AGE OF SAINTS.
The period between
the Roman empire and Norman conquest is one of quite exceptional obscurity, with
few surviving monuments to provide tangible links. The 5th and 6th centuries are
often referred to as the "Age of Saints" and much has been written on
the spread of Christianity under the influence of the so-called "Celtic
Saints" - tireless missionaries journeying along all the western seaways
between Brittany, Cornwall, Wales and Ireland to spread this message. Though
there undoubtedly remains an element of reality in this picture, studies by
modern historians have begun to sound a note of caution. Some, for example,
argue that the diffusion and influence of Christianity in late Roman Britain
were far more deeply rooted than had once been thought. As such, the foundations
for a Welsh church had already been laid. We must be careful, too, about
assuming that the element llan in Welsh place-names indicates the site of an early church. Llan
probably began by signifying a burial enclosure, then a cemetery with a church,
then the church itself, and now by any superimposed village or even a town -
like Llandudno. In the end, all that is certain is that it implies a continuous
Christian locality, probably going back many centuries.
The situation is
no less obscure when we turn to famous monastic sites such as St David’s or St
Illtud's important foundation at Llantwit Major. Archaeologists are hard pressed
to provide even the slightest information on the nature of the buildings there.
Those seeking a clearer indication of Christian activity are on firmer ground
when considering the various inscribed tombstones and crosses collectively known
as early Christian monuments. Over 400 are recorded from all parts of Wales,
with dates ranging from the 5th to 11th centuries. Many have been moved from
their original locations, but occasionally they stand in isolated, even in open
ground. More often they can be seen in churchyards, or even built into the
fabric of the church itself. Important local collections have been gathered at
Margam and the parish church at Llantwit Major. The earliest examples are quite
plain, and generally served as tombstones or grave-markers. Later monuments
include the "Samson Cross" at Llantwit, and the fine pillar crosses at
Carew and Nevern,
which are far more elaborate. - (Cadw
from Lives of British Saints by S. Baring-Gould and L. Fisher).
Britain there were probably bishops in the principal towns, as London, Lincoln,
York and Caerleon, and the Church was organized in the same manner as in Gaul,
each bishop having his see, loosely delimited. The Christianity that entered
Britain was almost certainly through the soldiery and the Romano-Gallic
merchants and settlers in the towns. It spread also into the country, but it is
impossible to say to what extent the native British were converted. But when the
Antonine Wall in the North was breached, and there was a rush made south by
refugees to Wales, and when others came flying before the swords of the Saxons
and Angles, the whole ecclesiastical framework went to pieces.
There were no
more Sees. Bishops were among those who escaped into Wales or crossed the seas
to Amorica and Spanish Gallicia, but they had no longer any territorial
Jurisdiction. In the desolation and confusion of the times, this was inevitable.
As the Celtic
Church in Wales began to recover from the shock, it gravitated about new centres,
monastic institutions, of which the heads might or might not be bishops. It was
so in Ireland after Patrick's time, where no such thing as a territorial
organization was attempted till centuries later; there monasteries were attached
to tribes and ministered to their religious requirements.
retained by the abbots, but they had no jurisdiction, they were subject to abbot
or abbess, and were retained for the purpose of conferring orders, and for that
alone. It began in this way in Brittany, but there the close influence of the
Gallo-French Church, and the insistence of the Frank kings, rapidly brought the
Celtic Church there into line. Such a tribal organisation was in conformity with
Celtic ideas, and followed that which existed in Pagan times. Then there had
been the Secular Tribe with its chief at its head, and alongside of it what may
be called the Ecclesiastical Tribe, composed of Bards and Druids. With the
acceptance of Christianity, the saints simply occupied the shells left vacant by
Among the Celts
all authority was gathered into the hands of hereditary chiefs. Of these there
were two kinds, the military chief and the ecclesiastical chief, each occupying
separate lands; but the members of the ecclesiastical tribe were bound to render
military service to the secular chief; and the ecclesiastical chief on his side
was required to provide for the needs of the secular tribe by educating the
young of both sexes, and by performing religious ceremonies. Every tenth child,
tenth pig, calf, foal, went to the saint, and the tribe was thus recruited. In
certain cases an even more liberal grant was made to the Church, as in Leinster,
where, as the Colloquy of the Ancients, informs us "the province dedicated
to the saint a third of their Children and a third of their wealth."
There was an
economic reason which compelled the Celts to establish great congregations of
celibates. Neither in Ireland nor in Wales was the land sufficiently fertile,
and the cultivable land sufficiently extensive to maintain the growing
population. The only alternatives to compulsory celibacy were war and migration.
And we must remember that multitudes of refugees were pressing into Wales from
the North and East, far more than the mountainous land could sustain.
A story is told
in "Annals of the four Masters" (O'Donavan, 1851) that show how
serious the problem was even with the aid of the compulsory celibacy of the
monasteries. In 657 the population in Ireland had so increased, that the arable
land proved insufficient; accordingly an assembly of clergy and laity was
summoned by Diarmidh and Blaithmac, Kings of Ireland, to take counsel. It was
decided that the amount of land held by any one person should be restricted from
the usual allowance of nine ridges of plough land, nine of bog, nine of pasture,
and nine of forest; and further the elders of the assembly directed that prayers
should be offered to the Almighty to send a pestilence "to reduce the
number of the lower class, that the rest might live in comfort." St. Fechin
of Fore, on being consulted, approved of this extraordinary petition, and the
prayer was answered by the sending of the Yellow Plague; but the vengeance of
God caused the pestilence to fall on the nobles and clergy, of whom multitudes,
including the Kings and Fechin of Fore himself, were carried off.
The duties of
the saint were to instruct the young of the tribe, to provide for the religious
services required, and to curse the enemies of the Secular Tribe. The
institution of schools for the young was certainly much older than Christianity
in Britain and Ireland. We know from classical authorities, as well as from
Irish writers of the heroic legends, that the Druids formed communities, that
these were presided over by an Arch-Druid, that in them were educated the sons
of the kings and nobles, and that the heads of these schools had lands for their
support. By no other way can we explain the marvellous expansion of the
educational establishments which took place after Ireland became Christian, than
on the supposition that the saints entered in upon an institution already
existing, and brought into it a new life.
at Llanelwy had 965 monks. At Bangor Iscoed, according to Bede, there were seven
choirs, numbering 300 in each. St. Cuana had 1746 scholars under him.
Some of these
great schools or monasteries contained females as well as males. St. Brigid at
such a double house of monks as well as nuns. As many of the pupils tarried on
to prepare for an ecclesiastical life, these young people were thrown together a
good deal, and the results were not always satisfactory. Accordingly one or
other of the saints induced a sister or a mother to establish a girl's school,
subject to his supervision, yet at a distance from the college of youths,
sufficient to prevent the recurrence of scandal.
