- Celtic and Old English Saints 1 May
* St. Asaph of Wales
* St. Brioc of Brittany
* St. Ceallach of Killala
* St. Kevoca of Kyle
St. Asaph of Llan-Elwy
Like St.Deiniol, St.Asaph was a grandson of Pabo Post Prydyn, but he
went to train under the great St.Kentigern and followed his master when
he left Scotland to avoid persecution. The two of them first visited
St.David at Menevia and then settled on land given to Kentigern by
Cadwallon, father of Maclgwn, who was then King of Gwynedd, at a place
in the valley of the river Elwy. Most of what we know of Asaph comes
from the twelfth century Life of St.Kentigern by Joscelyn, a monk of
Asaph had a great devotion to his master and Joscelyn relates that one
very cold night when Kentigern had performed his usual discipline of
reciting the psalter while immersed in freezing water, Asaph saw him
crawl to his cell so numb with cold that he thought that he would die.
He ran to fetch fire to warm the saint, and finding no pan in which to
carry the embers, he gathered them up in the folds of his cloak and
carried them without suffering hurt to his flesh or his clothing. This
act so endeared him to Kentigern that shortly afterwards he ordained him
to the priesthood, and when he returned to Glasgow, he appointed Asaph
his successor as Abbot of Llan-Elwy.
It is said that Kentigern left his church with 665 monks by the north
door and subsequently that door was always kept closed in mourning,
except on the Feast of St.Asaph. 300 monks remained with Asaph, who was
held by them in great affection and reverence. These figures approximate
to those given by John of Tynemouth in his description of the monastery
in St.Kentigern's time. He says there were 995 brethren, 300 were
illiterate and worked the land, 300 prepared the food and did the
domestic work in the abbey, while the 365 who were learned sang the
daily offices. The learned were divided into three choirs, which
succeeded each other in rotation, so that prayer never ceased in the
Asaph died in the year 596 and was buried at Llan-Elwy. We hear very
little about this Christian centre for the next six hundred years except
that the original wooden church was replaced by one of stone. The
Normans made this church the Cathedral of an extensive diocese and much
of the present building dates from the 13th century (Baring Gould and
St. Asaph of Wales, Bishop
Died c. 600; feast day formerly on May 1. The small town of Saint Asaph
in northern Wales was once the scene of a busy and thriving monastery,
for here came Kentigern of Scotland who founded by the river side the
monastery of Llanelwy. He was probably returning at the time from a
visit to Saint David, and he had with him Asaph, his favourite pupil,
whom he left behind at Llanelwy as abbot to consolidate his work. Others
say that it was Saint Asaph who founded the abbey after having been
trained by Kentigern--the truth is shrouded by time. There is, however,
certainty that Saint Asaph founded the church of Llanasa in Flintshire.
An interesting account exists of Llanelwy's establishment. "There were
assembled in this monastery no fewer than 995 brethren, who all lived
under monastic discipline, serving God in great continence." A third of
these, who were illiterate, tilled the ground and herded the cattle; a
third were occupied with domestic tasks inside the monastery; and the
remainder, who were educated men, said the daily offices and performed
other religious duties.
A distinctive feature was its unbroken continuity of worship, for, like
the Sleepless Ones, the monks of Llanelwy divided themselves into groups
and maintained an unceasing vigil. "When one company had finished the
divine service in the church, another presently entered, and began it
anew; and these having ended, a third immediately succeeded them." So
that by this
means prayer was offered up in the church without intermission, and the
praises of God were ever in their mouths."
Among them, we are told, "was one named Asaph, more particularly
illustrious for his descent and his beauty, who from his childhood shone
forth brightly, both with virtues and miracles. He daily endeavoured to
imitate his master, Saint Kentigern, in all sanctity and abstinence; and
to him the man of God bore ever a special affection, insomuch that to
his prudence he committed the care of the monastery." A later medieval
writer penned about Asaph's "charm of manners, grace of body, holiness
of heart, and witness of miracles." Still little is actually known about
The story has been handed down to us that one bitter night in winter
when Kentigern, as was his custom, had been standing in the cold river
reciting from the Psalter, and had crawled back to his cell, frozen and
exhausted, Asaph ran to fetch hot coals to warm him. Finding no pan,
however, and being in great haste, fearing that the shivering abbot
might die, he raked the glowing coals into the skirt of his monk's
habit, and ran with them, at great risk and discomfort, and cast them on
the hearth of the saint.
