BOOK I. THE BEGINNINGS
BOOK II. THE ANCIENT TIMES
BOOK III. THE MIDDLE AGES AND THE RENAISSANCE
BOOK IV. MODERN TIMES: TRINCO
BOOK V. MODERN TIMES: CHATILLON
BOOK VI. MODERN TIMES
BOOK VII. MODERN TIMES
BOOK VIII. FUTURE TIMES
BOOK I. THE BEGINNINGS
I. LIFE OF SAINT MAEL
Mael a scion of a royal family of Cambria was sent in his ninth year to the
Abbey of Yvern so that he might there study both sacred and profane learning.
At the age of fourteen he renounced his patrimony and took a vow to serve the
Lord. His time was divided according to the rule between the singing of
hymns the study of grammar and the meditation of eternal truths.
A celestial perfume soon disclosed the virtues of the monk throughout the
cloister and when the blessed Gal the Abbot of Yvern departed from this
world into the next young Mael succeeded him in the government of the
monastery. He established therein a school an infirmary a guest-house a
forge work-shops of all kinds and sheds for building ships and he compelled
the monks to till the lands in the neighbourhood. With his own hands he
cultivated the garden of the Abbey he worked in metals he instructed the
novices and his life was gently gliding along like a stream that reflects the
heaven and fertilizes the fields.
At the close of the day this servant of God was accustomed to seat himself on
the cliff in the place that is to-day still called St. Mael's chair. At his
feet the rocks bristling with green seaweed and tawny wrack seemed like black
dragons as they faced the foam of the waves with their monstrous breasts. He
watched the sun descending into the ocean like a red Host whose glorious blood
gave a purple tone to the clouds and to the summits of the waves. And the holy
man saw in this the image of the mystery of the Cross by which the divine
blood has clothed the earth with a royal purple. In the offing a line of dark
blue marked the shores of the island of Gad where St. Bridget who had been
given the veil by St. Malo ruled over a convent of women.
Now Bridget knowing the merits of the venerable Mael begged from him some
work of his hands as a rich present. Mael cast a hand-bell of bronze for her
and when it was finished he blessed it and threw it into the sea. And the
bell went ringing towards the coast of Gad where St. Bridget warned by the
sound of the bell upon the waves received it piously and carried it in
solemn procession with singing of psalms into the chapel of the convent.
Thus the holy Mael advanced from virtue to virtue. He had already passed
through two-thirds of the way of life and he hoped peacefully to reach his
terrestrial end in the midst of his spiritual brethren when he knew by a
certain sign that the Divine wisdom had decided otherwise and that the Lord
was calling him to less peaceful but not less meritorious labours.
II. THE APOSTOLICAL VOCATION OF SAINT MAEL
One day as he walked in meditation to the furthest point of a tranquil beach
for which rocks jutting out into the sea formed a rugged dam he saw a trough
of stone which floated like a boat upon the waters.
It was in a vessel similar to this that St. Guirec the great St. Columba and
so many holy men from Scotland and from Ireland had gone forth to evangelize
Armorica. More recently still St. Avoye having come from England ascended
the river Auray in a mortar made of rose-coloured granite into which children
were afterwards placed in order to make them strong; St. Vouga passed from
Hibernia to Cornwall on a rock whose fragments preserved at Penmarch will
cure of fever such pilgrims as place these splinters on their heads. St.
Samson entered the Bay of St. Michael's Mount in a granite vessel which will
one day be called St. Samson's basin. It is because of these facts that when
he saw the stone trough the holy Mael understood that the Lord intended him
for the apostolate of the pagans who still peopled the coast and the Breton
He handed his ashen staff to the holy Budoc thus investing him with the
government of the monastery. Then furnished with bread a barrel of fresh
water and the book of the Holy Gospels he entered the stone trough which
carried him gently to the island of Hoedic.
This island is perpetually buffeted by the winds. In it some poor men fished
among the clefts of the rocks and labouriously cultivated vegetables in
gardens full of sand and pebbles that were sheltered from the wind by walls of
barren stone and hedges of tamarisk. A beautiful fig-tree raised itself in a
hollow of the island and thrust forth its branches far and wide. The
inhabitants of the island used to worship it.
And the holy Mael said to them: "You worship this tree because it is
beautiful. Therefore you are capable of feeling beauty. Now I come to reveal
to you the hidden beauty." And he taught them the Gospel. And after having
instructed them he baptized them with salt and water.
