St. Constantine of Cornwall, King of Dumnonia
(c.AD 520-576)
(Welsh: Custennin; Latin: Constantinus; English: Constantine)

There are a number of St. Constantines mentioned in various hagiographical sources and those connected with the West may all be the same man. The Life of St. Petroc tells how one day, the deer being pursued by a wealthy man named Constantine in a hunt took shelter in St. Petroc's cell. Constantine was unable to intervene as he was struck with paralysis when he tried. So impressed was he with the saint's power that he and his bodyguard immediately converted to Christianity. Constantine gave Petroc an ivory hunting horn in commemoration of the event and this was long revered along with the saint's other relics at Bodmin. 15th and 16th century sources say that it was a King Constantine who was co-founder of this famous Cornish monastery and call St. Constantine 'king and martyr'. He would seem to have moved around the West Country, founding churches at the two Constantines, near Padstow and Falmouth, and at Illogan; also at Milton Abbot and Dunsford in Devon. From the 'Life of St. David', it would appear that, in later life, Constantine travelled across the Bristol Channel to join St. Dewi (David) at Mynyw (St. Davids), where he resided as a monk for many years. He founded the church at Cosheston, near Pembroke, but eventually settled as a hermit in Costyneston (Cosmeston) near Cardiff. He may have died there.

Chronologically speaking, it is likely that this King Constantine should be identified with the man described by St. Gildas' in his 'De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae'. There he talks about "Constantine the tyrannical whelp of the unclean lioness of Dumnonia" and rebukes him for disguising himself as a bishop in order to sacrilegiously murder his two nephews in the sanctity of a church. This event would presumably pre-date his conversion to Christianity.

This character was also known to Geoffrey of Monmouth. He transformed the nephews into the treacherous sons of the usurper, Mordred, who he claimed were killed in Winchester & London. Geoffrey called Constantine the son of Cador, by which he meant Cado, the King of Dumnonia in the early 6th century. He claimed that, after the Battle of Camlann (traditionally in AD 537) where Constantine was one of the only survivors, Constantine succeeded his kinsman, King Arthur, to the High-Kingship of Britain. His father is also given as Cador/Cado in the Llyfr Baglan, where his son and successor was said to have been Bledric. Later Arthurian literature turned the royal saint into Sir Constantine, a Knight of the Round Table.

There are persistent stories that Constantine of Cornwall travelled north and preached to the people of Galloway before being martyred in Kintyre on 9th March AD 576. However, the traditions of St. Constantine of Cornwall & St. Constantine of Strathclyde are much confused.

Records of King Constantine date back to the 6th century & he is generally considered historic.
However records of St. Constantine only date back to the 11th century & he is generally considered legendary.


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