Feast of Sts. Anna of Oxenhall, Wenna the Queen, Non, Samson of Dol, Cybi, and David of Wales (March 1)   Leave a comment

st-david-of-wales-and-family

Above:  A Family Tree

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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SAINT CYBI (CIRCA 483-NOVEMBER 8, 555)

Welsh Prince, Priest, Bishop, and Abbot

His feast transferred from August 13 and November 8

son of

SAINT WENNA THE QUEEN (CIRCA 472-OCTOBER 18, 544)

Queen of Cerniw

Also known as Saint Gwen

Her feast transferred from October 18

sister of 

SAINT NON (BORN CIRCA 475)

Welsh Nun

Also known as Saint Nonna, Nonita, and Nonnita

Her feast transferred from March 2, 3, and 5

mother of

SAINT DAVID OF WALES (DIED CIRCA 601)

Welsh Abbot and Primate

Also known as Saint Dewi

His feast = March 1

Half-Nephew of

SAINT SAMSON OF DOL (CIRCA 485-JULY 28, 565)

Welsh Priest, Abbot, Hermit, Bishop, and Missionary

son of

SAINT ANNA OF OXENHALL (BORN CIRCA 445)

Welsh Princess

Mother of Saints Samson of Dol, Wenna the Queen, and Non

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Work on this post began when I started taking notes on St. David of Wales, the patron saint of Wales.  His feast day is March 1.  Of that we can be certain; this is more than we can say about other portions of his official biography.  While taking notes on this saint I read references to many other Celtic saints, including five relatives.  I could have included many more saints than I did in this post, but I decided to keep it relatively simple and to focus on three generations of one family instead.  I, as one trained in history, have noticed discrepancies between dates in various sources.  I have done my best to honor chronology.  I have also done my best to recognize the difference between legend and objective reality.  King Arthur recurs in the hagiographies of some of these saints.  He was, of course, a composite figure and a legend–a fish story, if you will, O reader.  Instead of one big fish, fishes of various sizes existed.  By focusing on six members of one family I can be coherent while fulfilling one of my goals for the renovation of my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.    That goal is to emphasize relationships and influences.

The first of six saints was St. Anna of Oxenhall (born circa 445), mother of three other saints and grandmother of two more.  She, a daughter of Vortimer Fendigaidof, King of Gwertheflyrwig (now Gwent, Wales), married twice.  Her first husband was Cynyr the Fair-Bearded, Lord of Coer Goch.  According to legends, they were the foster parents of Uther Pendragon, father of King Arthur.  St. Anna’s first marriage produced at least six children, including St. Wenna the Queen (born circa 472) and St. Non (born circa 475).  The widowed St. Anna married Amon Ddu, Prince of Brittany.  They had several children, including St. Samson of Dol (circa 485-565).  The other two children also entered religious life.  Amon ended his days as a monk.

St. Wenna the Queen married Salom, King of Cerniw (now Cornwall, England).   Among their children was St. Cybi (circa 483-555), heir to the throne.  He received a fine education and became a priest, a bishop, and the Abbot of Caer Gybi.  At the age of 27, upon returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, St. Cybi learned that his father was dead and that he was the new king.  Our saint declined royal authority and opted instead to serve God via the Church.  He founded congregations throughout the Celtic world as political circumstances forced him to relocate.  St. Cybi also interacted with his esteemed cousin, St. David of Wales.  Among St. Wenna’s pious deeds was the founding of a Christian congregation in Morval, in the Cornwall region of England.

St. Non became a nun.  Scandal affected her when Sant (a.k.a. Sanctus), Prince of Ceredigian, raped and impregnated her.  Thus she became the unwed mother of Dewi Sant, a.k.a. St. David of Wales.  Mother and son founded a convent at Hanon.  Late in life she moved to Cerniw, to be close to her sister, St. Wenna the Queen.

The hagiographies of St. David are legion.  Many of them contain contradictory information.  For example, was the year of his birth closer to 500 or to 544?  I conclude that the former option is probable, based on issues of chronology.  Also, did he died closer to 589 or 601?  And, while we are pondering different chronologies, did the Synod of Brefi occur closer to 520, 550, or 560?  550 or a few years prior seems like a probable year to me, based on relevant facts.  560 is too late, due to the death of St. Dubricius circa 550.  Furthermore, I reject obviously legendary stories out of hand.  For example, I refuse to accept that a hill once rose while he was speaking, so that the audience could hear him better.  Horatio, friend of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, was correct that heaven and earth hold more than human philosophies attest, but even saints and land adjacent to them must obey the laws of nature.

St. David rose to become the primate of Wales.  As a young man he founded the first of a series of monasteries.  Our saint, an ascetic who survived on water and vegetables, required his monks to care for travelers, engage in study, and perform manual labor.  He was also a priest and, in time, a bishop–by whose hands, where, and when are matters of dispute.  An oft-repeated story tells us that St. David’s rebuttal of the Pelagian heresy (that people can save themselves from damnation by their free will alone) at the Synod of Brefi led to the installation as the primate of Wales.  Or perhaps that was not how he became the primate, becoming the handpicked successor of St. Dubricius.  Regardless of the reality of St. David’s life, he was an influential and respected figure in the Celtic Church.

St. David’s half-uncle (half-brother of Sts. Non and Wenna) was St. Samson of Dol (circa 485-565), a child of St. Anna of Oxenhall and her second husband, Prince Amon Ddu.  St. Samson studied at the Abbey of Llanilltud Fawr, Glamorganshire, Wales.  His teacher was St. Illtud (born circa 480), a former soldier and the founder of that monastery.  St. Samson had to depart that abbey because he had become unpopular with his teacher’s nephews.  St. Samson relocated to a monastery on Caldey Island, Wales.  Eventually he became the abbot there and reformed the abbey.  Next our saint spent time as a hermit before becoming a missionary bishop in the region of Cerniw.  Eventually St. Samson moved to Brittany, where he made Dol his see city.  He also founded monasteries at Dol and at Pental, Normandy.

People influence each other directly and indirectly.  Regardless of where reality ended and legends began with regard to the events of our six saints’ lives, a few concluding statements are certain:

  1. The faith that St. Anna of Oxenhall and her husbands instilled in their children took root;
  2. Those children passed that faith down to others; and
  3. The legacy of St. Anna of Oxenhall, her husbands, and their faithful descendants continues to influence Christian faith in people, frequently without them knowing it.

That is impressive.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 1, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS

THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS:  THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS

WORLD DAY OF PEACE

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Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses:

Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of your servants

Saint Cybi,

Saint Wenna the Queen,

Saint Non,

Saint David of Wales,

Saint Samson of Dol, and

Saint Anna of Oxenhall,

may persevere in running the race that is set before us,

until at last we may with them attain to your eternal joy;

through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Micah 6:6-8

Psalm 15

Hebrews 12:1-2

Matthew 25:31-40

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 724

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