Celtic and Old English Saints 1 August
* St. Kenneth of Wales
* St. Aethelwold of Winchester
* St. Peregrinus of Modena
* St. Rioch of Innisboffin
* St. Aled of Brecknock
* St. Sidwell
* St. Secundel of Brittany
St. Kenneth of Wales, Hermit
(Cenydd, Kyned, Kened, Keneth, Kined)
Died 6th century; feast of his translation is June 27. Saint Kenneth is
believed to have been a Welsh hermit, the son of a
chieftain. Welsh tradition, however, makes him the son of Saint Gildas
(f.d. January 29), one of the most important Welsh monks. He married
and had at least one son then became a monk under Saint Illtyd (f.d.
November 6). Thereafter, Kenneth was a hermit who made his cell among
the rocks in the peninsula of Gower and founded Llangenydd. He later
went to Brittany, where Ploumelin is the centre of his cultus.
An extraordinary event is connected with Kenneth's name that is recorded
in Welsh sources. Kenneth was born a cripple in Brittany, placed in a
cradle of osiers, and dropped into a stream, like Moses, which took him
to the island of "Henisweryn." He survived there because of a series of
miracles and angelic interventions. Educated as a Christian, he became
a hermit and was joined by a servant. This man stole the lance of some
robbers to whom Kenneth had extended hospitality. Later, Saint David of
Wales (f.d. March 1) cured Kenneth of his deformity, but the saint was
displeased and asked that it be restored as it was before. A
breast-shaped bell figures prominently in this unfinished tale, which
ends abruptly without resolution.
Saint Kenneth, however, is no legendary figure. The calendar and
place-names point to his existence. His feast is celebrated in Wales,
Brittany, and England (Benedictines, Farmer).
Troparion of St Kenneth tone 2
Rejecting thy princely dignity and worldly position,/ thou didst retire
to the desert, O righteous Kenneth, / and as we rejoice in thy
God-pleasing asceticism,/ beseech Christ our God that He will save our
St. Aethelwold of Winchester, Bishop
Born in Winchester, England, c. 908-912; died at Beddington, 984; feast
at Abingdon is August 2; feast of his translation is
September 10; Ely used to keep a "commemoratio" on October 8 in his
honour, while Deeping and Thorney Abbeys observed an "exceptio" on
Together with Saint Dunstan (f.d. May 19) and Saint Oswald of York (f.d.
February 28), Aehelwold was a leader in the revival of English
monasticism in the 10th century following its near eradication by the
Danes during their raids. He served at the court of King Athelstan
(924-39), but left to seek priestly ordination at the hands of Saint
Alphege the Bald (f.d. April 19) on the same day as his friend Saint
Dunstan. When Dunstan became abbot of Glastonbury in 943 and restore
Benedictine observance there, the priest Aethelwold joined the community
and became one of its deans and prior.
Not entirely satisfied with the reformation at Glastonbury, he asked to
be allowed to go to France to study the reforms initiated at Cluny.
Instead, in 955, King Edred made him abbot of the derelict Abingdon
Abbey in Berkshire and entrusted to Aethelwold its restoration. He added
to the community monks from Glastonbury and priests from elsewhere, and
built a new church that incorporated elements of the old. He sent his
disciple Osgar to study at Fleury in his place.
When Dunstan was exiled by King Edwy about 956, Aethelwold became the
most important figure in the monastic reformation. He also came near
secular power in his role as tutor to the future king, Saint Edgar the
Peaceful (f.d. July 8).
In 963, he was consecrated bishop of Winchester in Wessex. The
following year King Edgar and Aethelwold replaced secular canons with
Benedictines from Abingdon. In this way he founded the first monastic
cathedral, a specifically English institution that lasted until the
Reformation. The next year, Aethelwold replaced the priests with monks
at Newminster. From this point the monastic reform became closely
associated with the king, whose palace was very near the cathedral. He
also founded or restored many abbeys, including those of Newminster and
Nunnaminster in Winchester in 965, Milton Abbas (Dorset) in 964,
Chertsey, Peterborough (966), Thorney (972), and Ely (970).
