Excerpts Life of St. Samson of Dol by Thomas Taylor


The British Church was summoned to take part in the Council or Synod of Arles in Southern Gaul in the year 314. Three bishops in attendance were from York, London, and Lincoln (or Caerleon).

In 429 St. Germain of Auxerre and St. Loup (Lupus) of Troyes (Trier) were sent to Britain to crush the heresy of Pelagius who denied the doctrine of original sin. In 477 St. Germain returned with Severus, Bishop of Treves. It is believed that Illtyd, St. Samson's master was trained by St. Germain. Illtyd's other disciples were St. Paul Aurelian and possibly St. David and Gildas.

Samson's birthplace is not given. His father Amon, was of Dyfed, and Anna, his mother, of the neighboring province of Gwent. (She was the daughter of King Meurig of Gwent.) St. Samson was ordained bishop on the Feast of St. Peter (February 22) on a Sunday at the beginning of Lent. Making allowance for the British method of computing time, we get to the year 521 as the probable year of his consecration. Assuming he was 35 years of age, he would be born in 486.

When Samson was five years old he was taken by his parents to the school of St. Illtyd near Cowbridge and while he was there he was ordained deacon and priest. In response to a heavenly call, he went to the monastery of Piro on Caldey Island and while there, somewhat reluctantly, paid a visit to his parents, as result of which the entire family (with the exception of his younger sister), together with his uncle and his family, devoted themselves to the religious life.

On the death of Piro, having fallen down a well while drunk, Samson replaced him as abbot. He went to Ireland and sent his uncle Umbraphel there to to take charge of a monastery he had founded there.

While on a retreat with his father and two others, near the banks of the Severn, he was summoned to a synod and ordained bishop. Bidding farewell to the monastery at Caldey, he sailed to Cornwall. Landing near Egloshayle he directed his course to St. Kew (Landoho-Ducco) where he was welcomed by Wunniau (Juniavus). Then traversing in a southerly direction, he came to the port which is, without doubt that of Fowey, whence he embarked for Brittany where he founded the monastery of Dol.

The author states that his sources are the life of the saint were written by Samson's nephew, deacon Henloc, and handed down to his nephew, man of 80 years and the monks of Llantwit.

The author wrote on the urging of Tigernomaus. A stone built in the western-wall, near the southwest corner of Cubert Church. Cornwall reads CONECTOCI FILI TIGERNOMALUS.

Amon and Anna where his father and mother. Umbraphel was the younger brother of Amon and he was married to Afrella, the younger sister of Anna who bore three sons before Anna.

Here begins the last part of "The Life of St. Samson of Dol" describing Samson's involvement in the battle that deposed and killed Commorus, replacing Judual on the throne of Domnonia in Brittany.

LIII. Nevertheless I do not think one, the greatest and most wonderful work of all, ought to passed over in silence, which in this country of Europe. God wrought by his hands. For when he had learnt that the districts were in dire distress, and had made most diligent inquiry of them as to the cause of it, they tell him that as unjust and unprincipled stranger has come to be a judge over the land and their ruler Jonas by name, who holds their land by hereditary custom, has been handed over to death as the result of wicked bribes wickedly given into the hands of the king and queen, his greatest bane; moreover that his son Judual has been delivered to captivity and to death, but up to the present they asserted that he was alive. When indeed, St. Samson heard these things, by providence of God, he was moved with compassion and promptly went forth to go to King Childebert on Judual's account, having Christ always and in all things for his companion.

A healing that by tradition, St. Armel (St. Arthmael- King Arthur as a saint after Camlann) performed.

LIV. And it came to pass when he had entered within the palace, God, as we may suppose, exercising power on his behalf, he found the great chief harassed by suffering at the hands of a demon; and when he was aware of this, St. Samson came to him and, having taken oil, blessed it and fully anointed him on his head, face, and breast which many watched him; and, with God's help, he who had been sick was made perfectly whole. And immediately news was carried to the king about him and the miracle which God had wrought by him.

