Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dubricius

DUBRICIUS (in Welsh Dyfrig), Saint (d. 612), was one of the most famous of the early Welsh saints, and the reputed founder of the bishopric of Llandaff. The date of his death is the most authentic information we have about him, as that is obtained from the tenth-century Latin annals of Wales (Annales Cambriæ, p. 6: ‘Conthigirni obitus et Dibric episcopi’); but this meagre statement does not even mention the name of his see, if, indeed, fixed bishops' sees existed at that period in the British church. Later accounts of Dubricius are much more copious, but are in no sense of an historical character. The earliest of his lives is that contained in the twelfth-century ‘Lectiones de vita Sancti Dubricii,’ printed in the ‘Liber Landavensis’ (pp. 75–83). This was probably composed in 1120, on the occasion of the translation of the saint's bones from Bardsey to a shrine within Llandaff Cathedral by Urban, bishop of that see. It is, of course, a pious homily, intended primarily for edification, but it is important as having been written before Geoffrey of Monmouth's fictions were published, and as therefore containing whatever ancient tradition of the saint remained. According to this life, Dubricius was the son of Eurddil, daughter of a British king called Pebiau. He was miraculously conceived and more miraculously born. When he became a man ‘his fame extended throughout all Britain, so that there came scholars from all parts to him, and not only raw students, but also learned men and doctors, particularly St. Teilo.’ For seven years he maintained two thousand clerks at Henllan on the Wye, and again at his native district, called from his mother Ynys Eurddil, also apparently in the same neighbourhood. He afterwards became a bishop, visited St. Illtyd, performed many miracles, and at last, laying aside his bishop's rank, he left the world and lived till the end of his life as a solitary in the island of Bardsey, ‘the Rome of Britain,’ where he was buried among the twenty thousand other saints in the holy island. In this life there is nothing more incredible than in most lives of early Celtic saints; the title archbishop is only once given to him, and more stress is laid upon his sanctity than upon his episcopal rank. His chief abodes are on the banks of the Wye. But in the account of the early state of the church of Llandaff prefixed to this life, it is said that Dubricius was consecrated by Germanus, archbishop over all the bishops of southern Britain, and bishop of the see of Llandaff, founded by the liberality of King Meurig. But Germanus died in 448, and the date of Dubricius's death here given is 612, the same as that in the ‘Annales Cambriæ.’ This latter fact is in itself some evidence that old traditions at least had been embodied in this account, though the chronological error in the account of the foundation is so gross. But the author, in regretting his inability to describe at length Dubricius's miracles, tells us that ‘the records were consumed by the fires of the enemy or carried off to a far distance in a fleet of citizens when banished.’ A few years later, however, Geoffrey of Monmouth gave a much more elaborate account of Dubricius in his ‘History of the Britons,’ which is absolutely unhistorical. This describes Dubricius as the archbishop of the Roman see of Caerleon, who crowned Arthur king of Britain and harangued the British host before the battle of Mount Baden. Other accounts connect Dubricius with David and the synod of Llanddewi Brevi. When Dubricius laid down his episcopal office he consecrated David ‘archbishop of Wales’ in his stead. Thus was the primacy of Britain transferred from Caerleon to Menevia. But this story is obviously the result of the desire to free the see of St. David's from the metropolitical authority of Canterbury, and is first found in its full form in the polemical writings of Giraldus Cambrensis. There is no occasion to do more than mention the amplified story of Geoffrey as it appears in the later lives of the saint.

According to the ‘Lectiones’ the day of Dubricius's death was 14 Nov., but he was usually commemorated on 4 Nov. His translation, which the same authority dates on 23 May, was generally celebrated on 29 May.

[The chief lives of Dubricius are 1, the above-mentioned Lectiones, printed in Liber Landavensis, edited by the Rev. W. J. Rees for the Welsh MSS. Society, with an English translation; 2, Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Britonum, bk. viii. c. 2, bk. ix. c. 1, 4, 12, 13, 15; 3, Vita S. Dubricii, by Benedict of Gloucester, in Wharton's Anglia Sacra, ii. 654–61; 4, the life in Capgrave's Nova Legenda Angliæ; 5, several manuscript lives enumerated in Hardy's Descriptive Cat. of Materials, i. 40–4. For modern authorities see especially Haddan and Stubbs's Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents, i. 146–8; and R. Rees's Welsh Saints, pp. 144, 176, 176, 191.]

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