Aethelwold sometimes spent the entirety of Lent in seclusion at Thorney
Abbey, where he built a church with an apse at both ends. His charter
survives for the endowment of Peterborough with land, serfs, cattle,
church plate, and 20 manuscripts.
This austere, able, and dynamic priest was given the nickname, "The
Father of Monks." The scribe of his "Benedictional" called him a
"Boanerges" (son of thunder). When he was prior of Glastonbury, he
would urge his brothers to greater effort in their monastic observance;
he never slept after Matins (about 3:00 a.m.) and would eat meat only
once in three months--and then only at Dunstan's express command.
He was also gifted as an artist, yet was very practical. At Glastonbury
he had been cook; at Abingdon he laboured as a builder until he broke
his ribs in a fall from a scaffold; at Winchester he set the monks to
working with the masons in the cathedral and built the most powerful
organ of its time in England. This pipe organ was played by two monks.
It had 400 pipes and 36 bellows. The bells and crown of metal for
candles in Abingdon's sanctuary are also attributed to his
More importantly, Aethelwold introduced the Winchester style of
manuscript illumination into his monasteries. The style soon
surpassed the products of many scriptoria of the Continent. He is also
responsible for the establishment at Winchester of the most important
school of vernacular writing of the period, of which Aelfric is the most
famous example. Its linguistically
significant, accurate translations were designed to meet the needs of
bishops and clergy who were not themselves monks. Aethelwold's
Winchester is also distinguished for its production of the first English
polyphonic music, recorded in the "Winchester Troper." His rebuilt
cathedral at Winchester was the setting for a wonderfully rich and
The saint also looked after material well-being the laity of his flock,
as well as the monks. He built an aqueduct for the town.
Aethelwold's episcopacy was marked by three important events. First, the
congress of about 970, during which the "Regularis Concordia," the
characteristic statement about the observance of reformed monasticism,
was promulgated as the norm of the 30 reformed abbeys in southern
England. Based on the practices of Ghent, Fleury, and Glastonbury, it
was probably compiled by Aethelwold himself, who was also responsible for
an important vernacular account of the aims of the reformation and an
Old English version of the Rule of Saint Benedict translated for the
benefit of nun who had no Latin.
The second event was the translation of the relics of Saint Swithun of
Winchester (f.d. July 15) in 971. The final outstanding event of
Aethelwold's tenure was the consecration of Winchester Cathedral in 980.
Each occasion was marked by a large concourse of clergy and laity and
was a sign of the success of the monastic reform movement pioneered by
Dunstan and Ethelwold. Their monasteries provided about three-quarters
of the bishops of England until the Norman Conquest in 1066, as well as
many of the missionaries sent to Scandinavia. Their abbeys were the
centres of Old English art and literature for many years to come.
Aethelwold had tireless energy to implement reforms regardless of the
opposition. He was merciless to the slack, full of sympathy for the
good-willed and the unfortunate. He is also described by contemporaries
as an outstanding counsellor of the king and as the benevolent bishop.
These characteristics need to be recalled as well as his ability and
intransigence, for any final assessment of his personality. In all
events, he work had a lasting effect (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney,
Service to Our Father among the Saints Aethelwold,
Bishop of Winchester
St. Peregrinus (Pellegrino) of Modena, Hermit
Died 643. Peregrinus (meaning "pilgrim") is believed to have been a
Celtic prince and/or monk, who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. On
his return he settled in the quiet Apennines near Modena, Italy, where
he spent the last forty years of his life as a hermit. Saint Pellegrino
in the Italian Alps is named in his memory and was his hermitage. Now
one can find a hospice for travellers and the needy on the site
(Benedictines, Encyclopaedia, Husenbeth, Montague).
In art, Saint Peregrinus is depicted as a pilgrim. He may also be shown
(1) holding a thin cross or (2) with a sudarium tied to a staff
(Roeder). He is the patron of Lucca and Modena, Italy, as well as of
St. Rioch of Innisboffin, Abbot
Died c. 480. Saint Rioch is described as the nephew of Saint Patrick
(f.d. March 17), the son of Patrick's sister Saint Darerca (f.d. March
22), and brother of Saints Mel, Muinis, and Melchu (f.d. February 6 for
all). Rioch was the abbot of Innisboffin in Longford, Ireland
Troparion of St Rioch tone 1
The radiance of thy life and the triumph of thine austerity/ shone forth
from Innisboffin's Monastery, O Father Rioch,/ illuminating the Irish
nation and leading them from the darkness of paganism/ into the light of
true belief./ Wherefore O holy one, intercede with Christ our God/ that
we may be turned from the errors of our day that our souls may be saved.
