Tewdrig, Hermit of Tintern

April 1 is the Feast of Tewdrig, Hermit of Tintern
“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.”
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!”
Tintern, the ruined Tintern Abbey

“Tewdrig or Tewdrig ap Teithfallt (also Tewdric, Latinized Theodoric; fl. sixth century) was a king of the post-Roman Kingdom of Glywysing. He abdicated in favour of his son Meurig and retired to live a hermitical life, but was recalled to lead his son’s army against an intruding Saxon force. He won the battle, but was mortally wounded.
The context of the battle is one of Britons versus invading Saxons, without explicit religious overtones. However, since Tewdrig held to a religious lifestyle and was killed while defending a Christian kingdom against pagans, by the standards of that day Tewdrig is considered to be a martyr and a saint. The Latin form of his name is given as ‘Theodoric’ and his feast day is April 1. Tewdrig’s name appears in a genealogy of Jesus College MS 20, in the line of one of his descendants, but the only substantive information about the person comes from the twelfth century Book of Llandaff.
The Book of Llandaff places Tewdrig’s story in the territory of the historical Kingdom of Gwent (the southeastern part of modern Monmouthshire), though it states that he was a king of Glywysing. The ancient histories of the kingdoms of Gwent and Glywysing are intertwined, and he may have ruled both kingdoms.
Tewdrig’s father, Teithfallt, had also been a king, and the Book of Llandaff notes that during his reign the Saxons had devastated the border regions, chiefly to the northwest near Hereford (i.e., in the historical Kingdom of Ergyng), and also along the River Wye.
While king of Glywysing, Tewdrig ap Teithfallt had been a patron of the Church at Llandaff, with a history of success in battle. At some point in his reign, he abdicated in favour of his son Meurig in order to live a hermitical life at Tintern, a rocky place near a ford across the River Wye. However, when a Saxon threat to the kingdom emerged, he returned to lead a defence. He was successful, but at a battle or skirmish at or near the ford (called Rhyd Tintern), he was mortally wounded. He asked to be taken to Ynys Echni (called Flat Holm in English) for burial, but got no further than Mathern on an inlet of the Severn estuary, where he languished briefly and died. King Meurig built a church on the spot and buried his father’s body there, giving the surrounding land to the Bishops of Llandaff; a bishops’ palace was later built there. The place became known first as Merthyr Tewdrig (“the burial-place of Tewdrig”), and later as Mateyrn (“place of a king”) or Mathern. Tewdrig’s defence of his homeland was said to be sufficiently decisive that the Saxons would not dare to invade again for thirty years.
There is a minor hagiographic element in this story from the Book of Llandaff. On returning to secular service due to military necessity, Tewdrig is given the prophecy that he will be successful but will be mortally wounded; that a vehicle pulled by two stags, yoked, will appear and carry him towards his destination of Ynys Echni, but that he will die in peace three days after the battle. Wherever the stags halted, fountains gushed forth, but as they approached the Severn the wagon was broken, a very clear stream gushed forth and here Tewdric died.
Book of Llandaff
The Liber Landavensis – The Book of Llandaff

A number of sources, such as Ussher’s Brittanicarum Ecclesiarum Antiquitates (1639), cite Bishop Godwin’s 1615 account of the medieval church at Mathern. Godwin said that he discovered a stone coffin by the altar in the church, containing the saint’s bones, and that the skull was badly fractured. Ussher also repeats the account of the Book of Llandaff. In 1958 Hando also recounts the story told to him by an old lady who had lived in Mathern and who claimed to have seen for herself, in 1881, the stone coffin bearing the remains of St. Tewdrig with his mortal wound (a hole in the skull made by a spear-point) still visible.”


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