Posted by: anna | April 11, 2010

St. Gladys and St. Gwynllyn, parents of St. Cadoc

Today (29 March) we commemorate St. Gladys and St. Gwynllyn, parents of St. Cadoc (Cadfael). In fact they have separate entries in Baring-Gould, so today I will concentrate on St Gladys, or Gwladys as the full Welsh spelling should be. And what a cracking story it is. Another of the many daughters of King Brychan – Arthurian legends and everything. Full Mabinogi and jawbones of deacons Brythonic battles stuff. A royal pair who produce a saintly son and eventually repent of their worldly ways and end up as church-founding monastics. And even Margam Abbey turns up, of which I have fond memories because of having to translate title deeds pertaining to its vast land holdings while at Aberystwyth; o the joys of medieval Welsh spelling, idiosyncratic abbreviations and initial consonantal mutations!
S. GWLADYS, Matron
GWLADYS was one of the many daughters of Brychan, and the wife of Gwynllyw Filwr, King of Gwynllywg, by whom she became the mother of Cadoc and others. John of Tynemouth, in his Life of S. Keyna, mentions her as Brychan’s ” primogenita filia.”
There are two very different accounts as to how Gwynllyw obtained Gwladys for his wife. That in his Life is commonplace enough. Having “heard of the gentleness and beauty” of Gwladys, he sent ambassadors to Brychan asking him that she might become his wife, and he was accepted as an eligible suitor without ado.
In the other account, given in the prologue to the Life of her son, S. Cadoc, Gwynllyw is said to have carried her off by force. She was of “very high reputation, elegant in appearance, beautiful in form, and adorned with silk vestments.” He sent messengers to Brychan “earnestly requesting that she should be given to him in marriage; but Brychan was angry, and, full of rage, refused to betroth his daughter, and slighted the messengers.” Gwynllyw thereupon “armed as many as three hundred slaves, who should take the young lady away by force.” They came to Brychan’s court at Talgarth, ” and found the young lady before the door of her residence, sitting with her sisters, and passing the time in modest conversation ; whom they immediately took by force, and returned with speed.”
Brychan followed in hot pursuit, “whom when Gwynllyw saw, he frequently ordered the said young lady to be brought forward, and he made her ride with him ; and not flying, but taking her slowly on horseback, he preceded his army, waited for his soldiers, and manfully exhorted them to battle.” He arrived safely with her at the hill Boch riu earn (now Vochriw) , which formed the boundary between Brycheiniog and Gwynllywg. Sitting on top of the hill happened to be King Arthur with his two knights, Cai and Bedwyr, playing dice, and they observed what was taking place. “Arthur was immediately seized with love towards the lady,” but his companions dissuaded him from taking her away from her captor, and, on learning that Gwynllyw was within his own territory, they ” rushed upon his enemies, who, turning their backs, fled with great confusion to their own country.” Thus, with the assistance of Arthur, Gwynllyw brought his prize triumphantly “to his palace that was on that hill,” which was afterwards called Allt Wynllyw.
“King Gwynllyw united himself in lawful wedlock” to Gwladys, and “four lamps were seen shining every night, with great brightness, in the four corners of the house where she remained, until she brought forth her first-born son,” Cadoc.
The same Life, further on, does not speak favourably of Gwynllyw and Gwladys. Gwynllyw, now advancing in years, still clung to his free-booting habits, and otherwise “disgraced his life with crimes.” Cadoc was grieved at hearing this, and sent three of his faithful disciples to try to prevail upon him to mend his ways. Gwladys reasoned with her husband, “Let us trust to our son, and he will be a father to us in heaven.” He gave way, and they both “confessed their crimes with the satisfaction of penance.” They now devoted themselves to religion, and in expiation of their sins, ” Gwladys built for herself a church in Pencarnou ; Gwynllyw also soon erected another monastery.” Pencarnou is probably to be identified with Penearn, in the parish of Bassaleg, Monmouthshire. On a cliff overlooking the River Ebbw is an old building which has been converted into two cottages, called Rock Cottages. This is supposed to have been her church. The old people of the neighbourhood used to say that they had always heard that there had been a church there, with a graveyard attached. A large mound behind the cottages is thought to be her grave. Her spring is in Tredegar Park.
The church that Gwynllyw erected was Eglwys Wynllyw, now known as S. Woolos, in Newport, close to which he had his dwelling, and near it, on ” the bank of the Ebod ” or Ebbw, as stated in the Life of S. Gwynllyw, Gwladys had her abode. Here ” they both lived religiously and abstemiously,” and bore their penance, ” enjoying the fruits of their own labour.”
The situation of another church dedicated to S. Gwladys is well known, viz. Eglwys Wladys, or Capel Gwladys, on Gelligaer Mountain, about two miles to the north of Gelligaer Church. It has been in ruins for many centuries, but its foundations, consisting of west tower, nave and chancel, within an enclosure, are still visible. It was privately occupied “as a house” in 1584. The parish attached to it now forms part of the parish of Gelligaer, the parish church of which is dedicated to S. Cadoc.
To her is dedicated also the modern parish church of Bargoed, formed out of Gelligaer in 1904. Forest Gwladys is on Gelligaer Mountain, Llwyn Gwladys in Llangynwyd, and Bryn Gwladys in Pentyrch. Edward Lhuyd gives Croes Wladys among the crosses of Bangor Iscoed, but this cannot have been named after Brychan’s daughter.

2011 update – troparion from M Lopez-Ginisty at acathistes et offices orthodoxes
Reine dans un royaume du Pays de Galles,*
Tu menas une vie bien peu édifiante,*
Mais lorsque tu fus veuve, ton fils saint Cadoc*
Sut te convaincre de mener une vie sainte.*
Ermite, tu vécus et mourus en prière.*
Sainte Gladys, prie Dieu pour qu’Il sauve nos âmes!

As queen of a kingdom of Wales*

You led an unedifying life, *
But when you were widowed, your holy son Cadoc *
Was able to convince you to live a holy life .*
As a hermit, you lived and reposed in prayer.*
Holy Gwladys, pray to God that our souls be saved!

Holy Saints Gwladys, Gwynllyw and Cadoc, pray to God for us.
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