Saturday, July 4, 2009

MALPAS -Saint Trioc, St Twroc, St Brioc, St Briavel, St Twrog

St Tecla, a North Welsh princess, who had worked with lepers came to Beachley point and in this lonely spot started a religious foundation. It may have been a leper colony as she was known to work with lepers. Hoever after her martyrdom, or even before she was killed by Vikings, it seems the chapel may have also been used by St Briac, Tric Briavel or Twrog. This remote place can only be accessed by driving to Beachley through Chepstow, Partking under the old Severn Bridge and walking to the point. Much of the rocky outcrop is now submerged, but you can still see the remains of the chapel on the island where these two great Gwentian Saints lived and worked. St Briavels is close to it and from here, St Trioc/known in French as Brieux may have travelled to Brittany. It is a wonderful spot.He may have also gone from Wadebridge in Cornwall, where another saint is dedicated to him, and Cornwall was a safer route with a shorter sea crossing to Britanny.

Here you see another photo of the near perfect reproduction of the Benedictine Priory Church at Malpas, and some photos of St Twrog's chapel remains on the small remote island of Beachley point at Chepstow, site of the Martyrdom of St Tecla. Tecla had been named after St Paul's disciple Tekla, recently (last week) found to have been buried in the catacombs. A roundel depicting St Paul was also found there.


Before Malpas ever became a cell of Montacute Abbey in Norman times, it was another Celtic Llan -a monastic settlement of religious and laity and families, either founded by or dedicated to St Trioc. This saint is a bit problemmatic, but as Bruce Copplestone Crowe says below, it was likely to have been a diminutive of St Brochfael, who had connections to the Gwent area.He certainly seems to have had a connection with St Briavel (now in Gloucestershire, but his chapel is marked off Beachley Point on the Wye . It is suggested that he went to France to Britanny and founded the monastery at St Brieux and it was from here that French nuns came, when they were dispossessed at the beginning of the twentieth century back to Monmouthshire to found convents at Abergavenny, Pontypool, Monmouth and Usk and Newport as a direct consequence to 'reward' the Welsh for St Brioc/Triog, who gave his name to Saint Brieux.

The Name

Bruce Copplestone Crowe has done a great deal of research on the name St Triac, a name which is obviously well known in the twelfth century.The charter of Ranulf the Physician , and one by the king’s son dedicating the church to St Triac, seems to make him an unkown saint. We know, however that many foundations were built on the site of earlier churches,Saxon churches or even Celtic churches and therefore Malpas Priory could certainly been built on the site of the Celtic Church, St Triac. Crow says the same saint seems to be involved at the chapel on the rocky island off Beachley Point at the mouth of the Wye.

His name occurs there as Tryak in 1290, Tyrioc in 1394 Tiriocus/ Tiriotus 1405-7. Of course, St Tryak may have taken up occupation after St Tecla’s martyrdom. In the Bishop’s registers for the 14,15,16th centuries the firm is generally ‘Thirioc William of Worcester in 1478 to the Chapel of St Tyriaci and the rocks of Seynt Tryacle.Later antiquaries seem to have tried to turn this name into St Tecla or even Twrog , but without foundation. It is more likely to be St Brioc . If the forms of Ti and Te represent the reverential prefic ‘To’(later Ty) it is possible that Tyrioc is a form of St T(y)(F)riac or Brioc.St Brioc was reverenced at another Church in the Forest of Dean district, St Briavels and seems to have had a special connection with the Gwent area. The name itself is a diminutive of St Brigomaglos or Brochfael , a name which appears at is full frorm in St Briavels and which occurs in the royal house of Gwent in the eighth and ninth centuries.

The Vita

In the ‘Vita Sancti Brioci’ or ‘Life of St Brioc’ written by a clerk living in Angers in the County of Anjou in the eleventh century , Sanctus Briomaglus is made a native of Ceredigion (Cardiganshire)and the names of his parents are given as Cerpus and Elduda . Cerpus seems to be a version of the name Cors, born by three men in the Book of Llandaff in eighth and ninth century contexts and also recalls Calpurnius , the name of the father of St Patrick who lived in the Severn estuary area. His mother’s name is clearly an Anglo Saxon name Aetheldreda . The details of his life would therefore seem to connect him with Gwent rather than Ceredigion. He may have been one of those so-called group of Letavian saints , who under the leadership of St Cynllo, St Cadfan and St Tydecho and including St Padarn, left the Gwent (Llydaw, Letavia) for West Wales and Ceredigion under the reign of Caradog Vreichfras From there he passed on to Cornwall , where there is a church with his name rear Wadebridge on his way to Brittany ,where he founded the important monastery of Saint Brieuc. In Ceredigion he founded a Landa Magna or great church at Llandyfriog a place name that preserves the form of his name with the hypocoristic ‘Ty’.

