Posted by: anna | April 14, 2011

St Tewdric of Tintern

Today (1 April) is the feast of St Mary of Egypt, and in the calendar of early saints of the British Isles we commemorate St Tewdric (Tewdrig, Theodoric) of Tintern, martyr-hermit. From Baring Gould & Fisher:
Tewdrig (Teudiric, Teudubric, Theodric, Dietrich, Thierry) was the son of Teithpall or Teithfall, and the father of Meurig, King of Morganwg. What is really known of him we derive from the Book of Llan Dav.
Tewdrig in his old age surrendered the rule over Morganwg to his son Meurig, and retired to live an eremitical life at Dindyrn, now Tintern, on the Wye, where he found a rock suitable for him to make a cell in it.
While he was there, the Saxons burst in on Gwent, and the old king took up arms again to repel them ; for it was said of him that he had been ever victorious in all battles.
An angel had appeared to him and said, ” Go to-morrow to the aid of the people of God against the enemies of the Church of Christ, and the foe will turn to flight as far as Pull Brochuail (now Brockweir above Tintern Parva). And do thou fully armed stand in the front of the battle, and when the foe see thy face they will fly as usual. And thenceforth for thirty years, during the reign of thy son, they will not venture into the land, and its inhabitants will be in peace. But thou wilt receive a wound at Ryt Tindyrn (the ford of Tintern) and wilt die three days after.”
So Tewdrig, fully harnessed, mounted his horse and stood at the head of the troops to defend the ford over the Wye. The Saxons were put to flight, but one of them hurled a lance across the water and wounded the old king.
When it was perceived that the wound was mortal, his men were for removing him, but he forbade them to do so, and said that he would die there, and that he had desired his body to rest in the Isle of Echni, the Flat Holm, in the Severn Sea.
On the morrow, however, appeared two stags harnessed to a wagon, and Tewdrig, recognizing that they were sent by the will of God, allowed himself to be lifted into the conveyance. The wagon carried him to the bank of the Severn and there stayed, and on the spot a sparkling spring began to flow. Then suddenly the wagon dissolved, and Tewdrig gave up the ghost.
Meurig erected an oratory on the spot, which was blessed by S. Oudoceus. The spot was Mathern, below Chepstow ; there the old king was laid, and not conveyed, as he had desired, to Echni.
The land around was made over to Oudoceus for the monastery of Llandaff, and in later times the Bishops had a palace there, for about three centuries. In the Church, on the south wall of the chancel, is a tablet set up in memory of Tewdrig, with an inscription in English by Bishop Godwin (1601-18). Godwin in excavating discovered a stone coffin containing the almost perfect skeleton of the saint, and a ghastly fracture in the skull showed plainly the cause of death. At the restoration of the chancel in 1881 the stone coffin with the bones was again found beneath the tablet.
Mathern Church is still dedicated to S. Tewdrig, and was formerly known as Merthyr Tewdrig, his Martyrium.
What were the incursions of the Saxons referred to at an interval of thirty years we do not know. The Saxons did not invade the Severn Valley and destroy Gloucester till 577 ; but the reference is to earlier piratical expeditions by sea into the Bristol Channel, unrecorded in history.
The royal hermit of Tintern is credited with having founded the churches of Bedwas, Llandow, and Merthyr Tydfil. The Hermitage of Theodoric, on the east of the old mouth of the river Afan, near Aberavon, in Glamorganshire, frequently mentioned in mediaeval documents from the middle of the twelfth century, relating to Margam Abbey, appears to have been named after a hermit of noble birth who lived in the early part of the twelfth century. Its ruins were recently discovered.
William of Worcester, who lived in the fifteenth century, says, ” Sanctus Theodoricus rex et martir, cujus pater fuit fundator ecclesiae cathedralis de Landaff, primo die Aprilis dedicatur duplex festum.” Allwydd Paradwys and Wilson give January 3 as the day of S. Tewdrig. Bishop Miles Salley of Llandaff (1500-17) in his will directed “his heart and bowels to be deposited at the High Altar of the Church at Matherne, before the image of S. Theodorick.”
The following notice of Tewdrig occurs in the ” Genealogy of lestyn ab Gwrgan”: ” Tewdrig ab Teithfallt was an eminently good king, who drove the infidel Saxons and the Goidels out of the country. He founded many churches and colleges, endowing them with possessions. He founded a church at Llandaff on the spot where stood the church of Lies (Lucius) ab Coel, which was burnt down by the infidels, and endowed it with extensive lands ; he also gave property to Cor Illtyd, and instituted there four fair establishments for the votaries of religion and learning. It was through him that Illtyd brought S. Garmon to Wales ; for Cor Eurgain had now been almost entirely destroyed by the Saxons ; but a new and contiguous one was established by lUtyd through the gifts and affection of Tewdrig. … S. Garmon then founded a college at Llancarfan, after which the Saxons made a second irruption into the country, but they were opposed and vanquished by Tewdrig, who, however, was slain in the engagement, at the place called Merthyr Tewdrig.”
The document is of the seventeenth century, and these statements are only partially authentic.
Prince de Glamorgan, tu résignas ta charge,*
Laissant ton fils Meurig gouverner le pays,*
Et tu allas à Tintern pour vivre en ermite.*
Mais lors de l’invasion des Saxons, tu revins*
Et tu naquis au Ciel en défendant ton peuple.*
Saint Tewdric, prie le Christ d’avoir pitié de nous!
Troparion to St Tewdric, prince and hermit
Prince of Glamorgan, you resigned your office, *
Leaving your son Meurig to govern the country, *
And you went at Tintern to live as a hermit .*
But upon the invasion of the Saxons, you returned *
And you were born in heaven while defending your people .*
Holy Tewdric, pray to Christ to have mercy on us!
Holy St Tewdric, pray to God for us.
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