LV. When he wished to talk with the king and had discussed the matter of the same Judual, that he might be sent away to him, an insolent refusal was brought. In effect they said that he would never see him alive. St Samson, however, very gently and yet doggedly continued to urge the plea he had begun; they more disgracefully refused. Now when Samson saw that his words produced no effect upon them, being angry, he was disposed to depart from them; and threatening to decimate them through their progeny if they refused to give him the man he sought. As he was departing full of anger, the chief from whom the demon had been expelled, with many others, urged upon the king that a saint of God ought not be insulted. Then the king with the full consent of his companions, wished to appease Samson.

The wicked queen whose name was Ultrogatha was said by Gregory of Tours to be "pious and admirable women", thus the cup of poison could have been nothing more than a hot drink that broke the glass

The wicked queen, continuing still in her wickedness and shamelessly bawling out to the saint in vile language, which is not fit to be repeated, by means of a trick of wicked contrivance, requested him to partake of food with the king before he was reconciled to him. Then St. Samson, not with ready will but for convention's sake, consented to partake of food with them; but the wicked queen, at the devil's bidding, caused them to mix poison in the glass for him and ordered it to be carried by her servant to St. Samson as he sat near the king. And so, as the king received his own cup and St. Samson made the sign of the Cross upon it, the servant brought before him the glass with poison intended for him. Then St. Samson, surely inspired by God, having placed the sign of the Cross on the hand of him who held it, split the glass wherein there was the evil thing into four parts and spilling the wine over the cupbearer's hand and crashing cut him to the bone, while many looked on. St. Samson, however, as if in a very friendly manner, said, "It is not meet that a man should drink this cup." And when he made the accustomed sign on the wounded man's hand he was made whole in the presence of them all,

Again it is quite possible that Samson was merely a good rider.

LVI. Thereupon the king being confounded, and all of them indignant, the queen always wicked, became hardened in her wickedness. And it came to pass,that, the king giving his consent, Samson purposed to go to the place where Judual was. Forthwith, the queen ordered an unbroken and furious horse to be brought from the drove to carry him. When he saw him, St. Samson placed the sign of the Cross on the unruly steed, and having put the saddle on him he himself mounted the horse. And so gentle and timid was the horse, that he hardly dared to move his foot or to go even slowly, Christ bringing him into subjection to His elect.

This is merely the metaphor as used in "Paul and Thecla" where lion means king, thus he had won over Childebert.

LVII. And the queen, herself ever hardening, by wicked contrivance seeking to overcome and and destroy Samson the saint of God, ordered a fierce and angry lion to be provoked by the keepers and be brought loose and furious to the port over against him, as though they were ignorant of what was going on, as St. Samson went his way in front of his companions with his accustomed weapons

Now when the lion fierce and furious, saw him making straight for it with fearless steps, losing courage, and God fighting against it for His elect, just as if it had received a blow in the eyes, it betook itself to rapid flight. Then that holy man, very greatly confused and agitated, with an invocation of the name of Christ, discharging after the beast his accustomed missiles as if from a spiritual catapult, spoke thus: "I charge thee in the name of Jesus Christ, who has given power to us to treat underfoot you and things like you, that thy terrible power from this day forward may never more rise up against the human race, but that expiring swiftly in the presence of these people, they may know and understand that as a servant of Christ I have been sent from this place into the province."

When he had finished speaking, and while many looked on, the lion threw himself headlong and that hour was dead. Then all these men together with that queen, beholding all these things, smitten with fear, fell at St. Samson's feet and promised all things according to the pleasure of his will. And lest he should suffer any damage, they became surety to him for the aforementioned Judual.

The dragon (name for Welsh battle chieftain) is
Conomor (same as King Mark of Cornwall)
and Samson has excommunicated him.

LVIII. Then the king was desirous of pleasing St. Samson in all things, and when he had received him with apostolic honor and promised good concerning the above-mentioned Judual, he said humbly, "Elect of God, we have great anxiety of mind, for there is a serpent doing great destruction and making desolate our country. We have heard concerning thee that thou hast been victorious in a case like this, and so, if no harm might happen to thee, we should like thee to drive it away from us."

