Posted by: anna | July 16, 2010

St Gurthiern

Today (3 July) we commemorate St Gunthiern (Gurthiern, Gwrtheyrn, Vortigern), Welsh prince and hermit  in Brittany. I must say the English web sources for this name are very poor – I had to go to French pages to discover the various spellings and the connection between Gunthiern and Vortigern. Anyway, now we are all sorted out. ho ho. Vortigern takes us very close to King Arthur, and thus into all sorts of nutty wishful thinking, especially in the virtual realm but with a historiography of its own stretching back to the wildly fanciful Victorians and beyond. I am going to stick to the plain and simple version from celt-saints:
Died c. 500. Gunthiern, a Welsh prince, left his homeland in his youth to become a hermit in Brittany (Armorica). On the Isle of Groie near the mouth of the Blavet, he was given land for a monastery by the local lord, Grallon, who was impressed by Gunthiern’s holiness. The abbey is known as Kemperle, which indicates its location between the Isol and Wile Rivers.
Once a swarm of insects threatened to devour the crops. Count Guerech I of Vannes, dreading a famine, sent three dignitaries to request the saint’s intercession to turn away the scourge. Gunthiern blessed some water and told them to sprinkle it over the fields. When they followed Gunthiern’s instructions the insects were destroyed.
During the Norman invasions, Gunthiern’s body was concealed in the isle of Groie. When it was discovered in the eleventh century, it was translated to the monastery of Kemperle, which now belongs to the Benedictine Order. Saint Gunthiern is patron of this abbey as well as of many other churches and chapels in Brittany (Benedictines, Husenbeth).
Kervignac… is one of the most ancient parishes in the diocese of Vannes. It is mentioned as early as the 6th cent. At this time a cloud of locusts came down on the country, and the Count Weroch, fearing famine, sought Gunthiern, a refugee king of Gwent, who had settled at Quimperle and was in great repute for his austerities. Gunthiern gave water he had blessed to the envoys of Weroch, and this drove the locusts away. In return for this favour, Weroch granted to Gunthiern the plou of Vineac.
Excursions may be made by boat from Pont-aven to the isles of Glenan, a veritable archipelago, and to the more distant lie de Groix. This was the island to which Gunthiern, the first settler at Quimperle, was wont to retire, and where there is a chapel that contains a statue of him. He was a native of Southern Wales, and his name is identical with Vortigern. But who he really was is very uncertain.
Vortigern Studies – someone has very kindly made a side-by-side translation of the Vita (which itself is quite discredited), translation also available from Lampeter’s Celtic Studies department along with lives of other Celtic saints.
Holy Saint Gwrtheyrn, pray to God for us.
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