St. Aled of Brecknock, Virgin Martyr
(Adwenhelye, Almedha, Almedia, Eiluned,
Eled, Elevetha, Euned)
6th century. Most of what we know of Saint Aled derives from Archdeacon
Gerald of Wales (a.k.a. Giraldus Cambrensis), who lived in the 12th
century near the church he describes on a hilltop close to Brecon Castle
Saint Aled was a descendant of King Saint Brychan of Brecknock (f.d.
April 6). She is said to have suffered martyrdom on a hill near
Brecknock, Wales. It is related that she was a young nun who fled to
Llanfillo, then Llechfaen, and finally Slwch Tump near Brecon, in order
to escape an unwanted marriage to a prince. She built a cell at Brecon
with the help of the local lord. Later she was found by her suitor.
Again she ran, but he caught and beheaded her with his sword. As in the
story of St. Winefride, a miraculous spring erupted from the ground.
The site of her martyrdom would become a place filled with pilgrims on
her feast. It is said that "thanks to the merits of this holy virgin,
those who are suffering from maladies of any sort recover the health for
which they pray." Gerald goes on to describe the dances of young people
in the graveyard and their singing of traditional songs. They suddenly
collapse on the ground, and then mime with hands and feet the work--of
ploughing, spinning, weaving--they have done against the commandment to
rest on the Sabbath. Then they would enter the church with their
offerings: "by taking part in these festivities, they feel in their
hearts the remission of their sins and are absolved and pardoned." The
small church that was built over her cell was obliterated in 1698
(Attwater2, Benedictines, Encyclopaedia, Farmer).
St. Sidwell, Virgin Martyr
Date unknown; feast day kept on July 31 in Roscarrock and August 2 in
Exeter. Saint Sidwell, probably of British rather than Anglo- Saxon
lineage, has been revered at Exeter from time immemorial. By AD 1000,
pilgrims gathered at her shrine. William Worcestre and Leland mention
her. The late medieval catalogue of English saints, called the
"Catalogus sanctorum pausantium in Anglia," has this entry:
"Born at Exeter, she was killed by her stepmother
inciting the reapers to behead her. She was buried
outside the city, where by her merits God heals the
This story of the jealous stepmother is also included in the legend of
Saint Juthwara (f.d. July 1), who is supposed to be Sidwell's sister.
There is reason to believe that this legend is entirely mythical;
although Sidwell is a real saint.
Sidwell's Church is just outside the east gate of Exeter. Near it there
used to be a holy well, where presumably the cures took place. There is
a dedication to her in Laneast, Cornwall, with her sister Saint
Wulvella, where there was also a holy well (Benedictines, Farmer).
In art, Saint Sidwell is a maiden carrying a scythe by a well. She
might also be shown carrying her head (Roeder). The emblem of a
"scythe" and a "well," as well as the story, may derive from her name
(Farmer). Sidwell is venerated in Exeter, England (Roeder).
St. Secundel, Hermit
6th century. Secundel was the companion of Saint Friardus (f.d. today)
on the island of Vindomitte in Brittany Benedictines).
Attwater, D. (1983). The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, NY:
Attwater, D. (1958). A Dictionary of Saints. New York:
P. J. Kenedy & Sons. [Attwater 2]
Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
(1947). The Book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.
Delaney, J. J. (1983). Pocket Dictionary of Saints, NY:
Delaney, J. J. (ed). (1978). Saints for All Seasons.
Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
Encyclopaedia of Catholic Saints, August. (1966).
Philadelphia: Chilton Books.
Farmer, D. H. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Husenbeth, Rev. F. C., DD, VG (ed.). (1928). Butler's
Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints.
London: Virtue & Co.
Montague, H. P. (1981). The Saints and Martyrs of Ireland.
Guildford: Billing & Sons.
Roeder, H. (1956). Saints and Their Attributes, Chicago: Henry
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