Local Saints

Created on: 18th June 2019
Our Local Saints

“The Church in The British Isles will only begin to grow when She begins to again venerate Her own Saints”    (Saint Arsenios of Paros †1877)

We are very fortunate that in Shropshire we are able to venerate a large number of local saints who flourished between the 5th and 9th centuries.  These saints proclaimed the Truth that we continue to hold now more than one thousand years later.

Some of the local saints were Anglo-Saxons and others were British. 

The Shrewsbury Community make pilgrimages to sites connected with these saints.  We visit St Milburga’s priory at Much Wenlock; St Winifride’s holy wells at Woolston and Holywell; St Melangell’s shrine and holy well at Pennant Melangell; St Gwydffarch’s bed hut on Moel yr Ancr (the hill of the anchorite) at Meifod.

Due to the size of the original Saxon church based at Sutton we expect that our own church was a place of pilgrimage, perhaps the relics of a local saint were buried here.

We are now fortunate to have relics of some important local British saints: St Melangell, St Cuthbert and St Theodore of Crowland.  Our church is therefore again a place of pilgrimage and many pilgrims from across the world come to venerate our local saints.  

We pray too that more people from the local area learn what beacons of light our early local saints are for us today and the remarkable miracles that they continue to work.  

Alchmund of Derby

The little we know about Saint Alchmund (or Ealhmund) comes from the late twelfth-century chronicle attributed to Simeon of Durham that seems to draw on a set of York annals 703-802. Alchmund was the second son of Alhred or Alchred who was the Christian king of Northumbria from 765 until Aethelred deposed him in 774. According to Simeon he fled to the kingdom of the Picts where he and his family were given refuge in the court of King Ciniod. In the ensuing dynastic struggles Alchmund returned to Northumbria with some forces where, after some initial success, he was killed around 800. There is some confusion among the chroniclers as to the mode and the date of his death. However, in his Historia Regum Simeon records that:“In 800 Alkmund, as some say the son of King Alhred of Northumberland was seized by the guards of King Eardwulf and by his order killed along with some of his fellow-fugitives.” Within a short space of time he was honoured as a saint and recorded in an anonymous 9th century treatise that contains a list of saints’ resting places. In this treatise his relics were said to lie in a minster at Northworthy (Derby), ‘beside the River Derwent’.

Chad, Bishop of Lichfield

Saint Chad was one of three brothers born in Northumbria, and was educated at the monastery on Lindisfarne under Saint Aidan. In 664 he succeeded his brother, Cedd as Abbot of Lastingham.

 In 669 that Chad became Bishop of Lichfield and today Saint Chad’s Well is to be found in the churchyard at Stowe on the north side of Lichfield town centre.

When he died on March 2 672 his body was first buried in Saint Mary,s Church where miracles of healing were soon being reported.

Later the shrine of Saint Chad was a popular place of pilgrimage when an elaborate shrine was erected in the present cathedral.    Many place names have associations with Saint Chad. One example is Hanmer in North East Wales that in the Domesday Book is simply called “St. Chad’s”.  Within the ancient parish is Cadney (Chad’s island?) and nearby is the Gospel Meadow in which is the Gospel Pool. Less than a mile to the north is Llys Beddyd (lake of Baptism), Eglwys Cross (‘Church Cross’) and a few hundred yards from the parish church of Saint Chad is a holy well.    Another instance is the oldest church in Shrewsbury built on a hill within a loop of the Severn which, at that time must have almost been an island and was dedicated to Saint Chad, was characteristic of a Celtic monastic settlement.

Eata, bishop of Hexham

Saint Eata was a native of Northumbria and was probably born in the reign of King Oswald.  He was one of the original twelve pupils of St Aidan at Lindisfarne.

Around the year 640 Saint Aidan founded a monastery on land beskde the River Tweed, which today is known as Old Melrose.  In 651 Eata was made the first Abbot of Melrose and it was here that he admitted Cuthbert into the community. Around 658 he founded a new monastery at Ripon in Yorkshire taking Cuthbert with him.  Celtic monastic and liturgical practices were followed until, because he was unable to accept the Roman practices promoted by Wilfred, Eata and his monks were expelled from Ripon and returned to Melrose. Some time later Eata was moved from Melrose to become the Abbot of Lindisfarne.  When Theodore became Archbishop in 669 he divided the vast diocese of Northumbria in 678 and consecrated Eata as Bishop of Bernicia, its northern half.  Three years later this too was divided into the dioceses of Hexham and Lindisfarne and Eata then became Bishop of Lindisfarne.  In 685, by mutual agreement, Cuthbert became Bishop of Lindisfarne and Eata returned to Hexham.[1]  In less than a year Eata died and was buried at Hexham where a chapel was later built over his grave.[2]  His relics were translated inside the church in the eleventh century. 

Atcham, between the Roman city of Wroxeter (Viroconium) and Shrewsbury is the only church dedicated to Saint Eata and, because of the considerable distance from the location of his ministry, much doubt has been cast on its authenticity. In recent times evidence has emerged to suggest that Atcham  (the Home of the Children of Eata) is exactly what the name suggests. 

