St. Paul Aurelian,
Bishop of Saint-Pol-de-Léon
(Born c.AD 480)
(Welsh: Pawl; Latin: Paulinus; English: Paul)

Paul Aurelian was son of Perphir, a lord in Penychen. He had eight brothers, amongst them Nautel,  Pautel and Bana, and three sisters, Aude, Sadfyl and Weluela. He may have lived with the family when they moved to Eastern Dumnonia (Dorset and Devon) for he seems to have founded St. Paul's Church in Caer Uisc (Exeter). Against his father's wishes, Paul decided to actually enter the Church. He joined St. Illtud at Llantwit Fawr and then, on Ynys Byr (Caldy Island), in the company of St. Dewi, St. Samson and St. Gildas. Since the lands of Llantwit Abbey were very restricted, the four lads suggested that St. Illtud pray for the sea to recede and thus enlarge the monastic holdings. Illtud prayed all night and bade his disciples do the same. The next day. at low tide when the sea withdrew by some eight miles, Illtud took his pupils to the waters edge and drew a line with his staff in the sand. Ever since, it has never crossed that line and the abbey was able to reclaim a vast swathe of rich and fertile land. Paul spent much of his time scaring seagulls to stop them eating the monastic crops. However, he paid little attention to his duties and the crops were ruined. Frightened of his punishment, he prayed for divine intervention. The next day, he and his three fellows were able to heard all the seagulls together, like sheep, and lock them in a barn.

At the age of sixteen, Paul sought the seclusion of the wilderness instead. He built himself a little hermitage at Llanddeusant in Ystrad Tywi and was ordained a priest there, probably by St. Dyfrig. Stories of Paul's sanctity and good works reached the ears of King Marc of Kernow (Cornwall). Marc invited Paul to come to his palace at Caer Banned and more firmly establish the Christian faith in his kingdom. Paul accepted and spent some years instructing the Cornish. Marc was keen for him to take up the position of Bishop of Kernow, but Paul declined and their relations soured. Eventually, things came to a head when Paul asked King Marc if he might have one of the fine Celtic bells which he used to call his guests to dinner. When the monarch refused, the saint left his court in a huff.

Paul went to visit his sister, on the Cornish coast, founding the church at Paul, near Penzance, on the way. His biographer states that the lady was Sadfyl, but she was the only sister whose name he knew. In reality, this seems to have been St. Weluela, a reclusive nun who lived at Gulval. She complained to her brother of the encroachment of the Sea. So he asked her to mark out the tide line with some pebbles and then prayed for their miraculous transformation into huge rocks, forming a natural sea-wall. Paul then acquired a boat and set sail for Llydaw (Brittany). However, a story (perhaps of no great antiquity) says that a storm threw him along the British coast and he sailed up the River Dart to Staverton, on the edge of Dartmoor. He decided to build a church there, but found that his work disappeared each night. Since the Lord seemed to disapprove of his choice of site, he moved to the location of the present parish church and construction proceeded unhindered.  Paul must have tarried on a short while, for he soon set sail again and landed across the English Channel, on the island of Ushant (Ile d'Ouessant). At Lampol there, he made himself a new home and was joined by twelve presbyters with their master and deacon.

Eventually, Paul moved on to Telmedou (Ploudalmezeau) in the region of Ach, in western Domnonée, establishing a monastery where his disciple, Vivian, had tried to build a hermitage until troubled by a roving buffalo. The local lord was Paul's cousin, a man named Withur who had his capital at Ocismor (Saint-Pol-de-Leon). The two met on Ynys Battham (Isle of Batz) where Withur sometimes went to spent time alone. During dinner, Paul told his cousin of his troubles at the court of King Marc before they tucked into a fine salmon; and, when it was cut, the bell Marc had refused to give to Paul was miraculously found inside. Withur gave both the island and his capital city to his cousin. Paul kept a small retreat on the former, whilst setting up a monastery at Ocismor (Saint-Pol-de-Leon) to administer to its people. First, however, he had to overcome a fire-breathing dragon which had been terrorizing the neighbourhood. Just like Marc, Withur wanted Paul to become his people's bishop. Having heard of his objections, however, the lord did not ask him directly but instead sent him to King Childebert I of Paris with a sealed letter asking the Frankish king to have Paul made a bishop, whether he agreed or not. Thus the saint was at last given an episcopacy, centred on Ocismor (Saint-Pol-de-Leon).

In old age, Paul tried to retire from office, by ordaining his disciples, Joevin and then Tigernomagle as bishop in his place. however, both died after about a year and Paul was forced to resume control himself. Eventually, he managed to appoint Cetomerin to the bishopric and, on the day of his consecration, King Judwal of Domnonée visited the cathedral. Having just re-established himself on the Breton throne, he granted Paul the site of his victory of the evil King Conomor of Poher. The saint founded the Abbey of Gerber (Le Relecq) there under his repentant brother, Tangwy (alias Bana) and retired to the Isle of Batz. Old and frail, he lived there for some years before dying, it is said at the age of a hundred and four, on 12th March, some time at the end of the 6th century.

Records of St. Paul Aurelian date back to the 10th century. He is generally considered historic.


    © Nash Ford Publishing 2006. All Rights Reserved.