Thursday, 10 August 2017

Tewdrig ap Teithfallt - Saint Tewdric

Tewdrig ap Teithfallt, or Tewdric, was a 5th century Welsh warrior king famous in these parts for defeating a Saxon army at Tintern.

Tewdrig ap Teithfallt or Tewdric
King Tewdric was a highly religious man who had been a successful warrior in his youth. He abdicated his throne in favour of his son Meurig (Maurice) to take up the life of a hermit, living in a cave and surviving on nuts, berries and such offerings as were donated to him by the local people.

Tewdric was coaxed from his hermitage to lead his son Meurig's army when Britain was under threat from an invading Saxon army. It is said that Tewdric was sent a vision by God at this time, telling him if he fought the Saxon horde at Tintern he would be successful, but would sustain a fatal wound. Being already an old man and not afraid of death, Tewdric followed the vision's advice and indeed defeated the Saxons despite being considerably outnumbered.

During the battle at Tintern, Tewdric was wounded and knowing he would die from his wound asked to be carried to Ynys Echni (Flat Holm) in the Severn Estuary to be buried. It is said that Tewdric's body was carried on a cart pulled by two yoked stags and that the procession travelled slowly due to Tewdric's great pain. Fountains are said to have erupted wherever the stags stopped for Tewdric to rest.

Three days after the battle having almost reached a small harbour Tewdric died. When Tewdric's body was laid to rest fresh water sprang from the ground and today we can still see Tewdric's Well. King Meurig built a small church to honour his father on the site, which became known as Merthyr Tewrig (Tewdric the Martyr). The location later became Mateyrn (place of a king) or Mathern as it is known today.

Nothing remains of King Meurig's church now, but the 13th century Norman church that has taken its place is a fine building.

Church of St Tewdric, Mathern
A stone coffin believed to contain the remains of St Tewdric was unearthed during a 15th century renovation and this was relocated to the chancel in 1614 where it remains to this day.