REVIEWS AND COMMENTS ON 'THE BOOK OF WELSH SAINTS'

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Extract from an email from Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, and former Archbishop of Wales

 …the book is a really extraordinary achievement: a compilation of tradition, topography and literary detective work that can have few rivals (you can quote me if you like!) I have enjoyed browsing in it enormously, and have picked up all sorts of new lines to follow up…


Review from 'Cambria', January 2001:

'Another work from the prolific pen of Terry Breverton who is blazing a trail in producing bodies of knowledge about Welsh heritage and history. The Book of Welsh Saints is an enormous work of research and will provide a welcome and ready book of reference to the men and women who in Tad Deiniol's words "created Wales". The much bandied term "The Dark Ages" may well have meant just that east of the Severn, but to us this period is the Age of Saints. And there are hundreds of them - over 900 in fact - monks, scholars, warriors, missionaries. Breverton places Arthur firmly in the context of Welsh history and shows how the seminal folk legends of European romance and literature originate in Wales. We see Wales at the very heart and very root of western Christian civilisation, a pre-eminent position from which it was thrown down by greedy, rapacious invaders who not only usurped its legacy but traduced its memory with sickening arrogance and chilling contempt.'


Meic Stephens, in 'The Western Mail Magazine', April 7th, 2001

Terry Breverton belongs to that rare breed of Welshmen who stake their livelihood on trying to publish books in which they passionately believe. His imprint Glyndwr Publishing/Wales Books has already made its mark on the Welsh publishing scene by bringing out substantial and handsomely produced books on Welsh subjects, particularly local history. He was born in the Vale of Glamorgan, to which he has returned after many years as a management consultant in Britain and overseas. He is the author of several useful books such as An A-Z of Wales and the Welsh and One Hundred Great Welshmen. What drives him as a publisher is the belief that the Welsh people have been deprived of their own history. He aims to provide the information that will make them proud of their country. If that means he has to lose some money, he thinks it's well worth it……

An   impressive work is Terry Breverton's Book of Welsh Saints, which lists over 900 saints - those holy men who lived as ascetics and hermits in the first centuries after Christ and to whom, so often, miracles were attributed. These men were the first representatives of Rome in Celtic Britain and their names and places of worship still reverberate throughout our history and dot the landscape, reminding ourselves of a civilisation which went into the making of the Welsh landscape. There are informative notes on Saint Cewydd (the Welsh equivalent of St Swithin), Patrick (who became the patron saint of Ireland), and many another saint remembered only because there is a village called Llan, followed by his name. (I am reminded that the awful, corrupted name Llantwit seems to be named after a saint called Twit - surely its time the people of that splendid village rose up and demanded the correct form Illtud). The book was written with one eye on the potential tourist market, because it argues in favour of celebrating the saints' days in villages the length of Wales. We shall learn about this when a Breton pilgrimage visits Wales next summer, walking from place to place where saints are commemorated.'


Dr Peter Williams, Ninnau (USA), November 1, 2000

Did you know that the Welsh have a St Elvis? According to local tradition, St David was baptised by his cousin St Elvis at a church near Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire, where St Elvis Parish is now the smallest in Great Britain. Within the Parish is also St Elvis Farm, St Elvis Holy Well, and St Elvis Cromlech (prehistoric tomb). Off the coast at Solva are the St Elvis Rocks.

St Elvis is only one of hundreds of Welsh saints of the 5th and 6th century, a time when the light of Christianity shone brightly in Wales after having been extinguished over all of Europe, a time when England was still pagan. It was a time when Christianity itself was in danger of disappearing, the survival of the church in Wales creating a bastion from which Ireland was first converted, and from the Irish missionaries, the rest of Europe.

Over one hundred Welsh saints are associated with the leader Arthur, long before the legends had taken hold in France. It was a time when the stories of Arthur and Guinevere, of the Holy Grail, Tristan and Isolde, Merlin, the Fisher King, the Black Knight, the Green Knight, and of all the famous knights associated with Camelot and Avalon came into being, and all originating in Wales. Wales certainly seems to have not only the oldest surviving language in Europe, but also the oldest Christian heritage; for in the first millennium it was accepted by Rome as the "cradle of the Christian Church".

The unique historical importance of Wales has for too long been neglected until now. An important book in putting the record straight is "The Book of Welsh Saints", listing over 900 saints… it gives not only their history but the historical background of each saint, their feast-days and Feast Weeks and the religious events associated with them.

The book is a veritable gold mine of information. Its appendices give the derivation of Welsh place-names, the location of Roman sites in Wales, a time-line of the Age of Saints, a discussion of the language problem, and even an essay on the state of parliamentary representation in Wales.

