The Heroic Age
Kentigern and Gonothigernus
A Scottish saint and a Gaulish bishop identified by Henry Gough-Cooper Independent Scholar
ABSTRACT: Onomastic, documentary and archaeological evidence is examined to test the proposed identification of St Kentigern of Glasgow with Gonothigernus, bishop of Senlis c.549x573.
Some time ago, John Morris proposed identifying Gonothigernus, a 6th century bishop of Senlis near Paris, France, with St Kentigern, patron saint of Glasgow, Scotland. He did so not only because the bishop appears to have lived in the same approximate era as the legendary Kentigern, and shared an otherwise unrecorded name, but also because an incident in Jocelin of Furness' 12th century Life of Kentigern seemed to him to echo an event during the episcopacy of Gonothigernus (Morris 1995).
Morris'source for Gonothigernus was the Sacrorum Conciliorum of Mansi (Mansi 1758-98), who, in turn, had to hand an earlier edition by Jean Hardouin (Hardouin 1714-15). In Mansi's edition of the Council of Orleans of 549, a footnote states that Hardouin gave the name as Cunautegernus, but this is an error in Mansi: Hardouin accurately gives the name its initial G, which agrees with the form found in the surviving sources as more recently edited by de Clercq: Gonotiernus at Orleans in 549, and Gonothigernus at the Council of Paris held sometime between 556 and 573 (De Clercq 1963). Although the name-form cannot be claimed to be exactly identical to the Celtic pre-form *Cunotigernos for Kentigern, the indifferent use of "G" for "C" and vice-versa is very common in documents of this period (Wallace-Hadrill 1960), and there is little doubt that the name-forms recorded for this bishop are equivalent etymologically to the British Conothigirnus of the Annales Cambriae (mid 10th century), which is generally considered to be an earlier form of Kentegernus found in the 12th century Glasgow sources (Jackson 1953). Despite the scribal error that gave the Germanic-looking variant fredi(g)ernus in some of the sources for Orleans 549, this name (Gonotiernus, Gonothigernus) is not Frankish, it is certainly not Latinate, and the form does not resemble any known Gaulish names (Evans 1967). A catalogue of the name-forms is appended below (Appendix I).
That Gonothigernus was suffragan bishop of Senlis (civitas Silvanectis, formerly Augustomagus) in the archdiocese of Reims can give us some idea of his character and status. His archbishop was Mappinus, who was represented at Orleans in 549 by his archdeacon Protadius. Mappinus was succeeded by Egidius some time before 573, the date of a letter sent to Egidius by the Council of Paris held on September 11th of that year. The archdiocese consisted of Reims itself and 10 bishoprics: Amiens, Cambrai, Chalons-sur-Marne, Laon, Senlis, Soissons, Tournai, St-Quentin (later Noyon), Beauvais and Terouanne; a territory roughly contiguous with the Gallo-Roman Prouincia Belgica Secunda. Senlis lies on the right bank of the Nonette, a tributary of the Oise, some 34 miles north-east of Paris; and it was attached to the kingdom of Paris until 587 when it was annexed to Austrasia under the terms of the Treaty of Andelot. After a period of prosperity under Rome (its amphitheatre could contain nearly 10,000 spectators), Augustomagus was destroyed in the first wave of barbarian invasions in the 3rd century (Bonnet-Laborderie 1987). Thereafter, the much reduced city was surrounded by Gallo-Roman walls, surviving to this day, 23 feet high and 13 feet thick, enclosing an oval area only 1024 feet (East-West) by 794 feet (North-South), the site of Gonothigernus' episcopal seat. The identification of Gallic bishoprics with the formerly Roman cities was, with a few exceptions, almost complete. The civitas was the basic unit of government in the late Roman Empire, and the bishops succeeded to the power and authority of the earlier Imperial governors of the cities and their surrounding territories. The bishops were, in effect, the princes of little kingdoms, organising the running of extensive church estates with their tied serfs, gathering tithes, dispensing justice, and even leading their local militias in battle. When King Chilperic (575-584) complained that public authority had passed to the cities, he meant to the bishops (Funck-Brentano 1993).
