Celtic and Old English Saints 29 November

Celtic and Old English Saints 29 November

* St. Brendan of Birr
* St. Sadwen of Wales
* St. Ethelwin of Athelney

St. Brendan of Birr, Abbot
Died c. 562. Breandan is Gaelic for Prince. Born into the family of
Fergus MacRoy, Saint Brendan of Birr a contemporary of Saint Brendan the
Voyager (f.d. May 16), and his fellow-disciple under Saint Finian (f.d.
December 12) at Clonard Abbey. An ancient, but incomplete, manuscript
says that the 12 apostles of Ireland, who were together at Finian’s
school, saw a wonderful flower from the Land of Promise. Although
today’s saint was chosen by lot to go in search of that land, he was too
old or frail for adventuring. Brendan of Clonfert went in his stead.

His abbey of Birr was somewhere near Parsonstown, Offaly. The ruins are
said to be near Emmet Square where Old Saint Brendan’s church stands. He
was the great friend and adviser of Saint Columba (f.d. June 9). He
intervened at a synod of Meltown (Meath) to end Columba’s
excommunication. Later, Columba had a vision of Saint Brendan’s soul
being carried by angels to heaven at the moment of his death. Columba
immediately said a special Requiem for Brendan at Iona many days before
he had confirmation of his mentor’s death.

>From the “Gospels of MacRegal” or “Mc Regol” (9th century), we
know that Brendan’s school at Birr endured through that time.
This book, now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, is a wonderful example
of Irish illumination (Anderson, Benedictines, D’Arcy, Farmer, Healy,
Kenney, Montague, Ryan).

Troparion of St Brendan of Birr tone 8
Most glorious ascetic and chief of Ireland’s Prophets, O Father Brendan,
thou wast a bright beacon in the western isle guiding many to
salvation./ At thy heavenly birthday the Angels rejoiced and
miraculously announced their joy to our Father Columba./ The prayers of
the righteous avail much for us sinners./ Wherefore O Saint, pray to God
for us that He will find us a place in the Mansions of the Blest.

St. Sadwen of Wales, Hermit
(Sadwrn, Saturninus)
6th century. Brother of Saint Illtyd (f.d. November 6) and disciple of
Saint Cadfan (f.d. November 1) to whom some Welsh churches are
dedicated. (Benedictines, Encyclopaedia).

Troparion of St Sadwen tone 8
The remoteness of the Welsh mountains was thy desert, O Father Sadwen,/
where thou didst serve God in fasting and humility./ May thy continual
intercession avail for us sinners that our souls may be saved.

St. Ethelwin, Hermit of Athelney


Anderson, A. O. (tr.). (1961). Adamnan’s Life of Saint Columba.

Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
(1947). The Book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.

D’Arcy, M. R. (1974). The Saints of Ireland. Saint Paul, Minnesota:
Irish American Cultural Institute. [This is probably the most
useful book to choose to own on the Irish saints. The author
provides a great deal of historical context in which to place the
lives of the saints.]

Encyclopaedia of Catholic Saints, October. (1966).
Philadelphia: Chilton Books.

Farmer, D. H. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Healy, J. (1902). Ireland’s Ancient Schools and Scholars.
Dublin: Sealy, Bryers and Walker.

Kenney, J. F. (1929). Sources for Early History of Ireland,
vol. 1, Ecclesiastical. New York: Columbia University Press.

Montague, H. P. (1981). The Saints and Martyrs of Ireland.
Guildford: Billing & Sons.

Ryan, J. (1931). Irish Monasticism. Dublin: Talbot Press.

For All the Saints:


These Lives are archived at:


St. Kevoca of Kyle – May 1

St. Kevoca (Kennotha, Quivoca) of Kyle, Virgin
7th century; feast day may be March 13 instead. She is venerated at Kyle, Scotland (Benedictines).


Attwater, D. (1983). The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, NY:
Penguin Books.

Baring-Gould, S. & Fisher, J. (1907) The Lives of the British
Saints. 4 volumes. Charles J Clarke.

Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
(1947). The Book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.

Bowen, Paul. When We Were One: A Yearbook of the
Saints of the British Isles Complied from Ancient Calendars.

Farmer, D. H. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gill, F. C. (1958). The Glorious Company: Lives of Great
Christians for Daily Devotion, vol. I. London:
Epworth Press.

Husenbeth, Rev. F. C., DD, VG (ed.). (1928). Butler’s
Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints.
London: Virtue & Co.

Roeder, Helen. (1955). Saints and Their Attributes.
Chicago: Henry Regnery Company.

For All the Saints:


These Lives are archived at:


St. Ceallach (Kellach) of Killala – May 1

St. Ceallach (Kellach) of Killala, Bishop
6th century. A disciple of Saint Kieran of Clonmacnoise, Saint Ceallach became bishop of Killala but ended his life as a hermit, perhaps as a martyr (Benedictines).


Attwater, D. (1983). The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, NY:
Penguin Books.

Baring-Gould, S. & Fisher, J. (1907) The Lives of the British
Saints. 4 volumes. Charles J Clarke.

Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
(1947). The Book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.

Bowen, Paul. When We Were One: A Yearbook of the
Saints of the British Isles Complied from Ancient Calendars.

Farmer, D. H. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gill, F. C. (1958). The Glorious Company: Lives of Great
Christians for Daily Devotion, vol. I. London:
Epworth Press.

