Thursday, July 16, 2009

St. Brynach and Nevern Church

St.Brynach or Abbot Brynach is another 6th century saint. His church is the little ruined building that overlooks St. Brides Bay, in Cw-yr-Eglwys (Valley of the church) just on the neck of Dinas head and he is famed for talking to angels in the nearby prehistoric hill fort of Carn Ingli (Rock of Angels).
There is another church dedicated to him, above the Gwaun Valley, in Pontfaen, the church has a 'celtic' circular church yard.
Nearby a cromlech on Mynydd Llanawer, a standing stone near Rhos Isaf and seven standing stones in alignment in the Field of the Dead (Parc y Merw at Trewllyn).
Celtic saints have fascinating stories associated with them, and though the point of trogging all through the book of saints is to find out their relationship with megalithic stones, the earlier celtic pagan history can also be found, in the stories attached to the churches and saints.
Well the Nevern church has a 'bleeding yew' in the churchyard, yew trees of course heark back to the Iron Age, and the pagan religion that worshipped in groves of trees and saw water as sacred, a liminal space in which to enter the otherworld on death. This yew is called 'the bleeding yew' because its trunk oozes a red resin. A monk was hung from the tree and he cast a curse on the people who had hung him that the tree would bleed for evermore because of their wickedness.
Near Nevern is Trellyffant Cromlech ((Toad's Town) apparently a chieftain was buried there who had been eaten by toads.
Breverton lists Pentre Ifan cromlech near here and a stone circle on the Preselis called Waun Mawr. Two more standing stones to the south called Carreg Meibon Owen, and another at Tre-Fach, called Y Garreg Hir.
Another story associated with Brynach is about the cuckoo, and of course birds are very much a part of the druidic celtic religion of the Iron Age, the previous saint Beuno having a curlew in his myths. But to return to the cuckoo, that first call in mid April that we still look forward to was still coming all the way from Africa hundreds of years ago, perhaps it also came at the time when the prehistoric stones were raised and the stone people would here its famous cry on the wind.
But back to the story, Brynach's feast day was the 7th April, and so on this day the cuckoo would fly back on that day perch on the great celtic cross and this would be the signal for the priest to say mass. But one year it was late, and everyone waited patiently for several hours to appear, when it eventually appeared the poor bird was so exhausted after its long flight that it dropped down dead. According to the legend it had battled its way through storms to reach the church because it knew it could not fail its ancestors who had the honour of starting mass on St.Brynach's day.




  1. I know the story about the cuckoo coming late and expiring as it got to the cross - but it was associated with St Benet's Abbey in Norfolk!
    One of those stories that's too good to be told only once!

  2. Lots of the same saint's stories are told in several areas, Welsh, Cornwall and Brittany springs to mind. As you say good stories need to be told more than once ;)

  3. Ah Nevern. I know it well. I know St Brynach's little ruined church overlooking St Brides Bay too. In fact, I may be down there in a couple of weeks' time to meet a friend holidaying in the area. The stone circle at Waun Mawr I've not heard of before. Thankyou for noting it.

    I am still fighting battles with BT to get them to repair our line and receive broadband properly again - I am writing this on holiday house-sitting for friends in the New Forest . . .