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St. Samson,
Bishop of Dol
(c.AD 485-565)
(Welsh: Samson; Latin: Sampsonius;
English: Sampson)

St. Samson was the son of Prince Amon the Black of Brittany by St. Anna of Oxenhall. Anna was the widow of Lord Cynyr Ceinfarfog (the Fair Bearded) of Caer-Goch in Dyfed and, thus, slightly older than Amon, and already had a number of children. She had difficultly in conceiving with her new husband until the couple visited a local wiseman. His advice led to the birth of their son, Samson, in her Gwent homeland. Samson was almost certainly raised at Caer-Goch from where his father became an official at the Royal Court of Dyfed, under King Aircol Lawhir. The cromlech of 'Carreg Samson' at Mathry may have been where he played as a child. If literary tradition is to be accepted, High-King Arthur would have been Samson's foster-brother, although he probably left home before the saint was born.

Samson was educated by St. Illtud at the Abbey of Llanilltud Fawr (Llantwit Major) in Glamorganshire; where he was ordained a deacon and then a priest. He became unpopular with Illtud's nephews and found it expedient to remove himself to the monastery on Ynys Byr (Caldey Island). He eventually became Abbot there and considerably reformed the enclave. Later he chose the life of a hermit on the Severn but, being made a Bishop, he turned to missionary work in Cerniw (Cornwall) possibly as far as the Scillies where one of the islands is named after him. His disciples included SS. Austell, Mewan and Winnoc. He soon moved on to Brittany - via the Channel Islands - where he founded the monasteries at Dol (Brittany) and Pental (Normandy). He made Dol the centre of his Bishopric and is well recorded as a witness to the Acts of the Council of Paris which he signed in AD 557. He died on 28th July AD 565 and was buried in Dol Cathedral where he was revered as a saint. His 'Life' which survives, was written the following century. In the AD 930s, King Aethelstan of the English acquired a number of his relics - including an arm and his crozier - which were proudly displayed in Milton Abbey (Dorset) until the Reformation. He is depicted in art as a Bishop holding a staff or cross, often with a book and a dove companion.

 

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