The people went
to the monastery to receive communion, especially at Easter. The churches were
small, usually of wattle and daub, and could not hold large congregations, so
crosses were erected in various places where a saint would preach and probably
also administer the sacrament.
In Wales, as in
Ireland, the law could be ascertained, and the amount of fine decreed, but the
left to his own devices to obtain the redress. The court did nothing to enforce
its judgements. A man who could not use force of arms was left with two courses:
either he might get a saint to curse the debtor, or else, he might take the
matter into his own hands by "fasting against" the offender. The
process was this. He made formal demand for what was due to him. If this were
refused, he seated himself at the door of the debtor and abstained from food and
drink. The debtor could resist by fasting also.
saints used fasting as a weapon and everything conduced to engage the first
missionaries in a contest of ascetic emulation with the medicine men of
Paganism. They strove to outstrip them, for if they fell short of the extremes
practised by the latter, they could not hope to gain the ear of the princes and
impress the common people. It is said of St. Kevin for example, that he remained
seven years without sleep, and that he held up one arm till it became rigid. St.
Erc is said to have spent the day immersed in a river. St. Ita to have had only
earth for her bed.
Despite all the
foregoing, it is important not to forget that these old Celtic saints had also
the holiness or sanctity that goes with their title. The fifth and sixth
centuries mark the age of
Saints of the
The saints of
Wales belong to eight great families:
1. That of
Maxen Wledig, or Maximus, 338-383. He is held to have married a daughter of
Eudaf, a petty prince in Arfon, and Aurelius Ambrosius probably claimed descent
from Maximus. From the same stock came Rhydderch Hael, King of Strathclyde/Cumbria;
also Ynyr Gwent, Prince of Gwent, who lived at Caerwent. This family would seem
to have represented Romano-British civilisation.
2. That of
Cunedda, which came from the North, from the defence of the Wall. This family is
said to have expelled the Irish Goidels from Gwynedd, Ceredigion, and Mon
(Anglesey). The royal line of Gwynedd came from this family; it only came to an
end with the last Llewelyn. This is one of the three saintly families or tribes
of Wales, and from it came Saints Dewi and Teilo.
3. That of
Cadell Deyrnllwg who became prince of Powys in the fifth century. This family
produced several saints, including Tyssilio of Meifod, Pedrog and Catwg.
4. That of
Brychan, king of Brycheinog. This was an Irish family which came to be regarded
as one of the three holy families of Wales; it produced an incredible number of
Saints who are found not only in their native district, but also in North-east
and East Cornwall.
5. That of Caw
in North Britain, the third saintly family. Caw, however, was son of Geraint ab
of Dumnonia. Owing to the inroads of the Picts, the family of Caw were obliged
to flee to Gwynedd where they were well received by Cadwallon Lawhir, and
Maelgwn, his son, who gave them lands, mainly in Anglesey, apparently with the
proviso that they should enter religion, so as not to form any small
principalities which might be politically damaging to the interests of the crown
of Gwynedd. To this family belonged Gildas, the famous abbot of Ruys.
6, That of Coel
Godebog. According to Skene, he was king in North Britain, and his name is
Kyle. He was ancestor of an important family which includes Urien Rheged,
Llwydarch Hen, and Saints Pabo, Dunawd, and Deiniol of Bangor.
7. That of
Csytennin Gorneu, a family derived from a usurper of the Roman purple,
Constantine the Tyrant. This family would seem to have provided Dumnonia (Devon
and Cornwall) with its princes, who were called either Constantine or Geraint.
St Cybi came from this family; the notorious Constantine himself was eventually
converted. The family of Caw (5, above) is descended from this stock.
8. That of Emyr
Llydaw from Armorica. All that is know about Emyr is that, on account of an
one of his sons, the others had to flee to South Wales where they were received
by Meurig, king of Morganwg, who gave to several of them his daughters in
marriage. The Bretons claim that the eldest son, who sent the family flying was
Llywel or Hoel "the Great." From Emyr proceeded such great men as Sts.
Samson and Padarn, and, by a daughter, Saints Cadfan and Winwaloe.
most obvious features, which distinguished the Celtic Church from the Roman,
were the shape of the monk's tonsure and the method of calculating the date of
Easter, there must also have been differences associated with tribalism and the
way in which Christianity had replaced the Druidic Tradition. A consequence of
tribalism in the Celtic lands was that the position of Abbot became hereditary,
and a candidate had to prove his pedigree before having any chance of the
position, a situation which gave rise to complaints of injustice centuries
later. The pedigrees and dates given in this work should be taken only as
tentative, mistakes can be made in the early Christian period by taking a
spiritual father as a temporal one, which also affects the chronology.
reasons for thinking that the religious revival in post-Roman Wales is not so
much derived from the original Romano-British Christianity, as from new monastic
ideas coming from abroad, by sea. The age of saints saw the Celtic church in
Wales sending a stream of missionaries to Ireland to complete the conversion
begun by Patrick, himself a child of somewhere in the west of Britain. It was
from Ireland that Columba went to Iona, to become the evangelist of the Picts.
From Llanelwy went forth Kentigern with 665 monks and clerics to restore
Christianity in Strathc1yde/Cumbria, from the Clyde to the Dee.
It was from
Iona that Northumbria received its Christianity; also Mercia, the East Saxons
Angles. To them
also was due the conversion of much
of Armorican Brittany, and some of the Welsh
saints, on route for Armorica, established foundations in Cornwall; St. Austell,
of Canterbury was not, therefore, the main source from whom Christianity sprang
in Britain. He was the Apostle of Kent; but Kent is only one corner of the
island of Britain; it has so often been forgotten how much was wrought by the
Celtic Church, even for the Teutonic invaders, far more than was achieved by
to the second order of saints who, with David in the forefront, introduced the
new school of monastic asceticism that had seen its origin in the Middle East
before spreading via Gaul to western Britain. The life was one of rigorous
discipline and has been described by Rhygyfarth in his Life of David. The monks
went barefoot and wore rough clothes fashioned from animal skins. They ate only
one simple meal a day – meat was forbidden and drank only water. They were
allowed no possessions, everything being owned in common, and they undertook
daily manual labour in the fields without the aid of oxen for the plough. They
spent many hours daily in prayer and penance. - (Pembrokeshire Churches -
Also known as
Madoc; of Irish birth and a pupil of St David. Renowned for his obedience.
Reputed to have discovered a ford at Llawhaden and founded a Church and probably
a monastery there. Later became first Bishop of Ferns in County Wexford.
Founder of Christian monasticism. Born near Memphis in Egypt – giving away his
possessions he went to live as a hermit in the desert circa 285. He attracted a
number of disciples and in circa 305 he organized them in to a community of
hermits. He retired again into solitude, and lived until the age of 105. He
was an influential person and in association with St Athanasuis he gave his
support to the orthodox side in the Arian controversy.
or "the Irishman," was married to Corth or Cymorth, one of the
daughters of Brychan. He was a priest, and spiritual instructor to the king and
his family. Not only was he priest, but also abbot.