Husenbeth, Rev. F. C., DD, VG (ed.). (1928). Butler’s
Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints.
London: Virtue & Co.

Roeder, Helen. (1955). Saints and Their Attributes.
Chicago: Henry Regnery Company.

For All the Saints:


These Lives are archived at:


St. Brioc the Traveller – May 1

St. Brioc the Traveller, Bishop of Brittany
(Bryan, Brieuc, Briocus)
Born in Cardiganshire, Wales; died in Brittany, c. 510; feast of his translation is October 18. Brioc was the founder of a monastery near Treguier, Brittany, which grew into the town and see called Saint-Brieuc. He was probably born in Ceredigion (Cardiganshire). According to legend, his father was named Cerpus and his mother was Eldrude, both of whom he is said to have converted following his ordination.

Brioc appears to have worked in southwestern Britain before migrating to Brittany; there is a place called Saint Breock or Breoke in Cornwall and Saint Briavels in the Forest of Dean is at root the same name. Saint Brioc’s medieval biography contains a number of particulars and marvellous tales, but its historicity is slight. It says, for instance, that Brioc was trained in Gaul by Saint Germanus of Auxerre, who died in 448, which makes it highly unlikely.

Brioc is reputed to have built a famous church called Grande-Lann, where he gathered a number of disciples. In Treguier, he converted a wealthy nobleman named Conan who provided the funds to build a monastery in northern Armorica. Then Brioc is said to have returned to Britain and with the help of his relative, Prince Rigald of Domnonia, built the church of Saint Stephen there.

Brioc is styled a bishop in an inscription in marble at his shrine built in 1210, but it is not certain that he was a bishop; more likely he was an abbot of the Celtic type who kept a bishop in his monastery because no evidence claims his successor in the see, which dates only to 844. Brioc’s relics were translated to the abbey of Saint-Sergius in Angers in the mid-9th century to protect them from Norse invaders. In 1210, an arm, two ribs, and some cervical bones were given back to Saint Brieuc’s (Attwater, Benedictines, Farmer, Gill, Husenbeth).

In art, Saint Brioc is a bishop with a fiery pillar above him. He is venerated in Treguier, Brittany, and Cornwall (Roeder). Because of the legends regarding his great charity, Brioc is considered the patron of purse-makers (Farmer).


Attwater, D. (1983). The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, NY:
Penguin Books.

Baring-Gould, S. & Fisher, J. (1907) The Lives of the British
Saints. 4 volumes. Charles J Clarke.

Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
(1947). The Book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.

Bowen, Paul. When We Were One: A Yearbook of the
Saints of the British Isles Complied from Ancient Calendars.

Farmer, D. H. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gill, F. C. (1958). The Glorious Company: Lives of Great
Christians for Daily Devotion, vol. I. London:
Epworth Press.

Husenbeth, Rev. F. C., DD, VG (ed.). (1928). Butler’s
Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints.
London: Virtue & Co.

Roeder, Helen. (1955). Saints and Their Attributes.
Chicago: Henry Regnery Company.

For All the Saints:


These Lives are archived at:


St. Asaph of Llan-Elwy – May 1

St. Asaph of Llan-Elwy

Like St.Deiniol, St.Asaph was a grandson of Pabo Post Prydyn, but he went to train under the great St.Kentigern and followed his master when he left Scotland to avoid persecution. The two of them first visited St.David at Menevia and then settled on land given to Kentigern by Cadwallon, father of Maclgwn, who was then King of Gwynedd, at a place in the valley of the river Elwy. Most of what we know of Asaph comes from the twelfth century Life of St.Kentigern by Joscelyn, a monk of Furness.

Asaph had a great devotion to his master and Joscelyn relates that one very cold night when Kentigern had performed his usual discipline of reciting the psalter while immersed in freezing water, Asaph saw him crawl to his cell so numb with cold that he thought that he would die. He ran to fetch fire to warm the saint, and finding no pan in which to carry the embers, he gathered them up in the folds of his cloak and carried them without suffering hurt to his flesh or his clothing. This act so endeared him to Kentigern that shortly afterwards he ordained him to the priesthood, and when he returned to Glasgow, he appointed Asaph his successor as Abbot of Llan-Elwy.

It is said that Kentigern left his church with 665 monks by the north door and subsequently that door was always kept closed in mourning, except on the Feast of St.Asaph. 300 monks remained with Asaph, who was held by them in great affection and reverence. These figures approximate to those given by John of Tynemouth in his description of the monastery in St.Kentigern’s time. He says there were 995 brethren, 300 were illiterate and worked the land, 300 prepared the food and did the domestic work in the abbey, while the 365 who were learned sang the daily offices. The learned were divided into three choirs, which succeeded each other in rotation, so that prayer never ceased in the church.

Asaph died in the year 596 and was buried at Llan-Elwy. We hear very little about this Christian centre for the next six hundred years except that the original wooden church was replaced by one of stone. The Normans made this church the Cathedral of an extensive diocese and much of the present building dates from the 13th century (Baring Gould and Fisher, Bowen).