[1]  Stephanus, Vita Wilfred

[2] F. M. Powick, Handbook of British Chronology, 1961

Gwyddfarch, hermit of Caer-Meguaidd (Meifod)

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.

Theonas (Teon), Bishop of London

IN the old Saintly Pedigrees Teon is not entered as a saint but merely as the grandfather of S. Llywelyn. But in a MS. circa 1670 printed in the lolo MSS. it is stated that S. Teon, the son of Gwineu Deufreuddwyd, of the line of Beli Mawr, was ” a saint and bishop of Cor Illtyd, and afterwards a bishop in Gloucester ; and after that an archbishop’ in London, from whence he was driven by the pagan Saxons, and went to Brittany.” 1 The latter part of the notice is taken from Geoffrey of Monmouth, who tells us that Theonus or Teon, with the archbishops of Caerleon and York (Thadioceus), in the time of Ceredig, King of Britain, seeing that all the churches within their jurisdictions had been devastated, fled with their clergy into Wales, taking with them the relics of the saints. Many took flight to Brittany. 2 Theonus was the last of the reputed metropolitans of London (the first of them was also named Theonus or Theanus), and is supposed to have been translated from Gloucester in 542, and to have fled into Wales in 586.

In Llanstephan MS. 187, Teon is said to have been of Cegidfa, i.e., Guilsfield, near Welshpool. He was the father of Tegonwy, the father of S. Llywelyn of Welshpool.

The Stiperstones mountain, in the parish of Worthen, Shropshire,, was called from him by the Welsh Carneddi Teon.

St Melangell, Abbess of Pennant

Little known outside Wales and Great Britain, the secluded Welsh shrine of St. Melangel, deep in the Berwyn Mountains, is dedicated to a sixth-century Irishwoman, an anchorite who lived here for many years, alone and unknown. An early Christian treasure, it is the oldest existing Romanesque shrine in northern Europe. When the church was restored in the 1960’s, Melangell’s relics were discovered under the chapel floor, and now more than 10,000 pilgrims a year come to ask for her intercession.

Oswald, Martyr and King of Northumbria

When Oswald  became the first Christian king of Northumbria he sought the aid of the monks of Iona, the disciples of Columba, for the conversion of the Saxons of the North.  

 A monk called Aidan was sent by the community of Iona to assist Oswald in the summer of 635.  He gave Aidan the island of Lindisfarne adjoining his own royal fortress of Bamborough, for his monastery.

 In 642 there was war between Oswald and Penda, the pagan King of Mercia, and, on 5th August, Oswald was defeated, killed and dismembered by Penda in a fierce battle at a place called Maserfelth which today is known today as Oswestry or Croesoswallt (Oswald’s Cross) in Welsh. Nearby is Oswald’s well which marks the place where a great bird let the right arm from the dismembered body fall and where a healing spring appeared.

 The relics of Saint Oswald were recovered and enshrined in Saint Oswald’s Priory, Gloucester, but that perished at the Dissolution.  Saint Oswald’s head was finally buried with Saint Cuthbert whose shrine is now in Durham Cathedral. When St Cuthbert’s shrine was opened in the 19th century the head of St Oswald was found to be present.

Milburga, Abbess of Wenlock

Saint Milburga’s father, Merewald, son of Penda who ruled a subkingdom called Hecani (south Shropshire and Herefordshire) had been converted in 660 and had married a Christian princess. Their eldest child, Milburga was resolved to found a monastery in her father’s kingdom. Saint Botulf, Abbot of Icheanog set up a monastery at Wimnicas (later Wenlock – white monastery) under a Frankish abbess called Liobsynde.  St Milburga later became the Abbess.

 According to tradition St. Milburga was attracted to Wimnicas by the saintly life of St. Owen who was living in a hermitage there. There exist to this day two holy wells at Much Wenlock, one dedicated to St. Milburga and the other, quite near to the parish church, to St. Owen.

The importance of Wimnicas and Saint Milburga can be seen from the extent of the territory donated to the monastery during her lifetime.  This included Sutton (where the medieval church building was built on a prehistoric sacred site dating back to 2,300 BC). Her consecration as abbess had been among the first undertakings of the aged St. Theodore, a monk of the Eastern Church, following his appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury in 667 AD.

 In 901 Aethelred, Earl of Mercia and Aethelflaedia, ‘Lady of the Mercians’ (daughter of King Alfred) donated “a gold chalice weighing thirty mancuses….for the love of God and for the honour of the venerable virgin Mildburg the abbess”.

The discovery of her relics, by children, in 1101 was attended by several miracles. The monastery church of Wenlock was rebuilt on a magnificent scale to accommodate the growing numbers of monks and pilgrims.  The church at Sutton was probably rebuilt at this time giving the monastery a presence on the edge of the county town. In 1501 a magnificent shrine built at the order of Henry VII.  

The end came with the Reformation in January 1540 when Wenlock Priory was dissolved and nearly all the relics of Saint Milburga were burnt in the marketplace.

In recent times the derelict ruin of the ancient church on Saint Milberga’s estate at Sutton has been carefully restored by the Orthodox Community of the Holy Fathers of Nicea and now the Saint Milburga, is honoured among the saints.