So who was St Brioc/St Briavel?

Trioc was originally named Briafael but, on the advice of an angel, he took on the pet-name of Brioc instead. Before he was ten, Brioc was sent to Paris to be educated by Germanus, in the company of both SS. Patrick and Illtud. Brioc was eventually ordained a priest, but by the age of twenty-five, he felt it was time to return home to Wales.

In Ceredigion, he set about the task of converting the locals to Christianity from a monastic centre which he established at Llandyfriog. But, not long after his arrival, he was persuaded, by another angelic visitor, to sail away to Italy with 168 followers. The journey was rough and not helped by their boat being attacked by an enormous sea-creature. Eventually the travellers landed in Cornwall - possibly at Padstow Harbour near St.Breock - where they encountered a pagan king named Conan. Brioc soon turned the monarch and the rest of the Royal Court to Christ , before pressing on into Europe. He crossed the Channel to Brittany and landed at Le Conquest in Plouguerneau (Finistère). From here, the companions moved down the River Jaudy and founded a monastery at Tréguier. However, hearing of a pestilence ravaging his Wales, Brioc decided he must return home. He left his new church in the hands of his 'nephew', Tudgual, and delivered his people from their plague by advising the people to confess their sins.

Returning once more to Brittany, Brioc decided to try his luck in new territories. With eighty-four companions, he travelled to the mouth of the River Gouet. The local king, Riwal, was not happy with these strangers arriving in his Kingdom but, upon meeting them, realized that their leader, Brioc, was his own cousin. The king gave Brioc his home, the "Hall of the Champ du Rouvre," and removed the Royal court to nearby Licelion in Hillion parish. The saint was obliged to visit King Childebert of the Franks in Paris in order to confirm this grant, and he travelled with St. Samson and other bishops. Slowly, Brioc's men built a monastic complex around their new hall and this become the great monastery of St. Brieuc.

St. Brioc died on 1st May, but it is difficult to say exactly when. St. German of Paris was bishop there between AD 555 & 576. St.Germanus of Auxerre died in AD 448. Conan Meriadog was King of Dumnonia (including Cornwall) in the mid-4th century. St. Tudwal lived in the mid-6th century. Riwal was King of Domnonée (in Brittany) in the early 6th century. St. Patrick lived in the late 5th century. St. Illtud lived in the early 6th century. St. Samson lived in the mid-6th century. King Childebert ruled from AD 511 to 558. A lifetime covering the early to mid-6th century seems likely for Brioc. Like King Riwal, St. Tugdual appears to have been St. Brioc's cousin, rather than his nephew, since he was actually Riwal's maternal nephew. The family relationships would indicate that Brioc's mother, Eldruda, was a Princess of the Royal House of Domnonée.

Malpas, though prone to all the problems of the Plague and the unrest that followed it was a successful priory, which succeeded all the way to its final seizure by Henry VIII.It only every had two monks and a Prior and was valued at barely more than £15 when it was seized.Montacute Abbey was sold to one of Henry VIII's henchmen and is now Montacute House.


Welsh Blessing

May the blessing of the Light of Christ be on you –

light without and light within. May the blessed sunlight shine on you like a great peat fire, so that stranger and friend may come and warm himself.

And may light shine out of the two eyes of you, like a candle set in the window of a house, bidding the wanderer come in out of the storm.

And may the blessing of the rain be on you, may it beat upon your Spirit and wash it fair and clean, and leave there a shining pool where the blue of Heaven shines, and sometimes a star.

And may the blessing of the earth be on you, soft under your feet as you pass along the roads, soft under you as you lie out on it, tired at the end of day;
and may it rest easy over you when, at last, you lie out under it.

May it rest so lightly over you that your soul may be out from under it quickly; up and off and on its way to God. And now may the Lord bless you, and bless you kindly.


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