(fl. c. 465—535) holy man and supposed bishop

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(d. c.550), monk and bishop who worked mainly in the Hereford-Gwent area. He was one of the earliest and most important of the saints of South Wales, but there is very little early and authentic information about him. Madley (near Hereford) is claimed as his birthplace, and his earliest foundation was at Ariconium (=Archenfield, Hereford); he was also reputed to own land at Caerleon. These facts point to his close connection with Romano-British Christianity. Other places associated with him, either because he founded monasteries there or because the churches are dedicated to him, include Hentland, Whitchurch, Madley, and Moccas, in the Wye valley.

The 7th-century Life of Samson testifies to his importance and to his activity far outside his principal sphere of influence. He is called bishop, even papa by some MSS. of this Life, which also attributed to him the ordination of Samson, his appointment as abbot (of Caldey?) and his consecration as bishop. At Caldey survives an ancient uncompleted inscription Magl Dubr (the tonsured servant of Dubricius). A church dedication to Dyfrig at Gwenddwr (Powys), and another at Porlock (Somerset) suggests that he or his disciples were active in the expansion of Christianity to the West and the South-West, possibly in association with the children of Brychan. Dyfrig retired to Bardsey Island in old age and died there.

Later tradition, represented by the Book of LlanDav and the Life by Benedict of Gloucester, claimed that he was a disciple of Germanus of Auxerre and that he conceded to David at the Synod of Brevi the ‘metropolitan’ status of archbishop of Wales. This is, of course, anachronistic, and the claims that he owned extensive properties claimed as part of the territory of the 12th-century bishops of Llandaff are also highly suspect. But the translation of Dyfrig's relics there in 1120 gave the cult new life.

The unreliable Geoffrey of Monmouth said that he crowned Arthur ‘King of Britain’ while Tennyson made him ‘high saint’ in his Coming of Arthur. Feast: 14 November.

From The Oxford Dictionary of Saints in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Christianity.

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