Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Carantacus

1361959Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 09 — Carantacus1887Henry Bradley

CARANTACUS, in modern Welsh CARANNOG, Saint (fl. 450), was, according to the life contained in Cotton. MS. Vespasian A. xiv. (printed by the Bollandists by Rees, 'Cambro-Brit. Saints,' pp. 97–101), the son of Cereticus (Ceredig), king of the region which has received from him the name of Cardigan. A Welsh document printed by Rees under the title 'Pedigrees of Welsh Saints' makes him not the son but the grandson of Ceredig, his father's name being given as Corwn. It is impossible to place any confidence in either of these statements, since, although the name of Ceredig is doubtless historical, the traditions relating to him are for the most part obviously fabulous. Eight of the most celebrated of the Welsh saints are stated to have been his sons or grandsons, while the genealogy of many others is traced up to his eight brothers. Equally worthless is the assertion quoted by Colgan from the 'Opuscula' of St. Oengus, lib. 4, c. 6, that Carantacus was one of the fifteen sons (all bishops !) of St. Patrick's sister Darerca. The life above referred to (which the Bollandists remark is suspected of being largely fabulous) says that the kingdom of Ceredig being invaded by the Irish, and the king being advanced in years and infirm, the nobles counselled him to abdicate in favour of his eldest son, Carantacus. The young prince, 'loving the heavenly king more than an earthly Kingdom,' took flight in order to escape the honour that was to be thrust upon him, and lived for some time as a hermit in a place which was afterwards known as Guerit Carantauc (possibly Llangrannog in Cardiganshire). According to another version of this part of his story, the place of his retirement was a cave called Edilu. Here he gave himself to prayer and to the study of the scriptures. He afterwards passed over into Ireland, and became associated with St. Patrick in the evangelisation of that country, having changed his name to Cernach or Cernath. In Ireland he was regarded with great reverence, and there were 'many churches and cities' named after him in the province of Leinster.

It appears from this that the author of the 'Life' regarded Carantacus as the same person with St. Caimech, a bishop who is mentioned by the Irish hagiologists as a companion of St. Patrick, and as having assisted him in the work of editing the Brehon laws. The correctness of this identification derives some support from the fact that the festival of Caimech is placed in the Irish calendars under 16 May ; there being reason to believe that this was the date assigned by the British church to Carantacus. At Llangrannog, the church of which is dedicated to this saint, there is an annual fair on 27 May (i.e. 16 May old style); and at Crantock in Cornwall, where there is the same dedication, the village feast is on the Sunday nearest to 16 May. The Irish writers themselves speak of Cairnech as a Briton, but they make him a native not of Wales but of Cornwall. It appears likely, however, that this is merely a conjecture, founded on an etymological interpretation of the name Cairnech, which MacFirbis regarded as meaning 'Cornishman.' There seems on the whole to be no reason for disputing the identity of Carantacus and Cairnech, or the correctness of the statement that he was born in Wales.

The 'Life' goes on to say that Carantacus returned to Wales, and again occupied for a time the cave which had formerly been his hermitage. The account of his miracles, and of his intercourse with King Arthur, it is not worth while to reproduce here; but there may possibly be some historical foundation for the statement that he founded a church at a place called 'Carrum,' and at another called 'Carrou' (Caerau, Glamorganshire), near the mouth of the 'Guellit.' Afterwards, the biographer says, he went back to Ireland, and was buried at a place called, after his own name, 'the city of Cernach.' The Irish writers call him Cairnech of Tuilen (Dulane in Meath), and say that he is buried at Inis-Baithen in Leinster. MacFirbis says that he was 'the son of Luithech, son of Luighidh, son of Talum,' &c. This pedigree may possibly be authentic, as the story of the aescent of Carantacus from Ceredig is obviously mere legend.

A trace of a dedication to St. Carantacus seems to exist in the name of Carhampton (Domesday 'Carentone') in Somersetshire, jeland states that he saw there a ruined chapel of this saint, which had formerly been the parish church. Although Anglo-Saxon place-names derived from names of saints are extremely rare, a few instances of them seem to exist in the west, near the borders of the native British territory, and there seems to be no ground for questioning the correctness of Leland's derivation of the name.

Carantacus or Cairnech must be distinguished from another Cairnech [q. v.], whose festival is 28 March, and who died about 639.

[Act. Sanctt. May, iii. 648 ff.; Colgan, Acta Sanctorum Hiberniæ, i. 263. 473, 717-18; Rees's Cambro-Brit. Saints, 97-101, 396-401; Todd's Irish Nennius, cx, cxi; Senchus Mor, i. xix, 16, 17, ii. v-viii; Martyrology of Donegal, p. 133; Stokes on the Calendar of Oengus, p. lxxxvii; Dict. Christian Biography, i. 383.]

H. B.