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Died probably at Bardsey in the early 6th century. A missionary from Letavia (probably in Brittany but possibly in south-eastern Wales) to Wales, Cadfan founded monasteries at Towyn in Merionethshire and Llangadfan in Montgomeryshire, and later a monastic centre on the island of Bardsey (Ynys Enlli), where he was first abbot. Bardsey developed into a great centre of monasticism. It is said that as he went from Towyn to Llangadfan he passed through Pistyll Gadfan, Eisteddfa Gadfa, and Llwbyr Gadfan.

Bardsey Island is still a wild, isolated place - exactly the kind of spot to which the Celtic monks liked to retreat. The first monastery here was founded by St Cadfan in 429. Today's remains are 13th century and are of the Augustinian abbey of St Mary, built on the site of the original monastery. In time Bardsey became one of the most popular places of pilgrimage in Britain and many went there to be buried so as to be close to the numerous ascetic saints who died there. In time it became known as "The Island of 20,000 Saints." Human bones were so common that they were used to mend fences!

Cadfan's holy well could be found in the churchyard at Towyn, near his chapel (since destroyed), where many were cured of rheumatism, scrofula, and skin diseases. It continued to attract pilgrims long after the Reformation. Baths and changing-rooms were added until it went into disuse about 1894.

In the church at Towyn, there is a stone pillar, called the Cadfan stone, with an ancient inscription that marks the place of his burial:

"Beneath a similar mound lies Cadfan,
sad it should enclose the praise of the earth.
May he rest without blemish."

A Cadfan also has an active cultus in Finistere and Cotes du Nord, Brittany. While it is generally held that this is the same Cadfan (the reason for thinking that he was a Breton), there are still problems in making the connection between the two. The question may never be settled. The Breton Cadfan is the patron of a church at Poullan, near Douarnenez. (Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer).

Troparion of St Cadfa
n Tone 8
Leaving thy native Brittany for the love of Christ, O Father Cadfan,
thou dost teach us not to love places or things more than Him.
Wherefore, O holy one, intercede for us that we may be faithful to our calling and found worthy of great mercy

Information and photographs of Bardsey Island:

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