REVIEWS AND COMMENTS ON 'THE BOOK OF WELSH SAINTS'
an email from Rowan Williams
, Archbishop of
Canterbury, and former Archbishop of Wales
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
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
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
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
An Age When Saints Could Be Counted in
the Hundreds by Phil
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
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
· 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
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
DEATH OF GLYNDWR DATE TRACKED DOWN,
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
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
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
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
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