Homelia die natali sancti Winwaloei

  • Latin
  • prose
Wrdisten’s sermon for the feast of St Winwaloe. BHL 8959.
Wrdisten (Gurdisten)
(fl. 9th century)
Abbot of Landévennec and author of a Life of St Winwaloe/Gwenolé.

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  • Latin
prose (primary)
Textual relationships
Related: Vita et homelia sancti WinwaloeiVita et homelia sancti Winwaloei

A letter written probably by Wrdisten, abbot of Landévennec and author of the vita longior of Winwaloe, to John, bishop of Arezzo. The letter was intended to accompany a gift of relics sent to the bishop and offers a summary of Winwaloe’s life by the same author. BHL 8960.



(supp. fl. 6th c.)
Reputed founder, first abbot and patron saint of Landévennec in Cornouaille (now in Finistère, Brittany).

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Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] [tr.] Varin, Amy Lucille, “Medieval texts of the life of St. Gwenole”, PhD thesis, Harvard University, 1983.  
Different versions of the life of St. Gwénolé, founder of the Abbey of Landévennec, vary considerably according to the use the author wished to make of the text. The earliest surviving text, the Vita Sancti Winwaloei [VSW] of Wrdisten, Abbot of Landévennec in the ninth century, is both a historical work and a devotional work. As history, it is inspired in part by the ninth-century rise in nationalist consciousness throughout the Celtic world, which in Brittany may have been encouraged by Nevenoe's establishment of an independent Breton state. It contains an origin story for Brittany, largely derived from Gildas. As an aid to devotion, it offers a rich intertext of Scriptural references which serve to underline the religious significance of Gwénolé’s life.

A shorter version of the VSW, generally thought to be Wrdisten's source, is actually an abridgement of his text, probably written at Montreuil-sur-Mer in Normandy. This text, which contains an episode borrowed from the Life of St. Ethbin, has been reduced to a string of miracles for the edification of a less sophisticated audience than the readers of the longer VSW. Condensed even further by John of Tynemouth, the short version has been incorporated into the Nova Legenda Angliae.

Wrdisten also wrote a verse life of Gwénolé as a companion piece to his long prose life, a sermon for the feast of St. Gwénolé designed to instruct those who could not read the VSW, and a letter, based primarily on the sermon, to enclose with a gift of relics sent to Bishop John of Arezzo.

Closely related to Wrdisten's works are three hymns, one by Clement of Landévennec, Wrdisten's contemporary, the others anonymous, recalling Gwénolé's miracles and asking his protection, and a number of charters composed in the eleventh century to document Landévennec's earliest acquisitions of land. Apart from one which makes Gwénolé contemporary with Charlemagne rather than with the Breton migration, these charters agree with Wrdisten's official biography.
116–121 (text foll. La Borderie); 122–129 (English translation)
[ed.] La Borderie, Arthur de, Cartulaire de l’abbaye de Landévennec: première livraison, Rennes: Société archéologique du Finistère, 1888.
Gallica: <link>
129–135 Edited from BNF MS 5610A and Quimper MS 16.

Secondary sources (select)

Poulin, Joseph-Claude, “Sources hagiographiques de la Gaule [SHG], V: Le dossier de Saint Guénolé de Landevennec (Province de Bretagne)”, Francia 23:1 (1996).
 : <link>
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
January 2023, last updated: June 2023