Posted by: anna | May 4, 2010

St Beuno

Today (21 April) we commemorate St. Beuno (pronounced like bayno rather than byoo-no), abbot of Clynnog Fawr (ca. 640). From Stanton’s Menology:

St. Beuno is mentioned in the Acts of St Winefride as her uncle and the spiritual guide of her early years. He was the founder of the Monastery of Clunnock Vaur, in Caernarvonshire, which in later times passed into the hands of the Cistercians, and possessed one of the finest churches in Wales. It was in this retreat that he was called to his everlasting rest. The ancient day of his commemoration is not known ; but the 21st April was assigned to it by Pope Pius IX, in favour of the College of the Society of Jesus, which bears his name, near St. Asaph.

The Catholic Encyclopedia is little more forthcoming with details: ‘Abbot of Clynnog, d. 660(?), was, according to the “Bucced Beuno”, born in Powis-land and, after education and ordination in the monastery of Bangor, in North Wales, became an active missioner, Cadvan, King of Gwynedd, being his generous benefactor. Cadwallon, Cadvan’s son and successor, deceived Beuno about some land, and on the saint demanding justice proved obdurate. Thereupon, Cadwallon’s cousin Gweddeint, in reparation, “gave to God and Beuno forever his township”, where the saint (c. 616) founded the Abbey of Clynnog Fawr (Carnarvonshire).

‘Beuno became the guardian and restorer to life of his niece, the virgin St. Winefride, whose clients still obtain marvellous favours at Holywell (Flintshire). He was relentless with hardened sinners, but full of compassion to those in distress. Before his death “on the seventh day of Easter” he had a wondrous vision. Eleven churches bearing St. Beuno’s name, with various relics and local usages, witness to his far-reaching missionary zeal. He is commemorated on the 21st of April.’

And indeed the Jesuits still run the Ignatian Spirituality Centre named for St Beuno, in St Asaph in north Wales. It puts me in mind of ‘Britain’s only residential library, St Deiniol’s, not far from Chester.


There is a much longer life in Baring-Gould & Fisher, usefully edited by EBK, and celt-saints provides a good summary. For once Baring-Gould leaves in the miracles (Beuno seems to have been good at restoring heads to shoulders) though he dismisses them as ‘irrational mythmaking of the people.’ Perhaps it’s Fisher’s influence that they are left in at all… Beuno is the patron saint of sick children and cattle. There are lots of pictures of the beautiful church of St Beuno at Clynnog Fawr on e.g. flickr.
A Herefordshire village illustrates nicely the pronunciation of Beuno: Llanveynoe. Obviously a very Welsh name with funny English spelling, starting with Llan (church); then v rather than b, the result of initial consonant mutation from b to f, and then a single f is pronounced like v (the f sound is represented by ff). So really it’s a ‘phonetic’ spelling of what in Welsh would be Llanfeuno – similar Clunnock Vaur for Clynnog Fawr. There’s lots of Welsh still used in Herefordshire as it’s so close to Wales. Here’s a useful BBC introduction to Welsh place names. If you want to get tangled up in the pleasant knots of Welsh pronunciation, have a go with the wikibook!
Holy Saint Beuno, pray to God for us.

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