Posted by: anna | January 19, 2010

St Edeyrn

Today we commemorate St Edeyrn. celt-saints provides the following succinct summary: ‘6th century. He is the patron saint of a church in Brittany. Tradition describes him as a Briton, associating him with King Arthur, and making him end his days as a hermit in Armorica (Benedictines). Saint Edeyrn is depicted in art as a hermit riding on a stag. He is venerated in Brittany (Roeder).’ But there seem to be two of these in Baring-Gould and frankly I’m not sure which is which, so here are both stories. I will link back to the second one later if his feast comes up separately. In any case I am drawing on Baring-Gould & Fisher, online here.

S. EDERN, Confessor

This Saint is, in the older genealogies, said to have been a son of Beli ab Rhun ab Maelgwn Gwynedd, but in the later ones, a son of Nudd ab Beli — grandson instead of son of Beli. His name is the Latin AEternus, but it is commonly written in later Welsh Edeyrn, which is really a different name. Beli was king of Gwynedd, and was succeeded by his son lago, who died in 613, according to the Annales Cambricae.

Edern is the patron of Llanedern or Edem, in the promontory of Lleyn, Camarvonshire, and of Bodedern, in Anglesey. His festival, which does not occur in the Welsh Calendars (as Edern), is given as January 6 at Bodedern, and December 2 at Edern. The Gwyl Mabsant at Bodedern, however, was held in Whitsun Week, occupying the whole of it, and used to attract great numbers of people. A fair is still held there on the Tuesday. In the parish are Mynydd and Bryn Edern.

There is an inscribed stone in the parish of Llannor, not far from Edern, which bears the following inscription — ” lovenali Fili Etemi Hic lacit.”

He is sometimes said to have been a bard, but there is no evidence for it.

In romance, as Edern ab Nudd, he assumes a wholly military garb, and is represented as a knight of King Arthur’s court. He figures in three of the Mabinogion tales, but most prominently in that of Geraint ab Erbin. Nudd is there the father of Edern, Gwyn, and Owain. In the Dream of Rhonabwy Edern is prince of ” a jet- black army,” composed of the men of Denmark, and is one of Arthur’s counsellors. In Geraint ab Erbin we have the story of an encounter between Geraint and him.

There was set up yearly in a meadow, near ” the town which is now called Cardiff,” a silver rod between two forked sticks, and on this a sparrow-hawk, and for it knights jousted. Edern won it two years in succession. Had he won it the third year, it would have been his for ever, and he would have been styled the “Knight of the Sparrow-hawk,” but Geraint contested the prize with him, and won it, wounding him severely. The attendant on Edern was a dwarf, who had struck one of Queen Gwenhwyfar’s soldiers across the face with a whip. When Geraint had defeated Edern he sent him to Arthur’s court to apologize for the insult offered.

He also occurs in the romance of Durmart le Galois as Ydier le fiz Nu. Queen Ginover (Gwenhwyfar) went out in his company one day to look at the chase, when Brun de Morois (the Du Moroedd of the Welsh Triads) came up and carried away the queen in spite of him, he being unarmed.

Geoffrey of Monmouth, as might be expected, introduces him, and states that in the celebrated expedition to the Continent by King Arthur against the Roman emperor, he went with 5,000 men to the aid of Gwalchmai (Walgan). His name is given in the Welsh text as Hydeir uab Mut.

S. EDEYRN, Abbot, Confessor

The late documents printed in the lolo MSS. make Edeyrn a son of Gwrtheyrn Gwrtheneu, or Vortigern. He is there said to have been a Saint of the congregation of S. Cadoc, and to have founded a cor or religious community that comprised three hundred members at a place in Glamorganshire, called Llanedeyrn or Llanedarn, on the banks of the river Rumney, near Cardiff.
In other passages he is called, by mistake, Aurdeyrn and Eurdeyrn ; and it is stated that he was son of Gwrtheyrn by his own daughter, that he lies buried at Llanedeyrn, and that his cor there ” was demolished by the Saxons in the time of Cadwaladr Fendigaid.”

Much difficulty exists relative to him.

Nennius says that Vortigern ‘had three sons, to wit, Guorthemir (Vortimer), who fought against the Saxons ; Catigern and Pascent, to whom Ambrosius, king of Britain, gave Buelt and Guorthigerniaun, after the death of their father ; also S. Faustus, his son by his own daughter, and whom Germanus baptized, fostered, and instructed, and for whom he built a city on the banks of the river Renis. It has been assumed that Faustus and Edeyrn are identical, Faustus being the Latin name, and Edeyrn the British ; and that the river Renis is the Rumney.