Another Life:

St. Asaph of Wales, Bishop
Died c. 600; feast day formerly on May 1. The small town of Saint Asaph in northern Wales was once the scene of a busy and thriving monastery, for here came Kentigern of Scotland who founded by the river side the monastery of Llanelwy. He was probably returning at the time from a visit to Saint David, and he had with him Asaph, his favourite pupil, whom he left behind at Llanelwy as abbot to consolidate his work. Others say that it was Saint Asaph who founded the abbey after having been trained by Kentigern–the truth is shrouded by time. There is, however, certainty that Saint Asaph founded the church of Llanasa in Flintshire. An interesting account exists of Llanelwy’s establishment. “There were assembled in this monastery no fewer than 995 brethren, who all lived under monastic discipline, serving God in great continence.” A third of these, who were illiterate, tilled the ground and herded the cattle; a third were occupied with domestic tasks inside the monastery; and the remainder, who were educated men, said the daily offices and performed other religious duties.

A distinctive feature was its unbroken continuity of worship, for, like the Sleepless Ones, the monks of Llanelwy divided themselves into groups and maintained an unceasing vigil. “When one company had finished the divine service in the church, another presently entered, and began it anew; and these having ended, a third immediately succeeded them.” So that by this means prayer was offered up in the church without intermission, and the praises of God were ever in their mouths.”

Among them, we are told, “was one named Asaph, more particularly illustrious for his descent and his beauty, who from his childhood shone forth brightly, both with virtues and miracles. He daily endeavoured to imitate his master, Saint Kentigern, in all sanctity and abstinence; and to him the man of God bore ever a special affection, insomuch that to his prudence he committed the care of the monastery.” A later medieval writer penned about Asaph’s “charm of manners, grace of body, holiness of heart, and witness of miracles.” Still little is actually known about him.

The story has been handed down to us that one bitter night in winter when Kentigern, as was his custom, had been standing in the cold river reciting from the Psalter, and had crawled back to his cell, frozen and exhausted, Asaph ran to fetch hot coals to warm him. Finding no pan, however, and being in great haste, fearing that the shivering abbot might die, he raked the glowing coals into the skirt of his monk’s habit, and ran with them, at great risk and discomfort, and cast them on the hearth of the saint.

That story is typical of his spirit, for he was devoted both to his master and to the welfare of his monks. We are not surprised that Kentigern, with every confidence, left the monastery in his care. Under Asaph’s leadership it flourished, and when Asaph was made bishop, it became the seat of his diocese. The goodness of one man spread and infected many others with holiness, including many of his kinsmen, e.g., Deiniol (September 11) and Tysilo (November 8). Today on the banks of the River Elwy stands the cathedral that bears his name (Attwater, Benedictines, Gill).


Attwater, D. (1983). The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, NY:
Penguin Books.

Baring-Gould, S. & Fisher, J. (1907) The Lives of the British
Saints. 4 volumes. Charles J Clarke.

Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
(1947). The Book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.

Bowen, Paul. When We Were One: A Yearbook of the
Saints of the British Isles Complied from Ancient Calendars.

Farmer, D. H. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gill, F. C. (1958). The Glorious Company: Lives of Great
Christians for Daily Devotion, vol. I. London:
Epworth Press.

Husenbeth, Rev. F. C., DD, VG (ed.). (1928). Butler’s
Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints.
London: Virtue & Co.

Roeder, Helen. (1955). Saints and Their Attributes.
Chicago: Henry Regnery Company.

For All the Saints:


These Lives are archived at:


Saint Brigid of Kildare

St. Brigid of Kildare, Abbess & Virgin
(Bride, Bridget, Brigit, Ffraid)
Born at Faughart (near Dundalk) or Uinmeras (near Kildare), Louth,
Ireland, c. 450; died at Kildare, Ireland, c. 525; feast of her
translation is June 10.

“We implore Thee, by the memory of Thy Cross’s hallowed and most bitter
anguish, make us fear Thee, make us love Thee, O Christ. Amen.”
–Prayer of Saint Brigid.

Saint Brigid was an original–and that’s what each of us are supposed to
be, an original creation of the Almighty Imagination.
Unfortunately, most of us get caught up in the desire to be accepted by
others. We conform to the norm, rather than opening up to the creative
power of God and blooming to render Him the sweet fragrance of our
unique lives. We miss the glory of giving God the gift of who we were
intended to be.

Brigid lacked that fault. She got things done. She had a welcome for
everyone in an effort to help them be originals, too. She was so
generous that she gave away the clothes from her back. She never shied
away from hard work or intense prayer. She would brush aside the
rules–even the rules of the Church–if it was necessary to bring out
the best in others. Perhaps for this reason, the saint who never left
Ireland, is venerated throughout the world as the prototype of all nuns.
She bridged the gap between Christian and pagan cultures.

Brigid saw the beauty and goodness of God in all His creation: cows made
her love God more, and so did wild ducks, which would come and light on
her shoulders and hands when she called to them. She enjoyed great
popularity both among her own followers and the villagers around; and
she had great authority, ruling a monastery of both monks and nuns.

Her chief virtue lay in her gentleness, in her compassion, and in her
happy and devoted nature which won the affection of all who knew her.
She was a great evangelist and joined hands gladly and gaily with all
the saints of that age in spreading the Gospel. So great was her
veneration throughout Europe that the Medieval knights, seeking a
womanly model of perfection, chose Brigid as the example. This theory
maintains that such was the image of Brigid as the feminine ideal that
the word “bride” passed into the English language. (This is unlikely,
however. The word probably derives from the Old German “bryd,” meaning

Historical facts about Saint Brigid’s life are few because the numerous
accounts about it after her death (beginning in the 7th century) consist
mainly of miracles and anecdotes, some of which are deeply rooted in
pagan Irish folklore. Nevertheless, they give us a strong impression of
her character. She was probably born in the middle of the 5th century in
eastern Ireland. Some say her parents were of humble origin; others that
they were Dubhthach, an Irish chieftain of Leinster, and Brocca, a slave
at his court. All stories relate that they were both baptized by Saint
Patrick. Some say that Brigid became friends with Patrick, though it is
uncertain that she ever met him. Beautiful Brigid consecrated herself to
God at a young age. She was veiled as a nun by Saint Macaille at Croghan
and consecrated as Abbess by Bishop Saint Mel at Armagh.

