Vladimir Moss
A century of English sanctity

 Chapter 68Chapter 69Chapter 70 

69. SAINTMAGLORIUS, BISHOP OF SARK

St. Maglorius (Magloire) was born in Britain, the son of Umbrafel, the son of Emyr Lhydau, a Breton seigneur, and Afrella, a Welsh princess, in the sixth century. His mother was the sister of Anna, the wife of Amwn Ddu, so that he was the first cousin of St. Samson, Bishop of Dol. He became, with Samson, a disciple of St. Illytd. He was ordained deacon by St. Samson.

When St. Samson moved to Brittany, Maglorius accompanied him. There they founded monasteries under the protection of King Childebert, and Maglorius became abbot of one of them near Dol. On his deathbed, St. Samson nominated him as his successor in the see of Dol. However, Maglorius soon left his see, appointing St. Budoc in his stead, and retired to a lonely spot given to the see by St. Judual. But crowds came to him, attracted by his healing powers, so he resolved to flee again.

A certain Count Loyesco (or Loescon), a British settler, who may be the same as the Comte l'Oiseau, Lord of Jersey, had occupied the tiny and very beautiful island of Sark, near Guernsey, off the Breton coast. He was healed of an illness by Maglorius, and so invited the saint to settle on Sark and take half the island. The saint arrived in the year 565. However, soon Loescon complained that Maglorius and his monks were taking more than their share of the fishing and birds and their eggs. After vain attempts to come to a settlement, Loescon, in spite of the angry protests of his wife, gave up the entire island to Maglorius, who immediately established a monastery there, some remains of which still exist to this day.

While on Sark, the saint cured the dumbness of the daughter of a Guernsey man named Nivo, who is listed in one source as a nobleman who chose Sark as his burial place and held possession of the west of the island.

From Sark the saint visited the island of Jersey, where he destroyed a dragon and was rewarded with a grant of land on that island. Returning to Sark, he encountered a fleet of pagan Saxons who attempted to land and plunder the monastery. Maglorius encouraged the natives and his monks to resist, and they drove off the pirates, many of whom were killed.

The saint founded a school for the sons of Breton nobles on Sark. At one time he had sixty-two pupils.

In 585 there was a famine, and the monks on Sark had exhausted their story of grain, and were in some trouble what to do for bread. One day some little boys in the monastery asked Maglorius to allow them to go down to the beach and play there, where their noise might not disturb the monks. Maglorius consented, and the children went to the port called Le Creux. There they found an old boat, got into it, cast it loose, and thought to go for a row and then return. But the current was too strong for them, and they were carried out to sea. The boys were in a dire fright.

However, the tide was running inland and they were carried to the coast of the mainland, where they told their story, and also mentioned the dearth of corn on the island. When the king of Domnonia heard of this, he sent for them, and was amused at hearing of their adventure. He at once ordered a ship to be laden with corn and sent to Sark to relieve the necessities of the monks.

Once Maglorius vowed to drink neither wine nor ale, and to fast from all food twice in the week, and to eat fish only on feast-day. But he had difficulty keeping this rule. Then an angel appeared to him and dispensed him from his vow. The saint told the monks about this.

The fishermen of Sark used to bring what they had caught to the saint. Once one of them was drowned, and the saint was so saddened that he vowed never to eat fish again. When evening came, he with all the monks went down to the shore chanting litanies. Then he threw himself into prayer, and the fisherman was restored to life.

Once the saint healed the daughter of the native chieftain of the neighbouring island of Guernsey; and a field there, where once there stood a chapel in his name, is still called after him.

St. Maglorius died in about 586. In the middle of the ninth century a band of Northmen invaded the island and sacked the monastery, killing the monks and their young pupils. Seven of the pagans tried to break open St. Maglorius' tomb, but were blinded, while many others lost heart and began to kill each other. In 857 his body was stolen by six monks of Lehon, near Dinan, and conveyed there. Later, owing to the incursions of the Northmen, it was transported to Paris. It is still claimed by the church of Saint-Jacques.

His feastday is October 24. He is reputed to have composed the hymn for All Saints' Day, «Coelo quos eadem Gloria consecrate».

(Sources: Baring-Gould, Lives of the British Saints, pp. 407–410; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978, pp. 256–257; Ken Hawkes, Sark, Guernsey Press,1993, pp. 85–87; John Henry Newman, Lives of the English Saints, London: Freemantle, 1901, vol. 3, pp. 40–41)


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