There is no contemporary 6th century evidence for St Kentigern of Glasgow. His cult as saint and bishop first becomes visible in the 12th century in the surviving fragment of a Life commissioned by Herbert, Bishop of Glasgow 1147-1164, and thus known as the "Herbertian Life." This earlier Life was apparently found to be unacceptable and was replaced by a newly commissioned Life by Jocelin of Furness during the episcopate of Bishop Jocelin of Glasgow (1175-1199) (Forbes 1874). These Lives have been examined and re-examined (e.g. Jackson 1958, Macquarrie 1986, 1997), but their content reflects the folkloric traditions and hagiographical conventions of the 12th century and the period immediately before that, and cannot be used as evidence for events said to have occurred some 500 years earlier. In his paper of 1986, Alan Macquarrie "tentatively suggested a reconstruction of the career" of the saint, but by 1997 he admitted he was "no longer so confident"(Macquarrie 1997). There also exists in the Glasgow Register a notitia prefacing an account of what is known as the Inquistio of David, Prince of Cumbria (later King David I of Scotland) (NLS). This "public enquiry", as Professor Barrow has characterised it, into the estates pertaining to the diocese of Glasgow, is thought to have been compiled c.1120, but the notitia, setting out the history of the church of Glasgow from the time of its foundation by St Kentigern, is considered to be a later addition (Barrow 2000). Prior to these 12th century sources, the sole reference to Kentigern is perhaps the note in the Annales Cambriae for the eighth year after an. CLX (= 612 AD) Conthigirnus obit et Dibric episcopi (Morris 1980). The Annales Cambriae were compiled at the same time as the Historia Brittonum, and take us back no further than the late 9th century, some 300 years after the supposed floruit of St Kentigern. The Latin text of the annal is ambiguous (either "the death of Conthigirn and of bishop Dibric", or "the death of Conthigirn and Dibric, bishops"), and it looks as if the reference to Dibric (presumably a Bishop Dubricius) is a gloss, in which case the original entry did not perhaps identify Conthigirn as a bishop. Kentigern is not mentioned by Adomnan or Bede, and does not appear in any other early source. The name of a monk Cundizeorn appears in the lists of the Durham Liber Vitae, another ninth-century source, but with no other information (Gerchow 1988).
The Life by Jocelin (cap. XII) tells us St Kentigern was ordained at 25 and lived for 160 years, while later (cap. XLIV) we are told that he lived for 185 years, which would seem to be 25+160. Skene considered this to be an exaggeration for a life-span of 85 years (quoted in Forbes, op. cit.). However, while the obituaries of notable ecclesiastics often occur in the annals, the date of their births might have been unknown (most unusually, the Annals of Ulster record the date of birth of St Columba in 519, but this is a retrospective entry, attributable to the annalists at Iona in the late 7th century). It is possible, therefore, that these "spans" represent a garbled computus for fixing the date of the death of the saint in a set of annals, indicating not that the saint died in his 160th or 185th year, but rather in the 160th or 185th year after some known "reference" date. Unfortunately, even if this hypothesis regarding the meaning of these "spans" is correct, we cannot now ascertain what the fixed date actually was, and none of the major chronological landmarks of the 5th century seem to fit with 185 years before the Annales Cambriae's "612". The 10th century compiler of the Annales Cambriae was attempting to synchronise the approximate era of Conthigirnus'death with his other information, but could perhaps only depend on the same anecdotal evidence that Jocelin later had: that Kentigern was a contemporary of St Columba (d.595) and Riderch Hen. In this attempt, they probably failed, as they did, for instance, with David of Menevia (A.C. an.= 601, where other sources indicate c.540x550 (Kenney 1929)), and the gloss on Dibric appended to the note on the death of Conthigirnus (St Dubricius' floruit is usually considered to be during the first half of the 6th century (Farmer 1978). It is an extraordinary coincidence that David I, in whose reign (1124-53) the revival of the cult of St Kentigern was progressed, was married to the widow of a Count of Senlis, and his stepson, Waltheof, became an abbot of Melrose. However, it is incredible that the hagiographers would not have made something of this, had the possible connection been known, and it must be concluded that no such inference was made.
