Ian’s Saint of the Week: St Cadoc


This week (actually Monday 21st September) was the feast of the apostle St. Matthew, author of the first gospel and patron saint of tax collectors and accountants. However, since in this column I have tended to introduce some less well-known saints, I’m going to forego Matthew in favour of a Welsh saint, Cadoc, whose life would ordinarily be commemorated on the same day, since he died on the 21st September 577. Practically, however, to avoid any clash the Welsh church moved Cadoc’s celebration to the 25th of the month, thus giving him a day all of his own.
Miracles attributed to Cadoc were being recorded even before he was born, with strange lights being reported at his parents’ house and their cellar miraculously filling with food. Apparently his birth was announced by an angel, and a well sprung up at the place of his baptism which then flowed with milk and wine. He was born into a union of two Celtic royal families, since his father, Gwynllyw the Bearded, was a prince of Gwent while his mother, princess Glwadys, was the daughter of a neighbouring chieftain. In celebration of his son’s birth, Gwynllyw, not content with just wetting the baby’s head, commemorated the event by going on a wild, celebratory raid of a nearby kingdom with a newly formed bunch of ruthless warriors. Anyone who’s been to Newport on a Saturday night might well be excused for believing that this tradition has very successfully stood the test of time!
Several noteworthy episodes in Cadoc’s life seem to have involved the local wildlife. On one occasion, his father, never one to pass up on a way to infuriate the neighbours, had stolen a cow belonging to an Irish monk who had settled nearby. After being confronted by the monk who quite reasonably wanted his cow back, Gwynllyw agreed to also send Cadoc to be raised in the monk’s care. It was in the monastery at Caerwent that Cadoc grew to appreciate the monastic life, and ultimately to embrace it himself. In another instance he was cornered by a wild boar in a forest. The boar lunged at him three times but he was saved when, on the third lunge, the boar miraculously disappeared. Finally, in the mid sixth century, after embarking on a preaching trip to Ireland he returned to find the monastery he had founded only three years earlier at LLancarfen already in ruins. He ordered his monks to immediately set about rebuilding the monastery, forcing them to manually drag timber from the forest. Two stags were said to have appeared from the forest at this point and helped the monks in their task, and this is why Cadoc’s image sometimes includes a stag, much like the one above which is part of a window located in the church of St Catwg (an alternate spelling of Cadog) in Caerphilly.
The events surrounding Cadog’s death in 577 were no less fantastic than those recorded while he was alive. According to the Vita Cadoci, written by a Llancarfen monk in the late eleventh century, we are told that the saint was killed when a horseman stabbed him with a lance while he was saying Mass in Benevento, Italy, after being transported there from Llancarfen in a cloud. Could it be that the violent legacy of his father followed Cadoc through his life, and ultimately was responsible for his death?


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