The Book of Lismore bears this story:

Brigid and certain virgins along with her went to take the veil from
Bishop Mel in Telcha Mide. Blithe was he to see them. For humility
Brigid stayed so that she might be the last to whom a veil should be
given. A fiery pillar rose from her head to the roof ridge of the
church. Then said Bishop Mel: “Come, O holy Brigid, that a veil may be
sained on thy head before the other virgins.” It came to pass then,
through the grace of the Holy Spirit, that the
form of ordaining a bishop was read out over Brigid. Macaille said that
a bishop’s order should not be confirmed on a woman. Said Bishop Mel
“No power have I in this matter. That dignity hath been given by God
unto Brigid, beyond every (other) woman.” Wherefore the men of Ireland
from that time to this give episcopal honour to Brigid’s successor.

Most likely this story relates to the fact that Roman diocesan system
was unknown in Ireland. Monasteries formed the centre of Christian life
in the early Church of Ireland. Therefore, abbots and abbesses could
hold held some of the dignity and functions that a bishop would on the
Continent. Evidence of this can be seen also at synods and councils,
such as that of Whitby, which was convened by Saint Hilda. Women
sometimes ruled double monasteries; thus, governing both men and women.
Bridget, as a pre-eminent abbess, might have fulfilled some
semi-episcopal functions, such as preaching, hearing confessions
(without absolution), and leading the neighbouring Christians.

Beginning consecrated life as a anchorite of sorts, Brigid’s sanctity
drew many others. When she was about 18, she settled with seven other
like-minded girls near Croghan Hill in order to devote herself to God’s
service. About 468 she followed Saint Mel to Meath.

There is little reliable information about the convent she founded
around 470 at Kildare (originally Cill-Daire or ‘church of the oak’),
the first convent in Ireland, and the rule that was followed there. This
is one of the ways Brigid sanctified the pagan with the Christian: The
oak was sacred to the druids, and in the inner sanctuary of the Church
was a perpetual flame, another religious symbol of the druid faith, as
well as the Christian. Gerald of Wales (13th century) noted that the
fire was perpetually maintained by 20 nuns of her community. This
continued until 1220 when it was extinguished. Gerald noted that the
fire was surrounded by a circle of bushes, which no man was allowed to

It is generally thought to have been a double monastery, housing both
men and women–a common practice in the Celtic lands that was sometimes
taken by the Irish to the continent. It’s possible that she presided
over both communities. She did establish schools there for both men and
women. Another source says that she installed a bishop named Conlaeth
there, though the Vatican officially lists the See of Kildare as dating
from 519.

Cogitosus, a monk of Kildare in the eighth century, expounded the
metrical life of St. Brigid, and versified it in good Latin. This is
what is known as the “Second Life”, and is an excellent example of Irish
scholarship in the mid-eighth century. Perhaps the most interesting
feature of Cogitosus’s work is the description of the Cathedral of
Kildare in his day:

“Solo spatioso et in altum minaci proceritate
porruta ac decorata pictis tabulis, tria intrinsecus
habens oratoria ampla, et divisa parietibus tabulatis”.

The rood-screen was formed of wooden boards,
lavishly decorated, and with beautifully decorated

Probably the famous Round Tower of Kildare dates from the sixth century.

The sixth Life of the saint printed by Colgan is attributed to Coelan,
an Irish monk of the eighth century, and it derives a peculiar
importance from the fact that it is prefaced by a foreword from the pen
of St. Donatus, also an Irish monk, who became Bishop of Fiesole in 824.
St. Donatus refers to previous lives by St. Ultan and St. Aileran.

Even as a child Brigid showed special love for the poor. When her mother
sent her to collect butter, the child gave it all away. Her generosity
in adult life was legendary: It was recorded that if she gave a drink of
water to a thirsty stranger, the liquid turned into milk; when she sent
a barrel of beer to one Christian community, it proved to satisfy 17
more. Many of the stories about her relate to the multiplication of
food, including one that she changed her bath-water into beer to satisfy
the thirst of an unexpected clergyman. Even her cows gave milk three
times the same day to provide milk for some visiting bishops.

Brigid saw that the needs of the body and the needs of the spirit
intertwined. Dedicated to improving the spiritual as well as the
material lives of those around her, Brigid made her monastery a
remarkable house of learning, including an art school. The illuminated
manuscripts originating there were praised, especially the Book of
Kildare, which was praised as one of the finest of all illuminated Irish
manuscripts before its disappearance three centuries ago.

Once she fell asleep during a sermon of Saint Patrick, but he
good-humouredly forgave her. She had dreamed, she told him, of the land
ploughed far and wide, and of white-clothed sowers sowing good seed.
Then came others clothed in black, who ploughed up the good seed and
sowed tares in its place. Patrick told her that such would happen; false
teachers would come to Ireland and uproot all their good work. This
saddened Brigid, but she redoubled her efforts, teaching people to pray
and to worship God, and telling them that the light on the altar was a
symbol of the shining of the Gospel in the heart of Ireland, and must
never be extinguished.

