Thursday, May 15, 2008

St Cred of Devon and Cornwall-Holiday for Mary

Today I have diverted away from Monmouthshire,or Gwent/Glamorgan to take and incursion into Devon and Cornwall and the Celtic monastic settlement begun by St Credan or St Cred.Form there we will have a look at how the town was overrun by Saxons, causing the inhabitants to flee, yet how this comunity gave birth to one of the giants of the Church of the first milennium. Today we will just look at the British settlement,the remains of the original settlement having been found from British times. So many early churches were built of mud and wattles or of wood that nothing survives of these early times except a farmstead. The strongest evidence being, as in Wales -the name of the town itself is evidence for a community founded byt the Irish Saint being founded there before the Saxon incursion. The name of the town is said to have been 'Kirgton' of the town with the church which probably was the original church of Cred 'ton' being the name for 'settlement'.

Crediton in Romano British Times

Before the Anglo Saxons came to Britain, such small monastic settlements were in place all over Britain.We have heard gow groups of monks from all over Britain and Ireland travelled amongst each other, reported to Rome-Cadoc going seven times to visit seven popes!' Indeed sixth century Britain was known as ‘The Age of the Saints’. The impression is given that there were no Christian Britons here before the Anglo Saxons, that the Anglo Saxons actually founded the churches in England, instead of having driven out the original Romano British churches and forced the people to flee to Wales and Cornwall. We have evidence of the accounts of the settlements in Wales for example , of the large number of refugees driven West, and this may have been why King Meurig of Gwent fought so hard to keep the Saxons out of Monmouthshire.

British Settlement Remains

The foundations of a Roman British farmstead or home have been found just outside the east end of the town and this may well have been the site of an original monastic settlement. This little settlement could well have had a mud and wattle church or a wooden church destroyed by the Saxons as they came in and plundered it, taking over the rich and fertile land. Many of these Anglo Saxon settlements built in England stood on former sites. Further this taking of British lands meant, that when Pope Gregory was desirous of the early branch of the British Church evangelising or Christianising the British Church, such was the hatred and mistrust of the Saxons who had overrun ancient Britain and snatched many of these ancient lands, killing the people and burning their monastic settlements, that they refused to do so, prompting the Pope to send St Augustine.

St Cred or Credan of Ireland

So who may have been the original Celtic founder of the settlement at Crediton? Since the remains of such a settlement have been found , this s worthy of consideration. The most likely person is Credan.He was the son of Illadhan or Iolladan and also called Cred amongst other names. Of course there are Latin, Irish and Cornish forms of these names, and indeed Cred was the nephew of the King of Leinster in Ireland (Cairbre Dubh-who died in 546) So we imagine that Cred died in or about 580 AD. Leland says Cred was buried at Bodmin but also gave his name to Sancreed Church (Saint Cred). There was a story about Cred that there was a tradition that St Cred accidentally killed his own father. Racked by guilt, he abandoned the world , he became a swineherd and lived in such an exemplary way with humility and fasting and almsgiving, that he was acclaimed a saint by the ordinary people.

Sancreed Church

Indeed Cred appears in Bishop Grandisson’s Register of 1331 and 1332 as the dedicatee of Sancreed. So holy was his life, he eventually left abd went back to Ireland abd settled in Aghamanach in Moyne in Co Wicklow. In the Taxation of Pope Nicholas he is known as St Credus.He eventually settled in Ireland in ‘The plain of the monks’ and in a highly romantic situation. It is possible he left the area because of early Anglo Saxon incursions and felt he would return to his native land. It would be some time before St Augustine , sent by Pope Gregory would Christianise the English.

His feast Day is May 11th.

We have spoken about how the early Romano British saints travelled around from ‘White Martyrdom’ to ‘green martyrdom’ (see earlier posts) and no doubt Cred’s father clearly a younger son of the royal Leinster line had embarked on such a thing, arriving in a fertile land, easy to farm and live in, until the arrival of the invaders. It seems to have been such an important settlement from early days and even with the British driven out, it was some time before the arrival of Augustine, who was faced with the rather fruitless task of ‘marrying together’ the ancient original Roman Church already existent in the British Isles which had been battered and bruised by the arrival of pagan invaders and the newly Christianised invaders themselves.

Ancient British Celts were not savages

It is wrong to consider the ancient British people as woad streaked savages. The Emperor Claudius reception of Caractacus at this court, his nobility and strength of character and admiration of Rome was enough to ensure his freedom and the bringing up of his Christian daughter Eurgain as ‘Claudia Rufina’ who later married Lucius Pudens former governor of Britain. Caractacus younger son Linus, born after the arrival of the Gwentian Royal Family in Rome, also grew up in a Roman foster home in Tuscany. Both children appear to have been Christianised , unusual in the upper classes of Rome, because most Christians were of the slave classes, and often found among Jewish people. Claudia and Linus and later Pudens were friends with Peter and Paul and mentioned at the end of 2 Timothy. When Nero became Emperor, Pudens had disappeared, Claudia/Eurgain and her son Timotheus arrived back in Britain and founded a monastic settlement at Winchester.

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