The archaeological record confirms the existence of trading links between western Gaul and north-western Britain in the late 6th and the 7th centuries (Dark 1996). Fine glassware was imported to high status sites like Whithorn and Dumbarton, and luxury goods such as dyes, herbs, oils and wine were traded in Gaulish pottery vessels (Thomas 1981, Hill 1997, Campbell 1999). Equally important is the evidence from contemporary inscriptions that members of a hierarchical Church (sacerdotes - which can mean "priests" or "bishops" - , deacons and sub-deacons) were still active in what is now the south of Scotland, at least until the middle of the 6th century. Although probably earlier in the 6th century than the supposed advent of Kentigern, at least two of the inscriptions at Kirkmadrine in Galloway have been interpreted as commemorating a group of Gaulish clerics (Thomas 1994). The close stylish similarity between the inscribed cross-slab at Staplegordon, in Annandale, Scotland (NGR NY 3521 8791) (RCAHMS 1997), and that at Andrésy in the French Vexin (Knight 1999), although considered to date to the 7th century, further underlines the persistence of cultural contacts between these areas in the early medieval period, and there may also be a stylistic link between the cross-slab from Wauchope, also in Annandale (NGR NY 3552 8409), and those from Ableiges in the French Vexin (24; and 25, Grave 8) (opp.cit.) (N.B. the original illustration by Sirat of the Andrésy cross-slab has been inverted here to show the more likely orientation of the narrow edge).
Andrésy (28): cross-slab
(after Sirat in Knight 1999)
The "Herbertian" and Jocelin's Life assert that Kentigern was a native of north Britain and the latter states that he returned to become bishop after a period of exile in Wales. Without entering into further discussion on the likelihood of these legends, what does Kentigern's name (if we accept the Celtic pre-form *Cunotigernos) suggest? The name is a typical di-thematic Celtic form, the second part of which is the element -tigern "lord". Although in use as a personal name element, there is also evidence of its use as a title or descriptive name. In 9th century Brittany, the term machtiern designated a minor land-owning aristocrat with civil responsibilities. There is also a 7th century Irish cognate, macthigern "overlord", and the Breton machtiern is sometimes Latinised as tirannus. In Brittany, mach "surety", suggesting the machtiern's role as a guarantor, was perhaps earlier mech "fine, noble". There was sustained family interest in the machtiernships, and there is at least one example from the ninth century of a female machtiern (tiranissa). The machtierns exercised considerable power over territory (they were normally present at sales, and often at other transactions), had rights to tax, hold courts, impose punishments and take fines; but the courts they presided over were local, the courts of the plebs. Although the term survived into the 11th century, both the office and function seem to have ceased shortly after the 9th century (Davies 1988, Sheringham 1981). The civil status and function of the machtierns is not very different (except perhaps in scale) from the civil status of the Gaulish bishops outlined above, and may preserve the vestiges of late Romano-British civil administration. Personal names containing this element may indicate the social stratum from which the individuals given such names arose, or a social status for which they had justifiable expectations. Table 1 shows the temporal and geographical distribution of the principal instances of personal names in -tigern.
Table 1 Temporal and Geographic Distribution of -tigern Personal Names
AD 400-499 AD 500-599 AD 600-699 AD 700-799 North Britain
Cyndeyrn ap Cyngar
(Caintigernd) Cornwall TEGERNOMALI Brittany
Key CAPITALS = Inscriptions (CIIC) Bold= well-attested Italics = legendary
Note: Ritigern map Oudicant map Outigir(n) supposedly c. AD 100-150, in the genealogy of Coel Hen (Harleian 3859).
