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7th century. Saint Gollen's name is connected with Wales, Glastonbury, and Rome. The name Collen means a hazel tree. A 16th-century vita in Welsh survives, but its historicity is questionable. This account has Gollen fight a duel with a pagan Saracen in the presence of the pope, go to Cornwall and Glastonbury, and deliver the people in the valley of Llangollen by killing a fierce giantess. Gollen gave his name to Llangollen (Clwyd) in Denbighshire, the church of Colan in Cornwall, and, perhaps, founded that of Langolen in Finistere in Brittany (Benedictines, Farmer).

Another Life of Saint Collen

The parish church of St Colan on the North Coast of Cornwall was rebuilt in the time of Bishop Branscombe of Exeter, about 1250, and given by him to the Canons of Glasney College which he had founded at Peryn. It is the only dedication to St.Collen in England but there is a church at Langolen near Briec in Brittany and he is the patron of Llangollen in Clwyd, where he is buried. His father was a Welshman but his mother, Ethni, was of Irish extraction.

It seems that Collen was sent to Orleans for training and the Life, written in the sixteenth century, says that he became a great champion of the Christian Faith against the pagans. Although he actually lived in the seventh century, his biographer says that it was during the reign of Julian the Apostate, three hundred years earlier, that the Pope chose him to fight against a heathen Goliath called Bras, whom he defeated and persuaded to be baptised. In recognition of his victory the Pope presented him with the relic of a miraculous Lily, whose flower had witnessed to the virgin Birth of Christ, and this was preserved in Worcester during the Middle Ages.

Collen, landing in Cornwall, came to Glastonbury where he was elected Abbot, continued his missionary teaching and eventually became a hermit on Glastonbury Tor. It was there that another conflict with paganism occurred, his adversary this time being Gwyn ab Nudd, the King of the Underworld and the Fairies. Collen was invited to dine at the top of the hill but he refused the magical food and drink, scattering the beautiful court by sprinkling them with holy water causing them all to vanish.

Collen prayed that he might have a place to dwell for the rest of his life and God bade him journey until he met a horse which would take him to his sanctuary. So he came to Llangollen, called in the Life, Rhysfa Maes Cadfarch, the Charger's Field. His warfare against paganism was not over, for in the Vale of Llangollen there was an evil giantess who would kill and eat any who attempted to pass that way. Collen slew the giantess and washed his sword in the fountain known as Ffynnon Gollen.

St. Collen it was who came across a group of the Fair Folk at their dancing, one of whom asked the good saint if he did not admire his particolored red and blue livery. The saint replied that it was most fitting, as the red stood for the fires of hell, and the blue for its ice. Then St. Collen made the sign of the cross, and the entire troupe vanished.

Llangollen is internationally famous as a beauty spot, for its Eisteddfod and the 13th Century bridge, which is reckoned as one the Seven Wonders of Wales. The parish church has been much restored over the centuries but it still stands on the site of the Saint's tomb. In all the Welsh Calendars St.Collen is commemorated on May 21st but in Cornwall his parish keeps festival on the Sunday after the first Thursday in May. At Langolen in Brittany his Pardon is held on the second Sunday in August.


The name of Llangollen signifies the church of Collen, and the vale and village take their name from the church, which was originally dedicated to Saint Collen, though some, especially the neighbouring peasantry, suppose that Llangollen is a compound of Llan, a church, and Collen, a hazel-wood, and that the church was called the church of the hazel-wood from the number of hazels in the neighbourhood. Collen, according to a legendary life, which exists of him in Welsh, was a Briton by birth, and of illustrious ancestry. He served for some time abroad as a soldier against Julian the Apostate, and slew a Pagan champion who challenged the best man amongst the Christians. Returning to his own country he devoted himself to religion, and became Abbot of Glastonbury, but subsequently retired to a cave on the side of a mountain, where he lived a life of great austerity. Once as he was lying in his cell he heard two men out abroad discoursing about Wyn Ab Nudd, and saying that he was king of the Tylwyth or Teg Fairies, and lord of Unknown, whereupon Collen thrusting his head out of his cave told them to hold their tongues, for that Wyn Ab Nudd and his host were merely devils. At dead of night he heard a knocking at the door, and on his asking who was there, a voice said: I am a messenger from Wyn Ab Nudd, king of Unknown, and I am come to summon thee to appear before my master to-morrow, at mid-day, on the top of the hill.

Collen did not go - the next night there was the same knocking and the same message. Still Collen did not go. The third night the messenger came again and repeated his summons, adding that if he did not go it would be the worse for him. The next day Collen made some holy water, put it into a pitcher and repaired to the top of the hill, where he saw a wonderfully fine castle, attendants in magnificent liveries, youths and damsels dancing with nimble feet, and a man of honourable presence before the gate, who told him that the king was expecting him to dinner. Collen followed the man into the castle, and beheld the king on a throne of gold, and a table magnificently spread before him. The king welcomed Collen, and begged him to taste of the dainties on the table, adding that he hoped that in future he would reside with him. I will not eat of the leaves of the forest, said Collen.

Did you ever see men better dressed? said the king, than my attendants here in red and blue?

Their dress is good enough, said Collen, considering what kind of dress it is.

What kind of dress is it? said the king.

Collen replied: The red on the one side denotes burning, and the blue on the other side denotes freezing. Then drawing forth his sprinkler, he flung the holy water in the faces of the king and his people, whereupon the whole vision disappeared, so that there was neither castle nor attendants, nor youth nor damsel, nor musician with his music, nor banquet, nor anything to be seen save the green bushes.

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