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A History of Saint Sampson

Saint Samson had a fascinating life, devoted to God, from his birth to death, many miracles were witnessed and people converted to Christianity because of the work Samson did throughout England and Brittany.  The below information recalls some of the history of his story, for which we are so grateful to have a small part of this through the foundation of our ancient parish church.  Today we strive to continue his work in helping people to understand the word of God, and build a community of fellowship and support for one another.

If you would like to organise a field trip to the church, then we would be more than happy to welcome you to the church for a tour of the church/grounds, and to learn a bit more about the life of Saint Samson and our history.  Please email requests to Lisa on [email protected]

 

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Samson (Also known as Sampson and Samsun) was born in Wales around 486AD & died in Dol-de-Bretagne, in 565AD

He was the son of Amon of Demetia and Anna of Gwent, who was the daughter of the King of Glamorgan and Gwent.  They had been childless for many years and believed that Samson was sent to them as a special blessing from the Lord.  

Due to a prophecy concerning his birth, at the age of 5, Samson’s parents placed him under the care of Illtud, abbot of Llantwit Fawr, where he was raised and educated.  Samson was ordained deacon and later priest – it is said that a white dove descended on the Samson’s right shoulder during the sacrament.  Samson had to leave this monastery, as two nephews of the Abott envied him and, at the instigation of the devil, even tried to slander and murder the saint by poison. However, their attempts proved unsuccessful, and the poison had no effect on him. 

Samson moved to the great Welsh monastery situated on Caldey Island. He practiced manual labour by day and absorbed the Holy Scriptures by night.  On the isle he became its abbot for three and a half years and raised the spiritual level of the community, with wisdom instructed the monks, setting them a good example of humility and self-discipline.

Samson accepted an invitation from Irish pilgrims and went to Ireland with them for a relatively short time.

On returning to Britain, Samson gave up the abbacy and retired to a very secluded place on the banks of the River Severn. Soon his father and two other monks joined Samson. In spite of his attempts to hide from the world, the glory of the great wonderworker and spiritual mentor Samson spread all over Wales and even beyond so he decided to leave his companions and isolated himself in a very remote cave with a spring beside it where he spent all his time in prayer.  It is said that the saint directly conversed with angels in the cave and that a chapel was later built at its entrance in commemoration. 

Several years later, Samson was appointed abbot of another monastery, and later, about the year 521, Samson was consecrated bishop at Lanniltud Fawr in Wales. Soon after his consecration, St. Dubricius and other monks saw a stream of fire glittering in Samson’s mouth and an angel assisting him as he was serving the Liturgy.

Already in the rank of a bishop, Samson resolved to go to Brittany to enlighten this Celtic land. According to tradition, he made this decision following a miraculous apparition of an angel to him when he had been praying alone in church. This journey went through Cornwall – Scilly Isles - Guernsey - Brittany

Why did Samson travel to Brittany

Brittany was settled by the Celtic tribe of Britons from Wales and Cornwall, fleeing the invading Angles and Saxons in the fifth to seventh centuries (the epoch known as “the Age of the Celtic saints”). It was disputed between England and France until 1364 and was finally incorporated into France in 1532. Spiritually, Brittany is very similar to Wales and Cornwall and this atmosphere of the holiness and heritage of early Celtic saints has been preserved there.

Settling in Brittany, Samson founded his most famous and important monastery in Dol and built a number of other monasteries and churches.  As Abbot of Dol, Samson made it the center of his ministry in Brittany..

Samson is at the head of the saints known as “the Seven Enlighteners of Brittany” with the other six saints being Pol Aurelian, Tugdual, Brieuc, Malo, Patern and Corentin.

Samson’s cousin Magloire travelled with him to Brittany.  Part of St Sampson’s Church has a chapel dedicated to Saint Magloire and Samson & Magloire are both buried in the Cathedral of Dol.

 

Examples of miracles

Once when the brethren were working in the field a snake bit one of them. Samson made the sign of the cross over the bite, gave the brother holy water with oil, and the latter was made well.

In Cornwall, Samson performed many miracles, for example, he healed a boy who had fallen from a horse and broken his neck.

His father Amon had fallen seriously ill and on his deathbed, Samson visited his father and persuaded him to take up monasticism.  His father agreed, and was at once healed. Many other relatives of Samson hastened to follow his father’s example; they all wholeheartedly devoted the rest of their lives to the service of the Almighty and founded a great many churches and monasteries.

Samson went to Ireland with a group of pilgrims for a relatively short time. There he established or restored a monastery, and, according to his biographers, “cured lepers, restored sight to the blind, cast out demons and guided many to the path of salvation.”

On returning to Britain, the holy man gave up the abbacy and retired to a very secluded place on the banks of the River Severn (it was either in Wales or what is now western England). Soon his father and two other monks joined Samson. In spite of his attempts to hide from the world, the glory of the great wonderworker and spiritual mentor, Samson, spread all over Wales and even beyond, so the humble ascetic decided to leave his companions and isolated himself in a very remote cave with a spring beside it where he spent all his time in prayer. His biographer says that the saint directly conversed with angels in the cave and that a chapel was later built at its entrance in commemoration of his great ascetic labors.

Samson was consecrated bishop at Lanniltud Fawr in Wales. The consecration was most probably performed by Dubricius. This is how it came to pass. Llanilltud Monastery had a tradition: to consecrate a new bishop every year on the feast of the Apostle Peter. Shortly before the feast an angel appeared to Dubricius in a vision and told him to make Samson a bishop; on the same day an angel (according to another version, St. Peter himself) appeared to Samson and told him the will of God: that he would become a bishop very soon. And that is how it was. Soon after his consecration, St. Dubricius and other monks saw a stream of fire glittering in Samson’s mouth and an angel assisting him as he was serving the Liturgy.

Already in the rank of a bishop, Samson resolved to go to Brittany to enlighten this Celtic land. According to tradition, he made this decision following a miraculous apparition of an angel to him when he had been praying alone in church.

 

 

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