Posted by: anna | July 13, 2010

St Eurgain

Today (30 June) we commemorate St. Eurgain, foundress of Cor-Eurgain in Wales, later called Llantwit (6th C).

Miss Dunbar provides only: ‘Eurgain. Middle of 6th century. Daughter of Maelgwn Gwynedd, and wife of Elidyr Mwynfawr, founder of Llaneurgain, or Northop, in Flintshire. Rees, 261.’ A wikipedia article with good (i.e. extant) footnotes mentions that ‘Eurgain is said to be the daughter of Maelgwn Gwynedd and the wife of Elidyr Mwynfawr in one of the Trioedd y Meirch (English: Triads of the Horses).’

Baring-Gould & Fisher vol 2 p.474 and 416:

S, EURGAIN, Matron

EURGAIN was the daughter of Maelgwn Gwynedd and sister of Rhun, who succeeded him as king. She was the wife of Elidyr Mwyn-fawr ‘the Courteous’ one of the Men of the North who invaded Arfon during her brother’s reign, and was slain near Carnarvon. Elidyr had a remarkable horse. called Du y Moroedd (the Black One of the Seas), and Eurgain was one of the seven persons and a half that it is credited in the Triads with having carried on its back from Penllech Elidyr in the North to Penllech Elidyr in
There is a legend wherein Eurgain is said to have given certain wild birds a candle to show her lover the way.
To her is dedicated the church of Llaneurgain or Northop), in Flintshire. Her festival, which occurs in a good number of the Welsh Calendars from the fifteenth century down, is on June 29, and commonly appears as ‘Gwyl Bedr ac Eurgain,’ which will explain the dedication, SS. Peter and Eurgain, now generally given to the church. Tradition says that there once existed a Capel Eurgan in Llangian parish, Carnarvonshire, which may have been dedicated to her.
There is a large tumulus in the hamlet of Criccin, about a mile from the town of Rhuddlan, which has been supposed to cover her remains.
EIGEN, or Eigan, is supposed to have lived towards the end of the first century, and has the honour of having been esteemed the first female Saint among the Britons. She is only mentioned in documents that occur in the Iolo MSS. One of them states, ” Eigen, the daughter of Caradog ab Brin ab Llyr Llediaith, married a chieftain named Sarllog, who was lord of Caer Sarllog (Old Sarum), and she was the first female Saint of the Isle of Britain.” In another document her husband is said to have been ‘ Sallog, lord of Garth Mathrin’ ; and in other entries we are told that he was ” a Roman chieftain who accompanied her to Wales,” and that ‘Caer Sarllog was in Llandaff,
for thirty Saints, Sarllog being principal.” She had a brother, Cyllin, also a Saint.
In other passages in the same volume her name appears as Eurgen, Eurgain, and Eurgan. At Rome, she, together with her father, was ‘converted to the Faith in Christ by S. Ilid, a man of Israel, [elsewhere identified with Joseph of Arimathea] ; which Ilid came from Rome to this Island with Caradog and Eurgen, and they were the first that converted the Cymry to the Faith in Christ. Eurgen formed a cor for twelve Saints ; and Lies ab Coel gave possessions to that cor [for a hundred Saints], and after that it became the most eminent cor in the world. Illtyd made there three new cells through the endowment of Marcian [the Emperor]. Previously to this the place was called Bangor Lleufer Sant, and afterwards Bangor llltyd, and Llanilltyd.” Again, she founded the church and cor of Eigan in Caer Urgon, otherwise Caer Worgom, but later Llanilltyd. It was for twenty-four Saints, and was ultimately destroyed by the Saxons.
Eigen, or Eurgen, was thus the daughter who, with her mother and uncles, was taken captive to Rome, as related by Tacitus, and afterwards liberated with her father and friends.
All this story is pure fiction. Indeed, the Bran-Lucius Christianization-legend ‘ forms altogether what is perhaps (next to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s performances) the most impudent forgery in Welsh literature.’


oh hurRA! some kind person has made an online index of Baring-Gould & Fisher (site in French)

celt-saints dates Eurgain to the 1st century AD, conflating the saints whom Baring-Gould & Fisher separate out as Eigen and Eurgain. I am sorry to observe a certain amount of ecclesiastical political argument in this article, but if one happens not to agree with B-G & F, their flat dismissal of the legend of Eigen/Eurgain as made-up nonsense must be a bit galling. Fortunately I don’t think that matters – it can’t be proven either way, and we just have to go on what little ‘evidence’ is left.

Farmer’s Oxford Dictionary of Saints does not mention Eurgain.

The one thing that seems not to be disputed is, for once, the spelling of her name! Funny pronunciation for English speakers this one – Welsh diphthongs… the first syllable should sound more or less like ‘air’ and the second should rhyme with ‘line’. The g in Welsh is always hard (go), and r is always trilled.

Holy Saint Eurgain, holy Saint Eigen, pray to God for us.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: