1. A Miraculous Recovery?
A Miraculous Recovery?
1146 AD. Duke Conan, third of that name, while visiting his beloved daughter the wise Bertha and his ailing son-in-law Alan the Black, dreamt of Our Lady Mary, Queen of Heaven. And said Christ’s mother to the lord duke: “Build a church and an abbey for me and great shall be your reward in my Son’s Kingdom”.
And when the lord duke saw his son-in-law was recovering, he said: “I shall build a church to the Queen of Heaven for she has healed my son and heir.” And this was how Saint Mary of Trégor Cathedral and the Abbey of Our Lady of Guenezan were built.
Chronicle of the Abbey of Our Lady and Saint Monegundis of Guenezan
September 1146. Alan the Black, Earl of Richmond and husband of Duke Conan’s daughter Bertha, fell ill. As he lay in God’s hands, Bertha and her father prayed the Holy Virgin and Saint Monegundis to heal him who had Brittany’s destiny between his hands. And their prayer was heard and Alan healed, for it was God’s will that Alan became King.
And to thank Saint Mary and Saint Monegundis, Conan decided a great church would be built in Tréguier and an abbey in Guenezan, where Alan had miraculously recovered from his illness.
Historia Regum Brittaniae Armoricanae
Contrary to what has been said or written by generations of clergymen and historians, the Abbey of Our Lady and Saint Monegundis of Guenezan was not founded to celebrate the miraculous recovery of King Alan V.
To understand the reason why the story of Alan’s “miraculous healing” was spread, it is necessary to consider the political situation of Brittany at the time when the Historia Regum Brittaniae Armoricanae (1228) was written.
In 1223, the duchy was inherited by a woman for the third time, which caused a stir of rebellion among some of the last king’s male relatives. The French king, after suffering several setbacks from the Bretons, seized the opportunity and questioned the legitimacy of the Breton kingdom itself. The monks of Guenezan began to write their History while the Second War of Succession was in its most violent phase. It was in their interest to describe Alan V’s recovery as miraculous and claim Saint Mary had intervened so Brittany would become a kingdom again.
However, the recently discovered manuscript of the Chronicle of Guenezan Abbey shows that Conan III and his daughter never invoked divine protection during Alan’s illness. The abbey itself was dedicated only to Saint Mary — hence its original name of Abbey of Our Lady of Guenezan — and Saint Monegundis’s relics were brought to the Abbey in 1213 only.
The monks of Guenezan successfully thwarted the French king’s plans and their History achieved Europe-wide fame. But it led subsequent chroniclers and historians astray.
Harold Robertson, The Western Coalition (2014)