This cannot be exhaustive, and obviously there are probably many lost names, but the information that has survived suggests that these names were most fashionable in the 5th and 6th centuries, perhaps initially as a result of the renown of the late 4th century Gothic leader, Fritigern, even though his name (Ger. frid + gern) is etymologically unrelated to the names in -tigern. Geographically, they are first found in south and west Britain and Ireland, then in Brittany (Gonotiernus / Gonothigernus being the sole example from Gaul). The Pictish Cailtarni - notionally *cael+tegern - is very doubtful, and, although it is now widely accepted that the language spoken in Pictland was a type of P-Celtic (Forsyth 1997), Pictish names are rarely di-thematic. Apart from the legendary Kentigern, the only other example from the north is the early 8th century St Kentigerna, the anchorite of Loch Lomond; but it appears this lady was not native to Scotland but had emigrated to North Britain from Leinster with her familia. The details of her life are reasonably certain (Anderson 1922), and it seems likely that her name was introduced into Ireland by the 6th century Cantigerna, a British lady, patroness of St Comgall, who was the consort of Fiachra, king of Dal Araide. In the 7th century, examples are found in Wales alone, and only sporadic examples derived from earlier forms are found there and elsewhere from then on. On the basis of this evidence, it is improbable that Conothigirnus is a name of northern provenance, and much more likely that it originated in Ireland, West or South-west Britain, or Brittany, and it is probably in one of these areas that Gonothigernus was born and raised. This also chimes with the place-name evidence (discussed at more length below), even though this is difficult to date and is unlikely to take us back as far as the 6th century. Only two settlements (one insular and one continental) preserve this name - Llangendeyrn in South Wales, and Trégondern in Brittany - and the other place-names containing -tigern confirm the distribution of the personal-name forms. A gazetteer of both place- and personal-names in -tigern is appended below (Appendix II).
This Bishop of Senlis appears twice in the lists of subscribers to the 6th century church councils: as Gonotiernus at the Council of Orleans of 549, and as Gonothigernus at that of Paris held between 556 and 573. Of Gonothigernus' predecessors, only Libinus attended a Council, that of Orleans in 511. Libinus' successors, Passiuus and Nonullus, are undated (Duchesne 1894-1915). As Ralph Mathisen has shown (Mathisen 1989), the clerics subscribing to these lists generally formed up, or are listed, in order of seniority, and a strict hierarchy was observed. There were exceptions. For example, the "host" bishop normally appears at the top of the list: St Germanus of Paris seems to have been privileged in this respect, appearing at the top even when he was not the "host". Occasionally members forgot their "pecking-order": Eleutherius, who first appears at a Council in 533 is a notable example of this sort of displacement. Sometimes scribal error may have displaced names in the list as it was copied. Table 2 is extracted from an analysis of the bishops who subscribed to eight Gaulish Councils of the 6th century. It includes the Councils of Orleans of 549 and Paris of 556x573, and shows the relative position of bishops who appeared at more than one council, or whose date of ordination is known or can be closely approximated. The order of the subscribers has been preserved but those who did not appear more than once and whose date of ordination is unknown have been excluded (for the complete list of subscribing bishops and other clerics, see de Clercq, 1963).
