The Introductory Poem & First Chapter of Father Serenus Cressy’s Magisterial CHURCH-HISTORY OF BRITTANY (1688)

Father Serenus Cressy (whose name is not unknown to lovers of Wisdom or any at all conversant with our solid old English ascetical writers) like a second Bede is at his best in his magisterial Church History of Brittany. The following has been transcribed by E.T.H. III from :

The Church-History of Brittany from the Beginning of Christianity to the Norman Conquest
Roman Governors,
British Kings,
The English-Saxon Heptarchy,
the English-Saxon (and Danish) Monarchy,
I. The Lives of all our Saints assigned to the proper ages wherein they lived.
II. The erections of Episcopal See’s, and Succession of Bishops.
III. The celebration of Synods, National, Provincial and Diocesan.
IV. The Foundations of Monasteries, Nunneries, and Churches.
V. And a sufficient account of the Successions of our Kings, and of the Civil affairs of this Kingdom.
From all which is evidently demonstrated :
That the present Roman-Catholic Religion hath from the Beginning, without interruption or change been professed in this our Island, &c.
by R.F.S. Cressy of the Holy Order of S. Benedict.
Thus saith the Lord : Stand upon the ways, and behold and enquire concerning the ancient paths, which as the good way, and walk in it, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said. We will not walk in it. Jerem. vi. 16.
Printed in the year. 1668.
Permissu Superiorum, & Approbatione Doctorum.


Still lovely in thy beauty’s ruins, look,
ENGLAND, thy face in this reflecting Book.
Start not at Scars, or wrinkles : this smooth glass
Shows but thy Primitive and youthful face.
Read with delight and joy : this breathing Story
Sets out to life thy death-surviving Glory.
But if thy curious glance must pry too far
Beyond these leaves, what now thy features are,
Blame not his Pen, who (not t’ endanger Truth)
Shadows thine Age, and only paints thy Youth.
Nor will we blame thy blush, nor yet thy Tear,
If thou wilt needs thy time with this compare.

And thou in this Serener Glass mayest see
If still thy looks dare own themselves and Thee.
Be thine own Judge : And who can better know,
Then thine own self, if Thou be’st Thou or no?
No bitter Satyrs here, no nettling Wit,
No Passion strutting in Zeal’s counterfeit.
No crooked Mood, no Cross-dilemma here :
Deny not but thyself, the cause is clear.
Ears are slow Judges, much by Rumour dull’d.
By tickling flattery too as often Gull’d.
What Plea, then this, can surer Proof dispense,
When thine own Eyes bring their own evidence?
In no false dress disguis’d see here thy face,
No patch’d Reform here soils thy Native Grace.
Here view thy Piety’s forgotten look
So lively drawn in this reviving Book,
Thy Unity, by Sects and Schisms rent,
Restor’d in this Eternal Monument.
Thy ruin’d Sepulchers and buried Shrines
Repaired and rais’d in these Immortal lines :
Thy banished Saints recall’d by Saint like men,
Thy Bede restor’d in CRESSIES life and Pen.

Ed. Thymelby Pr. Gaugerici Cameraci.

I. Part.
I. Chap.

1. Having an intention, through the Divine assistance, to compile a plain orderly Narration of Church-affairs touching the infancy and growth of Christian Religion in this our Island of Brittany ; it will be expedient in preparation thereto, to give the Reader a prospect of the State both of its ancient Civil Government and Religion also, or rather most horribly impious Superstitions and Ceremonies : by a due consideration of both which we may clearly see, and ought thankfully to acknowledge the wonderfully blessed effects of the Divine Providence and Grace towards this our native Country more plentifully than to any other.

2. For though the Civil State here was in those times injuriously invaded and usurped by the Romans : yet by Gods most wise, holy and merciful Direction, the injuries and oppression sustained by our Ancestors proved an occasion of their greatest happiness since by means of the correspondence and intercourse then interviewing between this Island, formerly unknown, and the rest of the Roman Empire, to which it became subject, a passage was opened for a free admittance of the Divine Light of saving Christian Verities, the victory of which over the Britain’s Souls did abundantly recompense the servitude induced by the Romans over their Bodies and Estates.

3. And moreover the Omnipotence of Divine Grace was illustriously commended by its triumphing over a far greater opposition raised against it by the Devil in this, more than almost any other Nation. For here especially was anciently erected the Shop and School of most impious and inhumane Superstitions. The abominable Art of Magical and Diabolical Divinations, the most barbarous Mysteries of Sacrificing to the Devil with human blood, and, in a word, whatsoever impieties Hell could suggest, were here invented and practiced : the Inhabitants of this Island by the miserable advantage of their solitude and separation from the rest of mankind being at more leisure to entertain, and withal better enabled by Nature with Study to promote and increase those execrable Rites : For (as Tacitus relates from Julius Agricola’s observation, who had sufficient experience to make a judgement) the Britains were naturally endowed with quicker and sharper wits than their Neighbours the Gauls, &c. And it was chiefly in the inventing of impious Superstitions that they gained a wretched reputation and authority among the adjacent Nations, who therefore sent their youth into Brittany to be instructed in the Arts and delusions of Satan, as Caesar testifies. Such advantageous enablements, and withal such persuasive invitations had they to be more wicked, and greater enemies of God and true Piety, than any of their Neighbours.

4. But within a few Ages we shall see Satan like lightening fall from heaven : We shall see this our Nation and Country become the School of Holiness and Virtue, the Nursery of Saints, the Refuge of persecuted Christians, and a fruitful Mother of Apostles to plant our Holy Faith in most of our confining Regions. This was a change of the right hand of the most High. But before we can be spectators of the manner how this wonderful Change was made, we are first to take a view of the ancient primitive State of this our Island, by whom it was peopled, and how governed both in affairs Civil, and such as pertained to Religion.

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