Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Gudwall, Bishop and Confessor

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He was born in Wales, and having consecrated himself to God with his whole heart from his cradle, he became abbot of a numerous monastery in the little isle of Plecit, which was a rock on the sea-coast surrounded with water, where one hundred and eighty-eight monks are said to have served God in constant unanimity and with perfect fervour. He afterwards passed by sea to Cornwall, and travelling into Devonshire built himself an hermitage, which by the number of disciples who flocked to him, grew into a second monastery. Alford thinks this happened in the fourth, but he certainly flourished only in the seventh century, or at least in the close of the sixth, as Henschenius shows, who yet mistakes in placing his death in Devonshire, for he is the same person who in the calendars of Brittany in France is honoured on this day under the name of Saint Gurwall, as is shown by F. Le Large the canon regular. This holy man passing into Brittany in France, continued there to lead a retired life in the heavenly exercises of contemplation and prayer, and never ceasing by watching and fasting to subdue his body, and consummate the sacrifice of his penance. Saint Malo pitched upon him for his successor in the episcopal see which he had founded at Aleth, and which since bears his name. Saint Gudwall governed this diocess some time with great sanctity; but resigned it when broken in his old age, and retired to Guern, near Saint Malo’s of Baignon in the diocess of Saint Malo. Certain monks attended him though he lived in a grotto separated from them, devoting himself entirely to the preparation of his soul for his last passage. His death happened in that place about the end of the sixth, or beginning of the seventh century, on the 6th of June. In the inroads which the Normans made on the coast, certain monks carried away the treasure of his relics, first into Gatinois, where at Yevre-le-Chatel is still shown an old shrine in which they were deposited for some time; and one of the bones which was left is still preserved in another parish church in that country at Petiviers or Pluviers. The monks some time after removed with their treasure towards their own coast, but chose Montreuil in Picardy, then a place of strength, for their second retreat. These relics remained there till the tenth century, Arnold I, or the Great, count of Flanders, who carried on a long war against the Normans, caused them to be translated to the great monastery of Saint Peter’s of Blandine at Gant. He is honoured on the 6th of June in the British calendars, and called Gudwall; also in several churches in Gatinois, at Montreuil sur mer; and with singular veneration in the great monastery of Saint Peter’s at Gant, which glories in possessing the treasure of his relics. By the corruption of a letter he is called Saint Gurwall at Saint Malo’s, and honoured on the same day; but an ancient calendar of that church, quoted by the Bollandists, calls him Saint Gudwall, bishop of Saint Malo’s. He is titular patron of Guern. In an ancient calendar of that diocess he is called Saint Gudual, and Saint Guidgal in another of the abbey of Saint Meen in that diocess; Saint Goual in a parish of the diocess of Vannes, of which he is titular patron, and Saint Gudwall in a priory which bears his name, in an island depending on the abbey of Redon in the same bishopric.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Gudwall, Bishop and Confessor”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. Saints.SQPN.com. 5 June 2013. Web. 31 July 2014. <>