Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Beuno, or Beunor, Abbot of Clynnog, in Caernarvonshire, Confessor

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He was a native of Powis-land, and son of Beugi, or, as the Welch write it, Hywgi, grandson to the prince of Powis-land, or at least part of it, called Glewisig. For the sake of his education he was sent into Arvon, the territory opposite to Anglesey, from which island it is separated by the river, or rather arm of the sea, called Menai. This country was also called Snowdon forest, from its hills, the highest in Britain, which derive their name from the snow which covers them, being called in Welch, Craig Eriry, words of the same import with their English name Snowdon. These mountains afford such an impregnable retreat, and so much good pasture, that the usual style of the sovereigns was, Princes of North-Wales, and Lords of Snowdon. Sejont, called by the Romans Segontium, was the capital city, situated on the river Sejont. Its ruins are still visible near the town and castle of Caernarvon, (or city of Arvon,) built by Edward I., on the mouth of the river, at the great ferry over to Anglesey. That island had been, under the pagan Britons, the chief seat of the Druids, and was afterwards illustrious for many holy monks and hermits. On the coast opposite to this island, in the county of Caernarvon, stood three great monasteries: that of Clynnog Fawr, near Sejont, or Caernarvon; that of Conway, on the extremity of this county, towards Denbighshire, on the river Conway, which separates the two counties; from which it is called Aberconway, that is, Mount of the Conway. It was the burying-place of the princes of North-Wales. Edward I. built there a strong castle and town facing Beaumaris, the capital of Anglesey, though the passage here is much broader than from Caernarvon. Bangor, or Banchor, i. e. White Choir, or Place of the Choir, was on the same coast, in the midway between Caernarvon and Aberconway. This monastery and bishopric were founded by Saint Daniel, about the year 525. The very town was formerly called Bangor Fawr, or the Great Bangor: but the monastery and city were destroyed by the Danes; and, though the bishopric still subsists, the town is scarcely better than a village. Saint Beuno seems to have had his education in the monastery of Bangor: he afterwards became the father and founder of several great nurseries of saints. Two monasteries he built in the isle of Anglesey, Aberffraw and Trefdraeth, of both which churches he is to this day titular saint. On the continent, he founded Clynnog, or Clynnoc fechan, i. e. Little Clynnog; and Clynnog Fawr, or Vawr, i. e. Great Clynnog. This last was situated near the river Sejont, and the present Caernarvon. Cadvan was at that time king of North-Wales, and had lately gained a great victory over Ethelred, king of the pagan English Saxons of Northumberland, who had barbarously massacred the poor monks of Bangor, in the year 607, or somewhat later. Saint Beuno made the king a present of a golden sceptre, and the prince assigned a spot to build his monastery upon, near Fynnon Beuno, or Beuno’s well, in the parish of Llanwunda, of which he is titular saint. But when he was beginning to lay the foundation, a certain woman came to him with a child in her arms, saying, that ground was this infant’s inheritance. The holy man, much troubled hereat, took the woman with him to the king, who kept his court at Caer Sejont, and told him, with a great deal of zeal and concern, that he could not devote to God another’s patrimony. The king, refusing to pay any regard to his remonstrances, the saint went away. But one Gwyddeiant, cousin-german to the king, immediately went after him, and bestowed on him the township of Clynnog Fawr, his undoubted patrimony, where Beuno built his church about the year 616. King Cadvan died about that time; but his son and successor Cadwallon surpassed him in his liberality to the saint and his monastery. It is related, amongst other miracles, that when a certain man had lost his eye-brow by some hurt, Saint Beuno healed it by applying the iron point of his staff: and that from this circumstance a church four miles from Clynnog, perhaps built by the person so healed, retains to this day the name of Llanael hayarn, i.e. church of the Iron brow: though popular tradition is not perhaps a sufficient evidence of such a miracle; and some other circumstances might give occasion to the name. Some further account of Saint Beuno will be given in the life of Saint Wenefride. The year of his death is no where recorded. He is commemorated on the 14th of January and 21st of April. And on Trinity Sunday great numbers resort to the wakes at Clynnog, and formerly brought offerings to the church.

This monastery passed afterwards into the hands of Benedictins of the congregation of Clugni: whence it had the name of Clynnog, or Clunnoc, being formerly known only by that of its founder. The church, built of beautiful stone, is so large and magnificent as to remain to this day the greatest ornament and wonder of the whole country, especially Saint Beuno’s chapel, which is joined to the church by a portico. In this chapel, the fine painted or stained glass in the large windows is much effaced and destroyed, except a large figure of our blessed Saviour extended on the cross. Opposite to this crucifix, about three yards from the east window, is Saint Beuno’s tomb, raised above the ground, and covered with a large stone, upon which people still lay sick children, in hopes of being cured. This great building, though very strong, is in danger of decaying for want of revenues to keep it in repair. Those of the monastery were chiefly settled on the Principal of Jesus College in Oxford, except what was reserved for the maintenance of a vicar to serve the parish. Some still bring offerings of some little piece of silver or chiefly of lambs, which are sold by the church-wardens, and the money put into Saint Beuno’s box, to be employed in repairing the chapel. From an ancient custom, farmers in that country continue to print on the foreheads of their sheep what they call Saint Beuno’s mark. Mr. Robert Vaughan of Hengwrt, the great Welch antiquarian, has given us an ample list of benefactions bestowed upon Clynnoc, by princes and others.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Beuno, or Beunor, Abbot of Clynnog, in Caernarvonshire, Confessor”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. Saints.SQPN.com. 22 April 2013. Web. 28 July 2014. <>