May 16, 2007

From the Vaults of the Royal Society's World Religions Files

Thanks to the depth of the archives at the offices of the Royal Society for the Advancement of the Natural Sciences, and the brilliant research work of The Honourable Kate Nicholas, we now have the icons of St. Melangell.

A little research on the part of this writer, who is a Fellow of the Royal Society, but whose scientific work has been superceded by her charity work and acts of noblesse oblige of late(and all those parties and Duchess Sandwiches...but I digress), has resulted in the following historical information on St. Melangell.

St. Melangell was the daughter of a Scottish king and an Irish woman and was descended from the Emperor Maximus and his British wife Elen.

The story goes that her father desired to marry her to a chieftain under him, but either she disliked the man or the thought of marriage, and determined to run away. Accordingly she found an opportunity to escape, and secreted herself at Pennant, one of the most lonely and lovely spots in Montgomeryshire, at the head of the Tanat. Her story is represented on the frieze of the carved oak screen of the church there.

In this spot, sleeping on bare rock, she remained for fifteen years. One day Brochwel Ysgythrog, Prince of Powys, was hunting and in pursuit of a hare, when the hare escaped into a thicket, and took refuge under the robe of a virgin of great beauty (Melangell). She faced and drove back the hounds. The huntsman then put his horn to his lips, and there it stuck as if glued. The prince at once granted a parcel of land to Melangell, to serve as a sanctuary.

There she founded a community of women, serving as abbess for thirty-seven years. She lived in a cell which still remains, though somewhat altered, at the east end of the church. She was buried in the church, which was after her death called Pennant Melangell.

Melangell is considered the patroness of hares, which are termed her lambs. Until last century so strong a superstition prevailed that no person would kill a hare in the parish; and even later, when a hare was pursued by dogs, it was believed that if any one cried "God and Melangell be with thee," it would surely escape.

Patron Saint of Caledon and our Guvnah indeed!!


Kate Nicholas, F.R.S. said...

Splendid work!

Honestly, I haven't been up to the Royal Society attic for a while, so I'm glad you were able to scrounge around and find those icons.

Hard to say what else may be in the attic, forgotten...

Hotspur O'Toole said...

Well, that's a rare bit of research, there.