But it is impossible to fit in what is known of Faustus, Bishop of Riez, with Edeyrn, disciple of Cadoc.

The Welsh genealogists give to Gwrtheyrn other sons than those named by Nennius, who seems to have thought that Riez was a river, which he calls Renis.

The story as told by Nennius is as follows : — ‘Vortigern, as if desirous of adding to the evils he had originally occasioned, married his own daughter, by whom he had a son. When this was made known to S. Germanus, he came with all the British clergy to reprove him; and whilst a numerous assembly of the clerics and laity were in consultation, the feeble king ordered his daughter to appear before them, and to place her son in the lap of Germanus, and to assert that he (Germanus) was the father of the boy. And the woman did as instructed. Germanus received him benignantly and said : ‘I will be a father to you; now will I dismiss you till a razor, scissors and comb are given to me, and it is allowed you to deliver them to yoor carnal father.’ The boy obeyed, and going to his father Vortigern, said to him, ‘ Thou art my father, shave and cut the hair of my head.’ But he was silent, and made no reply to the lad, but rose up and was very angry, and fled from the presence of S. Germanus ; and he was cursed and damned by S. Germanus and by the whole council of the Britons.”

From what Nennius says it is clear that the boy was born after the invitation of the Jutes by Vortigem, and their settlement in Thanet.

Gwrtheryn invited the Jutes over in 449. He was then Gwledig or Over-king, and we can hardly suppose that at the time he was a young man.

Faustus of Riez was dected abbot of Lerins in 434. He could not have been younger than thirty-four at the time, and was probably some years older. He was born, at least, as early as 400.

Now, if Gwrtheyrn were the father of Faustus by incest with his own daughter, Gwrtheyrn cannot have been under the age of thirty- eight or forty in the year 400 when, approximately, Faustus was born. This would make his age eighty-seven or eighty-nine when he invited over the Jutes.

According to the story in Nennius, the child of incest was a mere child when put in the arms of Germanus.

If this Germanus were, as is generally assumed, the Bishop of Auxerre, then the incident took place in 447, on his second visit to Britain ; that is to say, thirteen years after Faustus had become abbot of Lerins.

If we set the event as taking place on the occasion of the first mission in 429, we are not much better off, for that would not allow of Faustus being old enough to be abbot in 434.

But, as we hope to show when dealing with Germanus, the Saint of that name who entered into contest with Gwrtheym was not the Bishop of Auxerre, who died in 448, but Germanus the Armorican, who died Bishop of Man in 474. As near as can be determined, the contest of this Germanus with Gwrtheyrn took place in 462-3. And that would be some sixty-three years after Faustus of Riez was bom. We may admit that Edeyrn was son of Gwrtheryn, born of incest, and that he was taken up by Germanus, and given a clerical education, and that he founded a church on the Rumney and died about 522, That he was with Cadoc is not possible.

Moreover, Edeyrn is regarded as a Saint who settled in Brittany. He is there supposed to have landed at Douarnenez, and to have pushed inland to a place since called Edern, by Briec ; and thence to have retreated farther into the central forest, and to have founded Lannedern, half way between Chateaulin and Huelgoat, where he died, and was buried. He had, however, as well, a plou near Landerneau at Plouedern. He is culted also at Plouescat on the north coast of Leon. At Plouedern is a statue of him representing him as a monk, head and feet bare, and with his hands joined. But he is usually figured as riding on a stag. He is so seen at Lannedern, and in a fine fifteenth century window at Plogonnec, near Douarnenez, where he came to land.

In Brittany he is never represented as a bishop, and that goes far to show that he was not identified with Faustus of Riez.

Before the French Revolution, a Life of the Saint in MS. was preserved at Plouedern, but it has perished.

Lobineau conjectured that Edeyrn was Eternus, Bishop of Domnachmor in Ireland, a contemporary of S. Patrick, but the conjecture was based on the similarity of the name, and on nothing else.

According to Garaby, the day of S. Edem is August 30. The Pardon at Plouedern is on the last Sunday in August, but at Edem on the third Sunday after Easter.

His festival occurs as November 11 in a few of the Welsh Calendars of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Nicolas Roscarrock also gives him on November 11, but he calls him a son of Caw, and says that his church is in Anglesey. He means Bodedern, which was a foundation of Edem ab Beli. There was no son of Caw called by that name. Browne Willis gives his festival at Llanedeym as November 23.1

Holy St Edeyrn, pray to God for us.
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