St. Gwyddfarch, Hermit of Moel yr Ancr, Wales

3 November

A number of ascetics chose the tops of hills. One such was the hermit and monastic founder St Gwyddfarch. We know little about his early life beyond the fact that he was part of the community founded by his spiritual father, St Llywelyn at Trallwng (Tre = town, Llwng = Llywelyn, i.e. Llywelyn's Town), now know in English as Welshpool. This was at some point during the sixth century. It was part of the "Eastern Mission" i.e. the influx of Christian Britons into Wales from what is now Shropshire and probably in particular from the town of Wroxeter (Uriconium).

From Trallwng Gwyddfarch set out into rather wilder country to the North East and settled in the Vyrnwy Valley near to the present-day village of Meifod. Above this valley is a solitary, steep-sided hill and it was close to the summit of this that Gwyddfarch built his cell, lived and finally died. It was here that he was buried and he is still there to this day. The hill is now known as Moel yr Ancr (the bald hill of the anchorite). Looking at the setting today it is astonishingly beautiful and pastoral and shows little signs of being a desert. In winter, however, when there is a cold East wind one can better appreciate that living on the top of that hill surrounded by wolf-infested woods was hard, cold and uncomfortable - not so far off the deserts of North Africa! St Gwyddfarch is commemorated on November 3rd.

The above is from "The Deserts of Britain"
by Fr Stephen Maxfield

Additional information from "History of the Church of the Holy Fathers"
by Fr Stephen Maxfield

...With the withdrawal of the legions at the beginning of the fifth century a period of considerable political instability followed. However Viroconium continued to flourish for some time. For instance St Germanus of Auxerre came to Britain to counter the teachings of the heresiarch Pelagius in 429 and again in 447. He certainly visited Viroconium, indeed it seems to have been the base for his mission into what is now mid and north Wales: The last British Archbishop of London, Theonas (Teon) fled to Viroconium in 586 when London fell to the pagan Saxons. The range of hills known now as the Stiperstones are called, in Welsh, Carneddi Teon in memory of him. Some of Teon's disciples, including his grandson St Llywelyn, started a monastery at Welshpool, and their mission helped convert mid Wales particularly through the work of their disciples Sts Gwyddfarch and Tysilio.

St. Tysilio (born c.548-640) (Latin-Disilius, English-Tysilio) was Prince Tyslio (or Sulio) was the second son of Brochfael Ysgythrog (of the Tusks). He fled his father's court at an early age to throw himself on the mercy of Abbot Gwyddfarch of Caer-Meguaidd (Meifod) and beg to become a monk.

Caer-Meguaidd may be Meifod, the court of the Kings of Powys at the Manor of Mathrafal from around 750 or before. The place was also a major ecclesiastical centre. St.Gwyddfarch built the original church which was replaced by St.Tyslio in about 625. <Nennius, 28 British Cities>

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