Thursday, November 23, 2023

23/11/2023 - Celtic saints

 Well I am taking a leaf out of Sue in Suffolk's book on an alphabet of things.  My alphabet will be of Celtic saints, those that cover the first 1000 years.  Of course my reference for these saints will be from the Welsh, and the book T.D.Breverton - Book of Welsh Saints.  Not forgetting Gildas, Bede and Geoffrey of Monmouth all early writers who wrote down the stories they had heard.

Well the alphabet begins with 'A' and there are a goodly few in this chapter.  I was going to begin with Aaron, (died after 287 but before 304). Aaron with Julian were executed at Caerlon for their Christian beliefs.  They were romanised Silure, it was under an edict by a Roman emperor.

Martyrdom claims great advantage for the church and it is believed that the two saints were buried at Goldcliff.  In digging out the foundations for a new house in 1785 in the 'Field of the Graveyard', stone coffins were found by a Yew tree.  But unlike the Glastonbury use of  bones for relics, the bones of our presumably two saints were left undisturbed. Here for a fuller wiki

But there is a more interesting saint to think about, and of course Elvis Presley.  Look at that name. Were his parents Welsh? well according to Breverton it seems strange that Elvis had Welsh names - Presley could refer to the Preseli range of hills and Elvis to the saint Ailbe (d 527 to 531).

Breverton evidence for this is that Elvis parents were called Vernon and Gladys, and his still-born twin brother was Jesse Garon (St.Caron?).  Now whether this just a nice story or perhaps there was a thin vein of Welshness running through the veins of Elvis I don't know.

But the church, now no longer there, its remains  can be found outside Solva in Pembrokeshire near to a double cromlech.  This cromlech was blown up by an irate farmer in the 18th century I think but still impressive today.  The early Celtic saints often settled near to the pagan element.

Baring-Gould, another profuse writer born in the 19th century, wrote the following that Ailbe is known in Wales as Ailfyw or Elfyw, who founded a church, now a ruin, called St.Elvis, in Welsh Llanailfyw, or Elfwy near Sain David's consequently near where lived his aunt, St.Non.

It is said of this saint that he remained in Menevia till David was born.  He baptised the child and fostered him, before going to Ireland.

Always wandering these monks bringing the word to the people.  Cannot you just see them? with their bell which called the people to listen to their service, often as we see from the above photo by the side of a cromlech.


Rebecca Solnit on the rich


  1. Blowing up a cromlech sounds a bit drastic - even for an irate farmer! and thinking of Elvis as a saint is a stretch too far for me.
    I shall enjoy your A-Z of Celtic Saints - I'm guessing they will be a different batch to the saints in my book.

    1. No respect for burial chambers - there was one quite local to us in Carms which had been bulldozed to the field margin . . .

    2. Yes Sue, no Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. The Celtic Saints ranged from Wales down to Cornwall and then to Brittany. Think of beehive huts and remote places is the best way to describe them.

  2. Ah, these Welsh saints. Not forgetting all the children of King Brechin of Llangorse, who all became saints - something like 24 boys and 24 girls! They are thick on the ground in these parts! There is a vague link to one of his sons being St Nectan, and then you get possible Pictish links with Nechtansmere (battle) and King Nechtan in Northumbria and also Cornish links! He apparently sailed across from Wales and landed at Hartland point and there is a church dedicated to him there. Gosh, they got about . . .

    I believe Garon means Heron in Welsh? Wonder if Elvis's antecedents were Welsh then?

    1. Think Brechin was just boasting;). Fancy bringing all those children into the world. It is a bit suspicious that they all turned out saints. Well as far as Elvis was concerned DNA can only tell that truth from the daughter I suppose. Breverton also says that one of the grandmothers, with the name of Mansell, which also is Welsh, so there maybe a vague truth.

    2. I had a friend whose maiden name was Mansell, who claimed Welsh blood, and it also appears in place names in Herefordshire.

    3. My Heritage, sends me 4th cousins every week. They are scattered all over the world but I am definitely not putting them on the family tree. The DNA attributes one's blood to different areas, all very clever Jennie.


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