St Dubricius Church, Hentland, Herefordshire

Saint Dubricius flourished during the first half of the sixth century in that enigmatic period which history has chosen to remember as the "Dark Ages."

From the few records we have of him, he appears to have been an extremely prolific abbot/bishop who, trained over 2,000 priests at his monastery, which stood near to the 14th century church that now bears his name.

Fable, however, remembers him as one of the most powerful churchmen of his age, and has bestowed upon him a reputation of such posthumous importance that even his origins were considered supernatural.

Dubricius was the son of Princess Eurddil. Her father, Peibau, King of Archenfield, was known as "King Dribbler," thanks to his uncontrollable habit of foaming at the mouth.

One day, the King found that his unmarried daughter was pregnant and ordered his courtiers to drown her in the River Wye as punishment for her transgression.

However, when they tied the Princess into a sack and cast her into the raging waters, the current simply washed her, unharmed, back to the shore.

Three times they tried to carry out the King's sentence, but each time the river delivered her safely back to land.

So the King ruled she was to be burnt alive, and she was flung onto a blazing pyre.

Next morning, messengers came to retrieve her bones and found her sitting unharmed amongst the ashes, the infant Dubricius on her lap.

Mother and child were promptly taken before the King who, realising the injustice of his ways, welcomed them with open arms.

No sooner had he done so than his grandson reached out and touched his face, and he never foamed at the mouth again.

It is now impossible to separate fact from fiction in the colourful life of this tantalising cleric.

A much later description of him as being "a candle on a stand" is probably the closest we come to understanding his inspirational effect on his fellow Britons who, wracked by political uncertainties and under constant attack from Germanic and Gaelic invaders, may well have looked to him for guidance and re-assurance.

Indeed, such was his mythical status, that later generations came to believe that he could have been the only cleric capable of crowning that other legendary figure of the age – King Arthur.