That story is typical of his spirit, for he was devoted both to his
master and to the welfare of his monks. We are not surprised that
Kentigern, with every confidence, left the monastery in his care. Under
Asaph's leadership it flourished, and when Asaph was made bishop, it
became the seat of his diocese. The goodness of one man spread and
infected many others with holiness, including many of his kinsmen, e.g.,
Deiniol (September 11) and Tysilo (November 8). Today on the banks of
the River Elwy stands the cathedral that bears his name (Attwater,
St. Brioc the Traveller, Bishop of Brittany
(Bryan, Brieuc, Briocus)
Born in Cardiganshire, Wales; died in Brittany, c. 510; feast of his
translation is October 18. Brioc was the founder of a monastery near
Treguier, Brittany, which grew into the town and see called
Saint-Brieuc. He was probably born in Ceredigion (Cardiganshire).
According to legend, his father was named Cerpus and his mother was
Eldrude, both of whom he is said to have converted following his
Brioc appears to have worked in southwestern Britain before migrating to
Brittany; there is a place called Saint Breock or Breoke in Cornwall and
Saint Briavels in the Forest of Dean is at root the same name. Saint
Brioc's medieval biography contains a number of particulars and
marvellous tales, but its historicity is slight. It says, for instance,
that Brioc was trained
in Gaul by Saint Germanus of Auxerre, who died in 448, which makes it
Brioc is reputed to have built a famous church called Grande-Lann, where
he gathered a number of disciples. In Treguier, he converted a wealthy
nobleman named Conan who provided the funds to build a monastery in
northern Armorica. Then Brioc is said to have returned to Britain and
with the help of his relative, Prince Rigald of Domnonia, built the
church of Saint Stephen there.
Brioc is styled a bishop in an inscription in marble at his shrine built
in 1210, but it is not certain that he was a bishop; more likely he was
an abbot of the Celtic type who kept a bishop in his monastery because
no evidence claims his successor in the see, which dates only to 844.
Brioc's relics were translated to the abbey of Saint-Sergius in Angers
in the mid-9th century to protect them from Norse invaders. In 1210, an
arm, two ribs, and some cervical bones were given back to Saint Brieuc's
(Attwater, Benedictines, Farmer, Gill, Husenbeth).
In art, Saint Brioc is a bishop with a fiery pillar above him. He is
venerated in Treguier, Brittany, and Cornwall (Roeder). Because of the
legends regarding his great charity, Brioc is considered the patron of
Troparion of St Brioc tone 1
O holy Brioc, Enlightener of the lands of Wales and Brittany:/ with
miracles thou didst preach Christ in thy life,/ and in death thy
fragrance proclaimed thy glory. Pray to Christ our God that our souls
may be saved.
St. Ceallach (Kellach) of Killala, Bishop
6th century. A disciple of Saint Kieran of Clonmacnoise, Saint Ceallach
became bishop of Killala but ended his life as a hermit, perhaps as a
St. Kevoca (Kennotha, Quivoca) of Kyle, Virgin
7th century; feast day may be March 13 instead. She is venerated at
Kyle, Scotland (Benedictines).
Attwater, D. (1983). The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, NY:
Baring-Gould, S. & Fisher, J. (1907) The Lives of the British
Saints. 4 volumes. Charles J Clarke.
Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
(1947). The Book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.
Bowen, Paul. When We Were One: A Yearbook of the
Saints of the British Isles Complied from Ancient Calendars.
Farmer, D. H. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gill, F. C. (1958). The Glorious Company: Lives of Great
Christians for Daily Devotion, vol. I. London:
Husenbeth, Rev. F. C., DD, VG (ed.). (1928). Butler's
Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints.
London: Virtue & Co.
Roeder, Helen. (1955). Saints and Their Attributes.
Chicago: Henry Regnery Company.
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