The book is a must for anyone interested in the history of the Church in Wales, indeed for anyone interested in learning the glorious heritage bequeathed to them from the time when Wales was the only Christian country in the world.

'The Book of Welsh Saints' is an excellent publication - conscientious, clear, intelligent and, where necessary, modern - Hywel Davies, Upper Robeston, Milford Haven SA73 3TL

'I was delighted to receive a copy of your wonderful book, 'The Book of Welsh Saints'… Congratulations on your research… a lovely book' - Peter Williams, britannia.com, 211 Murray Rd., Newark, Delaware 19711

A most useful resource for our retreats on Celtic spirituality - Nia Rhosier, Ty Nen Gapel John Hughes, Pont Robert, Meifod, Maldwyn, Powys SY22 6JA


Western Mail 17th November 2000

An Age When Saints Could Be Counted in the Hundreds by Phil Davies

Is there truth in the notion that to build a country anew one has to know something of the glory of the past? Perhaps this is why children are growing up knowing more about Alfred the Great, Henry VIII, Agincourt, Nelson and Churchill than figures in Welsh history.

So T.D. Breverton's new offering, The Book of Welsh Saints, is another rallying call to Wales to rediscover its own history. The English call the fifth and sixth centuries the Dark Ages when, in fact they were the Age of Saints in Wales, a time of great civilisation and culture.

Part of this sophistication was the swift adoption of Christianity, soon after the alleged arrival here of Joseph of Arimathea (Jesus' godfather) in AD63, before anyone else of note in the entire British Isles.

By the middle of the age, Wales could count its saints in the hundreds - the historical total is more than 900 - and over 100 were linked to Arthwys ap Meurig ap Tewdrig (Artorius ap Mauricius ap Theoderic), probably the real King Arthur.

Some experts argue that Wales, because of the way it embraced and nurtured Christianity so early on, is owed a debt by the entire world for providing a foothold in the West. (The 4th century St Patrick, founder of the Irish Church, was Welsh).

The evidence is that Wales, a place that also has one of the oldest languages in Europe, was accepted by Rome and the rest of the Continent as the 'cradle of the Western church'.

Breverton says that this important historical period of early Britain, prior to the Germanic invasions that led to the creation of England, has been 'wilfully' hidden. "Wales has an importance, unique in the world, which should be known not only to tourists but to its people".

The author argues that widened knowledge of the 5th and 5th century saints and their feast weeks can be used in this modern age as one of the tools of tourism. Breverton also says in the book that past researches had shown him that Wales has a scarred national psyche because people spent hundreds of years appeasing a more powerful neighbour.

Even a Chapel Devoted to Elvis

T.D. Breverton is anxious that people do not think that his latest book is a dry tome for academics only. It actually contains, he says, insightful anecdotes about many areas where the saints lived and died.

If a saint is associated with King Arthur it is mentioned and there is also a whole list of historical questions that Breverton claims to answer. One of the most eye-catching is whether - yes, we are serious, Elvis Presley has a Welsh connection.

The Book of Welsh Saints also claims to answer such questions as:

        When was the first Harvest festival?

        What is the link between the first house used in Rome for Christian worship and Wales?

        Where is the original 'Avalon'?

        Did Queen Elizabeth I have a baby?

        When and where is it still legal for an Englishman to kill a Welshman?

Mr Breverton, a former businessman and now a university lecturer said the Elvis connection is feasible. It concerns the Preseli Mountains of Wales where there is still an ancient chapel, holy well and Dark Age monastery devoted to St Elvis. All of Elvis' nuclear family also had Christian names only associated with Wales, his parents Vernon and Gladys and his twin Garon.

Counteracting the McDonaldisation of Welsh Culture

Previous books by T.D. Breverton include An A-Z of Wales and the West and The Secret Vale of Glamorgan. Due to be published by the former multinational marketing director is a study of 100 Great Welshmen.

Breverton returned to academia in Wales and founded Glyndwr Publishing and walesbooks.com as non-profit making enterprises, in order to publicise Wales and its achievements and to counter-balance what he has called the 'McDonaldisation' of Welsh culture and society.


M. Gray, The New Welsh Review No 52

The lives and traditions of the Welsh saints are inscribed on maps and on our sense of national identity. When the Sacred land trust embarked on an attempt to list some of the sacred landscapes of Wales, they were eventually obliged to admit that, for the Welsh, the whole land, can be sacred. Settlements named after local saints, holy wells, pilgrimage routes and standing stones testify to a pervading sense of the sacramental in the very fabric of our country.

