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MARCULF, SAINT (c. 484-0. 338). Missionary Monk. Two Latin Acts of St. Marculf, one in the Vatican, the other at Avranches, are our main source of information. Neither can be later than the tenth century, for they speak of Neustria, not Normandy. They vary in details, but agree in main facts. They state that Marculf was born at Bayeux, and names mentioned later show that this must have been about 484. The towns in North France were now Christian, but the country people still clung passionately to the worship of the old Gaulish gods. Marculf was the son of one of the conquering Franks, who had followed the example of his leader Clovis and become a Christian. The name Marculf (border wolf) is one of the wolf names of which the Franks were fond (cf. Ranulf, Rudolf, Randulf, Regenwulf, Brunwulf, Adolf, etc.). When his wealthy parents died, Marculf .gave away all his goods to the poor, in order to be free to go out as a wandering missionary to the pagans. When twenty-eight he rode out from Bayeux on his donkey and after two years’ free-lance work, he arrived at Coutances.

Here St. Possessor, "who was Bishop of Coutances from about 512 to about 524, took him into his household, and after a period of training ordained him Priest, and sent him out to continue his missionary work. He was a little man of fiery eloquence, and soon won disciples. Then, prompted by an Angel seen in a dream, he decided to gather these into a monastery. He rode to Paris to beg from Childebert I (511—558) land on which to build one, and the King granted him an estate at Nanteuil on the east coast of the Cotentin. Here he built an oratory with a cluster of wooden cells round it; but every year he spent Lent in solitude on one of the islets off the coast, now called the Iles St. Marcouf.

The Avranches manuscript thus describes his visit to Jersey.

It says that, feeling again the need for a time of solitude, he came with a venerable priest named Romard (another MS. reads Domard) "to an island off the Breton coast called Agnus".

We know from other Acts of the Saints that one of the Channel Islands was called by a name which monkish chroniclers latinized as Agnus, Agna, Angia, or Augia. The Miracles of St. Wandrille state that an Abbot of Fontenelle was sent to "an island called Angia, which Bretons inhabit, adjacent to the Coutances country". The Acts of St. Magloire tell how that Saint was summoned to "the island of Angia near Sark". An island described as "near Sark" and "adjacent to the Coutances country" may .safely be assumed to be Jersey. The account goes on: "This isle was inhabited by a handful of serfs (coloni), among whom dwelt a man named Helibertus, who was leading an ultra-ascetic life, and mortifying his flesh by over-rigorous fasts. Marculf and Romard shared his hut and his life of contemplation and self-discipline. One day a horde of Saxon pirates, numbering nearly 3,000. approached the isle with sails set and oars swinging. The islanders, who are said to have numbered no more than thirty (Does this refer only to those on the islet adjoining St. Helier's hermitage?), seeing them from afar were sore afraid not knowing what to do, or whither they could fly, as the sea hemmed them in. They ran for succour to the Blessed Marculf, and clinging to his knees loudly implored his aid. 'My sons', said the Saint, 'be strong and of a .good courage. To arms! With intrepid hearts forward to meet the foe! I promise you victory. He Who overthrew Pharaoh and his host will fight for you!. Heartened by these words, and trusting not to their own strength but to the Saint's prayers, they charged right dauntlessly into battle with the pirates. Then was there bitter strife; but by the grace of God and through the Saint's intercessions not one islander was wounded. Of the barbarians divers were slain and many were drowned in the waves, and none survived to bear the tidings to their own land. When the Lord of the Isle heard how thousands of the enemy had perished through Marculf's prayers, he rendered thanks to God, and gave into the Saint's keeping half of that isle. (Does this mean half Jersey or half the islet on which Elizabeth Castle stands?) Here the Saint built a monastery, wherein he placed certain brethren, who should form perpetually a household of God". This last sentence is important. If Marculf left behind him, when he returned to Nanteuil, a monastery of missionary monks, he was the true founder of the Christian Church in Jersey. St. Helier (q.v.) may have been here first; but a hermit's religion is too self-centred to win Converts. His whole aim is the salvation of his own soul. But Marculf was a missionary of repute, and the monks he left behind would have continued his work.

The story in the Vatican manuscript varies in certain details. Marculf comes to Jersey not seeking seclusion but converts.

"He summoned his brethren, and announced that he was going to Brittany. 'I must preach the Word in other lands, for therefore was I sent'. Then a priest named Romard prayed to be allowed to accompany him. So they crossed the Breton country and came to an isle called Agna". Then follows their discovery of the hermit, who is called Eletus, their stay with him, and the arrival of the pirates. "One day the islanders on their way to work saw the Saxon horde approaching. They fled in panic to the cell where the three holy men were praying, and cast themselves at Marculf's feet crying, 'Save us or we perish.' The Saint replied, 'Fear not. Quit you like men. Be strong'. Then he made over them the sign of the cross, paying, 'God will fight for you. In His sight numbers are as nothing'. Heartened by these words they rushed on the foe. while Marculf, prostate on the ground, pleaded for divine help. The raiders were leaping into the surf. and some had reached the shore, when a great gale swept the ships out to sea, and smashed them to atoms, while the natives slew all who reached the sands. When the Bretons flocked to him, he built a place of prayer in that isle, in which he placed monks to serve God'.

Of the rest of his life little is told. Near its end he visited the King once more to get the gifts made to his monasteries duly confirmed by charter. On this visit he is said to have conferred on Childebert and his descendants the power which he himself possessed of curing scrofula by a touch. French Kings down to 1825 continued to touch for King's Evil. Edward III claimed to have received this gift through his mother, Isabella of Valois, and from his day till the accession of the House of Hanover English sovereigns also had fixed days when the sick were brought to them to be touched. Roman Catholics still invoke St. Marculf for scrofula. He returned to Nanteuil, where he died about 558. His Abbey, which was never more than a group of wooden huts built round a little Chapel, was burnt by Norsemen in the ninth century, and never rebuilt; but the monks escaped with the body of the Saint to Corbeny, where his shrine became a famous pilgrimage centre. A mediaeval window in Coutances Cathedral shows St. Marculf in his boat setting sail for Jersey, St. Marculf embracing St. Helier, the three Saints praying, and the islanders fighting the pirates.