22 February 2009

'Dewi Sant's Fellow Pilgrim'—St Teilo of Llandaff, Wales


Today, 22 February according to the original Orthodox calendar, we commemorate St Teilo (c. 500-560), bishop of Llandaff, Wales, a contemporary and cousin of St David (Dewi) of Wales (David Nash Ford calls them ‘close companions’). According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, ‘Sir John Rhys thinks that his true name was Eliau or Eilliau [Eliud is also mentioned]; in Latin it usually appears as Teliarus, in Breton as Teliau, and in French as Télo.’ St Teilo received his education from St Dubricius (Dyfrig) and St Paulinus, and was placed in charge of the school at the monastery in Llandaff, a dependancy of St Dubricius’s monastery of Mochros. At some point St Teilo went with St Aeddan (brother of St Gildas the Wise), St David, and Ysfael (?) to Mynyw, where St David founded a monastery. At EBK we find the following wonderful story said to have taken place there:

An old tale is often told of how, while Teilo and Aeddan were reading in the cloister at Mynyw (St. Davids), they were called upon to replenish the monastery's fuel stores. Annoyed at having been drawn away from their studies, the two monks took their axes off to the woods; but found their task much easier than expected when two tame stags aided them in carrying the wood home.


Thanks to this story, it seems that St Teilo is often depicted in Brittany riding upon a stag (see the Breton statue above). The CE tells us that he is said to have gone with St Paternus on pilgrimage to the Holy Land c. 518 and to have been consecrated a bishop by Patriarch John III of Jerusalem (516-524), though Nash Ford claims it was Rome and the Pope. But it is true that St Teilo was consecrated at some point, because he replaced St Dubricius at his see when the latter withdrew to Bardsey Island to live in solitude and hesychia. During this period, St Teilo probably had his see at Llandeilo Fawr (‘Llandeilo’ meaning ‘Teilo’s Church’), where he founded a monastery.

In about 549, St Teilo fled with much of his flock to Brittany, where they were given hospitality by St Samson of Dol. According to Nash Ford:

From here, Teilo was persuaded by his brother-in-law, King Budic II, to join him in Cornouaille and save the country from the ravages of a winged dragon. Teilo supposedly tamed the creature and kept it tied to a rock in the sea. He stayed in Cornouaille for seven years, but eventually he felt it time to go back to Llandeilo Fawr—with his nephews, Ysfael and Tyfai—attending King Gerren upon his return.


St Teilo was away for a total of seven years and seven months before returning to Wales. After his return he acquired a reputation for exceptional holiness and attracted many disciples to Llandeilo. He reposed there around 560, and his relics were so coveted that they were said to have miraculously multiplied, being kept at Penally, Llandeilo, and Llandaff, in the cathedral of the last of which, according to Nash Ford, ‘His tomb can still be seen to the right of the high altar . . . , while his head is still kept enshrined in the south chapel.’ Unfortunately, the modern town of Llandeilo has done its Saint the terrible dishonour of posting a sceptical, condescending article on its patron Saint, more useful for illustrating the ongoing loss of Christian faith in Britain than for learning about St Teilo.

St Teilo is perhaps even more venerated in Brittany, where some of his relics were distributed. Concerning these, the CE tells us, ‘Today they are venerated at Landeleau (Finistère), Plogonnac (Finistère), and Saint Télo (Côtes-du-Nord). Five parish churches in Brittany are dedicated to him (Landeleau, Leuhan, Montertelot, Plédéliac, and Saint Télo) as well as a chapel between Plogonnac and Locronan.’
Here are a troparion and kontakion to the Saint, taken from this site:

Troparion, Tone 4: As a fountain of the true Faith, thou didst issue forth the life-giving waters of salvation, O Hierarch Teilo. Wherefore, we implore thee, intercede with Christ our God that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion, Tone 1: O teacher of pure doctrine, joy of monastics and Dewi Sant's fellow pilgrim to Jerusalem, where thou wast elevated to the episcopate, most pious Father Teilo, we keep festival in thy honour, praying for grace to follow in thy footsteps.

2 comments:

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

Cool! You have to check out Al Evans' site: Mary in Monmouth. Especially the post Guardians of the Skirrid - St Teilo at Llandeilo Bertholau. He's got a great site, full of pictures of all these various shrines of Mary and other churches and other sacred sites in Monmouthshire (SE Wales), and elsewhere. I've just started reading it a few months ago. It's educational. And pretty, too.

aaronandbrighid said...

Thanks, Kevin. That looks like a pretty neat site!