Table 2. Extracted from an analysis of twelve Councils between 533 (Orleans) and 573 (Paris)
Orleans 538 Orleans 541 Orleans 549 Paris 552 Paris 556x573 <Ruricus Placidus <Placidus> <Placidus> <Placidus (Eucherius 528/9) <Aetherius> <Aetherius <Agripinus Rufus <Firminus> <Firminus <Dalmatius 524 <Agricula> <Agricula Gallus 525/6 <Rufus Agricula 532 <Gallus Firminus 532 <Domicianus (Danihel 533/41) <Eleutherius <Gramatius> <Gramatius <Amelius> <Eleutherius> <Passiuus> Tetricus 539/40 <Tetrecus <Lauto <Innocentius 524 <Eusebius <Passiuus> <Eleutherius> Deuterius Simplicius <Proculianus> <Proculianus <Rusticius Clematius 535/40 <Deuterius Theudobaud Eumerius <Lauto Licinus <Licinus> <Passiuus Albinus 530 < Albinus <Clematius> <Clematius Rusticius Vellesius <Vellesius> <Velletius (Antoninus 533/8) (Antonius 533/4) Aregius 541/9 <Lucretius Lucretius Hilarius <Aregius (Marcus 538/41) Clementinus 545/49 <Clementinus Auolus 541/49 Praetextatus Leubenus 541/49 <Medouechus> <Theudobaud < Leubinus' <Licinus Expectatus Medouechus Liberius 541/49 <Leubinus Germanus 552/8 Amelius 541/49 Mattheus 549/52 Vincentius Felix 549 Domitianus Gonotiernus <Gonothigernus Chaletricus
Key Bold with date = known date of ordination. Bold with date = approximate date of ordination.
Normal = unknown date of ordination
< = at earlier Council > = at later Council
(Name Date) = unique appearance but known date of ordination
In the councils analysed before 549, the custom of signing in order of seniority is reasonably well maintained. At Orleans in 549, six junior bishops who signed before Gonothigernus had replaced their predecessors who had signed in 541 and, significantly, we know that Clementinus replaced his predecessor sometime between 545 and 549. The last dozen signatories here were probably all ordained in the 540's and, as he appears so far down in this group, it is likely Gonothigernus was ordained in, or shortly before, 549. This is reinforced by the somewhat sparse but more definite evidence from the Paris list (it was a "local" rather than a "national" Council). Felix is known to have been ordained in 549, and we know that Domitianus and Chaletricus, between whom Gonothigernus appears, were not ordained until after 550 and 552 respectively. The age at which men became bishops varied considerably: as we have seen, Jocelin's Life makes Kentigern a very (but not impossibly) young bishop at 25, and some Gaulish bishops were military officers or civil officials who took the cloth at an advanced age (Thorpe 1974), but more normally a cleric was unlikely to attain the rank of bishop much before 35 or 40 years of age. This suggests that Gonothigernus was most probably born in the second decade of the 6th century, and certainly not much later than 520. If Gonothigernus is to be identified with Kentigern, then he may have arrived in northern Britain around 570, when he was perhaps between 50 and 60 years old.
From the evidence of his name, Gonothigernus was ethnically British or Irish, and it is tantalising to note at the Council of Paris (556x573) the presence of Samson peccator episcopus who is almost certainly St Samson of Dol in Brittany. Samson is said to have died c. 565; dates as diverse as 556-558 and 568-570 have been argued as likely brackets for the Council of Paris (de Clercq 1936), but the latter would seem to be too late for St Samson to have been present. Samson's seventh-century Life (Taylor 1925) relates his diplomatic mission to the Franks, to "king Hiltbert" (presumably Childebert, king of Paris, is intended): was it perhaps Samson who gave Gonothigernus/Kentigern the idea of a mission to north Britain? Or, if an invitation was issued from Britain, was Samson the messenger? After Samson's death, relations between the Franks and Bretons, which seem to have been reasonably good in the first half of the century, worsened considerably in the final quarter. It has been suggested that the Council of Paris was hastily convened following the death either of Childebert in 558 or of Chlothar, last remaining son of Clovis, in 561, in order to re-assert the rights of the Church. After the death of Chlothar, the kingdom of the Franks was once again partitioned between four of his sons. The deterioration in the political situation in Francia following the death of the weak Charibert and the accession of Chilperic in 567 (and perhaps the replacement of Mappinus by Egidius) may have been a further incentive for a bishop to quit his see. Of turbulent Francia at this time, it has been said that "the character of the period 561 to 768 ...., is one of violence"(Deansley 1960). Unfortunately, we cannot date the end of Gonothigernus' episcopate as we have no information on the date of his successors until Mallulfus who succeeds the undated Sanctinus in the episcopal lists (Duchesne 1894-1915). Of Sanctinus, all we know is that he was canonized and that his feast day is 7th January. Coincidentally (and it probably is no more than a coincidence), this is also the feast day of St Kentigerna (St Kentigern's being 12th January). Mallulfus was present at the obsequies for Chilperic in 584 (Duchesne 1894-1915).
