- Celtic and Old English Saints 28 July
* St. Samson of Dol
* St. Arduinus of Trepino
St. Samson (Sampson) Bishop of Dol, Brittany
Born in Glamorgan, Wales, c. 485; died at Dol, Brittany, France, July
28, c. 565. The existing "vita" of Saint Samson may be the earliest
biography of a British Celtic saint, but scholarly opinion is divided on
whether it was written in the 7th century (within 50 years of his death)
or the 9th. The earliest manuscripts date only from the 11th century.
He was one of the greatest missionaries ever to come from Britain. His
parents--Ammon, a lord of Glamorgan, and Anna of Gwent-- dedicated him
to the service of God because he was a "child of promise" after his
parents prolonged period of childlessness. According to his biography
he was raised in the abbey of Llanwit Major in Glamorgan, which at that
time was ruled by Saint Illtyd (f.d. November 6), who ordained him
deacon and priest.
After Samson's ordination an attempt was made on his life by two nephews
of Saint Illtyd, who were jealous of his ordination. So Samson left the
community and lived for a time under Piro on the island of Caldey (Ynys
Byr) off the coast of Pembrokeshire, where he served as cellarer. His
father and his uncle, Umbrafel, joined him there after his father had
recovered from a serious illness during which he received the last rites
from his son. When Piro died, Samson succeeded him as abbot of Caldey
Abbey, but he resigned after a preaching tour to Ireland.
He returned to Wales, where he lived as a hermit with his father and two
others in a retreat near the mouth of the Severn River. Then he
travelled to Cornwall, where he was consecrated bishop of Saint Dyfrig
(Dubricius; f.d. November 14), bishop of Caerleon, and appointed abbot
of its monastery. Samson travelled throughout Cornwall where he worked
as a missionary, founded monasteries and churches at Padstow, Saint Kew,
Southill, and Golant, probably visited the Scilly Islands, and gathered
to himself disciples, such as Saints Austell (f.d. June 28), Mewan (f.d.
June 21), and Winnoc (f.d. November 6) (which doesn't make sense because
Winnoc died in 717).
Finally, Samson crossed the Channel to Armorica, where he landed at the
mouth of the Guyoult, to continue his missionary activities in Brittany.
Privatus, a Gallo-Roman, gave him a stretch of land nearby on which to
build a monastery c. 525, and this became the site of the future town of
Under his leadership, Dol became the spiritual centre of Brittany. A
vigorous organiser and a zealous preacher, Saint Samson established
numerous other abbeys, including Pental in Normandy, and spread the word
of God far and wide. It appears that he exercised episcopal
jurisdiction at Dol, although it was not a regular see until much later.
He is probably the 'Samson peccator episcopus' who signed the acts of
the Council of Paris (557).
His concern for justice, as well as the temporal importance of his
position as bishop and abbot, often involved him in political affairs.
When Conomor (Conmor) murdered the king of Domnonia and usurped the
throne that rightly belonged to the Breton ruler Judwal (Judual), Saint
Samson journeyed to Paris where, with the support of Saint Germain (f.d.
May 28) the bishop of Paris, he enlisted the help of the Frankish King
Childebert. On his return he travelled down the Seine and founded an
establishment for penitents at Vernier.
On a second visit to Paris he was granted lands in the region of Rennes
and was also given jurisdiction over the Channel Islands-- and indeed
it was from the Isle of Guernsey, where one town bears his name, that he
and Judwal embarked on their campaign to depose the usurper Conomor.
After three battles, Judwal won back his kingdom and Samson returned to
his bishopric and monastery at Dol.
Towards the end of his life, when he felt that his end was near, he
undertook an extensive journey throughout the whole of Neustria, a
journey of which the Breton bards have left us a moving account.
Accompanied by seven monks, seven disciples and seven escorts, he
travelled slowly from parish to parish, often stopping to preach or to
celebrate the Divine Offering, bringing his mission to an end only with
Many miraculous deed were attributed to Saint Samson, to which his
anonymous biographer gives ample space. Recent research seems to
demonstrate that Samson was the leading churchman of the colonists from
Britain who founded Brittany, and a primary figure in the history of the
evangelization of Cornwall and the Channel Islands.
Some of his relics, including an arm and a crozier, were acquired by
King Athelstan of Wessex (924-939), for his monastery at Milton Abbas in
Dorset, which is why Samson's feast is kept in many places in England.
In addition, there are six ancient dedications there to him, as well as
others in Cornwall and Brittany. Samson's name is still revered
enthusiastically throughout Brittany and Wales. Usuard entered his name
into the "Roman Martyrology" (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney,
Encyclopaedia, Farmer, Taylor).
Several early lives of Samson exist. The oldest, printed by Mabillon in
h is "Acta Sanctorum" from a MS. at Citeaux, and again by the
Bollandists, claims to be compiled from information derived from
Samson's contemporaries, which would refer it to about 600. Dom Plaine
in the "Analecta Bollandiana" has edited another and fuller life (from
MS. Andeg., 719), which he regards as earlier than Mabillion's. Later
lives are numerous.
In art, Samson is depicted with a cross or staff together with a dove
and book (Farmer).
"The Life of Saint Samson of Dol"
by Thomas Taylor, on line at:
Icon of St Samson of Dol
Troparion of St Samson tone 3
Thy resplendent life, O holy Samson,/ enlightened all thy kindred./ They
followed thee in the monastic life/ and themselves became shining
lights./ When consecrated Hierarch thou didst obey the heavenly vision/
and build monasteries to God's glory in Brittany./ Pray to Christ our
God to grant us His great mercy.
Athlète de la grâce et maître de tempérance, tu as illuminé les îles par ta
vertu, tel un phare spirituel. Imitateur des apôtres, tu as répandu la
semence de la connaissance du Dieu trine. Saint pontife Samson, prie le pour
qu'Il accorde à nos âmes le salut.
St. Arduinus (Ardwyne, Ardoin) of Ceprano
7th century. Saint Arduinus is patron of Trepino in southern Italy. An
improbable legend makes him one of four English pilgrims who died in
this region in the 7th century (Benedictines).
Attwater, D. (1958). A Dictionary of Saints. New York:
P. J. Kenedy & Sons.
Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
(1947). The Book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.
Delaney, J. J. (1983). Pocket Dictionary of Saints, NY:
Encyclopaedia of Catholic Saints. (1966).
Philadelphia: Chilton Books.
Farmer, D. H. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Taylor, T. (1925). The Life of Saint Samson of Dol.
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