The Life of St. Carannog

Saint Carantoc, known in various traditions as Carannog, Cairnech, Karanteg, and Carantocus, was a prominent 6th-century abbot, confessor, and saint in Wales and the West Country. His legacy includes founding significant religious sites like Llangrannog in Ceredigion, Wales, and St Carantoc’s Church in Crantock. He is acknowledged among the Cornish Saints and is revered in both the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

Carantoc’s life, particularly an episode involving King Cado of Dumnonia and King Arthur at Dunster in Somerset, is notable. In this famous incident, after returning to Wales and crossing the Bristol Channel in search of his portable altar, Carantoc found himself embroiled in a conflict with the two kings. The resolution of this conflict came with a dramatic event: Carantoc was compelled to defeat a ferocious dragon to reclaim his altar. As a reward for his bravery and triumph, he was granted land at Carhampton, where he established a monastery.

The Life of St. Carannog (Version 1)

Here begins the Life of saint Carannog, confessor, May 16th.

§1. This festival is to be solemnized by all people believing in God, since the blessed Carannog, son of Ceredig, was taken up into heaven, who from Ceredigion (?) parentage is high-born according to worldly honour, so easy is it to trace his genealogy to Mary, the Mother of the Lord, for which reason none is accounted higher among the kings of the Britons. But he declined to strive for earthly realms. From the years of boyhood he preserved innocency, and afterwards withdrew to the cave of Edilv, and read the canonical lessons from the new and old law. Then he proceeded to the island of Ireland, Patrick going before him. And they came together and they dwelt together, as it is said ‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.’ They con­sulted together how they should act, and they said they would separate, the one to the left hand and the other to the right, because many clergy were walking with them…. And Carannog proceeded towards the right side, but Patrick towards the left, and they said they should meet once a year.

§2. In those times the Irish overcame Britannia, the names of whose leaders were Briscus, Thuibaius, Machleius, and Anpacus. Thirty years before the birth of saint David, the son of Sant, was Carannog well received in Ireland, for it is not difficult for God to lead his servants. An angel of the Lord was entrusted to be with him in the form of a dove, and he changed his name in their language, to Cernach. And churches were raised and monasteries in his name in the region of Leinster. And wheresoever he went, he performed miracles and wonders innumerable by the will of God. He healed many thousands of persons filled with divers diseases, the blind, the lame, lunatics, and the like. God enriched him with the highest places and rewards as one about to reign with the happy princes of heaven. The acts of the blessed Cernach are read in Ireland throughout the whole country, as are read in Rome the prodigies of the blessed apostle, Peter; and his perfect life is equal to the apostles, as it is read, ‘Go ye, teach all nations’, and the grace, which was bestowed on the apostles was fulfilled in him, ‘Whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.! It follows that such a person is to be feared and adored, who by good work is powerful on his highest throne and is powerful to save bodies on earth from all ailments. He was brave and faithful, fitted to minister in peace, for in a wonderful manner he was like the angels. In the presence of the sun he was a brave soldier, wonderful, spiritual, a supreme abbot, a patient preacher of fidelity, proclaiming just things to all just people, a herald of the heavenly kingdom. He lived for many years among unbelievers, he remitted the crimes of sinners that they might all deserve to sit in the height of heaven. Giving thanks to God he poured forth every day and night innumerable prayers, most fervent, holy, and most salutary. This is the beloved Cernae, because aided from on high and endowed from heaven with great rewards from God, whose death was anything but a benefit to mankind. He found grace in­deed, sought with great labour, (grace) pious and most pure, signified by the parable of the shining lamp; when the pastor of the church marvellously held (in his hand) golden and ecclesiastical candlesticks. O pastor most rich, O bishop most excellent, holy and most chaste, following the works of Peter in the apostolic chair, and Paul in doctrine, leading many districts to the faith. Thus Carannog led the districts of the Irish, honoured along with kings, although against the will of the companies of the magi (or Druids).

§3. And afterwards he came again to his own native district of Ceredigion, to his own cave, with many clerics, and there he performed many miracles which no one can enumerate. And Christ gave him an honourable altar from heaven, the colour of which no one fathomed. And afterwards he came to the Severn river (i.e., the [Severn] sea), that he might sail across, and he cast the altar into the sea, which also preceded him whither God wished him to go.

