The Lives of the Saints

Medieval Welsh literature includes a significant body of religious texts, particularly those detailing the lives of saints, known as “hagiography” or “Bucheddau”. These texts are fascinating for their blend of Christian ideology and indigenous Celtic beliefs, often featuring miraculous and fantastical elements.

Hagiography: This is the general term used universally in religious and academic contexts to refer to the genre of literature that involves writing about the lives of saints. It comes from the Greek words “hagios” (holy or saint) and “graphein” (to write). Hagiographies are found across various Christian traditions and involve the depiction of the lives, deeds, virtues, and often miracles of saints. The purpose of these writings is often to inspire devotion and to present models of Christian virtue.

Bucheddau: This is the Welsh term specifically for the Lives of Saints. It is used in the context of Welsh literature and religious history. “Bucheddau” (plural of “Buchedd”) are a part of the broader hagiographical tradition but are specific to the Welsh cultural and historical context. These texts often reflect a unique blend of Christian teachings with indigenous Celtic beliefs and traditions, and they form an important part of medieval Welsh literature.

In the hagiographies of Welsh and Breton saints from the 12th to 13th centuries, King Arthur is referenced in several texts. These include the lives of saints such as Cadoc, Carantoc, Gildas, Goeznovius, Illtud, and Paternus. One notable example is the “Legenda Sancti Goeznovii,” a hagiography dedicated to the Breton Saint Goeznovius. Initially thought to be written around 1019, recent scholarship has revised its dating to the late 12th to early 13th century. This text contains a section that briefly discusses Arthur alongside a figure named Vortigern. These references underscore the integration of Arthurian legend into the broader tapestry of religious and cultural narratives of the period.

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