The place-name evidence (and, indeed, that of the church dedications) is a reflection of the late medieval cult of Kentigern. In fact, most of the place-names of north Britain connected with the saint use his hypocoristic, Mungo (Mungho and Munghu in Jocelin), which (pace Jackson (Jackson 1958)) possibly contains the Cumbric equivalent of Welsh mwyn "dear" with the initial syllable of the saint's proper name, co- or go-. For the second element, compare the Breton personal name Menguy, from Breton men "stone"+ ki "dog" (Reaney and Wilson 1995). It might also be noted, however, that any other saint with a personal name in con- or cun- would have given rise to a similar hypocoristic (e.g. Conuallos, the saint of Nithsdale), but "Mungo" has become firmly associated with Kentigern alone. As has been noted above, the full name only appears in two major places (discounting the "Kentigern's Well" and "Kentigern's Bog" found in 16th century Scottish charters (Watson 1926)).
Llangendeirne (Llangyndeyrn), in Carmarthenshire, Wales (NGR SN 456 140), lying on the suspected line of a Roman road (now the B4306), is the only place in the British Isles to exhibit the full form of Kentigern's name (albeit in its Welsh form). The parish appears to be quite late, as the church was a chapel of ease of the (now) neighboring parish of Llandyfaelog, but the physical evidence of the churchyard at Llangyndeyrn suggests an early origin (James 1991). The place-name can only be traced back to the 16th century, where it is 1552 Llangendeyr. The missing final n here is worryisome: although every subsequent version of this name has the final n-stop (ie 1609 Llangaindeirne (James 1998)), the suspicion arises that this *Cendeyr is another saint. A similar confusion has been noted in the Welsh genealogies where a more prestigious saint replaces a slighter local man with a similar name: Kyndeyrn vendigeit ap Ewein (Kentigern) replaces Cyndwr (Barturm 1966). In fact, even if we do grant Cyndeyrn as being the intended dedication at Llangendeirne, there is at least one other saint of this name, Kyndeyrn map Kyngar, whose pedigree relates him through Keredic of Ceredigion to the legendary Cunedda Wledig (Bartrum 1966, p.55). However, this entry in Bonedd y Saint is found only in the later manuscripts (none earlier than 1400), and may have been an attempt to "explain" the appearance of a Kentigern dedication so far south, once a "local" Cyndeyrn had been overshadowed by the legend of his more celebrated northern counterpart. The other validation for the idea of a distinct south-east Welsh Cyndeyrn may be the famous entry in the Annales Cambriae already discussed, Conthigirni obitus et Dibric episcopi. Although the annalistic synchronisation for St Dubricius is impossible, the entry may reflect a tradition linking one eminent south-western Briton with another: Conthigirnus could well represent Kyndeyrn map Kyngar rather than, as is usually supposed, the Kentigern of northern legend. On the other hand, the proliferation of saints of the same name has been shown in some cases to be the cloning of one original figure to suit local preferences and allegiances: for instance, the British/Irish Uinniau/Finnian (Dumville 1984). The linking of the name-type with Dyfrig and Cyngar may imply a *Contigern who belonged to a sub-Roman christian community in what is now southern Wales who later became severally Kyndeyrn, Kentigern. It is curious that the Vita Kentegerni (c. xxiii) claims that, while in Wales, Kentigern was given Nautcharvan: this is Nantcarvan, or Llancarfan, founded by Cadog ap Gwynllyw (St Cadoc), but the reference to Kentigern may be a further glimpse of traditions relating to this "other" Cyndeyrn and may imply that he was of the familia of St Cadoc (or of St Illtud, as there is a constellation of references around Llanilltud Fawr (Llantwit Major): Dubricius, Illtud, Cadoc and Samson, the last of whom appears as a subscriber with Gonothigernus at the Council of Paris, 556 x 573). It has been suggested that Llangendeirne may simply reflect a late dedication to the founder's favourite saint (Yates 1973). However, the names in llan- usually display a marked conservatism: Eglwys Cymyn, Landawke (Llandauc, Doccus) and Pendine came to be dedicated to St Margaret of Scotland, but the displacement of the earlier dedicatees of these churches did not displace the older names.