§4. In those times Cadwy and Arthur were reigning in that country, dwelling in Dindraithov. And Arthur came wandering about that he might find a most formidable serpent, huge and terrible, which had been ravaging twelve portions of the land of Carrum (i.e., locus, monastery). And Carannog came and greeted Arthur, who joyfully received a blessing from him. And Carannog asked Arthur, whether he had heard where his altar had landed. And Arthur replied, ‘If I shall have a reward, I will tell thee.’ And he said,’ What reward dost thou ask?’ He answered, ‘That if thou art a servant of God, thou shouldst bring forth the serpent, which is near to thee, that we may see it.’ Then the blessed Carannog went and prayed to the Lord, and immediately the serpent came with a great noise like a calf running to its mother, and it bent its head before the servant of God like a slave obeying his lord with humble heart and with sidelong glance. And he placed his stole about its neck and led it like a lamb, nor did it raise its wings or claws. And its neck was like the neck of a bull of seven years, which the stole could scarcely go round. Then they went together to the citadel and greeted Cadwy, and they were welcomed by him. And he led that serpent down the middle of the hail and fed it in the presence of the people, and they tried to kill it. He did not allow it to be killed because he said that it had come at the word of God to destroy the sinners who were in Carrum, and to show the power of God through him. And after this he went outside the gate of the citadel and Carannog loosed it and bade it to depart and not to hurt anyone nor to return any more. And it went forth and remained as he had foretold, according to God’s ordinance. And he received the altar which Arthur had thought to convert into a table, but whatever was placed upon it was thrown to a distance. And the king asked of him that he should accept Carrum for ever by a written deed. And after this he built a church there.

§5. Afterwards a voice came to him from heaven to cast the altar into the sea. Then he sent Cadwy [and] Arthur to enquire concerning the altar, and it was told them that it had landed at the mouth of the Guellit. And the king said, ‘Again give him twelve parts of the land where the altar was found.’ Afterwards Carannog came and built a church there, and the monastery was called Carrov.

§6. But a voice came to him from heaven and said that he should go into exile, and leave his familia. Here innumerable persons have been buried in that monastery and their names are not recorded. And he went by himself to the island of Ireland, and was buried on May 16th in his own renowned monastery, even the best of all his monasteries, which is called the monastery of Chernach. And he departed in peace, and left peace, and found peace, as it is read–‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.’ And again the prophet says, ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.’ He was mindful that the substance of this carnal world is frail, and that all things, although they may now be lovely, are nevertheless subject to corruption. He was very conspicuous in opposing the devil, having gained many souls. O truly blessed life, O life worthy of the gifts of God, O truly blessed man, in whom was no guile, judging none, despising none, rendering to no one evil for evil. He frequently wept for blasphemers; he abides, spotless, with joy and glory amid the angelic hosts forever and ever, Amen.

The Life of St. Carannog (Version 2)

§1. There was once upon a time a man, Ceredig by name. He was a king. And this man had many sons, one of whom was named Carannog, son of Ceredig, son of Cunedda, son of Edern, m. Patern Pes Rudauc m. Tacit m. Kein m. Guorchein m. Doli m. Gurdoli m. Domn m. Guordumn m. Amguoloid m. Amguerit m. Omnid m. Dubunn m. Britguenin m. Eugen [in.] Aballach, in. Canalech m. Beli and Anna, his mother, whom they say was cousin to the Virgin Mary.

§2. Now Cunedda had sons, Tybion the firstborn, who died in the country of Manaw Gododdin, and his father Cunedda and his brothers came not hither, but Meirion his son divided the possessions of his father among his brothers; the second, Ysfael; the third, Rhufon; the fourth, Dunod; the fifth, Ceredig; the sixth, Afioeg; the seventh, Einion; the eighth, Dogfael; the ninth, Edern.

§3. This is their boundary from the river which is called Dyfrdwyf [i.e. the Dee] as far as another river which is called Gvoun [i.e., the Gwaun]. And they held very many regions on the western [side] of Britannia.

§4. Ceredig held Ceredigion, and from him it was named. And after that he had held it, the Irish came and fought with them and took all the regions. But Ceredig was an old man, and the elders said to him, ‘Thou art old, sir, thou canst not fight. It behoves us to appoint one of thy sons to be king. Who is the eldest?’ They said, ‘Carannog. He ought to be king.’ But Carannog preferred the heavenly king to an earthly realm, and the will of the Lord to human favour. And when he had heard, he took to flight, lest they should discover him. He first bought a better bachall together with a hoe from a poor man. And he came to the place which is called Gweryd Carannog and there he sojourned for some time. And he wished to pray to God in that place. And when he was there and whenever he wished to labour, a dove came [and] took away all that he whittled daily from his bachall. And he said, ‘Lord, whither does she take it?’ And he resolved in his mind ‘I will go to see whither she takes this.’ And he arose [to follow] whither she went through wood, through forest. The dove came, and descended on a spot where is a church to-day and left it there. And he saw and said, ‘Here it behoves me to be, because God has willed it.’ And he remained there some time, where he rendered devout thanks to God.