Life of St Cadoc


St Cadoc

"The graceful teacher of nearly the whole of Britain" Hildas (498 - 570)

St. Cadoc is one of the most important early Welsh saints and a famous son of Monmouthshire. His father Gwynllyw was a local king (commemorated by St. Woolos cathedral. Newport) and his mother Gwladus was the daughter of Brychan, king of Brycheiniog (Brecon). He was a contemporary of Dewi Sant (St. David), St. Patrick of Ireland and St. Columba of lona, but lived before St. Augustine converted the Saxons.

Cadog (known as Cattwg in south Wales) was a strong contender for Wales' patron saint. His Life was written by Lifricus, son of Bishop Herwald of Llandaff and himself Archdeacon of Glamorgan and Master of St. Cadog of Llancarfan. (It is worth noting that Lifricus, or Lifris, is a form of the Anglo-Saxon name Leofric.) According to this, he was baptised Cadfael by Tathan of Caerwent. When he was seven years of age he was sent to Tathan to be educated, and he instructed him assiduously in Donatus and Priscian and also diligently in other arts for twelve years. He seems to have had no inclination for tasks of secular government, and so, on the conclusion of his education at Caerwent, he sought a suitable place for the monastic life. This he found in the Vale of Glamorgan, at a spot subsequently known as Llancarfan (or, more correctly, Nantcarfan). From there the Life records that he went to Ireland for a further period of study, returning thence after three years with a large number of followers amongst whom were Finian, Macmoil, and Graunan. We next hear of him in the Brycheiniog district where his fame greatly impressed his grandfather, Brychan, who gave him “the part of that field, wherein the wheat was found, which is named Llanspyddid, in which place the holy man built a monastery for himself.” The monastery at Llancarfan, together with that of St. Illtyd at Llaniltyd Fawr (Llantwit Major), became a stronghold of the Christian faith throughout Europe during what is now termed the Dark Ages.

We next hear of him at the river Neath and, afterward, of a journey to Scotland and, later, to Cornwall. These journeys are substantiated by Cadog dedications in those particular areas. There are also several churches dedicated to him in Brittany. He was famed as a teacher whose life (and those of his brother monks) was devoted to serving the community.

It is probable that in his later years he returned to the area around Abergavenny. He died in 570 when his monastery was attacked while Cadoc was celebrating the Mass. In 1022, fearing plunder by the Danes, the shrine of the saint was moved to Mamhilad (7 miles from Abergavenny). His dedications reveal that his activity in Monmouthshire lay in the area to the west of Wentwood. The pattern suggests that there may have been a second monastic centre to that at Llancarfan -— possibly Mamhilad. There is also an intriguing connection with Roman sites in both centres (Gelligaer and Neath in Glamorgan, Caerleon, Raglan and Monmouth in Gwent).

Last updated February 2005