Brigid is called the ‘Mary of the Gael’ because her spirit of charity,
and the miracles attributed to her were usually enacted in response to a
call upon her pity or sense of justice. During an important synod of the
Irish church, one of the holy fathers, Bishop Ibor, announced that he
had dreamed that the Blessed Virgin Mary would appear among the
assembled Christians. When Brigid arrived the father cried, “There is
the holy maiden I saw in my dream.” Thus, the reason for her nickname.
Her prayers and miracles were said to exercise a powerful influence on
the growth of the early Irish Church, and she is much beloved in Ireland
to this day.

When dying at the age of 74, St. Brigid was attended by St. Ninnidh, who
was ever afterwards known as “Ninnidh of the Clean Hand” because he had
his right hand encased with a metal covering to prevent its ever being
defiled, after being he medium of administering the viaticum to
Ireland’s Patroness.

She was interred at the right of the high altar of Kildare Cathedral,
and a costly tomb was erected over her. In after years her shrine was an
object of veneration for pilgrims, especially on her feast day, 1
February, as Cogitosus related. About the year 878, owing to the
Scandinavian raids, the relics of St. Brigid were taken to Downpatrick,
where they were interred in the tomb of St. Patrick and St. Columba.

A tunic reputed to have been hers, given by Gunhilda, sister of King
Harold II, survives at Saint Donatian’s in Bruges, Belgium. A relic of
her shoe, made of silver and brass set with jewels, is at the National
Museum of Dublin. In 1283, three knights took the head of Brigid with
them on a journey to the Holy Land. They died in Lumier (near Lisbon),
Portugal, where the church now enshrines her head in a special chapel.

In England, there are 19 ancient church dedications to her. The most
important of which is the oldest church in London–St. Bride’s in Fleet
Street–and Bridewell or Saint Bride’s Well. In Scotland, East and West
Kilbride bear her name. Saint Brigid’s Church at Douglas recalls that
she is the patroness of the great Douglas family. Several places in
Wales are named Llansantaffraid, which means “St. Bride’s Church.” The
Irish Bishop Saint Donato of Fiesole (Italy) built a Saint Brigid’s
Church in Piacenza, where the Peace of Constance was ratified in 1185.

The best-known custom connected with Brigid is the plaiting of reed
crosses for her feast day. This tradition dates to the story that she
was plaiting rush crosses while nursing a dying pagan chieftain. He
asked her about this and her explanation led to his being baptized.

Traditional Irish blessings invoke her. “Brid agus Muire dhuit, Brigid
and Mary be with you” os a common Irish greeting, and in Wales people
say, “Sanffried suynade ni undeith, St. Brigid bless us on our journey.”
A blessing over cattle in the Scottish
isles goes: “The protection of God and Colmkille encompass your going
and coming, and about you be the milkmaid of the smooth white palms,
Brigid of the clustering, golden brown hair”

(Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopaedia, Farmer, Gill,
Groome, Montague, O’Briain, Sellner, White).

She is usually portrayed in art with a cow lying at her feet, or holding
a cross and casting out the devil (White). Her emblem is a lighted lamp
or candle (not to be confused with Saint Genevieve, who is not an
abbess). At times she may be shown (1) with a flame over her; (2) geese
or cow near her; (3) near a barn; (4) letting wax from a taper fall upon
her arm; or (5) restoring a man’s hand (Roeder).

Brigid is the patron saint of Ireland, poets, dairymaids, blacksmiths,
healers (White), cattle, fugitives, Irish nuns, midwives, and new-born
babies (Roeder). She is still venerated highly in Alsace, Flanders, and
Portugal (Montague), as well as Ireland and Chester, England (Farmer).

# For other Lives of St. Brigid:

“Saint Brigid: The Mary of the Gael”:


“A Gift of Hospitality – Saint Brigid, Abbess of Kildare”:


Icons of St. Brigid:




Many icons of the Saint on one page


Troparion of St Brigid of Kildare tone 1
O holy Brigid, thou didst become sublime through thy humility,/ and
didst fly on the wings of thy longing for God./ When thou didst arrive
in the Eternal City and appear before thy Divine Spouse, wearing the
crown of virginity,/ thou didst keep thy promise to remember those who
have recourse to thee./ Thou dost shower grace upon the world, and
dost multiply miracles./ Intercede with Christ our God that He may
save our souls.

Kontakion of St Brigid tone 4
The holy virgin Brigid full of divine wisdom,/ went with joy along the
way of evangelical childhood,/ and with the grace of God/ attained in
this way the summit of virtue./ Wherefore she now bestows blessings
upon those who come to her with faith./ O holy Virgin intercede with
Christ our God/ that He may have mercy on our souls.


Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Having learned of things divine by the words of Patrick, thou hast
proclaimed in the West the good tidings of Christ. Wherefore, we
venerate thee, O Brigid, and entreat thee to intercede with God that
our souls be saved.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
At the Church of the Oak, thou didst establish thy sacred monasteries
for those that took up the Tree of life, even the Precious Cross, upon
their shoulders. And by thy grace-filled life and love of learning,
thou didst bear fruit a hundredfold and didst thereby nourish the
faithful. O righteous Mother Brigid, intercede with Christ, the True
Vine, that He save our souls.


