In this section we invite you to discover the history of the Saint Bretons. The Breton Saints designate Breton personalities who are honored for the exemplary character of their lives from a Christian point of view. Few of them were recognized as saints by the Catholic Church’s canonization procedure (carried out several centuries after their death), but were appointed by the people, their very existence not always historically attested. Most of the vitae of the Breton saints that have come down to us date from the ninth and tenth centuries or were rewritten in connection with the Gregorian reform, which sometimes led clerics to reconstruct hagiographic documents derived from oral traditions that were transferred both in the old folk background than in the scientific environment, in their interest (legitimization of the episcopal figure, of the benefits of a reform of a monastic community). The development of the cult of these saints develops in the late Middle Ages, when several families of the Breton aristocracy appropriate the hagiographic legends by justifying with genealogical arguments, the special protection of a saint or his adoption as a representative in their descent.
Current historians still find it very difficult to distinguish between imaginary and reality. The history of the episodes of these saints’ lives therefore often remains questionable because these episodes are found in hagiography as they appear in customs or folklore. The very structure of the narrative of the vitae is found in the Lives of other Saints, whose authors generally take “literary conventions of a biblical model which shaped their modes of thought and expression”.
In 2022, around 170 Breton saints are represented, each by a statue, in the Valley of the Saints in Carnoët.
August 6 is St Dahud
Dahut Where Dahud, sometimes confused with Ahès, is a main character in the legend of the city of Ys, one of the best-known stories about the legendary Breton. Dahut comes from an otherworldly female figure specific to Celtic mythology and was most certainly a woman inspired by a mother goddess or a fairy who guards the floodgates that prevent the water from spreading in the city she rules . Its role and nature are then clearly modified by the influence of the Christian religion and literature.
Revised, its legend makes it the only daughter of Gradlon, King of Cornwall. She builds (or has built) the city of Ys, where pleasure reigns, and provokes the wrath of a man in the church. Princess of this city, Dahut ends up causing the submersion of Ys by the sea due to her sins. According to various later Breton collections, she is not dead and continues to haunt the bay of Douarnenez and the shores of Trégor in the form of a mermaid. Dahut also intervenes in a tale of King Marc’h. Émile Souvestre introduces many literary details about his desire in his version of the legend, especially the night Dahut spends with the Devil, who causes Ys to dive. Charles Guyot’s version, written at the beginning of xxe century, makes her the daughter of Malgven, “Queen of the North”. It is generally this last version that has been taken up as the canon version of Dahut’s story since the middle of the xxe century, especially by Jean Markale and Michel Le Bris.
Dahut has become a symbol of evil in popular versions of her legend. However, other analyzes see in it the incarnation of a female spiritual power fought by Christianity or an allegory of the sea. Several artists repeat this vision, offering a pagan vision of Dahut, in which she has a child and has since hidden in his sunken city. His legend has enjoyed great literary success ever since xixe century. It is still very popular today; Dahut appears in many operas, songs, novels, shows and cartoons.
Image credit: DR
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