During the course of the summer, members of the community have taken the opportunity to pray at places associated with local saints. On 26 May we visited Pennant Melangell where St Melangall is venerated. Here there is the Romanesque shrine, the place where she was buried, a holy well which is on the hillside above the church about an hour’s walk and somewhere in the nearby hills, her ‘gweli’ where she went to pray. We have never yet discovered this!
St Melangell is described as a “recluse in the hills of Pennant”. She had come over from Ireland and had been living in this secluded place for 15 years. In 604 Brochwel Ysgythrog a prince from Pengweren was hunting a hare nearby. He came across St Melangell as the hare was hiding under her skirts. Brochwel’s hounds retreated from the hare despite their master cheering them on. Moved by her godly life Brochwel endowed St Melangell with land as a refuge for those fleeing and wanting to find sanctuary under her protection. She lived in the valley for 37 years with other virgins living holy and chaste lives. “persevering in their love of God, intent upon divine services, they used to spend their days and nights doing nothing else.” (From the History of Monacella (Melangell)). Feast day 31 January.
On Sunday 30 June we went to Stoke St Milborough where there is a well dedicated to St Milburga. Here there is a freshwater stream (some of it piped away by the water board) where we blessed the water. It is recounted that St Milburga fell off her horse here, or perhaps her horse fell. Whatever the reason, the well has been associated with her from “time immemorial”. St Milburga has several days 23 February, a translation in 1501 commemorated on 26 May. For us now, the well is a “proskynitarion” a place to worship God and feel His tangible presence in the World.
On 13 July we went to Llanerfyl where we met with Fr Tim and members of the community from Lampeter. 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 (see photograph).
In the churchyard at Llanerfyl there is an extremely old yew tree probably up to 2000 years old. St Erfyl’s feast is on 5 July.
On the same day we were able to visit the well of St Cadfan. St Cadfan was connected to St Padarn and it was he who started the monastery on Bardsey Island, a place of pilgrimage to this day, though not at all easy to get to, particularly if the weather changes as one may be marooned there for a long time. St Cadfan’s feast is on 1 November.
This year we have discovered a new saint up to now neglected by us: St Dogfan or Doefan (In Welsh the “f” is pronounced as a “v”). He was a priest follower of St Padarn and founded the church at Llanrhaedr ym Mochnant where he served. He was martyred at Mertyr Dogfan by pagan Saxons. His feast is the 13 July. There was originally a Romanesque shrine in the church, of which a few stones are still to be seen.