St Samson was born in Wales about 476, was trained by St Illtud and ordained Bishop by St Dyfrig. He became abbot of Caldey Island and then a hermit near the Severn. He set off, as many itinerant bishops did, to leave his own country and spread the Gospel abroad. On his way to Brittany he travelled across Cornwall. Where the Roman road from Bodmin followed the central spine of the country it crossed another road from the Camel to Fowey, thus connecting the north coast and the south coast and implicitly Wales and Brittany. We hear of St Samson’s experiences on his travels in his Life written about 700. This document gives us the first record of the church in Cornwall. It is full of miracles.
At the southern end of the route at Golant on the Foy estuary St Samson lived in a cave. He cast out a serpent and used it as a place of prayer. It is partially hidden by the short railway line which once carried iron ore from Lostwithiel to Fowey for shipment. Being right by the river it has splendid views up the two branches of the Fowey rivers that meet here. On a dry and sunny day it must have been a pleasure to pray there. Being an ascetic though he might have prayed standing in the river in the pouring rain. His holy well is by the side of the church up the hill.
St Samson founded monasteries in Brittany, particularly that of Dol, and in Normandy. He signed a Council of Paris in 557, ‘Samson, sinner and bishop’.
O holy Samson, Bishop and servant of God
you left Wales for Brittany for Christ’s sake.
You preached the Gospel wherever you went
and spent much time in solitude and prayer.
The grace of the Spirit was upon you greatly
O holy Samson pray for us