In his systematic enquiry into the place-names of Brittany considered from a hagiographic point of view, Loth records several examples which have the personal name Serw or Serf (Loth 1910, sub Serv). This name occurs in the Welsh sources as Seru and Serwan (Bartrum 1993, sub idem), a form also found in the Reims Litanies as Serwane (Loth 1890) and is perhaps cognate with the element Soruio- found in the place-name Soruiodunum or Sorbiodunum, that is Sarum or modern Salisbury in England. In a northern insular context, it is most famously the name of St Kentigern's mentor, St Serf or Servanus of Culross. The examples recorded by Loth include a Lancerf (1271 Lanserff) in Plourivo, a Saint-Serve in Saint-Agathon, and two instances of Saint-Servan (but for at least one of these, the well-known suburb of Saint-Malo, the early forms suggest that the original eponym was Servacius, not Servan (c.1075 Sancti Servacii (Le Moing 1990)). Loth also records a Roserf in Trégondern, just two kilometres south-east of St-Pol-de-Leon. Roserf appears to be ros+ serf "Serf's hillock" (Loth was mistaken in its location: it is actually situated some kilometres to the east in Plestin-les-Grèves). Trégondern is 1386 Trefgondern, 1508 Treffgondern (Tanguy 1999), and is composed of treb + eponym Condern from older Cunotigernos. It has been suggested that Breton places in tref- with a personal name indicate a settlement that grew up around the lan of the founder (Chadwick 1969), but there is no indication whether the eponym here is of a saint or a layman, and the name is not otherwise attested as the name of a saint in Brittany. Trégondern is very near to St-Pol-de-Leon, named after St Paul Aurelian who is said to have come to the district in the 6th century from the familia of St Illtud (whence also St Samson) in Carmarthenshire, where an inscribed stone (CIIC 360) displays the name Paulinus. Paul Aurelian is probably to be identified with the saint of Llandovery who founded a monastery at Llanddeusant (Farmer 1978).
The Welsh and Breton place names may preserve traces of some lost tradition concerning the career and affiliations of Gonothigernus, but they are almost certainly of later origin than the 6th century.
Although the evidence is, and probably must remain, inconclusive, nothing in it makes impossible the identification of the St Kentigern of 12th century legend with Gonothigernus, the 6th century bishop of Senlis. Indeed, the archaeological and onomastic evidence weighs somewhat in favour of the hypothesis that the ultimate origin of the Kentigern legend lies in a bishop from Merovingian Gaul who went to a community of north Britons in the second half of the 6th century. I do not consider it possible now to locate that community with more precision, and any references to Kentigern as a 'bishop of Strathclyde' or 'of the Cumbrians' must be regarded as anachronistic. Carlisle (in Cumbria, England) may have been a diocesan capital in the post-Roman period (Wilson 2001). Hoddam and Whithorn (in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland), and Dumbarton are other possible foci; but it should be stressed that no evidence exists for a bishopric at Glasgow itself before the 11th century (Driscoll 1998). We know far too little - almost nothing - about the size or number of political units in Britain during the 6th century, and, judging from the later claims of the diocese of Glasgow, the territory of this bishop's community may have lain anywhere in what is now north-west England or southern Scotland.
Appendix I: Kentigern: the Cognate Name-forms.
Appendix II: Chronological and Geographical Distribution of Names in tegern / tigern.
Copyright © Henry Gough-Cooper, 2003. All rights reserved.
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