A Latin life of
him, of the twelfth century, seems to have been based on Welsh ballads. For a
while he was in Armorica, and when he desired to come to Wales he put a stone on
the water and mounted it, and was wafted over to Milford Haven. There the
daughter of the prince became enamoured of him, but as he resisted her advances,
she sent men to murder him, and one stabbed him with a lance. Thereupon a swarm
of winged ants fell upon the man, and so stung him that he suffered greatly, and
died. The saint then bathed his wound in a spring, ever after called Ffynnon
Goch or the Red Well.
went to the river Caman in Pembrokeshire, where an angel had informed him that a
site for a monastery would be pointed out to him by a wild white boar and her
litter. Here he lit a fire, and this
was regarded as the assertion of a right to the place. The lord of the district
seeing the smoke came hastily to know who had dared to light a fire; but he was
a good man and he gave land to St. Brynach and committed his sons to him for
their education. The saint now built a church at the foot of Carn Ingli, above
Nevern. There is a story that St. David visited Brynach while on his way to
Brevi, and that Brynach obtained a gift of a stone cross from him. The church at
Nevern has a very fine ornamented Celtic cross, but of a later date than St.
Virgin was one of the 36 children of Brychan the Irish King and patron of
Dromore – nephew to a bishop – pupil of Ailbe.
monastery at Dromore, County Down and consecrated Bishop by Pope Gregory.
Legend that he
is buried near the gate post with an Irish style ring cross in the Churchyard at
Reputed to have
cured a women from Carew who had taken poison and drank from his well near the
church at Penally.
Daniel was the son of Abbot Dunawd Fwr, son of Pabo Post Prydyn. He is often
called Deiniol Wyri, the Blessed. He was the brother of Sts. Cynwyl and Gwarthan,
and the father of St. Deiniolen. His grandmother was Dwywai, daughter of Lleenog.
Pabo and his
family, having lost their territories in North Britain, retired to Wales, where
received by Cyngen, king of Powys, who granted them lands, and whose son and
successor Brorhwel married Arddun, Pabo's daughter.
His son Dunawd,
embracing the religious life founded the monastery of Bangor in Maelor
other-wise Bangor Iscoed, on the Dee, with the assistance of Cyngen, and later
of Brorhwel, who generously provided for it. It seems likely that Dunawd's three
sons helped him in the foundation of his monastery, but Deiniol does not seem to
have remained there long. He left Powys for Gwynedd, where he founded the
monastery of Bangor in Caernarvonshire, under the patronage of Maelgwn Gwynedd,
who largely endowed it with lands and privileges, and, it is said, raised it to
the rank of an episcopal see. Here Deiniol spent the remainder of his days as
We know little
of the early years of Bangor in Arfon, or Bangor Fawr, as compared with other
Welsh monastic foundations. Some of the sons of Helig ab Glannog were monks in
it; and on the destruction of Bangor Iscoed by Ethelfrid in 607 or 613 some of
the monks that escaped came hither. Deiniol is said to have been succeeded by
his son Deiniol the Younger; and the next bishop whose name is known was Elfod,
styled Archbishop of Gwynedd, who died in 809. Deiniol was present at the Synod
ST DAVID [HUNDLETON]
David (Dewi Sant):
Patron saint of
Wales. Abbot and Bishop.
Son of St Non
or Nonna or Nonnita (late5c) who was the daughter of Cyngar. She was living the
life of a nun and it is said that Sant, King of Ceredigion, forced his unwelcome
attentions upon her.
surviving Life of St David was written by Rhigyfarch, son of Bishop Sulien of St
David's about 1090. He claims to have written it from very old documents
preserved in the diocese and tells how at the time of the Saint’s birth his
mother struggled through a storm until she sank down on the ground beside a huge
stone. "Then" says Rhigyfarch, "the place shone with so serene a
light that it glistened as though the sun was visible, and God had brought it in
front of the clouds". He goes on to relate that at the moment of St David's
birth the great stone divided itself, one part remaining behind her head, and
the other standing upright by her feet. It is said that this stone lies covered
under the foundations of the alter of the little chapel of St Non built to mark
the site, and there can be little doubt she had taken shelter under a cromlech.
His mother according to some accounts, retired to Brittany after the Saint’s
birth, and is buried at Dirinon, Finistere, where a beautiful 16c shrine and
effigy can be seen in the chapel of St Non, there is also nearby a Holy well
bearing her name as well as one nearby dedicated to St David. Up to the time of
the French Revolution a mystery play was annually acted at the Pardon held in
her honour representing her story with such frankness which would need
expurgation if it were revived today.
St David's date
of birth is unknown but one date suggested is 462AD, he had died before St
Augustine came to Britain in 597AD.
He was educated
by St Paulinus (5th C) a disciple of St Germanus (378-448) (Bishop of
Auxerre) who visited Britain at the request of the Church probably in 429-430AD
and again in 447AD to combat Pelagianism. His principle church which he founded
was at St David's and his nick-name was “DyfrwiÇoräAquaticus” - Waterman.
He was widely
travelled and is believed to have visited Rome and Jerusalem canonised in 1120.
Asser a monk of
St David's was one of King Alfred's advisers.
most important life of Dewi
Sant or St. David was written some 500 years after his death by Rice marchus (Rhygyfarch),
Bishop of Menevia, from
1088 - 1096.
There are other Latin 'lives,' but they all seem to be based on this one;
there is also a life in Welsh, written by an anchorite of Llandewi
Brefi in 346. Dewi is still
the one purely Welsh Saint that has been formally enrolled in the Calendars of
the Western Church. It is supposed that his canonisation took place in the time
of Calixtus II, 1119-1124, following on the compilation of his life by
Rhygyfarch. It was then that the cult of Dewi, from being that of a local saint,
became that of the Patron of Wales.
In writing the
life, Rhygyfarch had to rely on oral tradition. The city and church of St.
David's had been sacked repeatedly between 795 and 1088. On the last occasion,
in 1088, the Cathedral had been completely destroyed, so that few, if any,
written documents could have survived.
The name of
David's father is given as Sant in Welsh, implying 'a saint' or 'a monk.' He was
of the Brythonic family of Cunedda. His mother's name of Non implies "a
Nun". She probably had Irish Goidelic blood in her veins. Sant was probably
a monk in the monastery of Maucen or Mancen at Ty Gwyn on the side of Carn Llidi.
This establishment was probably a double monastery, or rather a school to which
were admitted pupils of both sexes. Non may therefore have been a pupil when she
conceived, and not a nun who had taken vows.
She left the
monastery of Maucan and went to a cottage on the cliffs beyond Bryn y Garn,
above a little bay which now bears her name. Here she remained till she brought
forth her child. There was a certain man in the district, accounted a tyrant by
Rhygyfarch, and Non had fled to this place to hide from him. The 'tyrant' was
probably Cynyr, her father, who may not have relished the scandal in his family.
