brothel.

1528 The Pope:-  "in as much as we learn the discipline is greatly relaxed in the monastery of the nuns of the meadow.... it must be wholly suppressed and the properties, farms and all rights must be returned to the Monastery of St. Albans".

Welsh Walks and Legends   -     Showell Styles.


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