The "certain man" would be St. Armel
(St. Arthmael - King Arthur as a saint).
The two men of his own would be St. Paul Aurelius
(one of the seven saints of Brittany in Leon - Lyonesse)
and probably
St. Malo (also one of the seven saints of Brittany in Aleth).

Thereupon Samson unhesitatingly said, "Ascertain for me the way to it and, trusting in God, I will come in the strength of God, and cast it forth." Then a certain man, experienced and bold, stepped forth to accompany him. Accordingly, leaving his companions in the palace with the above-mentioned Judual, and choosing only two men of his own to be with him, he took a journey forthwith, having Christ for his companion. Now it came to pass that in due time they came to the horrible cave where the serpent dwelt. When Samson knew this he said to his friends, "Be steadfast and wait here for me until I come back to you."

Now while they stayed there, he himself, seeing that he had God for his companion, boldly went forth to the mouth of the horrible cave, and after fasting, watching, and praying there, at length called to the serpent in the name of Jesus Christ to come to him. And as it came full of fear, St. Samson seized hold of his mantle and bound it round the serpent's neck, and dragging it near to him, while he sang the already mentioned accustomed psalm, he ordered it to go to the other side of a certain river which is called Sigina (Seine), and commanded it to remain there under a certain stone.

The battle was fought near Monts d'Arree and L'abbaye du Relec was built later to honor the many dead in Plounéour Ménez, Commana.

So when he had returned with his companions and was come back to the palace, his companions related to the king and all his friends everything they had seen with the serpent. Then fear and very great wonder fell on all, insomuch that no one indeed durst offend him any more, even in the smallest matter. Accordingly, when St. Samson wished to go back to Brittany with Judual, the king willingly consented, and, with the king's assistance, he had arranged of the erection of a splendid monastery in the place whence he had expelled the serpent, and with the king's encouragement had sent forth brothers to be there and carry on the work.

Quite possibly Samson has collected troops from Guernsey and Jersey for the battle

With a favorable wind he set out for Lesia (Guernsey) and Angia (Jersey), islands of the sea; and those men being well known to St. Samson, at his request came with one accord with Judual to Brittany. And on a certain day as he was praying and fasting, by his holy intercession God gave victory to Judual, so that, with one blow, he overthrew Commorus the unjust oppressor and himself reigned over all of Domnonia in Brittany with his offspring.

So that finally, that same St. Samson was received with very great reverence by the before-mentioned King Childebert, and all things, whatsoever he wished, he gave him not only abundantly, but also willingly and at once, freely bestowing both estates and privileges.

From Histoire de Bretagne, Pierre Le Baud (1638)


Samson was grandson of Meurig ap Tewdrig, prince of Glamorgan and Gwent, first cousin of Morgan ab Athruis, contemporary with, and the intimate friend of Teilo, and his brother-in-law Budic, the Armorican prince.

The year wherein he went to Dol may be ascertained from the fact that on his arrival in Armorica he found a foreigner, called Count Commotus, ruling the country, having slain the native prince Jonas and imprisoned his son Judual. From Gregory of Tours (530 - 595/596, consecrated in 573), a contemporary author, we learn that this Commotus, or as he calls him, Conumur, was an officer of Childebert, the first king of Paris.

In 546, Armorica, at that time, like Britain, divided into several petty states, was in a state of commotion ; during which, Canao, the fourth son of Rouval, or Howel, the friend of the renowned Arthur, murdered his eldest brother Rhiwal, or Howel the Second, father of Jona or Jena, and two others, and imprisoned Maclean, the youngest. Childebert took advantage of these disturbances to invade the country, when Jena was killed by his lieutenant Conumur, and his son Judual sent prisoner to Paris. It must have been then between 547 and 557, that Samson went to Dol; and if we fix it in 550, we cannot be far out.

In year 549, according to the Annales Cambriae, the plague called the Yellow Death broke out and this caused his friend Teilo to visit him.

In the year 557, he signed the second council of Paris in the usual way at that time: "Samson I, a sinner, and Bishop, have assented to and signed."

According to Alban Butler's "The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints", he died in 564.

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