Celtic and Old English Saints 20 April
* St. Caedwalla of Wales
* St. Gundebert
St. Caedwalla of Wales, King
Died in Rome on April 20, 689. Saint Caedwalla, descendent of King
Ceawlin of Wessex, became the King of the West Saxons in 685 or 686 by
conquest. He subjugated Sussex, made Surrey and Kent dependencies, and
conquered the Isle of Wight, whose pagan inhabitants he annihilated.
Nevertheless, while still a pagan, he showed himself to be less cruel
than many other conquerors of his time, especially after he came under
the influence of Saint Wilfrid (f.d. October 12) to whom he gave 300
hides of the conquered Isle of Wight.
Under Caedwalla, Wessex became a powerful kingdom, but in 688, he was
converted by Saint Wilfrid, resigned his throne, and went to Rome for
baptism. He was baptized there on Easter Eve, April 10, 689, by Pope
Saint Sergius I (f.d. September 8) and took the name Peter. Caedwalla,
aged about 30, died a few days later still wearing the white robe of the
neophyte, and was buried in Saint Peter's on April 20. Still to be seen
on his tomb in Saint Peter's is his metrical epitaph, ordered by Sergius
and written by Archbishop Crispus of Milan, preserved on the original
stone. Saint Bede (f.d. May 25) writes of his sanctity. Saint Caedwalla
is the first of four Anglo-Saxon kings to die in Rome. Do not confuse
with Cadwallador, King, celebrated on November 12 (Benedictines,
This King must not be confused with the King of the Welsh Britons who
allied himself with the heathen King Penda of Mercia, defeating and
killing Edwin of Northumbria at Hatfield, and then being defeated and
dying in battle with St. Oswald at the Battle of Heavenfield. This King
Cadwalla was a Saxon, although his name suggests that he must have had
some British connections. He was a descendant of Ceawlin, King of
Wessex, and defeated other claimants to the throne, even making forays
into the land of the South Saxons, where he may have first met St.
Wilfrid. He certainly met him again in the Isle of Wight.
The Jutes had colonised the Isle of Wight, and they were still pagan; in
fact this island was the last bit of England to receive the Christian
faith. Cadwalla, though not yet a Christian, was determined to wipe out
the Jutes and settle Saxons in their place, but once the campaign had
begun, he was persuaded to make over a quarter of the island, three
hundred hides of land, to the Church. Perhaps it was St. Wilfrid's
presence that helped him make this decision, for it was that holy bishop
who received this donation and sent a priest to the island.
Cadwalla was a violent and ruthless King, but he had a respect for the
Christian faith and its clergy, and Bede tells us that two young
princes, brothers of Arwald the Jutish King of the Isle of Wight, were
allowed to be instructed and baptised before their execution at the
request of the priest Cynebert. Eventually, he decided that he would
visit the tombs of the Apostles and be baptised at Rome, and so he
abdicated and set off on his pilgrimage.
Cadwalla, who was baptised by Pope Sergius on Holy Saturday, had prayed
that he would die in grace in the Holy City. His prayer was granted and
he fell ill while still wearing his baptismal robes and died on the
Wednesday of Easter Week 689. Baptism had released him from all his
sins, and he had attained the heavenly kingdom. Pope Sergius caused him
to be buried in the mausoleum on the left of the entrance to St Peter's
and a fulsome epitaph to be placed on his grave, from which we learn he
was thirty when he died, and that "candidus inter oves Christi". (He was
clothed in white and went to graze among Christ's Sheep). ( Bowen, Baring
Gould, Fisher, Farmer, Bede, Stanton).
St. Gundebert, Martyr
8th century; feast day formerly April 29. According to tradition, Saint
Gundebert, brother of Bishop Saint Niard of Rheims, left his monastery
in order to migrate to Ireland. He was martyred there by pagan invaders
Baring-Gould, S. & Fisher, J. (1907) The Lives of the British
Saints. 4 volumes. Charles J Clarke.
Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
(1947). The Book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.
Bowen, Paul. When We Were One: A Yearbook of the
Saints of the British Isles Complied from Ancient Calendars.
Delaney, J. J. (1983). Pocket Dictionary of Saints, NY:
Farmer, D. H. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Stanton, R A (1887) Menology of England and Wales,
Burns & Oates.
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