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Born in Cornwall; died March 12, c. 575. The "vita" of Saint Paul was finished in 884 by a monk of Landevennec, Brittany, named Wrmonoc. It is one of the few of British Celtic saints written prior to the late middle ages.

Saint Paul was a noble Briton, cousin of Saint Samson (f.d. July 28), and his fellow-disciple under Saint Illtyd (f.d. November 6). He was educated at Llantwit with Saints David and Gildas. We need no other proof of his wonderful fervour and progress in virtue, and all the exercises of a monastic life, than Illtyd's testimony, by whose advice Paul left the monastery to embrace a more perfect eremitical life.

Some time after, our saint sailing from Cornwall, passed into Armorica, and continued the same austere eremitical life on Caldey Island on the coast of the Osismians, a barbarous idolatrous people in Armorica, or Little Britain. Prayer and contemplation were his whole employment, and bread and water his only food, except on great festivals, in which he took with his bread a few little fish. The saint, mourning over the blindness of he pagan inhabitants on the coast, migrated with twelve companions to Brittany, and instructed them in the faith. Withur, count or governor of Bas, and all that coast, seconded by king Childebert, procured his ordination to the episcopal dignity, notwithstanding his tears to prevent it. His see is now called after him, Saint-Pol-de-Leon.

Count Withur, who resided in the Isle of Bas (Ouessant), bestowed his own house on the saint to be converted into a monastery; and St. Paul placed in it certain fervent monks, who had accompanied him from Wales and Cornwall. He was himself entirely taken up in his pastoral functions, and his diligence in acquitting himself of every branch of his obligations was equal to his apprehension of their weight. When he had completed the conversion of that country, he resigned his bishopric to a disciple, and retired into the isle of Batz, where he died in holy solitude at the age of nearly 100.

During the inroads of the Normans, his relics were removed to the abbey of Fleury, or St. Benet's on the Loire, but were lost when the Calvinists plundered that church. The story related by Wrmonoc is full of legendary material, but there is no doubt that Paul was a powerful evangelist in Finistere. The "vita" incorporates some traditions of Welsh and Celtic origin, and there are considerable traces of the saint in Wales, where, as in Brittany, he was sometimes called Paulinus. The ancient church at the village of Paul, near Penzance, is dedicated in honour of Pol de Leon. His festival occurs in the ancient breviary of Leon, on the 10th of October, perhaps the day of the translation of his relics. For in the ancient breviary of Nantes, and most others, he is honoured on the 12th of March (Attwater, Benedictines, Husenbeth).

Another Life:

Like the naming of Constantine, this saint reminds us of how the influence of the Roman occupation lingered on after the legions had left Britain. Paul was born in Genychen in East Glamorgan about the year 480 of a Romano-British family, his father Porphius being an "official of high dignity". He was sent to be educated by St. Illtyd, first at Caldy Island and then at the famous monastery of Llantwit Major, having David, Sampson and Gildas among his fellow students. He learnt not only from books but also from the manual labour in which all the community was expected to share and included reclaiming fertile ground by banking up the River Severn.

When he was quite young he left to set up an hermitage for himself where he was joined by a dozen other young men who regarded him as their leader and there he was ordained priest by St. Dyfrig. A local king called Mark tried to persuade him to be a bishop to his people who were of mixed race, "speaking four tongues", but he was unwilling to accept this office and after quarrelling with the king who refused to give him one of his seven bells he departed to Cornwall.

Paul's sister Sitafolia had established a convent near Penzance, possibly at Newlyn, and he built himself a church in the parish which bears his name where there are two ancient Celtic crosses, one set into the wall of the church which boasts the second highest tower in Cornwall. It is a tradition that his sister's community was threatened by encroachments by the sea and that they together marked out the tide-time with pebbles and at his prayers the pebbles grew into rocks which prevented further erosion of the land.

After a while Paul moved on to Brittany landing on the Isle of Ouessant at a place called Porzpol and there constructed a monastery consisting of a small church and thirteen huts of turf and stone at a place still called Lampol. He did not remain on the island for long but founded another monastic centre on the mainland at Lampaul Plondalmezon where his monks christianised some of the pagan menhirs by cutting them into crosses.

However Paul was still not satisfied and felt he needed the sanction of the civil authority and so he went in search of the chieftain of Leon who turned out to be a relative from Gwent, Withur, a devout Christian then living in the Isle of Batz. When Paul arrived at his house he was just finishing transcribing a copy of the Gospels which he gave to him with a bell, which had been denied him by the chieftain in Wales. The holy Abbot is believed to have delivered the island of Batz of a monstrous serpent or dragon which had terrorised the inhabitants and a hole in the island is still pointed out as its lair.

Withur gave Paul land on the Isle of Batz and also the ruined Roman town of Ocismor and there he built his main foundation, which is now known as St Pol de Leon. Withur, realising that the status of Abbot which was recognised among the British was not acceptable to the people of Gaul, managed to get Paul consecrated bishop by sending him on a mission to Childebert the Frankish king and so he became the first diocesan of that part of Brittany. With his monks the bishop began the work of evangelising the native population who were nearly all pagan.

About the year 526 St. Paul resigned his See to his nephew Joerin and retired to Batz where he was visited by St. Brendan. More than twenty years later he resumed his episcopate when a change of rulers took place after a great battle at Gerber, where he built another abbey, now called Le Relecq because of the large number of bones of the slain. He only remained as bishop for a short time before resigning once again and going to Batz where he died about 580 more than a hundred years old. His body is enshrined in the old Cathedral at St Pol de Leon where his bell is preserved and his stole can be seen at Batz (Bowen, Baring-Gould & Fisher).

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