Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Paul (d.573)

PAUL or POL (d. 573), saint, also called Aurelian, bishop of Léon in Brittany, was the son of Perphius, Porfius, or Porfus, who in a late legend is called Aurelianus—namely, of Orleans—but this name probably did not belong to his family, and was first applied to the saint when his relics were moved to Orleans. He is said to have been born at Pen-hoen in Cornwall or Wales, and to have been a pupil of St. Illtyd [q. v.], with Samson (fl. 550) [q. v.] and Gildas [q. v.]; but legend has perhaps confused him with Paulinus (fl. 500?) [q. v.], founder of a school at Whitland, who is mentioned in the Welsh ‘life’ of St. Illtyd. Several stories of Paul's student life under Illtyd are identical with those which the Welsh hagiographers narrate of Samson. Leaving Illtyd, Paul retired to a desert place with a few companions, and taught a chieftain Marcus, called also Quonomonus, who had been despoiled by the Anglo-Saxons. Fearing to be made a bishop, Paul went to an island off the coast of Brittany, probably Saintes, whence he passed to the mainland. He visited Withur, an Armorican chief, and led the life of a missionary. Withur, pretending that he needed a safe messenger, charged him with a letter directed to Judwal, another Armorican chief, then at the court of Childebert, son of Clovis I, and this letter contained a request that Paul should be made a bishop. In ignorance of its contents he presented it, and, when his reluctance had been overcome, he accepted the episcopate of the tribe of the Osismii, with Léon as his see. He was consecrated in the king's court, probably in 512 (Haddan and Stubbs, ii. 74). He continued to make converts and to build monasteries in Brittany, where many places still bear the prefix Lampaul.

After twenty-four years he retired to an island to lead a hermit's life, but a fatality pursued his successors in his old see of Léon, and he returned to its care. At an advanced age he again retired, and died in the island of Batz on 12 March 573. His relics were removed in the tenth century to Fleury, near Orleans. Like other Celtic saints, he is said to have had a miraculous bell, preserved at Léon in 876, according to Plaine.

[The earliest life of Paul is by Wormonoc of Landevenech, written about 884, printed in Bolland's Analecta, i. 208, from a Paris manuscript by Plaine, and in the Revue Celtique, v. 413, from a Fleury manuscript by Cuissard. His life, by a tenth-century monk of Fleury, probably Vitalis (Mém. Soc. Arch. de l'Orléanais, ii. 277), is given in Johannes à Bosco's Bibliotheca Floriac. pp. 418 sqq. See also Haddan and Stubbs's Councils and Documents, ii. 74, 87; Le Long's Vies des Saints, pp. 191 sqq.; Levot's Biogr. Bretonne, vol. ii. s.v.; Bollandists' Acta SS. 2 March, p. 108.]

M. B.