We do therefore need a comprehensive study of the lives and traditions of the saints of Wales, something which will make recent academic research accessible to a wider readership… Terry Breverton has cast his net wide, and provides us with an amazing cornucopia of information about our holy men and women. His definition of 'saints' is broad and includes not only the heroes of the early church but more recent figures: the martyrs of both sides in the Reformation, seventeenth century divines, Methodist hymn-writers like Ann Griffiths and William Williams Pantycelyn, missionaries like David Jones of Madagascar…

The Book of Welsh Saints is more than a compendium of folk tradition and mythology. Like all books, it has an agenda: it is just that Breverton is more explicit about his aims than most. What he is imploring us to undertake is nothing less than a revitalisation of our spiritual culture. His programme spirals out from the revival of the cults and feast days to encompass farmers' markets, Welsh kilts, locally-produced crisps and Welsh theme pubs. He directs his anger against the bland 'MacDonaldisation' of our popular culture and the corrosive political neglect which has pushed Wales to the margins of democratic life and the bottom of the UK household income statistics.


Chris Syer, by email:

I have just finished reading your Book of Welsh Saints, and really must congratulate you on a remarkable achievement. The amount of work and study you have put into it almost beggars belief, and I found it utterly absorbing. Every page has something interesting. I was particularly fascinated to learn how much more work remains to be done: it is easy to make the assumption that most of our history has been researched and what is known is mostly all there is to know….


Letter from Tony Willicombe to The Western Mail, October 24th, 2002-09-22

…To Terry Breverton's excellent 'The Book of Welsh Saints' I would like to add Professor Norman Davies's 'The Isles - A History' and the bi-monthly magazine 'Cambria', as being essential reading for anyone in Welsh government and media…


Western Mail September 16th 2000

DEATH OF GLYNDWR DATE TRACKED DOWN, SAYS AUTHOR

By Rhodri Jones

An author claims to have discovered the 600-year-old mystery surrounding the death of Owain Glyndwr. Terry Breverton has discovered three separate sources giving the same date for Glyndwr's death in his research.

While working on his new book, 'The Book of Welsh Saints', the Welsh historian uncovered both the birth and death dates of Owain Glyndwr and evidence that suggests that King Arthur was definitely Welsh.

"Glyndwr's death date of September 20th, 1415 in Herefordshire fits beautifully with his National Day of September 20th," said Mr Breverton. "T.J. Llywelyn Prichard wrote 'The Heroines of Welsh History' in 1854, in which he quotes the Rev. Thomas Thomas, vicar of Aberporth writing 'The Memoirs of Owain Glyndwr'. It says that Glyndwr died on September 20 1415 aged 61 at the house of one of his daughters. But whether of his daughter Scudamore or of his daughter Monnington is uncertain. Prichard also mentions 'Glyndwr's Life' in 'The Cambrian Plutarch' by John Humphreys Parry, but I have been unable as yet to source either book.

Marie Trevelyan of Llanilltud Fawr wrote 'The Land of Arthur' in 1895, dedicated to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, and states that Glyndwr was born on May 28th, 1354, so we also have a birthdate. On Septmeber 20, 1415, the last hero of Welsh independence died in Herefordshire.

According to the MSS of the Harleian Collection, Glyndwr's body, which was entire and of 'goodly stature' was discovered at Monnington in that shire, during the restoration of the church in 1680. But his resting place remains unmarked and unrecognised."

In his new book, Terry Breverton writes about the Age of Saints, which paralleled the Dark Ages across the rest of Europe, when Roman rule was being replaced by the Celtic Christian nobles in Wales. It tells of the Welsh influence on the Christian world, from the time of Christ's death to the Reformation.

It is the first book for 100 years of such comprehension on the subject, and more than 900 Welsh saints are covered. The book discussed their traditions, healing wells, pilgrimage centres, customs and villages.

The book also confirms that King Arthur was Welsh, despite many claims from other parts of the UK that the legendary king is part of their folklore. Mr Breverton said more than 100 Welsh saints from the 5th and 6th centuries were associated with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

The book reveals that the legends of the Holy Grail, Tristan and Isolde, The Fisher King, the Black Knight, Camelot, Sir Gawain, Sir Lancelot, Avalon and Queen Guinevere stem from Wales.

Mr Breverton says "The book sets Arthur absolutely into his Welsh context, with direct links to over 100 6th century saints, predating the medieval romances, and I wish to explore this subject further."

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WALES BOOKS (Glyndwr Publishing)
Porth Glyndwr, Higher End, St Tathan, Vale of Glamorgan, CF62 4LW
Tel/Fax: 01446 751693
e-mail:
Terry@breverton.eclipse.co.uk

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