Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume VI: June. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Gudwall, Bishop and Confessor
HE was born in Wales, and having consecrated himself to God with his whole heart from his cradle, he became abbot of a numerous monastery in the little isle of Plecit, which was a rock on the sea-coast surrounded with water, where one hundred and eighty-eight monks are said to have served God in constant unanimity and with perfect fervour.1 He afterwards passed by sea to Cornwall, and travelling into Devonshire built himself an hermitage, which by the number of disciples who flocked to him, grew into a second monastery. Alford thinks this happened in the fourth, but he certainly flourished only in the seventh century, or at least in the close of the sixth, as Henschenius shows, who yet mistakes in placing his death in Devonshire, for he is the same person who in the calendars of Brittany in France is honoured on this day under the name of St. Gurwall, as is shown by F. Le Large the canon regular.2 This holy man passing into Brittany in France, continued there to lead a retired life in the heavenly exercises of contemplation and prayer, and never ceasing by watching and fasting to subdue his body, and consummate the sacrifice of his penance. St. Malo pitched upon him for his successor in the episcopal see which he had founded at Aleth, and which since bears his name. St. Gudwall governed this diocess some time with great sanctity; but resigned it when broken in his old age, and retired to Guern, near St. Malos of Baignon in the diocess of St. Malo. Certain monks attended him though he lived in a grotto separated from them, devoting himself entirely to the preparation of his soul for his last passage. His death happened in that place about the end of the sixth, or beginning of the seventh century, on the 6th of June. In the inroads which the Normans made on the coast, certain monks carried away the treasure of his relics, first into Gatinois, where at Yevre-le-Chatel is still shown an old shrine in which they were deposited for some time; and one of the bones which was left is still preserved in another parish church in that country at Petiviers or Pluviers.3 The monks some time after removed with their treasure towards their own coast, but chose Montreuil in Picardy, then a place of strength, for their second retreat. These relics remained there till the tenth century, Arnold I. or the Great, count of Flanders, who carried on a long war against the Normans, caused them to be translated to the great monastery of St. Peters of Blandine at Gant. He is honoured on the 6th of June in the British calendars, and called Gudwall; also in several churches in Gatinois, at Montreuil sur mer; and with singular veneration in the great monastery of St. Peters at Gant, which glories in possessing the treasure of his relics. By the corruption of a letter he is called St. Gurwall at St. Malos, and honoured on the same day; but an ancient calendar of that church, quoted by the Bollandists, calls him St. Gudwall, bishop of St. Malos. He is titular patron of Guern. In an ancient calendar of that diocess he is called St. Gudual, and St. Guidgal in another of the abbey of St. Meen in that diocess; St. Goual in a parish of the diocess of Vannes, of which he is titular patron, and St. Gudwall in a priory which bears his name, in an island depending on the abbey of Redon in the same bishopric. See Henschenius, F. Le Large, and Lobineau, Vies des SS. de la Bretagne, p. 131.
Note 1. His acts in Henschenius, written by a monk of Gant, pretend he was bishop in Wales, and resigned that dignity to lead a monastic life on the rock; but he was only raised to the episcopal dignity in Little Britain long after. [back]
Note 2. Le Large in his history of the illustrious men of St. Malos and in his posthumous history of the bishops of St. Malo. [back]