Saint Judicael

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Paimpont (35) Abbatiale Notre-Dame - Interieur - Statue de Saint-Judicael - 01.jpg
A Medieval Statue of St Judicael at Paimpont
King of Domnonée
Bornc. 590
Died16 December 647 or 652
Venerated in Catholic Church
Major shrine Gaël
Feast 16 December
Attributes Warrior king holding a book, crown at his feet, sometimes with the Breton shield of arms

Saint Judicael or Judicaël (c.590  16 December 647 or 652) (Welsh:Ithel), [1] also spelled Judhael (with many other variants), [2] was the King of Domnonée, part of Brittany in France, in the mid-7th century and later revered as a Roman Catholic saint.



According to Gregory of Tours, the Bretons were divided into various regna (minor kingdoms) during the sixth century, of which Domnonée, Cornouaille, and Gwened are the best known. They initially pledged themselves to Childebert I in exchange for legitimacy. They attempted to escape Frankish rule during the time of Chilperic I, who subdued Waroch II and at least the eastern realms of the region. Guntram, Chilperic's brother, retained his lordship over Waroch and the Brittani formed a Frankish tributary-vassal state through the reign of Dagobert I. [3]

Hagiographic life

Judicael was born around the year 590, the eldest son of Judael or Judhael, King of Domnonée, and Queen Prizel, the daughter of Ausoch, Count of Léon. He was the eldest of fifteen brothers and five sisters, several of whom, such as Judoc and Guinien, were reverred as saints.

When Judhael died around 605, although Judicael was his eldest son and heir, the Throne was usurped by his younger brothers, Haeloc, while Judicael preferred to retire to St John's Abbey in Gaël. [4]

After the death of Haeloc in about 615, Judicael finally left the monastic life behind in order to rule Domnonée. For twenty years, he ruled the kingdom with authority and wisdom. He married in Morone around 630.

Around 642, Judicael retired again to St John's Abbey at Gaël or possibly to the monastery of Paimpont which he had founded. He left the throne to his brother, Judoc (aka Josse), but he also embraced the monastic life instead and the subsequent kings of Domnonée are unknown. [4] Judicael died on Sunday 16 December in either 647 or 652. [1] He was buried next at Gaël Abbey, next to the founder and his abbot, Saint Méen, and was later declared a saint.He is traditionally said to have been the brother of Saints Judoc and Winnoc.


A gold coin minted by Judicael in the 630s. Triens de Judicael frappe a Redonis.jpg
A gold coin minted by Judicael in the 630s.

Bishop Ouen of Rouen, in his 'Life of Éloi of Noyon' and the pseudo-Fredegar in his 'Chronicle' relate that in 635/636 during the reign of Dagobert I, the Bretons attacked the borders of the Franks. Threatened by the intervention of the Burgundian army which had just defeated the Basques of Soule, King Judicael agreed to come and meet the Frankish king in his palace in Clichy. Judicael exchanged presents with Dagobert, recognised his suzerainty and concluded peace. However, he was "a very religious man and had a great fear of God" and fearful of the irreligious ways of the royal court, he refused further hospitality. [3] [5] Judicael is known to have minted his own coins.

Later interpretations

In the Cartulary of Redon, it is recorded that a noblewoman called Roiantdreh adopted King Solomon of Brittany as heir to her lands in AD 869, her son Owain having predeceased her. At the end of the document, she details her paternal ancestry over eight generations: "Jedechael begat Urbien, Urbien begat Judon, Judon begat Custentin, Custentin begat Argant, Argant begat Judwal, Judwal begat Louenan, Louenan begat Roiantdreh". Some historians, including recently Alan J. Raude, believe that, due to the presence of names from the family of the kings of Domnonée, Roiantrdreh's ancestor 'Jedechael' is King Judicael of the early 7th century. [6] Arthur de la Borderie, however, doubted this identification because there was no mention of him being 'king and saint' as was customary. [4]

The 'Life' of Saint Judicael written in the 11th century by a monk called Ingomar states that "all the princes who reigned in Brittany since Judicael were descended from this king" and Dom Morice uses this to postulate that he was an ancestor of a pseudo-Erispoe, Count of Rennes, and of the later kings of Brittany, designating the latter as the father of King Nominoe. [7]

In 1514, Alain Bouchart, in his 'Grandes Chroniques' constructed a complete list of 'Kings of Brittany' largely based on the fictional work of Geoffrey of Monmouth and claimed they descended from the legendary King Conan Meriadoc. To the 10th king in the list, he gives the name, Judicael, taken from the historical king of Domnonée. [8]

This fictional character's existence was accepted well into the eighteenth century in the works of Pierre-Hyacinthe Morice de Beaubois. [7]

Related Research Articles

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Kingdom of Brittany

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Battle of Trans-la-Forêt

The Battle of Trans-la-Fôret was fought on 1 August 939 between the occupying Norsemen and the Bretons, led by the joint army of Alan II, Hugh II of Maine, and Judicael Berengar.

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  1. 1 2 Ford, David Nash (2001). "King Judicael of Domnonée". Early British Kingdoms. Nash Ford Publishing. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  2. Including Iudicael, Judhaël, Judhel, Juhel, Jézéquel, Jezekel, Jezekael, Jekel, Jezekelig, Jikael, Jikel, Gicquel, Giquel, Gaël, and Gaëlle.
  3. 1 2 Smith, Julia M. H. (1992). Province and Empire: Brittany and the Carolingians. Cambridge University Press. pp. 5–. ISBN   978-0-521-03030-4.
  4. 1 2 3 De la Borderie, Arthur (1975). Floch, Joseph (ed.). Histoire de Bretagne[The History of Brittany]. Mayenne. p. 470-489.
  5. Frédégaire (2001). Chronicle of Merovingian Times. Turnhout. p. 179. ISBN   2503511511.
  6. Dalc'homp Sonj (1996). The Geographical Origin of the Armorican Bretons. p. 69.
  7. 1 2 Morice, Pierre Hyacinthe (1750). Ecclesiastique et Civile de Bretagne[Ecclesiastical and civil history of Brittany]. Paris: Delaguette. p. Note XXXVIII.
  8. Chédeville, André; Guillotel, Hubert (1984). La Bretagne des saints et des rois Ve-Xe siècle[The Brittany of Saints & Kings 5th-10th Century]. Éditions Ouest-France. ISBN   2-85882-613-7..

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