Church History Tuesday: St Dubricius
St Dubricius (or St Dyfrig to the Welsh) lived during what used to be called the Dark Ages and, unsurprisingly, details of his life are dim and sketchy. Most agree that he was active in the first half of the Sixth Century, and he was born in Madley.
In fact, there is a great legend surrounding his birth. His mother was the daughter of King Peibio Clafrog (“the Leprous”) of Ergyng (South-East Wales/South-West Herefordshire. He was less than impressed to discover his daughter was pregnant (some traditions even name him as the father), so he placed her in a sack and threw her into the Wye! She survived this startling lack of paternal fondness, and so Dubricius was born in Madley. When the child was later brought to the King, he kissed the monarch whose leprosy was then cured. The grateful Peibio then made Dubricius his heir.
When grown Dubricius became active as a missionary in Archenfield, which is broadly speaking the region to the west of the Wye to the Monnow. He built a monastery at Henllan (Hentland), and over the course of just seven years it is estimated that he trained as many as two thousand monks there before moving to what became known as Mochros (Moccas), further up the Wye. Why did he move? He’d had a vision in which he was told to found a monastery where he found a sow and her pigs (moch, hogs; rhos, place - hence Moccas).
During his time in Archenfield he founded a number of churches, and in all probability one was in Woolhope. Certainly there was a mediaeval chapel in Lower Buckenhill named for St Dubricuis, which suggests he had a connection with the parish. There are also churches dedicated to him at Ballingham, Whitchurch, Hentland and Hamnish.
So it is that this area was a stronghold for Christianity, even before the Roman Catholic Church returned in the person of St Augustine of Canterbury in the following century. The roots are deep, and let’s pray that they endure.