Tysillio, Prince and Abbot of Caer-Meguaidd (Meifod)

St. Tysilio (also spelled Tyssilo, Tyssel, Suliau, Suliac), whose name means “Dear Little Sunday’s Child”, is ranked among the Fathers of the Welsh Church. He lived in the second half of the sixth and first half of the seventh centuries. Meifod in the Welsh county of Powys has been the main center of his veneration over the centuries

Saint Erfyl

Llanerfyl is where St Erfyl, the daughter of St Padarn, lived as a solitary nun. Amazingly, in the church there is the original medieval shrine and the original wooden reliquary as well as a grave marker. Quite how these have survived is remarkable.  Medieval shrines were devised so that pilgrims could walk under the saint, or at any rate put their heads underneath, this is why the reliquaries were placed as they were

Cadfan, Abbot of Bardsey and Tywyn

Saint Cadfan https://orthochristian.com/98598.html

CLOSE

Alchmund of Derby

Saint Alchmund’s Church in the centre of Shrewsbury

CLOSE

Chad, Bishop of Lichfield

This map marks Llyn Bedydd (Lake of Baptism) at Hanmer and just north of the church St. Chad’s well is marked.

Further south in Bettisfield is the ‘Gospel Meadow’ in the centre of which is ‘The Gospel Pool.  Just across the road is Bettisfield Church dedicated to St. John the baptist because tradition has it that St Chad preached and baptised here.

CLOSE

Eata, bishop of Hexham

The church dedicated to Saint Eata at Atcham

CLOSE

Gwyddfarch, hermit of Caer-Meguaidd (Meifod)

Moel yr Ancr – the hill of the anchorite where Saint Gwyddfarch’s bed hut can still be seen.

CLOSE

Winefrid, virgin martyr and abbess of Gwytherin

St Winefrid’s well is located in a small Shropshire village, by tradition it  is the location where St Winefrid’s body rested overnight in 1138 when her relics were translated from North Wales to Shrewsbury.

The construction dates from the late 15th Century, and is suggested to have been at done at the prompting of Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII, who had the buildings around St Winifride’s in North Wales rebuilt.

A timber construction now sits over the emergence of the spring, with a narrow step down to a recessed chamber, and then a lower bathing areas constructed of stone. There are drains at two levels; one assumes that the lower drains are more recent; the higher level would be for when pilgrims could come to bathe, perhaps.

Tight and considerate parking for at the most 2 cars, in a lane just off the main through road at Woolston, then follow the path to the right for a couple minutes, and the well housing becomes apparent. The site is owned, managed, and let out by the Landmark Trust as a holiday home, so please be respectful to the privacy of anyone staying there.

CLOSE

Theonas (Teon), Bishop of London

The Stiperstones (Welsh: Carneddau Teon)

CLOSE

St Melangell, Abbess of Pennant

The church of Saint Melangell in Penant Melangell.

CLOSE

Oswald, Martyr and King of Northumbria

Saint Oswalds Well 

CLOSE

Milburga, Abbess of Wenlock

CLOSE

Tysillio, Prince and Abbot of Caer-Meguaidd (Meifod)

Church of St Tysillio, Meifod

CLOSE

Saint Erfyl

The Church of Saint Erfyl in llanerfyl where there is the original medieval shrine and reliquary

CLOSE

Cadfan, Abbot of Bardsey and Tywyn

By its name and by the dedication of its church the parish commemorates the Celtic St Cadfan who reportedly arrived in Wales at the head of a large company from Armorica between the beginning of the 6th century and the Synod of Brefi.  Initially he established himself at Tywyn, and some time around 550 he is traditionally supposed to have set off on an inland mission.  After establishing a preaching station at a hamlet some three miles short of Tall y Llyn continued North East and East through the valleys of the Clywedog, Cerist and Dyfi to Mallwyd, and thence along that of the Dugoed until passing over the Bwlch y Fedwen he  entered the Banwy Valley and came to the little eminence where his church was founded to endure .

What caused him to stop there is of course only a matter of imagination and conjecture but as was the case with many of the early Christian foundations the location of a suitable well of water may have been decisive.  Not only was such a well essential for survival and for a permanent supply for baptism, but it often formed a meeting place for the local inhabitants. Once associated with a holy man, stories of miraculous healings would grow up and be jealously handed down orally to succeeding generations. Llangadfan has proved to be no exception and St Cadfan’s well is still fed by a stream running under the site of the church. It has never been recorded as running dry and for a long tradition of being beneficial to health.

It was therefore quite possible under this same site that Cadfan van established his little cell which later developed into the parish church, which thus became the oldest established landowner to have survived in the district to the present day. The Saint did not, however, stay there permanently and is popularly believed to have returned to Tywyn and later to have become the first Abbot of Bardsey, which he founded jointly with a Welsh king, Einion . St Cadfan became the patron Saint of warriors and, being joined with all the Saints, his feast day is celebrated with them on November the 1st.

Latest News

Sermon on the Cross
Weekly Bulletin 12 to 19 September

Today's Saints and Readings

Copyright © 2021