Posted by: anna | February 1, 2010

St. Branwalader (Breward), bishop of Jersey (6th C)

Today (19 January) we commemorate St. Branwalader (Brélade, Breward, Branuvelladurus), bishop of Jersey (6th C). From Baring-Gould & Fisher:

S. BRANWALADER, Abbot, Confessor

Branwalader is invoked in the tenth century Litany of S. Vougay in that from Rheims, published by Mabillon, and in the Exeter Litany of the same period in the Salisbury Library, published by Warren. M. Loth, in an article on these Celtic Litanies says:’Brangualatre, Branwalatre. This Saint seems to be the same as S. Brelade in Jersey, and S. Broladre in the ancient diocese of Dol. He has given his name to Loc-Brevelaire in Leon ; in the sixteenth century Loc-Brevalayz, which leads to an early Breton form Brewalatre, and probably Brenwalatre or Branwalatre.’

Loc-Brevelaire is stated by M. Pol de Courcy to have been described in mediaeval documents as Monasterium Sti. Brendani, but no references are given. Both Albert le Grand and Lobineau identify the two. The Breviary of S. Malo of 1768 does so as well. Against the identification is the fact that the names apparently have little in common, but this shall be considered presently. In 935 Athelstan translated the body, or relics, of S. Branwalader, together with the arm and pastoral staff of S. Samson, to Milton in Dorsetshire. The day of commemoration of this Translation was January 19.

William of Worcester mentions Branwalader under the name of Branwalan. He says that the body then reposed ” at Branston, eight miles from Axminster, and four miles from the South Sea.” William of Worcester’s writing is peculiarly crabbed. The original MS. is in Corpus Christi College Library, Cambridge, and Nasmith printed it fairly accurately in 1778. Branston is Branscombe, and it is a quarter of a mile, and not four miles from the sea.

Leland calls the Saint, Brampalator, and speaks of a chapel of S. Breword near the shore at Seaton, between Axminster and Branscombe. There can be little doubt that Breword is the same as Branwalader, and the chapel may have marked a resting-place of the relics, when being translated.

The name Brennain, which has become Brendan, means a shower. This adhered to the Saint in Ireland, and in those parts of Armorica where there was a considerable Irish settlement. But the Britons would seem to have changed the Bren into Bran, a raven, and to have tacked on to it the epithet Gwalader. Gwaladr, in Welsh, is a leader or ruler. It was by no means unusual for saints to have two names. Brendan was not the Saint’s baptismal name, which was Mobi.
S. Cadoc’s original name was Cathmail, that of S. Meven was Conaid ; Kenan was known as Coledoc, one Fintan was also called Munna, a second Berach ; Cronan was also known as Mochua, Carthach as Mochuda. Darerca is likewise known as Monenna. Kentigern is one with Munghu, and the great teacher of saints at Ty Gwyn is known as Ninnidh or Maucan. Celtic personal names consist of a substantive to which an adjective or a qualifying substantive is annexed. Brangwalader means the Raven Lord. Gwlad in Modern Welsh means ” country ” ; in Old Welsh it signified “power, authority,” from a root ‘vald,” whence also English ” wield,” German ” walten,” etc. Gwaladr is ” one possessed of power,” “a ruler.” We have the same in composition in Cadwaladr.

Branwalader appears in Breton and British Litanies only. In the Irish Martyrologies such a name does not occur, but Brendan or rather Brennain.

In Brittany S. Branwalader receives local commemoration on the day of S. Brendan, May 16. MS. Missal of S. Malo, fifteenth century. Breviary of S. Malo, 1537 ; Breviary of Dol, 1769, on July 5 ; Breviary of Leon, 1516 ; Garaby also May 16, as Brendan or Broladre. He is the S. Brelade of Jersey, and the S. Broladre of Ille-et-Vilaine. Hampson’s Cal. Jan. 19, so also the Cals. of Winchester and Malmesbury.


So here again we have no information at all about this saint’s life or works or anything, only some antiquarian waffle about Brythonic naming conventions. All i can find out, even from the admirable celt-saints, is that he probably worked with St Samson of Dol. Another thread in the tapestry of British saints. How I would love an enormous print of the All Saints of Britain icon – a poster-sized one, big enough to hang on the wall and be able to actually see each saint. But a smaller one for the icon coner would do! This weekend I discovered another English source of icons, Barnabas Wilson in Bath. He is not an iconographer; that is, he does not paint/write icons, but his mounted prints are truly beautifully done and very high quality – even the £1 postcard-sized cards are so well made. Hmm… I don’t have a Trinity icon yet… and it’s coming up to a year since I was received…

Saint Brelade, priez pour nous!

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