The Story of Melangell

Santes Dwynwen is over for this year, but the season of lovers isn’t! Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! For those of you who would rather celebrate Valentine’s Day than Santes Dwynwen (or for hard-core romantics who celebrate both) we thought we could celebrate the season with a tale of another Welsh patron saint of love.

This is the story of Santes Melangell, who shows us a different kind of love.

Melangell, or in Latin, Monacella, was an Irish princess who lived in the 7th century. She was a very devout young lady, in the tradition of Celtic Christianity, which was very much inspired by the early Christian movement of the desert hermits from Egypt. So when her father wanted to give her away in marriage, Monacella did what came naturally to her: she crossed the sea, fled to Wales, and established herself in Powys as a hermit, where for many years she lived the life of a holy woman.

When she had lived there peacefully for some 15 years, a hunting party passed by, led by king Brochwel Ysgithrog, the prince of Powys. They were hunting a hare, and the hare fled under Melangell’s cloak and hid there. The prince ruthlessly tried to make his hounds go after the little animal, but they refused. The hare was safe with Melangell.

Brochwel was moved and intrigued by this young woman, who had such a strong loving, protective presence that, when she was near, animals would stop hunting each other. According to legend, she was also extremely beautiful. Brochwel proposed marriage to her, but she refused, explaining her calling as a hermit. Brochwel’s advances must have been sincere, because not only did he respect her calling, he also donated a piece of land to her. Other young women came to live with her, and before long, there was a small monastic community near Pennant in Powys. Whoever fled to this place was given sanctuary, human and animal alike, especially the hares, also called wyn Melangell, ‘St. Melangell’s lambs’. For centuries, and until today, pilgrims came to visit the place and her grave, where she was reputed to give healing. During the reformation the place was ruined, but in the 20th century during renovations, the saint’s bones were found, and the sanctuary restored.

Silver Melangell Pendant Silver Melangell Pendant

To celebrate this lover and patroness of animals, Rhiannon made a special pendant in early Celtic Christian style. In the middle there is a Celtic cross, which is reminiscent of the rays of the sun.

This solar cross is surrounded by three running hares, ‘Melangell’s lambs’.

For all those who love animals and want to protect them.

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