St. Melangell:
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Religious Fables, Folklore, Legends, and Stories

St. Melangell
Submitted by
Yuri Klitsenko, Russia

MELANGELL, 1. Wales, end of 6th cent.; also, January 31, and May 4.

(BEDE THE VENERABLE, Mk., Jarrow, in Northumberland, A.D. 734 (L.).)

MELANGELL Or MONACELLA was a daughter of Cyfwlch, the son of Tudwal, according to some accounts, but of Tudwal according to others, and was descended from the Emperor Maximus and his British wife Elen. Her mother was an Irish-woman.

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 puss escaped into a thicket, and took refuge under the robe of a virgin of great beauty, whom the huntsman discovered. She faced and drove back the hounds. The huntsman then put his horn to his lips, and there it stuck as if glued. Upon this up came the prince, and he at once granted a parcel of land to the saint, to serve as a sanctuary, and bade her found there a convent. This she did, and she lived in a cell which still remains, though somewhat altered, at the east end of the church. She was buried in the church, after her called Pennant Melangell, and fragments of a very beautiful shrine remain built into the walls, but sufficient to allow of its reconstruction.

The cell of S. Melangell is, as said, to the east of the church, and has no communication with it. It goes by the name of Cell y Bedd, or Cell of the Grave, and it has a door and a window. In this originally stood the shrine. Her gwely, or bed, lies on the opposite side of the valley, a quarter of a mile south of the church.

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 bare 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.

In the Welsh calendars she is also commemorated on January 31 and on May 4.

~S Baring-Gould, Lives of the Saints, January, London, Hodges 1872, January, p146-147

Yuri Klitsenko is a Russian living in Moscow.  He works for the Russian Orthodox Church.

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