Medieval Handbooks of Penance: A Translation of the Principal Libri Poenitentiales and Selections from Related Documents

By John T. McNeill; Helena M. Gamer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II

Early Welsh Penitential Documents

1. CANONS OF SIXTH-CENTURY WELSH SYNODS (ca. 500-525)

[THE CIRCUMSTANCES of the Welsh synods in which the following penitential canons were promulgated are obscure. In his Life of St. David1 Rhygyvarch of Menevia ( 1057-99) tells in florid style of David's leadership in two synods held at places which he calls Brevi and Victoria, respectively. According to Rhygyvarch the purpose of both synods was to expel Pelagianism and secure adherence to Rome. He has not, however, seen the decrees of the synods, which, he says, "owing to the frequent and cruel attacks of enemies, have become void, and being almost forgotten, have ceased to be."2Haddan and Stubbs regard the description of the synods by Rhygyvarch as "purely fabulous";3 and their connection with Pelagianism is discarded by practically all modern authorities. There is, however, a strong probability that the canons here given are in reality those shaped by the synods of David's time. They have been preserved, apparently, in Brittany4 and are contained in a tenth or eleventh century codex, Paris. Bibl. Nat. Lat. 3182, which includes other notable penitential fragments. E. Martène and U. Durand5 first published the text. It has been edited by Wasserschleben,6 by Schmitz,7 and by Haddan and Stubbs.8 Schmitz follows the dates supplied by the Bollandists for these synods, viz., 519 and 529. Haddan and Stubbs fix the date of the later synod at the year 569. Rhygyvarch allows an indefinite period of time between the two synods.9 While specific dates cannot be assigned, fairly solid evidence can be shown for a date con

____________________
1
Text edited with a translation by A. W. Wade-Evans in Y-Cymmrodor, XXIV, 4 ff. An English edition with more extensive notes is The Life of St. David, London, 1923, by the same editor.
2
Wade-Evans, Life of St. David, p. 27.
3
Haddan and Stubbs, I, 116.
4
H. Bradshaw, The Early Collection of Canons Known as the Hibernensis, 1893. Cf. above, p. 139.--For another MS see App. V, n. 1, below.
5
Thesaurus novus anecdotorum ( Paris, 1717), IV, 7 ff.
6
Bussordnungen, pp. 103 f.
7
Schmitz I, pp. 490 ff.
8
Councils, I, 116 ff.
9
Y-Cymmrodor, XXIV, 24.

-169-

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