Saint Cadoc or Cadog (born about 497) , Abbot of Llancarfan, was one of the 6th century Welsh saints, whose vita twice mentions King Arthur. The Abbey of Llancarfan, near Cowbridge in Glamorganshire, which he founded circa 518, became famous as a centre of learning. The prefix of his name means 'battle'.

Cadoc's story appears in a Vita Cadoci written shortly before 1086 by Lifris of Llancarfan; "it was clearly written at Llancarfan with the purpose of honoring the house and confirming its endowments, Consequently, it is of limited historical merit, but some details are of interest. He was a son of Gwynllyw (Latinized Gundleus), King of Gwynllwg in South Wales, who was a brother of Saint Petroc, but a robber chieftain who led a band of three hundred. His mother, Gwladys (Gladys) was the daughter of King Brychan of Brycheiniog who had been abducted in a raid, during which King Arthur acted as peacemaker. Cadoc's father later stole the cow of the Irish monk, St. Tathyw, and, when the monk came courageously to demand its return, the King decided in return to surrender his son to his care. Cadoc was raised at Caerwent in Monmouthshire by Tathyw, who later became a hermit.

Cadoc's monastic houses

In adulthood, Cadoc refused to take charge of his father's army, preferring to fight for Christ instead. He proselytized over a large area of Wales and Brittany. He built himself a hermitage at Llancarfan (now in the south of Glamorgan) that soon grew into a monastery, one of the most important in Wales where many holy men were trained, until with the intruision of Norman power into South Wales, it was dissolved about 1086.. There was another foundation credited to Cadoc at Llanspyddid, three km west of Brecon, and he is credited with the establishment of churches in Dyfed, Cornwall and Brittany. About 528, after his father's death, he is said to have built a stone monastery in Scotland below 'Mount Bannauc' (generally taken to be the hill southwest of Stirling down which the Bannockburn flows). It has been suggested that the monastery was where the town of St Ninians now stands, two kilometers south of Stirling. Cadoc went on pilgrimages to both Jerusalem and Rome and was distressed that the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi was held during one of these absences.

At Caerleon, a Roman centre of Monmouthshire, the much-rebuilt church dedicated to St Cadoc, though of Norman origin, stands on the foundations of the Roman legion headquarters, a sign of the Christianization of Roman sites after the legions departed Britannia. It may memorialize an early cell of Cadoc's, although an old tradition suggests that, in this case, Cadoc is a corruption of Cadfrod.

Cadoc and Brittany

At one time, he apparently lived as a hermit with Saint Gildas on an island in the Bay of Morbihan, off Vannes in Brittany. There are chapels dedicated to him at Belz and Locoal-Mendon in Morbihan and at Gouesnac'h in Finistère, where he is called upon to cure the deaf. His name is also the basis of some thirty Breton place-names.

Cadoc and the kings

He came into conflicts with king Arthur, who is mentioned twice in the vita, as great and bold but willful. The reference is of importance to those concerned with the historicity of Arthur as one of five insular and two Breton saints with claims to mention Arthur independently of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae. The vita mentions a certain miraculous spot that had a healing effect until the time of king Hiuguel, after due to a malevolent influence the spot has been lost; Hiuguel is the Hywel vab weyn who died in his old age, ca 1041-44. The date of Lifris' Vita Cadoci, shortly before 1086, makes it a testimony of Arthur that is independent of Geoffrey of Monmouth's myth-making.

The kings Maelgwn of Gwynedd and Rhain Dremrudd of Brycheiniog also feature in his vita. In later Arthurian developments, Cadoc, with Illtud, is one of the three knights said to have become keepers of the Holy Grail.

Cadoc and Beneventum

In an episode towards the end of his vita Cadoc is carried off in a cloud from Britannia (de terra Britannie) to Beneventum, where a certain prior is warned of the coming of a "western Briton" who is to be renamed Sophias; as Sophias Cadoc becomes abbot, bishop and martyr. A magna basilica was erected over his shrine, which visiting Britons were not allowed to enter. And a fictitious "Pope Alexander" is made to figure in the narrative. Tatlock points out that Alexander was an obscure second-century papal name until the accession of Pope Alexander II (1061) and that Beneventum in southern Italy became more prominent after it was traded to the papacy in 1051 and popes began to visit it regularly and councils were held there in 1087 and 1091; but Beneventum has been associated with the Roman town of Bannaventa (five kilometers east of Daventry in Northamptonshire) on the edge of Saxon territory in Britain. This latter hypothesis proposes that it was overrun by Saxons at this time, thus explaining both the killing of Cadoc and the prohibition on Britons entering the town to recover his body.

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