The islands of Morbihan were more numerous in those times than they are
to-day. For since then many have been swallowed up by the sea. St. Mael
evangelized sixty of them. Then in his granite trough he ascended the river
Auray. And after sailing for three hours he landed before a Roman house. A
thin column of smoke went up from the roof. The holy man crossed the threshold
on which there was a mosaic representing a dog with its hind legs outstretched
and its lips drawn back. He was welcomed by an old couple Marcus Combabus and
Valeria Moerens who lived there on the products of their lands. There was a
portico round the interior court the columns of which were painted red half
their height upwards from the base. A fountain made of shells stood against
the wall and under the portico there rose an altar with a niche in which the
master of the house had placed some little idols made of baked earth and
whitened with whitewash. Some represented winged children others Apollo or
Mercury and several were in the form of a naked woman twisting her hair. But
the holy Mael observing those figures discovered among them the image of a
young mother holding a child upon her knees.
Immediately pointing to that image he said:
"That is the Virgin the mother of God. The poet Virgil foretold her in
Sibylline verses before she was born and in angelical tones he sang Jam redit
et virgo. Throughout heathendom prophetic figures of her have been made like
that which you O Marcus have placed upon this altar. And without doubt it is
she who has protected your modest household. Thus it is that those who
faithfully observe the natural law prepare themselves for the knowledge of
Marcus Combabus and Valeria Moerens having been instructed by this speech
were converted to the Christian faith. They received baptism together with
their young freedwoman Caelia Avitella who was dearer to them than the light
of their eyes. All their tenants renounced paganism and were baptized on the
Marcus Combabus Valeria Moerens and Caelia Avitella led thenceforth a life
full of merit. They died in the Lord and were admitted into the canon of the
For thirty-seven years longer the blessed Mael evangelized the pagans of the
inner lands. He built two hundred and eighteen chapels and seventy-four
Now on a certain day in the city of Vannes when he was preaching the Gospel
he learned that the monks of Yvern had in his absence declined from the rule
of St. Gal. Immediately with the zeal of a hen who gathers her brood he
repaired to his erring children. He was then towards the end of his
ninety-seventh year; his figure was bent but his arms were still strong and
his speech was poured forth abundantly like winter snow in the depths of the
Abbot Budoc restored the ashen staff to St. Mael and informed him of the
unhappy state into which the Abbey had fallen. The monks were in disagreement
as to the date an which the festival of Easter ought to be celebrated. Some
held for the Roman calendar others for the Greek calendar and the horrors of
a chronological schism distracted the monastery.
There also prevailed another cause of disorder. The nuns of the island of Gad
sadly fallen from their former virtue continually came in boats to the coast
of Yvern. The monks received them in the guesthouse and from this there arose
scandals which filled pious souls with desolation.
Having finished his faithful report Abbot Budoc concluded in these terms:
"Since the coming of these nuns the innocence and peace of the monks are at an
"I readily believe it" answered the blessed Mael. "For woman is a cleverly
constructed snare by which we are taken even before we suspect the trap. Alas!
the delightful attraction of these creatures is exerted with even greater
force from a distance than when they are close at hand. The less they satisfy
desire the more they inspire it. This is the reason why a poet wrote this
verse to one of them:
When present I avoid thee but when away I find thee.
Thus we see my son that the blandishments of carnal love have more power
over hermits and monks than over men who live in the world. All through my
life the demon of lust has tempted me in various ways but his strongest
temptations did not come to me from meeting a woman however beautiful and
fragrant she was. They came to me from the image of an absent woman. Even now
though full of days and approaching my ninety-eighth year I am often led by
the Enemy to sin against chastity at least in thought. At night when I am
cold in my bed and my frozen old bones rattle together with a dull sound I
hear voices reciting the second verse of the third Book of the Kings:
'Wherefore his servants said unto him Let there be sought for my lord the
king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king and let her cherish
him and let her lie in thy bosom that my lord the king may get heat' and
the devil shows me a girl in the bloom of youth who says to me: 'I am thy
Abishag; I am thy Shunamite. Make O my lord room for me in thy couch.'
"Believe me" added the old man "it is only by the special aid of Heaven that
a monk can keep his chastity in act and in intention."
Applying himself immediately to restore innocence and peace to the monastery
he corrected the calendar according to the calculations of chronology and
astronomy and he compelled all the monks to accept his decision; he sent the
women who had declined from St. Bridget's rule back to their convent; but far
from driving them away brutally he caused them to be led to their boat with
singing of psalms and litanies.
"Let us respect in them" he said "the daughters of Bridget and the betrothed
of the Lord. Let us beware lest we imitate the Pharisees who affect to despise
sinners. The sin of these women and not their persons should be abased and
they should be made ashamed of what they have done and not of what they are
for they are all creatures of God."
And the holy man exhorted his monks to obey faithfully the rule of their
"When it does not yield to the rudder" said he to them "the ship yields to