With Music

Both of the troparia are also available with music

Tone 1


Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone

Western notation


Byzantine notation


Saint Willibrord of Northumbria

St. Willibrord of Northumbria, Apostle to Friesland, Bishop

Born in Northumbria, Britain, 658; died in Echternach, Luxembourg, 739. His name indicates that he is of Saxon lineage (‘Willi’ is a great god of Norse mythology; ‘brord’ indicates ‘under the protection of’).

Willibrord, first Archbishop of Utrecht, is one of the missionaries sent out by the Anglo-Saxon Christians about a century after they had themselves been Christianized by missionaries in the south and east of England from Rome and the Continent, and in the north and west from the Celtic peoples of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.

Our information about Willibrord comes to us from the Venerable Bede (History of the English Church and People, v. 10-11) and from a biography by his younger kinsman Alcuin, Minister of Education under the Emperor Charlemagne. Willibrord was born in Northumbria in England about 658, and studied in France and Ireland.

Although their family name was clearly pagan, his parents were Christians. Willibrord’s father was such a devout Christian that, at his own expense, he founded a little monastery near the sea and went to live there.

Like many children of the period, seven-year-old Willibrord was sent to another monastery at Ripon to be educated under Saint Wilfrid. (The Rule of St. Benedict speaks of oblates offered to the monastery by their parents. Willibrord’s mother probably either died or took the veil.)

At that time monks liberally interpreted their vow of attaching themselves to a single community, and many of them went to complete their education in Ireland, which was famous for its scholarship. For 12 years Willibrord studied at Rathmelsigi under Saints Egbert and Wigbert, and was ordained a priest there in 688.

At Rathmelsigi Willibrord’s real story begins for Egbert had a pet scheme that he shared with many of his monks. He planned to send missionaries to the continent, and especially to the pagan Germans of Frisia. It was an excellent opportunity to win a whole people for God, and also to win the crown of martyrdom. Willibrord, age 32, was chosen by Egbert to lead 11 other English monks across the North Sea to Frisia.

Willibrord is described as shorter than average and cheerful. He possessed a quick tongue, a good education, an appetite for adventure, and a sense of humor–not to forget: faith, hope, and charity.

In the autumn of 690, the 12 arrived at Katwijk-aan-Zee, at one of the mouths of the Rhein. From there they followed the river to Wij-bij Duurstede (Holland) and sought out Pepin II of Herstal, mayor of the palace of Clovis II, king of the Franks. Pepin of Herstal had just wrested Lower Friesland from the pagan leader Duke Radbod, considered a savage bear who ruled as a tyrant over acres of sandy mud and who poisoned his enemies.

As soon as he had seen Pepin and received his support for the conversion of the Frisians, he went to Rome to seek advice from Pope Saint Sergius I and receive his orders for the mission. Before his departure he was consecrated for the work by the pope.

On his second Roman visit in 695, Willibrord convinced Pope Sergius II that the young mission needed a prelate who was independent both of York and of Pepin II; and Sergius, for his part, realized that the only person capable of filling this office, which needed tact as well as energy, was Willibrord.

And so he was consecrated as archbishop November 22–Saint Cecelia’s feast in St. Cecelia’s Church. Perhaps because his Sicilian tongue couldn’t pronounce ‘Willibrord,’ Sergius insisted on changing the saint’s name to ‘Clement,’ a choice that may have been influenced by the Englishman’s phlegmatic mildness. Sergius then sent him back to his flock with some relics and the title archbishop of the Frisians.

On his return to the northern mists, Clement-Willibrord, who rarely used his Latin name, created his see at Utrecht. Thus, he inaugurated the English colony in continental Europe that was to be so potent a religious influence for 100 years.

Unlike modern bishoprics full of administrators and equipment, Willibrord’s archbishopric was a living heart. He was constantly on the road, like his missionary monks, preaching from village to village. Gradually he established each little hamlet as a parish with its own priest and liturgies illuminated by the Benedictine spirit. Willibrord and Saint Boniface of Crediton together were responsible for instituting chorepiscopi, ‘country bishops,’ in western Europe to help them in their work.

Willibrord was well-equipped to deal with powerful people who possessed the land, money, and power needed to support his work. He made use of the great, made them servants of the Gospel, but was never subservient or over-ready to give his blessing to their follies. From them he obtained the vast tracks of land that he turned into villages and parishes, like Alphen in north Brabant. With their money he established monasteries that served as centres of intellectual and religious enlightenment.

Willibrord apparently was antithetical to the work of the Culdees whom he encountered.

About 700 he established a second important missionary centre at Echternach, on the banks of the Sure in today’s junction between Luxembourg and Germany. He continued to evangelize especially in the northern area of the present-day Benelux countries, though it does appear that he explored Denmark and perhaps Thuringia (Upper Friesland), too. Once he barely escaped a mission with his life– he was attacked by a pagan priest at Walcheren for destroying an idol.

In 714 Willibrord baptized Charles Martel’s son Pepin the Short.

During the period 715-19, Willibrord’s experienced a set-back during Frisian uprising against Franks. On the death of Pepin II on December 116, 714, Duke Radbod, who had submitted to him but had never converted, invaded the territories he had lost to Pepin of Herstal. He massacred, pillaged, burned, and stole everything that he could find that bore the Christian mark.

