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Died c. 505 (another source says 450-535).

Illtud, clearly an outstanding figure and one of the most celebrated Welsh saints, laboured chiefly in the southeastern part of the country. His vita written circa 1140 has little historical value; but the Life of Saint Samson, composed about 500 years earlier, has some important references. This author names him as a disciple of Saint Germanus of Auxerre, who ordained him. It calls Illtud 'the most learned of the Britons in both Testaments and in all kinds of knowledge,' and speaks of his great monastic school.

This establishment was Llanilltyd Fawr (Llantwit Major in Glamorgan), where other prominent saints besides Samson are said to have been Illtyd's pupils. The monastery of Llantwit survived in one form or another until the Norman conquest (1066).

The author of Samson's Life also describes Illtud's death, in illustration of the saint's power of prophecy. The passage is an impressive one, but it does not state where or when the death took place.

Nevertheless, most of his life is derived mainly from oral traditions. According to them, he was the son of a Briton living in Letavia, Brittany (some scholars believe Letavia is an area in central Brednock, England, rather than in Brittany), who came to visit his cousin King Arthur of England about 470.

The later vita says that Illtud married Trynihid and then served in the army of a Glamorgan chieftain. When one of his friends was killed in a hunting accident, Saint Cadoc is said to have counselled him to leave the world behind. This is, of course, improbable because Cadoc would have been a mere lad.

Illtud and Trynihid took Cadoc's advice and lived together as recluses in a hut by the Nadafan River until he was warned by an angel to separate from her. He left his wife to become a monk under Saint Dubricius, but after a time resumed his eremitical life by a stream called the Hodnant. He attracted many disciples and organised them into the Llanwit Major monastery, which, according to the ninth-century Life of Saint Paul Aurelian, was originally "within the borders of Dyfed, called Pyr," usually identified as Calder (Caldey) Island off Tenby. The monastery soon developed into a great foundation and a centre of missionary activity in Wales.

Many miracles were attributed to him (he was fed by heaven when forced to flee the ire of a local chieftain and take refuge in a cave; he miraculously restored a collapsed seawall), and he is reputed to have sent or taken grain to relieve a famine in Brittany, where the place and church names attest to some connection with Illtud.

His death is reported at Dol, Brittany, where he had retired in his old age, at Llanwit, and at Defynock. One Welsh tradition has him as one of the three knights put in charge of the Holy Grail by Arthur, and another one even identifies him as Galahad (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Doble, Walsh).

Another Life of St. Illtyd

Flourished in the latter part of the fifth and beginning of the sixth century, and was held in high veneration in Wales, where many churches were dedicated to him, chiefly in Glamorganshire. Born in Armorica, of Bicanys and Rieniguilida, sister of Emyr Llydaw, he was a grandnephew of St. Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre.

According to one account he crossed to Britain and joined King Arthur's Court, and later went to Glamorgan, where he was miraculously converted by St. Cadoc. These details, however, rest on a late life of the saint (Cottonian MS., Vesp. A XIV). He is supposed to have been ordained by St. Dubricius, Bishop of Llandaff, and with the assistance of Meirchon, a Glamorgan chieftain, to have built a church and a monastery, which became a centre of learning, one of the three great monastic schools in the Diocese of Llandaff. Among the scholars who flocked thither were Sts. Gildas, Samson, and Maglorius, whose lives, written about 600 ("Acta SS. Ordinis S. Benedicti", Venice, 1733), constitute the earliest source of information on St. Illtyd. According to these, his school was situated on a small waste island, which, at his intercession, was miraculously reunited with the mainland, and was known as Llantilllyd Fawr, the Welsh form of Llantwit Major, Glamorganshire. The story of the miracle may have been inspired by the fact that the saint was skilled in agriculture, for he is supposed to have introduced among the Welsh better methods of ploughing, and to have helped them reclaim land from the sea.

The legendary place of his burial is close by the chapel dedicated to him in Brecknockshire, and is called Bedd Gwyl Illtyd, or the "grave of St. Illtyd's eve", the old custom of having been to keep vigil there on the eve of his feast, which was celebrated 7 February. There is still to be seen in Llantwit Major a cross, probably on the ninth century, bearing the inscription:


Troparion of St Illtyd tone 6
O wise Illtyd, thou wast noble by birth and noble in mind/ and didst train many saints in the way of holiness./ Pray to Christ our God to raise up saints in our days/ to His glory and for our salvation.

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