Later on, Sant and Non came to be recognised as saints themselves, and this
enabled the conception to be presented in a different light.
Rhygyfarch was able to include a story
to the effect that Sant, whilst hunting near the
"Old Church" about three
miles east of Newcastle Emlyn, was informed by an angel that a virtuous
son would be born to him, even though he had embraced the monastic life.
When Non had
given birth, Bishop Ailbe, who had refused to say mass with her in the church,
came over and baptised the child in a spring at Porth Clais.
David was sent
at a suitable age to be instructed at Yr Henllwyn
Rubus, "the Old Bush,"
the same place as Ty Gwyn, over which Paulinus was now abbot. The name Alba, or
rather Alba Domus, is the latin rendering of Ty Gwyn or White Church. On the
slopes of Carn Lidi, above Porth Mawr stood "the Old Bush," probably
of thorn, where the stone monastery was erected. It probably got the name of
Alba Domus or Ty Gwyn when it was whitewashed. It is said to have been founded
by St Patrick.
grew up full of grace and lovely to be looked at. And he learned there the
rudiments the psalms, the lessons of the whole year, and the Mass; and there his
fellow disciples saw a dove with a golden beak teaching him and singing the
hymns of God."
under Paulinus for ten years. Then it would seem that Paulinus retired, to be
replaced by David whose inheritance gave him a right to the post. About the year
527, Gildas appeared on the scene, and, seeing David as the head of the
community whilst still quite young, he tried to oust him and take on the
government himself, probably to turn it into a daughter house to his great
settlement in Armorica. When Cadoc refused to become involved, Finnian of
Clonard was called in to arbitrate, and he pronounced in favour of Dewi, no
doubt because of his family.
But David did
leave the monastery for a while, having placed his uncle Guistlianus in charge.
Whether it was
at this time, or some other that he established some of his many churches in
South Wales, we do not know. It seems likely that he established churches in
Gower after the expulsion of the Goidels. It
is also probable that at same period, he travelled through Dumnonia to Cornwall
and thence to Brittany, where his principal foundation is at St. Divy, near
Landernau in Leon.
Perhaps he went
there during the outbreak of the yellow plague which raged in Britain from 547
to 550, as did St. Teilo. The story that he went to Jerusalem is possibly a
mediaeval invention aimed at establishing the independence of the Welsh Church
from that of Canterbury.
wherever he travelled on that occasion, when he returned to the Old Bush, he
found his uncle Guistlianus still there. David
had come to the conclusion that the site was undesirable. He said to him:
"From this place scarce one in a hundred will go to the Kingdom of God. I
know another spot whence few will go to hell; for every one who shall be buried
in that cemetery in sound faith will obtain mercy." David's motives for the
above were no doubt of a practical nature; at any day a pirate vessel might land
there, destroy the monastery, and easily cut off all escape in the direction of
the mainland. It was expedient for them to go further inland, and to settle on a
spot concealed from the sea, and less exposed.
The old site
was now given up, and David and his disciples Aidan, Teilo and Ismael, with
others unnamed, migrated to the new locality. This was Glyn Rhosyn, in the
valley of the Hodnant.
there in the evening, and lit a fire. Now nearby, at Clegyr Fwya (the Rock of
Boia), lived an Irish freebooter who had settled there and who terrorised the
neighbourhood. In the morning he saw the smoke of David's fire and his wife
goaded him to drive them out. Boia went, but David easily pacified him. Boia's
wife, however, was highly incensed when she heard that the settlers were monks
from "the Old Bush" and she resolved to be rid of them. Accordingly
she sent her maids to bathe in the stream close to where the saints were. Some
of the monks complained to David that this would become unendurable if repeated
daily. But he assured them that the girls would soon tire of their bathing if
they took no notice of them. As Boia refused to molest the monks, his wife
resolved to propitiate the underground divinities with a sacrifice. She invited
her stepdaughter named Dunawd to pick nuts with her one warm day, and, when she
had persuaded the girl to rest her head in her lap, she shore off her hair and
cut her throat, pouring the innocent blood to the gods. This did not produce a
result, and the woman ran away, afraid of her husband's wrath when he knew she
had killed his daughter. The following night an Irish pirate ship landed. The
pirates found the entrance to Boia's fort unguarded, burst in and slew Boia in
David was now
able to proceed with the construction of his monastery. It
was probably of stone, as no timber of any size grows in those parts. David
devoted himself wholly to prayer, study, and the training of his disciples. But
life in the monastery was not always a bed of roses. On one occasion David's
steward attempted to murder Aidan, his favourite disciple. On another occasion a
visiting Irish saint with a fiery temper killed the boy whom David had assigned
to wait upon him, with a single blow of his fist. The penitential code of David
shows that much wild blood was to be found in his and other monastic settlements
of the period. Severe penalties had
to be adjudged in cases of drunkenness, murder, and attempted murder, and other
gross crimes. Kissing a girl had to be expiated by three days' penance.
It would seem
that David's rule was seen as too strict to please all the monks, for on one
occasion his steward, cook and his deacon tried to poison him. But
St. Scuthin who was on a visit from Ireland, suspected something, and announced
that on that day he alone was going to wait on David. Then the deacon, fearing
that the plot was discovered, turned pale and retreated in confusion. The bread
that had been offered to David was thrown away, and a dog that ate some of it
died almost at once; also a crow. An investigation was held. "And
all the brethren arose and lamented, and cursed those deceitful persons, the
steward, the cook, and the deacon, and with one voice damned them and their
posterity, that they should forfeit their place in the kingdom of heaven for
compelled by necessity, David kept aloof from all temporal concerns. He did not
attend the Synod of Llandewi Brefi when convened by Dyfrig. As no agreement
could be arrived at there relative to matters in dispute, Paulinus advised that
he should be sent for and Dyfrig and Deiniol went to fetch him. On his arrival
he advised them to move from the old Roman station of Loventium to a mound at
Llandewi Brefi, where speakers could stand and be heard. It would seem that this
Synod was called together in order to enact canons of discipline; the story that
it was primarily to deal with the Pelagian heresy is possibly an addition by the
activities, and perhaps also those of his fellow monks, are witnessed by
churches bearing the name of Dewi in Herefordshire, in Monmouth, Brecknock, and
Radnor, as well as in Ceredigion and Pedydiog, and Gower and the lands between
the Tawe and the Towy. There are also dedications to him in S.W. England and
Brittany, and he is credited with having provided Ireland with a form of the
David's strength began to fail. He said Mass and preached to the people one
Sunday, and on the following Tuesday, being March 1st., he was in the Church, as
he had continually been for several days, and early in the morning he listened
to his monks singing the psalms. Then falling into ecstasy he exclaimed:
"Raise me after Thee," and expired. At the very moment of his death
his old companion St. Kentigern, had a vision whilst praying at Llanelwy; he saw
him enter heaven, conducted "with heavenly music into the joy of the Lord,
crowned with glory and honour." The year of his death was possibly 589.
ST DECUMANUS [RHOSCROWDDER]
version of the Latin Decumanus – the Latin name of St Tegfan - a local Saint
-alleged to have had his head cut off brought it back to his home country here
and where he placed it on the ground holy water has flowed ever since - martyred
706 near Dunster in Somerset.
Fenton he reached Britain as a preacher of the Gospel in AD186 and ended his
days on Ramsey Island. There used to be two chapels on the island, one dedicated
to him one to St Justiniana native of Brittany who lived on the island 200 years
later. St Justinian’s Chapel was on the cliff edge a few hundred yards north
of the harbour, St Devanus chapel stood by the stream that flows past the
farmhouse garden. According to Brown Willis the ruins of both were visible in
was a retreat of St Tyfanog in the 2C. (South Wales - H. L. V. Fletcher 1956).
Chapel of St Justinian.
He is said to
have been murdered by the natives of Ramsey Island and that his body swam across
to where the chapel was built. (1891 – Four Welsh Counties – Kilner).
Dogfael: – Dogmael -
– believed spent most of his life in Pembrokeshire but there are also
dedications to him in Brittany where his name is linked with helping Children to
Dubricius: (Dyfrig ).
The oldest life
of St. Dubricius is found in the Book of Llan Dav written in the twelfth
century. Unfortunately much of the life and particulars of land grants in that
book have been modified to suit its aim of reclaiming properties which once
belonged to the saint but which were then in the diocese of Hereford. There is,
however, some information about St. Dubricius in the 'Life of St. Samson' which
was written much earlier by a monk of the monastery of Dol in Brittany.
The story of
Dubricius begins in what is now Herefordshire, in the small Celtic kingdom of
Erging or Ercych. Pepiau, the king, had been away on a military expedition. On
his return he
found that his
daughter was in the family-way. He was angry and ordered her to be put in a skin
bag and thrown into the river. She was, however, washed ashore, so he sentenced
her to be burnt alive, but when the king's messengers went to inspect the ashes,
they found her sitting on the pyre nursing her new-born son. Pepiau ordered them
to be brought to him, and when he let the child stroke his cheeks he found that
it cured him of a dribbling mouth, a long-standing ailment. Pepiau then granted
to the child the place where it had been born, which was called Matle. The place
is now called Madley. It is about seven miles from Hereford, and a Roman road
passes through it in the direction of Abergavenny.
We have no
reliable information about the early life of Dubricius, nor his instruction.
'The first monastic settlement made by him was at Henllan, now Hentland on the
Wye, about four and a half miles north-west of Ross. He must have been one of
the most important saints and teachers of his times for it is said that he
gathered as many as two thousand disciples there. He remained at Henllan for
seven years, and then he began a new settlement at Mochros, now Moccas, about
five miles from Madley. He seems to have founded other settlements in the Golden
Valley, at Cum Barruc and perhaps also Abbey Dore. In fact, he and his disciples
may have set up as many as two dozen establishments in what is now
It was the
custom of the early Celtic saints to seek a retreat in lent, away from their
teaching and other duties. For this purpose he seems to have founded the abbey
on Caldey Island near Tenby. He also received a grant of Penally on the mainland
exactly opposite Caldey. Perhaps this was given him in recognition of his
founding the abbey on Caldey. Penally is known as the birthplace of St. Teilo;
it is also famous for its ornamented Celtic stone cross. Whether Dubricius had
any contact with the young Teilo is not certain, but it is by no means
also said to have had a foundation in Gower, and the dedication of the parish
church of Porlock in Somerset (in documents of the 15th. and l6th. centuries)
implies that he or his monks were involved in the great missionary expansion
which went out from South Wales. Dubricius lived and died somewhere between the
years 450 and 550. He died on Bardsey Island on November 14th.
after the saint's death, in 577, the battle of Deorham took place. This led to
settlements of the Hwiccas on the lower Severn, and no doubt to raids over the
Wye into the kingdom of Erging. The monasteries of Dubricius and his disciples
in Ewyas and Erging were utterly wasted, and the monks escaped carrying their
relics and books with them. "Be it known," says a charter of the time,
"that great tribulations and devastations took place... due to the heathen
Saxon race, and it was mainly on the confines of Britain and Anglia [towards
Hereford] and it was so extensive that the whole borderland of Britain was
almost destroyed... and mainly about the river Wye, on account of wars and
frequent daily and nightly incursions, on one side and on the other. After a
while, peace having been established, the land was restored by force and vigour
(to its rightful owners); but it was swept bare and unoccupied, with men few and
We know that
some of the monks of Dubricius took refuge with St. Teilo at Llandaff. Later on,
the Church of Llandaff took over the abandoned sites of Dubricius' foundations.
Thenceforth the Church of Llandaff assumed itself the legitimate inheritor of
all the possessions of Dubricius. It had harboured the refugees; it had kept
their Books of the Gospels with their marginal records of grants of land. This
explains why the compiler of the Book of Llan Dav aimed at recovering
possessions of Dubricius from the see of Hereford; but Dubricius had probably
never really had anything to do with Llandaff, which may not even have been
founded until after his death.
The Welsh wife
of the Roman Emperor Magnus Maximus 338-383AD – she was said to be the
daughter of Eudaf a prince of Arfon. (see Bletherston).
may have been founded by Sir Eliderde.
but the patron saint is St Elidyr reputed to have owned the wonderful horse Du Y
Morvedd – the black one of the Sea who made a great journey carrying 7 and a
half people in its back. (South Wales – H. L. V. Fletcher 1956).
ST FAITH &
ST GEORGE the
about St George come from the period of the crusades. There never was an actual
St George and the stories about him are quite unhistorical.
ST GWYNOG [ST
appears to have been one of the most important teachers of his time. He was a
native of Armorica, but of British stock. He was educated in "the seven
sciences' by St. Germanus. But he had no desire to embrace the monastic life,
and he crossed the sea and served under King Arthur, who was said to be his
cousin. He was married and Trynihid, his wife, was a virtuous woman. After a
while, he left Arthur and attached himself to Paulinus or Paul of Penychen, a
cantref in mid-Glamorgan. It would seem that his conversion dates from this
period, from a time when he nearly lost his life in a swamp.
withdrew from the service of Paul of Penychen, and went, "accompanied by
his wife and attendants," to the banks of the Dawon in south Glamorgan,
"and it being summer time, he constructed a covering of reeds, that it
might not rain upon their beds; and while their horses were depastured in the
meadows, they slept the night away, their eyes being heavy."
night, Illtyd had a dream which confirmed his resolution, and he made up his
mind to leave his wife.
In the morning,
he roused his wife and told her to go and see to the horses. When she returned,
naked and shivering, instead of allowing her into the bed, Illtyd threw her
clothing to her, and told her to dress and be gone. The poor woman wept but
Illtyd was resolute in his purpose. He dressed himself and set out for Hodnant,
a pleasant dip among low hills, watered by a tiny stream. Having made up his
mind to settle there, he went to St. Dubricius where he was shaved and received
the monastic habit. Then he returned to Hodnant and Dubricius marked out for him
the bounds of a burial place, and in the midst of this, Illtyd built a church of
stone and surrounded the whole with a quadrangular ditch. Here he lived an
ascetic life, bathing every morning in cold water, and rising to prayers in the
middle of the night.
Llantwit, was an attractive site near the Severn Sea.
Meirchion king of Glamorgan, was hunting when a fawn he was pursuing fled for
refuge to Illtyd's cell. When the king saw the beast crouching at Illtyd's feet
he did not venture to kill it. He ate a meal of broiled fish provided by Illtyd.
This food was not to his liking, but he slept the night there, and awoke the
following morning in a better temper, confirmed Illtyd in his holding of the
Hodnant valley, and granted that he should make of it a tribal school. Illtyd
kept the fawn with him and tamed it to draw wood and do other light domestic
took place early, when Illtyd had few disciples. Once he had the security of
tenure, disciples flowed to him from every quarter, among them men of good
family. "He had labouring men to till the soil. Seed multiplied, and toil
met with abundant reward." As scholars he had Samson, Paul, and David. He
seems also to have taught Gildas, and possibly Maelgwn Gwynedd.
Illtyd's wife had herself been leading a devout and virtuous life, but an
irresistible urge to see her husband came over her. She found him working in the
fields, but he refused to listen to her and denied her hospitality. They never
trouble with two of king Meirchion's stewards who seem to have begrudged his
holding land without paying tax. Illtyd found the annoyance of these men so
intolerable that twice he retreated to a cave by the River Ewenny, leaving
Samson in charge of the monastery.
On the death of
the second steward, who fell into a swamp, Illtyd returned to Llantwit, and
remained there unmolested.
Hearing of a
famine in Armorica, he ordered vessels to be laden with grain, and, along with
these ships, he sailed to Brittany. The natives there specially needed
seed-corn, which he was able to provide. Their gratitude was great, and they
urged him to stay in his native land, but he returned to Glamorgan. In his old
age, he is said to have returned again to Brittany, and to have died there at
Dol. But there is uncertainty about where he died, whether in Brittany or Wales.
He died on November 6th probably between the years 527 and 537.
The memory of
Illtyd is honoured in Wales on account of his having introduced an improved
method of ploughing. A Welsh Triad says that he was one of the "three
knights of the Court of Arthur who kept the Holy Grail," the other two
being St. Cadoc and Peredur.
miles from Brecon, there is a well known cromlech called 'Ty Illtyd' (Illtyd's
house) so-called because of a popular idea that the saint had made it his
Son of Budic of
Cournouille in Brittany and Anauved the sister of Teilo – was a pupil of
Dyfrig - was one of the chief disciples of David and accompanied him when he set
up the monastery at Glyn Rhosyn. Upon David's death was appointed to the
Bishopric by his uncle Teilo.
ST JAMES [MANORBIER].
records that James was the Bishop of Jerusalem. He is the James mentioned by
Mark "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James
and Joseph and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” [6:3].
James saw Christ after the Resurrection [1Cor.15:7], and with Peter he was one
of the leaders of the early Church in Jerusalem [Gal.1:19] and, after Peter had
left Jerusalem he appears to have been the principal authority, presiding at the
Council of Jerusalem [Acts15.14].
ST JAMES &
ELIDYR [STACKPOLE ELIDOR].
(See St Devanus).
[ANGLE] [WARREN] [NASH] [PWLLCROCHAN] [CAREW]
ST MICHAEL and
all ANGLES [COSHESTON].
& JOHN [MONKTON].
born in Britain of Christian parents, but at the age of 16 he was enslaved by
Irish pirates and taken to what was then called Tirawley (in Co Mayo). He hated
his captivity, and became a man of intense prayer. After some six years he
managed to escape, and found his way back home. He longed to return to Ireland,
however, but this time armed with the Christian Gospel. He trained for
ordination, and in due course went back to Ireland as bishop having been
ordained by St Germanus of Auxerre. He established his see at Armagh, and
devoted the rest of his life to the service of the Irish people, to pastoral
care, to evangelism, to education and the general establishment of the Church.
ST PEDROG [ST
PETROX] [ST PETROC]
According to the life of St. Petroc by John of Tynemouth, he was the son of
Glywys, king of Glwysing. His eldest brother was Gwynllyw the warrior. He left
South Wales "rejecting the vanities and transient allurements of the world;
despising worldly for heavenly things, he began to adhere firmly to God, and
gave up his country, his kindred, and at last all the things of this world.
Leaving home, he reached Cornwall, in the district called Botomeni (Bodmin),
where, throughout his life, he served God most devoutly, and erected a very
large monastery in his honour." The Welsh pedigrees, however, say that he
was a son of Clement of Cornwall; but the two may be reconciled perhaps on the
basis of one of them being his spiritual father. We may also note that there
were many settlers from Wales in north- East Cornwall, perhaps including this
Clement. Petroc is said to have entered a monastery at an early age. After some
years, he went over to Ireland where he studied for twenty years. Then he
returned to Cornwall, accompanied by his disciples, and landed at Padstow.
It seems that
St. Samson was staying there at that time. St. Petroc visited him, but was given
a somewhat cool reception; but it was Samson who left, and Petroc stayed in
Padstow for about thirty years. He was wont daily to stand from cock-crow to
dawn in the water chanting psalms. He ate nothing but bread, except on Sundays,
when he had a good bowl of porridge. The 'life' then takes on a mythological
nature. Petroc went first to Rome, then Jerusalem, and then India, where he fell
asleep on the beach. On awaking, he saw a large silver bowl moving towards him
across the waves. It was large so he planted his staff and set down his
sheepskin, and climbed into the silver vessel. At once it took him over the
waves to a certain island where he landed. He spent seven years there, living
all the while on a single fish which he caught daily, but which always returned
sound to be eaten again. At the end of seven years, the shining bowl re-appeared
and returned him to his beach in India. He found his staff and sheepskin where
he had left them, guarded by a wolf. Then he returned to Cornwall, and the tame
wolf went with him. This legend is no doubt derived from a pagan myth of a
divinity sailing in a silver bowl of the moon over the heavenly ocean. When he
reached Cornwall he found that the people there had forgotten that he had once
predicted the weather wrong for them. Back in Padstow he eventually obtained
grants of land from Tewdrig, a notorious tyrant, and later from Constantine. He
is, in fact, said to have converted Constantine. One day when he was hunting a
fawn, it sought refuge under the saint's coat. Petroc was thus enabled to found
his great monastery at Bodmin. The spot he chose was occupied by Guron, a
hermit, who surrendered it to him. Petroc died at an advanced age on June 4th.
The year of his death was around 590. Petroc's body remained at Bodmin until
1177, in which year it was secretly carried off to the Abbey of St. Mevin in
Brittany. The prior of Bodmin went to King Henry to complain about the theft,
and the King sent letters commanding Roland de Dinan, Justiciary of Brittany,
without delay, to cause the body to be restored. Which it was, 'and the sacred
body was restored in all its integrity, without the least diminution; the abbot
and monks of St. Mevin having sworn on the relics belonging to their church that
they had not retained any portion of the body."
He was a pupil
at the monastry of Llanilltwid Fawr on the site now known as Llantwit Major,
under St Illtyd, It is possible that Dewi Sant was also educated there.
St Samson was
appointed Abbot of Caldey and later consecrated Bishop by St Dyfrigor Dubricuis.
Ireland – then settled in a cave in a rock near Bosheston near a camp and
Church he had built for his disciples. A Farm, a Cross and a bridge within a
mile of the cave are known to this day by his name. He later went to Cornwall
and to Brittany where he founded the monastery at Dol – he died at Dol about
565 and is generally regarded as the patron saint of Brittany.
was Amwn, of Demetia (but perhaps descended from Emyr Llydaw), and his mother
was Anna, daughter of Meurig ap Tewdrig, king of Morganwg. When quite young he
was sent to St. Illtyd to be educated. He studied hard, and his master was said
to be the most learned of all the Britons in the Scriptures, in Philosophy, to
wit, Geometry, Grammar, and Arithmetic. At the age of fifteen Samson began to
practise fasting, but was reprimanded by St. llltyd, who said, "My little
son, it is not proper that you should injure the health of your small body in
its early bloom by excessive abstinence." Illtyd employed his pupils in
repairing the old dykes that had been erected by the Roman legionaries to keep
out the tides of the Severn. On a Sunday, when Dubricius visited the monastery
for the purpose of conferring orders, three were submitted to him, two to be
ordained priests Samson to be received into the diaconate. Then it was, as the
three knelt, that a dove flew in at the window, and when the bishop raised his
hand to lay it on the candidate for the diaconate, the bird perched on Samson's
shoulder. The favour shown to Samson by his master roused the jealousy of two of
the brethren, nephews of Illtyd. What they dreaded was Samson aspiring to the
succession after Illtyd for he was first cousin to him. These two brothers
resolved on getting rid of him. They prepared a poisoned herbal drink for him
but did not succeed in killing him. Samson was ordained priest and again the
dove appeared, but visible only to Dubricius, Illtyd, and Samson himself. Samson
began to feel uneasy at Llantwit because of the prejudice against him, but he
said nothing. One day, however, Illtyd himself recommended that he should go to
the monastery at Ynys Pyr or Caldey Isle, which was presided over by "an
illustrious and holy priest" named Pirus. In his new quarters, Samson
became more strict than before in his mode of life. No one saw him idle; he was
continually occupied reading, writing, or in prayer, when not engaged on the
manual tasks imposed on him. Whilst Samson was at Ynys Pyr his father fell ill
and it was feared he might die. The old man sent for his son Samson's reply to
his father's messengers was, "I have left Egypt, why should I return
thither?" But Pirus intervened and made him go.
a young deacon as companion, and they set out with two horses. They passed
through a dense wood, and the strange sounds, the hooting of owls, and cries of
hawks filled the deacon with terror. Then they heard a human voice hallooing.
The deacon panicked, let go of the bridle of the horse he was leading, threw
away his cloak, and fled. A woman issued from the shade, grey-headed, with
wildly-flowing hair, and carrying a boar-spear in her hand. Seeing the young man
running she threw the spear at him, but without hitting him; however, he fell in
a faint on the ground. Samson tried to rouse him, and then called to the old
woman. She came hesitatingly, not wishing to lose her spear. "You hideous
creature: Who and what are you?" rudely inquired the saint. The poor woman
said she belonged to the original inhabitants of the land, but that she, her
mother and eight sisters were all that remained. Her husband was dead.
Samson told her
to revive the deacon, but she said she could not, whereupon he cursed her to die
on the spot. Then she fell down to the left, and expired. On reaching his
father's house, Amwn ordered everyone outside, except his wife, son, and the
deacon, and before them he confessed the sins of his past life. Then, urged by
Anna his wife, he vowed to dedicate himself to God, and insisted on having his
hair clipped immediately. Not content with this, Anna said they should devote
all their offspring, and surrender their possessions. Amwn agreed, and Samson
accepted five of his brothers, but he refused the one sister as he saw that she
would be addicted to the vanities of the world. At the same time Umbrafel and
Afrella, his uncle and aunt, asked to enter the religious life. Samson made
arrangements for his mother and aunt, and asked his father and uncle to
accompany him to Ynys Pyr. Amwn and Umbrafel divided all that they possessed
into three portions, one for the Church, one for the poor, and the third they
reserved for themselves. Their sons and daughter got nothing.
arrived at Ynys Pye, he found that Dubricius was there for lent. Apparently the
story of the death of the woman in the forest had got about, and Dubricius felt
he should investigate it. He summoned the deacon and tried to get the truth out
of him. That Samson had killed the poor creature could not be denied; the
question was whether he had knocked her on the head, or had merely killed her
with his curse. She had belonged to one of the aboriginal native tribes, and
these people were credited with being given over to necromancy. The woman, on
her own confession, was a witch, or so the deacon said, and it was a command of
Moses, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."
there was no other witness, Dubricius accepted the deacon's version. Dubricius
now appointed Samson as steward of his monastery. This upset Pirus; he
complained that Samson had been wasteful with the honey (or mead:), but
Dubricius looked into this and decided that the charge was unfounded. It seems
that Pirus was replaced because he had taken to drink. Soon after, one night,
this "eminent man and holy priest" got drunk and fell into the well.
The monks heard him howl, and quickly pulled him out, but he died the same
night. Samson began to reform the monastery, which led to tension between
himself and his monks About eighteen months later, some Irish monks returning
from Rome visited the island, and Samson took the opportunity to go to Ireland
with them, leaving his father and uncle behind. He stayed there for some time,
founding churches at Bally Griffin, in the county of Dublin, and Bally Samson in
South Wexford. He returned to Ynys Pyr, and, finding that his uncle had made
some progress in religion, he sent him to Ireland to a monastery that had been
committed to him. He refused to take over the running of the monastery at Ynys
Pyr and went with four companions, including his father, to an isolated creek at
Stackpole. There he settled his companions in an ancient camp and himself in a
cave where he could spend most of his time alone. After a time, Dubricius,
acting in concert with a synod, sent him a letter requesting his presence. He
could not refuse and Samson ended up at the head of the foundation at Llantwit,
at a time when St. Illtyd had to go into retreat because of the vexations of the
king's stewards. One night, it was revealed to him that he was to quit Britain,
and go to the land that had been so extensively colonised from that island. This
happened when Illtyd was able to resume as abbot, and Samson was required to
step down. Samson therefore resolved to go to Armorica. He seems first to have
sailed around the Severn estuary, and thence to Cornwall where he landed at
Padstow. Here he made a little foundation where is now the site of his chapel
and cemetery. He left his boat, loading his possessions on to a chariot he had
brought back with him from Ireland. He seemed to have had the idea of crossing
over to southern Cornwall, to take a ship from the south coast for Brittany. It
appears that he spent some considerable time there, as is witnessed by his
having made other foundations, one at Southhill, near Callington, and another at
Golant. His disciples also made settlements here, as St. Mewan and St. Austell.
During his travels in Cornwall, Samson came across a group of people dancing
around a standing stone on the hill of Tregeare. He remonstrated to them, but
the people explained to him that no harm was meant; they were merry-making as
was their immemorial custom; but some advised him to mind his own business.
Samson, however, persisted in his denunciation of the ceremony, and, after a boy
had been thrown from a colt, and revived by Samson, they listened to him. But
instead of destroying the stone, he cut a cross upon it. The revellers gave up
their dancing for that year, to resume at the next anniversary. Eventually, he
crossed with his disciples over to Armorica, landing at Guioult. The land there
was low and marshy, except for Mont Dol, which must have attracted them, but had
been already occupied, perhaps as a fortress. One day, in the vicinity, Samson
came across some locusts settled on some brambles. “Ha” he exclaimed
“Locusta – in this locus sta - we will accept this as a command and here
abode”. This was the beginning of Samson’s famous foundation at Dol. When
Samson arrived there, the usurper Conmore was acting as regent for Childebert,
king of the Franks. Conmore had treated many of the saints badly, and Samson saw
an advantage in replacing Conmore by the rightful heir, Prince Judual. Now
Judual was held in honourable captivity in Paris, so Samson went there to ask
Childebert to release him. At first Childebert resisted, but, afraid of Samson's
anger, he eventually let him take the prince back to Brittany with him. Judual
began a rebellion, and Conmore marched against him and was defeated in two
battles; in a third he was killed by the young prince himself, on the slopes of
the Monts d'Arree. The success of the revolution meant that Samson and the other
abbots who had helped, were now in favoured positions. Samson went in his Irish
chariot back to Paris, to obtain confirmation from Childebert of various land
grants that had been made to him. On his return, he made Dol his permanent
residence. He was said to have been 120 years old when he died, but this may be
an exaggeration; it was on July 28th, possibly in 565.
Eleanor Shipley Duckett in Saint Dunstan of Canterbury (A Study of Monastic
reform in the tenth century - (1955) page126) - the arm of St Samson of Dol
along with relics of other saints was given by King Athelstan in 933 to the
Abbey at Milton in Dorset.
Teilo is said to have been a cousin of St David, born at Penally and educated by
St Dyfrig whom he succeeded. His principle monastery was Llandeilo Fawr in
Carmarthenshire. According to some accounts he founded Llandaff. Left Wales in
547 to escape the yellow plague and returned to Llandaff after 7 years. In 577
accompanied the British forces to do battle against the Saxons - invoked divine
aid for their leader, Iddon ap Ynys who thereupon won a decisive victory on the
Banks of the Wye.
In a Life of St
Teilo included in the Book of Llan Dav, he is said to have been known also as
Eliud and also the name Elidyr has been associated.
Teilo is one of
the most important of the Welsh Saints. His 'life' is contained in the Book of
Llan Dav or Liber Landaviensis. This book was drawn up in the twelfth century
for the purpose of establishing the rights of Llandaff against those claimed by
the see of St. David's and the see of Hereford. It cannot therefore be trusted
as a reliable account of history.
pointed out that the older St. Chad Gospels do not suffer from this drawback,
and that they contain marginal , traces which mention the 'Altac of Teliau,' the
amilia Teliavi' or monks of Teilo, governed by the 'Bishop of Teiliau.' Although
claims have been made that Teilo was the founder, and first bishop Llandaff it
is now believed that his monastery referred to in the Book of Chad was in fact
at Llandeilo Fawr or Great Llandeilo.
The link with
Llandaff was that eventually all the properties of Llandeilo Fawr were
transferred there. St Teilo was born at Penally, near Tenby, and opposite Caldy
Island. Whether he ever had any contact with or teaching from St. Dubricius will
probably never be established. It is more certain that he was instructed by
Paulinus at Ty Gwyn where he met David as a fellow pupil. When David started his
independent foundation in Glyn Rhosyn, where now stands the Cathedral that bears
his name, Teilo went with him. The life says that David, Teilo and Padarn went
on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. This may be true, but there are those who think it
was invented by the Welsh sees in Norman times to resist the encroachment of
Apart from his
principal monastery at Llandeilo Fawr, Teilo obtained grants of land and founded
a large number of monasteries and churches. But in 547 appeared the yellow
plague againt which there were no known medicines. Teilo resolved to flee along
with his community. He took with him a large number of bishops, and a great many
men and women, and escaped into Cornwall, were he was well received by King
Geraint. Then he sailed across to Armorica and visited St. Samson at Dol. He
stayed in Armorica for seven years and seven months, and he left a number of
foundations there, many retaining his name. When Teilo died it was at Llandilo
Fawr in Carmarthenshire. It is said of him when asked by St Cadoc, "what is
the greatest wisdom in a man" that he replied, "to refrain from
injuring another when he has power to do so." He is celebrated in the Welsh
Triads as one of the three "Blessed visitors of the Isle of Britain,"
the other two being Sts. David and Padarn.
contended for his remains when he died, Penally, Llandeilo and Llandaff.
There is a
legend however that when he was on his death bed he called to him a devoted maid
servant and charged her straitly to perform for him this last service: a year
from the day of his burial she was to take his skull to a small church he had
built at Llandilo in Pembrokeshire beside a spring of clear water, so that all
ailing folk who drank the water from the skull should be cured of their
infirmities. The girl did as she was told and for hundreds of years the
well-water drunk in this way wrought cures of all kinds of ailments, including
the whooping cough. In the19c the little church fell into disuse and decay and
the skull was kept at a more recently built farmhouse where a Welsh family by
the name of Melchior lived, traditionally they were Descendants of Teilo's
maidservant. In1850 and even later sick people were travelling from distant
parts to take the miraculous Cure but about the turn of the century Miss
Melchior, the last of the family, sold the skull for £50 to a "person
representing himself as acting on behalf of some museum or other" and it
has never been heard of since. (Welsh Walks and Legends - Showell Styles).
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