Cenydd, Hermit of Wales
July 1 is the commemoration of Cenydd, Hermit of Wales.
Cenydd (probably 6th century, also known as Keneth, modern Welsh Cennydd, modern English Kenneth, French Kinède) was a sanctified Christian hermit of the Gower Peninsula, Wales, where place-name evidence indicates he was the founder of the church of Llangennith. In Brittany his cultus is centred on Languidic: he also had a chapel at Ploumelin. He should not be confused with Saint Kenneth (or Canice), the Irish saint popular in Scotland.
Liturgical calendars and place-name evidence suggest the historical existence of Cenydd. His legend, however, is too late and too obviously derivative to be relied upon. According to Welsh sources collected in the 15th century by John Capgrave and published in the Nova Legenda Angliae, Cenydd was a Breton prince, the son of King ‘Dihoc’ (presumably Deroch II of Domnonée) born of incest apparently at Loughor in Glamorgan while his father was attending King Arthur.
A cripple, Cenydd was placed in a cradle made of osiers and cast into the estuary of the River Loughor (a fate that befell several early British saints) and eventually landed on Worm’s Head island, Ynys Weryn. Seagulls and angels with a miraculous breast-shaped bell ensured that he survived and was educated as a Christian.
He became a hermit, his only companion being an untrustworthy servant whose dishonesty was revealed when he stole a spear from one of a group of robbers who had been hospitably received by his master. In 545 Saint David later cured Cenydd while travelling to the Synod of Brefi but he preferred to remain as he was born and prayed for his infirmity to be restored.
An incised stone monument featuring images apparently of the Cenydd legend was discovered during renovation work at St Mungo’s Church, Dearham (Cumbria) in the 1880s and is displayed there as ‘the Kenneth Stone’. The Saint’s connection with Cumbria is currently unexplained.
According to the unreliable Iolo Morganwg, Cenydd was a son of Gildas, and married and had a son before entering Llanilltud Fawr as a monk under Saint Illtud.
Cenydd’s feast day is celebrated at Llangennith on 5 July (colloquially referred to as his ‘Mapsant day’, from the Welsh words ‘sant’ – holy, and ‘mab’ – son: see also ‘Gŵyl Mabsant’). Up to the early twentieth century the festival was traditionally marked by the displaying of an effigy of a bird from a pole on the church tower, symbolising the legendary birds who cared for the infant Cenydd, and the consumption of whitepot or ‘milked meat’ a dish made of flour, milk, sugar and dried fruits, not unlike a rice pudding or bread and butter pudding (see also Cuisine of Gower). The practice has been revived in recent years. William Worcester also records the feast of his translation, apparently to somewhere in North Wales, on 27 June.”
St. Cenydd’s Church, Llangennith
“The current church of St Cennydd’s fabric is dated from the 11th to 14th century, built on the site, of St Cennydd’s Priory. Which has been a place of worship for over 1500 hundred years.
The present church was consecrated in 1102 – when Norman war-lords were building castles and churches all over the Gower Peninsula.
The church is custodian of several stone artefacts, and contains a significant Norman Font, an effigy of a 13th-century Knight in Armour, and what is said to be the grave slab of St Cennydd.
A recently rediscovered medieval niche in the chancel arch, displays a significant carved slab of around the 9th century, featuring intricate Celtic knots. This is said to be the former grave stone of St Cenydd. Until the nineteenth century remodelling of the church, the stone slab was set flat in the chancel floor.
“St. Cenydd was the original Gower boy who made good. Legend has it he was born in the sixth century with a withered leg, cast adrift in a basket on the Loughor estuary, rescued by gulls and reared by angels. Our local boy grew up to found St. Cenydd’s priory which accounts for the present building being the largest parish church in Gower.
The Danes burnt it, but our church survives, dominated by its massive 13th century stone tower with saddleback roof. Now wall-mounted inside, a carved slab is reputed to have marked the grave of the saint.”
“S. Cenydd’s day was observed in Llangennith on July 5, and was the greatest and most popular of all the Gower Mabsants or wakes. One of its peculiarities was the great quantity of what is called in Gower ” milked meat,” or ” white pot,” a mixture of flour and milk boiled together, that was consumed, probably in allusion to the bringing up of the Saint in infancy on the milk of a doe injected into a bell. This bell is said to have been called by the Welsh ” Cloch Dethog,” i.e. the Titty Bell.
An ancient stone, with interlaced work on one side only, in the centre of the chancel floor of Llangennith church, has been supposed to mark the grave of the Saint.
S. Caradog, at the close of the eleventh century went into Gower, and found there the church of S. Cenydd abandoned and desolate, and he cleared the sacred edifice of the brambles that had occupied it. It is probable, therefore, that the elevation or translation took place about this time.
Whether Lesnewth church, in Cornwall, which is said by Ecton to have been dedicated to S. Knet, had originally Keneth or Cenydd as its founder, it is impossible to say. S. Michael is now considered the patron. The church, which was early Norman and of great interest,
has been wantonly rebuilt in a most uninteresting manner.”
“Gwyl Mabsant (referred to colloquially as Mapsant Day from the Welsh words “sant” – holy, and “mab” – son) is the feast day of Saint Cenydd, celebrated at Llangennith, Gower on 5th July. Recent years have seen a revival of the traditional way the festival was marked up until the early twentieth century, by displaying an effigy of a bird from a pole on the church tower. The said bird, as legend goes, symbolises the legendary seagulls, who saved the cripple Cenydd after he had been cast out to sea as a consequence of being born of an incestuous relationship at the court of King Arthur at Llougor. Apparently, the seagulls (along with a couple of angels and a miraculous breast-shaped bell known locally as the “titty-bell”) also cared for Cenydd during his youth spent on Worm’s Head, and ensured that he survived and was educated as a Christian.”
“Not to be confused with the saint of the same name who was Irish and popular in Scotland, Cenydd was a Christian hermit of the Gower Peninsula in Wales where place-name evidence indicates he was the founder of the church of Llangennyth. Stories about his origins are probably only legendary, recalling as they do the story of Moses in the basket. However, there are some elements of his story that are probably more reliable historically. It is fairly certain he was a cripple and a hermit. (It is said that after being cured by St David in 545, he returned to life as a hermit and prayed for his healing to be revoked.)
Cenydd’s Feast Day is marked on 5 July. Up to the early twentieth century the festival was traditionally marked by the displaying of an effigy of a bird from a pole on the church tower, symbolising the legendary birds who cared for the infant Kenny, and the consumption of whitepot or ‘milked meat’ a dish made of flour, milk, sugar and dried fruits, not unlike a rice pudding or bread and butter pudding. It is thought he died on 27th June.”