Kentigern and Asaph

Today we’ll be talking about St. Kentigern’s Monastery in St. Asaph. Wait a minute, that’s two saints. Yes, it is, and in the case of this particular monastery, it’s a bit confusing because the monastery was founded by St. Kentigern, and then it was taken over by a second saint, Asaph, for which the town was named. In fact, unless you do some research, you might never know that the monastery in St. Asaph was initially founded by Kentigern at all. Two weeks ago, in my introduction to early monastic houses, I explained that they weren’t organized along the lines that we have come to know from the later Middle Ages, in that each would belong to a particular order: Benedictine, Cistercian, Augustinian, Franciscan, or Dominican. Each had their particular ‘rule’ they followed, the monks wore different colored robes, had Read more…

St. Seiriol’s Well

Seiriol lived in the 6th century, and, according to legend, regularly used to meet St. Cybi at a central rendezvous on Anglesey. As the story goes, Seiriol traveled with his back to the sun in the morning and returned with his face to the east in the afternoon, and thus became known as Seiriol the Pale, while Cybi became known as Cybi the Tanned. Seiriol himself was a younger brother of King Cynlas of Rhos and King Einion of Ll?n. His cell adjacent to the well is said to have been rebuilt by his brothers, as they didn’t think his humble residence was good enough. The well lies in a small chamber and the building adjacent to its remains might have once been part of the lower stone walls St. Seiriol’s church in the 6th Century. If so, this would make it the oldest remaining Christian building Read more…

St. Cybi’s Well

St. Cybi’s Well is one of many sacred wells in Wales. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, this period of time in Wales is known as the Age of Saints. I also talked a little bit about how the church in the 6th century wasn’t organized in the same way as it is today. While there was officially only one ‘Church’, what we know today as the Catholic Church, the way people practiced Christianity in these early centuries after the death of Christ was different depending upon where they lived. Celtic Christianity, meaning Christianity in Cornwall, Brittainy, Wales, and Ireland specifically, developed its own, somewhat isolated, trajectory with small groups of people following the teachings of a ‘saint’, and the common people, who were Christian, worshipping in parish churches with possibly little connection to any other church. Even though Read more…

Llangelynin

With Llanrychwyn last week, I get that ‘llan’ means church, so was Gelynin a saint too? Funny you should ask that because yes, he was! In fact, he was Saint Rhychwyn’s brother, one of 12, if you recall from last week, who became monks because their father’s court was inundated by the sea. His name, however, was actually Celynin, with a ‘C’. And before you ask why the settlement is pronounced with a ‘g’, it has to do with the way certain consonants ‘soften’ within the Welsh language, depending upon what sound comes before them. Never mind, unless you are studying Welsh, you don’t want to know. Getting back to the church, the nave we see today dates to the 12th century, with the rest of it having been upgraded and added on to between the 13th and 17th centuries. Read more…

St Derfel and the Stag

In a nutshell, St. Derfel was a Welsh saint who started out as a warrior in King Arthur’s court (right there we have a problem in the assumption that King Arthur was real, but moving on …). Late in life, he took up his vocation as an itinerant preacher, spreading the Word throughout Wales and  establishing churches and ultimately being buried beside his fellow saints, to the incredible number of 20,000 (again, that can’t be right). I started out thinking that the carving of the stag, his totem, essentially, and all that remains of his mission, was one of the most obscure pieces of Welsh history possible to find, but after reading some more, there’s a lot more to this story. “For most of Europe, the really important thing was to have a bit of the saint’s actual body. But Read more…