But as soon as the quarrel about succession within Pepin’s family had been settled by the skill of Charlemagne, Radbod and his Neustrian allies were defeated by Charlemagne and his Austrasians in the forest of Compiegne on September 26, 715. There were other uprisings until Radbod’s death in 719, but Willibrord and his missionaries were able to repair the damage and renew their work. About 719, Boniface joined them and worked with them in Friesland for three years before proceeding to Germany.

Willibrord’s missionary achievement was not spectacular–the rapidity and number of conversions was exaggerated by later writers–but it was a solid laying of foundations; ‘his charity was manifest in his daily unremitting labour for Christ’s sake’ (Alcuin). He is known as the Apostle of the Frisians.

He died while on a retreat at Echternach on November 7, 739. His frail body was placed in a stone sarcophagus, which may still be seen there.

Early in the eighth century a monk of Echternach wrote out a calendar of saints, many of whom were connected with the scenes of Willibrord’s life. The Calendar of Saint Willibrord (see ** below) is now in the National Library in Paris (Latin manuscript #10.837), and it is of great interest to students of hagiography; under the date 21 November 728 (Folio 39) are several autobiographical lines written by Willibrord himself giving the dates of going to France and being ordained a bishop (Attwater, Delaney, Encyclopaedia, Grieve, Verbist).

In art, St. Willibrord’s emblem is a barrel on which he rests his cross. The Abbey of Echternach is behind him and he is vested in episcopal attire. At times the following variations are observed: (1) in bishop’s vestments, he rests his cross on a well, with a barrel, four flagons, and the abbey behind him; (2) bishop carrying a child, or with a child nearby; (3) bishop with Utrecht Cathedral behind him; or (4) as a monkwith a ship and a tree.

Invoked against convulsions and epilepsy (Roeder).

Medieval Sourcebook:
The Life of Willibrord, c.796
by Alucin (735-804):

Icon of Saint Willibrord

** The Calendar of Saint Willibrord

Information kindly supplied by:

Saint Gwyddfarch

St. Gwyddfarch, Hermit of Moel yr Ancr, Wales

A number of ascetics chose the tops of hills. One such was the hermit and monastic founder St Gwyddfarch. We know little about his early life beyond the fact that he was part of the community founded by his spiritual father, St Llywelyn at Trallwng (Tre = town, Llwng = Llywelyn, i.e. Llywelyn’s Town), now know in English as Welshpool. This was at some point during the sixth century. It was part of the “Eastern Mission” i.e. the influx of Christian Britons into Wales from what is now Shropshire and probably in particular from the town of Wroxeter (Uriconium).

From Trallwng Gwyddfarch set out into rather wilder country to the North East and settled in the Vyrnwy Valley near to the present-day village of Meifod. Above this valley is a solitary, steep-sided hill and it was close to the summit of this that Gwyddfarch built his cell, lived and finally died. It was here that he was buried and he is still there to this day. The hill is now known as Moel yr Ancr (the bald hill of the anchorite). Looking at the setting today it is astonishingly beautiful and pastoral and shows little signs of being a desert. In winter, however, when there is a cold East wind one can better appreciate that living on the top of that hill surrounded by wolf-infested woods was hard, cold and uncomfortable – not so far off the deserts of North Africa! St Gwyddfarch is commemorated on November 3rd.

The above is from ” The Deserts of Britain” by Fr Stephen Maxfield

Additional information from “History of the Church of the Holy Fathers” by Fr Stephen Maxfield

…With the withdrawal of the legions at the beginning of the fifth century a period of considerable political instability followed. However Viroconium continued to flourish for some time. For instance St Germanus of Auxerre came to Britain to counter the teachings of the heresiarch Pelagius in 429 and again in 447. He certainly visited Viroconium, indeed it seems to have been the base for his mission into what is now mid and north Wales: The last British Archbishop of London, Theonas (Teon) fled to Viroconium in 586 when London fell to the pagan Saxons. The range of hills known now as the Stiperstones are called, in Welsh, Carneddi Teon in memory of him. Some of Teon’s disciples, including his grandson St Llywelyn, started a monastery at Welshpool, and their mission helped convert mid Wales particularly through the work of their disciples Sts Gwyddfarch and Tysilio.

St. Tysilio (born c.548-640) (Latin-Disilius, English-Tysilio) was Prince Tyslio (or Sulio) was the second son of Brochfael Ysgythrog (of the Tusks). He fled his father’s court at an early age to throw himself on the mercy of Abbot Gwyddfarch of Caer-Meguaidd (Meifod) and beg to become a monk.

Caer-Meguaidd may be Meifod, the court of the Kings of Powys at the Manor of Mathrafal from around 750 or before. The place was also a major ecclesiastical centre. St.Gwyddfarch built the original church which was replaced by St.Tyslio in about 625.

Information kindly supplied by:

Saint Vulganius of Arras

St. Vulganius (Wulganus, Vulmar) of Arras, Hermit – November 3

Died c. 704. Saint Vulganius was an Irishman, Welshman, or Englishman (according to a manuscript at Lens he was born at Canterbury) who crossed over to France and evangelized the Atrebati. Finally he lived as a hermit at Arras, under the obedience of the abbot of Saint Vedast. Some refer to him as a bishop. A portion of his relics are kept at the abbey of Liesse, others at Lens (near Douai) of which he is patron. A claim was made that his body rested at Christ Church in Canterbury “in a chest on the beam beyond the altar of Saint Stephen.” (Benedictines, Farmer, Husenbeth).

Information kindly supplied by:

Saint Gwenvrewi of Holywell

St. Gwenvrewi of Holywell, Abbess of Denbighshire, Wales – November 3
(Winefride, Winifred, Winefride, Wenefrida, Gwenfrewi, Guinevra)

Died c. 680. Winifred is evidently an historical personage, but it is equally true that her true story can no longer be reconstructed because the written information is too late to be reliable.

Winefred was the daughter of Trevith, one of the chief advisers of the king of North Wales. Through her mother she is related to the Welsh saint Beuno, a holy priest. Her parents put her under instruction with this holy man, from whom she learned the heavenly doctrine with great eagerness.

She grew daily in virtue and desired to shun all earthly things so that she might devote herself entirely to God. With the consent of her parents, she consecrated herself entirely to God by a vow of virginity, choosing Jesus Christ as her Spouse.

Tradition says that a prince of that country named Caradoc (Caradog of Hawarden or Penarlag or Tegeingl in Flintshire) fell violently in love with her. One day finding her alone in the house where she was preparing things for use at the altar, her parents having already gone to the church service, he tried to seduce her. Winefred told him she was already espoused to another, but he would not leave her alone.

Sensing his evil designs she excused herself on the plea that she must first adorn herself more becomingly. When she was free of him she escaped through her own chamber at the rear of the house and fled toward the church with all speed. The prince, tired of waiting and suspecting some kind of deceit, looking out of the house saw a figure hurrying along the valley.

Violently angry at being deceived, he mounted his horse but was not able to overtake Winefred until she reached the door of the church. He was so angry that he raised his sword and struck her before she could enter. Hearing the tumult outside, Saint Beuno and her parents came out immediately, to find their dying child lying slain before them at their feet.

The saint cursed the slayer, some writers saying that the ground opened and swallowed him up. The saint then praying to God, restored Winefred to life again. It was on this spot where her blood had flowed that a fountain gushed forth from the ground. On account of this blood-shedding she was always regarded as a martyr, though she lived for many years thereafter.

The spot became known as Holywell, a place of pilgrimage for many succeeding ages, even to the present. After the death of Saint Beuno, having taken the veil, Saint Winefred went to live at the convent she established at Guthurin (Gwytherin in Denbigshire); there, with other holy virgins, she gave her life to God. (Another version says she succeeded Abbess Tenoi at the convent of a double monastery already on the site.)

She died on June 24. In the 12th century (1138), her relics were taken from Guthurin to Shrewsbury and deposited with great honour in the Benedictine Abbey, founded there some 50 years earlier. Her cultus spread to England as well. Miracles were attested at Guthurin, Shrewsbury, as well as at Holywell (a.k.a. Treffynnon, Welltown).

Her story was recorded by a monk named Elerius as early as 660. It can be safely said, however, from the names of her contemporaries, that she lived and died in the first half of the 7th century, about the same time as Saint Eanswith of Kent (Murray).

At Holywell such vast quantities of water spring without interruption that it is estimated 24 tons are raised every minute, or 240 tons in less than 10 minutes. The water is always clear as crystal.

No place was more famous for pilgrimages in the age of faith, where the divine mercy was implored through the intercession of Saint Winefred, who at that spot had glorified God and sanctified her own soul.

Many extraordinary physical cures of leprosy, skin diseases, and other ailments are recorded up to the time of the wicked Reformation. Many authentic records of cures during the 17th century are also extant, so that the people still made pilgrimages there.

Part of the beautiful Gothic building erected by Henry VII and his mother, the Countess of Derby, still remains. The people never forgot this holy place or the saint whom they invoked. During the last century the pilgrimages were revived.

Pilgrimages to Saint Winefred’s Well persisted after the Reformation, and they do to this day. Two poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins are devoted to this saint.

There is evidence that the abbot Saint Beuno (f.d. April 21) was a man of importance, but is story, too, as written in 1346, is legendary. His name is particularly associated with Clynnog in Caernarvonshire, where sick people were still brought to his supposed burying-place towards the end of the 18th century. He may well have had a small monastery there (Attwater).

In art Winefred is depicted as a Celtic maiden with a sword, fountain at her feet, and red ring around her neck where her head has been severed and restored. Sometimes she is shown with her head being restored by Saint Beuno, at others as an abbess with a ring around her neck, standing near the fountain (Roeder).

She is venerated at Holywell, Wales. Reputed as abbess of Gwytherin, Denbighshire. Saint Beuno, Abbot, is chiefly venerated at Clynnog, Carnarvonshire (d. 630). (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopaedia, Metcalf, Murray).

Troparion of St Winefred tone 8
Caradog’s anger struck off thy head, O pious Winefred,/ but by the prayers of the Wonderworker Beuno thy mutilated form was miraculously made whole and restored to life./ As thou didst dedicate thy life to God’s service in thanksgiving for His abundant mercy,/ pray that we, never forgetting His mercy towards us, may live only for Him that our souls may be saved.

Icon of Saint Winefred:

Holywell – Clwyd
by Roy Fry & Tristan Gray Hulse

Winifred’s Well:

http://castlewales.com/abbeys.html is a nice site of religious sites in Wales with some good pictures. Have a look especially at the link to St Winefride’s well, the little chantry chapel above the well is where the annual Orthodox pilgrimage is held in October.

“The Lives and Miracles of St. Winifred of Holywell and Shrewsbury.”
Translated by Hugh Feiss, OSB. Toronto: Peregrina Publishing Co, 1999.

Information kindly supplied by: