Samson of Dol

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Saint Samson of Dol
Icon of Saint Samson of Dol]]
Born c. 485
South Wales
Died c. 565
Dol, France
Venerated in Eastern Orthodox Church
Roman Catholic Church
Major shrine Dol; Milton Abbas, Dorset
Feast 28 July

Saint Samson of Dol (born late 5th century) was a Christian religious figure who is counted among the seven founder saints of Brittany with Pol Aurelian, Tugdual or Tudwal, Brieuc, Malo, Patern (Paternus) and Corentin. Born in southern Wales, he died in Dol-de-Bretagne, a small town in north Brittany.


The primary source for his biography is the Vita Sancti Samsonis, written sometime between 610 and 820 and clearly based on earlier materials.[1] It gives useful details of contacts between churchmen in Britain, Ireland and Brittany.

Samson was the son of Amon of Demetia and Anna of Gwent, daughter of Meurig ap Tewdrig, King of Glamorgan and Gwent. His father's brother married his mother's sister so that their son Saint Magloire was Samson's cousin twice over. Due to a prophecy concerning his birth his parents placed him under the care of Saint Illtud, abbot of Llantwit Fawr, where he was raised and educated.[2]

Samson later sought a greater austerity than his school provided, and so moved to Llantwit's daughter house, the island monastery of Caldey off the coast of Dyfed (Pembrokeshire), Wales, where he became abbot after the death of Saint Pyr. Samson abstained from alcohol - unlike Pyr, who was killed when he fell down a well while drunk. As a cenobitic and later an eremitic monk, he travelled from Caldey to Ireland, where he is said to have founded or revived a monastery.[3]

There is one fairly certain date recorded of Samson's life; that he was ordained bishop by Bishop Dubricius[2] on the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter (February 22) at the beginning of Lent, which can be calculated to have fallen in the year 521. If, as is usual, he was 35 years old at the time then he would have been born in 486.

Iolo Morgannwg was responsible for the re-discovery of the Samson Pillar at St Illtud's Church, Llantwit, in about 1789,[4] but his suggestion that it was erected by Saint Samson himself was discredited by later historians with access to more reliable written sources. However, in the 20th century, genealogical studies threw further light on the subject, and the pillar is now considered by many to be "one of the oldest inscribed Christian monuments in Britain".[5]

Later he travelled to Cornwall (where he founded a community in either South Hill or Golant), then the Scilly Isles (where the island of Samson is named after him), Guernsey where he is the Patron Saint and Brittany, where he founded the monastery of Dol.[2] He organised the excommunication of King Conomor and successfully petitioned the Merovingian king Childebert I on behalf of Judael, Conomor's estranged son (c. 540-60). He is recorded as having attended a council in Paris sometime between 556 and 573, by which time he would have been old. He was buried with his cousin Magloire in the cathedral of Dol.

Roman Martyrology

In the 2004 edition of the Roman Martyrology, Samson is listed under 28 July with the Latin name Samsónis. He is mentioned as follows: 'At Dol in Brittany (died) Samson, abbot and bishop, who having learned the Gospel and monastic discipline in Wales from Illtud, spread these in Domnonia.'[6] He does not appear in the current Roman Catholic liturgical calendar of saints celebrated annually in Wales.[7]

See also


  1. Florent, Piere (tr. & ed.) (1997) La Vie ancienne de saint Samson de Dol. Paris: CNRS ISBN 2-271-05386-2
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Huddleston, Gilbert. "St. Samson." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 27 Feb. 2013
  3. St Samson of Caldey Island in Wales & Dol Island in Brittany
  4. Iolo Morgannwg: the Stonemason
  5. Iolo Morganwg: Vale of Glamorgan Trail, published by Vale of Glamorgan Council, n.d.
  6. Martyrologium Romanum, 2004, Vatican Press (Typis Vaticanis), page 419.
  7. National Calendar for Wales, accessed 8 February 2012


  • Doble, G. H. (1970) The Saints of Cornwall: part 5. Truro: Dean and Chapter; pp. 80–103
  • Journey to Avalon: The Final Discovery of King Arthur By Chris Barber, David Pykitt pp 119 St Samson
  • Jones, Alison (1994) The Wordsworth Dictionary of Saints, p. 202
  • Thomas Taylor The life of St Samson of Dol (Kessinger Publishing, LLC (July 25, 2007)): CNRS ISBN 0-548-09467-5
  • Marilyn Dunn The emergence of monasticism: from the Desert Fathers to the early Middle Ages, (Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 2003): CNRS ISBN 1-4051-0641-7)

External links