Celtic and Old English Saints          3 March

* St. Non of Wales
* St. Owen of Lichfield
* St. Sacer of Saggard
* St. Winwaloe of Landevennec
* St. Cele-Christ
* St. Foila of Galway
* St. Lamalisse of Lamlash

St. Non (Nonna, Nonnita) of Wales
6th century. Non is an obscure Irish saint of noble birth, or perhaps
born of noble descent in Dyfed, Wales. She resided at a convent in Ty
Gwyn near present-day St. David's in Wales. She was the unwed mother of
St. David after being seduced by a local chieftain named Sant. As
penance for this evil deed Sant founded a monastery at a place some
eight miles from Altarnon now called Lezant. William of Worcester states
that St David was born at Altarnon if so making him Cornish by birth.

She died in Brittany. Her relics were enshrined in Cornwall until the
time of the impious Reformation. (Benedictines, Delaney,

She is also patron of this parish,Pelynt, near Looe
http://homepages.tesco.net/~k.wasley/Altarnun.htm ,

She is also patron of the parish of Dirinon in Brittany.

Alternon on Cornwall is the church where St Nonna's Altar stone is


Saint Nonna

A Celebration of Tenacity
Very little is known about the late-fifth-century Saint Nonna (or
Nonnita in Welsh, Non) other than the fact that she was the mother of
Saint David, Patron of Wales. She herself, however, is more closely
connected with Altarnon in Cornwall, where a church and a well are
dedicated to her. Her tomb lies in Dirinon in Brittany, where she died.

Her strong connections in the three British Celtic lands with
dedications in Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany suggest that she was an
important saint in her own right and not simply the mother of a major
patron. Evidently, she was a nun at least in the latter part of her
life. The later legends show confusion on this last point, since to
those writing them down in the medieval church celibacy was very much a
factor, and the birth of Saint David had to be accommodated somehow.
Some legends claim that she was a nun ravished by someone named Sant;
but this explanation is too formulaic for mothers of major figures. Such
stories attempt rather clumsily to show that the mother had not
willingly conceived and was therefore pure, as was the Virgin Mary. The
name Sant 'Saint' likewise arouses suspicions.

The alternative story that she was the daughter of a powerful chieftain
of the area around what is now St David's in Dyfed seems far more
likely, given her importance in a wide area. At that time, the chief
saints were often from the ruling families of Britain, and her
membership in the "nobility" would certainly afford her movement between
Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany.

At this point, a pervasive and tenacious legend enters the picture one
that is so persistent that it may well contain some factual basis. When
she was pregnant with Saint David, for some reason she was out alone
along the coast of Dyfed, on the peninsula now called St David's Head on
the very edge of Wales. As some legends would have it, she was exiled
from her home, perhaps because she was with child against the wishes of
her family.

On the eve of the first of March, a storm came crashing in from the sea.
Such storms in that area are ferocious and terrifying, with waves
breaking violently on the cliffs and coursing over them. Pelted by rain
and whipped by fierce winds, she clung to a rock throughout the night.
In the morning, the sun rose and her child was born. There is still a
rock standing there with indentations claimed to have been made by
Nonna's hands. A short distance away is St David's Cathedral.

The Symbol

The symbol of Saint Nonna is a rock, with two indentations on the sides,
representing the grasp the saint maintained on that rock. The rock
itself is the Rock of Christ the unswerving faith in his Word to which
Saint Peter (whose name means 'the rock') and Saint Nonna clung so
tenaciously. Within the rock is the Trinity knot, the never-ending
connectedness of God the Creator, the Redeemer, the Sustainer all of one
essence. Upon this rock is the cross of the Celtic Church, being also of
one essence with the rock itself. Thus it is that our tenacious grasp on
the rock of faith is inspired by the Trinity and is both what makes up
Christ's Holy Church and what holds it up as well.


Troparion of St Non tone 3
Having given birth to the patron of the Welsh, most pious Non,/ thou
didst rejoice to serve Christ God in thine appointed station./
Wherefore, O Saint, intercede for us that we may be saved/ from the
worldly spirit of dissatisfaction/ and through God's mercy be found
worthy of eternal salvation.

Kontakion of St Non tone 7
With joy thou didst instruct thy son/ in our saving faith, O holy Non,/
teaching him in all things to obey the commands of Christ's Gospel/ by
becoming a missionary and messenger of salvation./ All praise and honour
is thy due,/ therefore we sing: Alleluia.

St. Non's chapel, Wales

Photographs of St. Non's well, nearby St. David's cathedral, Wales

St. Owen (Owin, Ouini) of Lichfield, Hermit
Died 680. Bede mentions Owen as a monk of great merit who forsook high
office and a distinguished career for the love of his Lord. He came with
Queen Etheldreda from East Anglia, and was her prime minister and the
governor of her household. To these great employments he brought not
only a high sense of duty, but also, under the influence of St. Chad
(f.d. March 2) and other Celtic missionaries, a growing sense of
Christian faith and obligation, until there came a day when he resolved
to surrender his secular offices and devote himself entirely to the
service of God.

He did not go about this matter without careful thought, for a man does
not lightly cast aside rank and honour for the humble and anonymous role
of a serving monk in a religious community, nor does he easily shed the
habits of a secular life. The story of his arrival at the monastery of
Lastingham is worth recalling.

One day a stranger was observed at its gates seeking admittance. He was
plainly dressed, but obviously, he was no common pilgrim, and in his
hand he carried an axe and a hatchet. When asked his business, he
replied that he had come with all he possessed, having quit all that he
had, and that he had come not to live idly but to work, hence the axe
and the hatchet, which he would wield industriously in the service of
the monastery. "For as he was less capable of meditating on the Holy
Scriptures, he the more earnestly applied himself to the labour of his

Moved by his sincerity and humility, those who received him took him
before the bishop, who was none other than the saintly Chad, and he,
seeing before him in the guise of a labourer the former chamberlain of
Queen Etheldreda, welcomed him gladly into their fellowship. Thus, Owen
became their handyman. When the bell sounded, calling the monks to
their studies, he took his tools and laboured in the fields: cutting
wood, mending walls and fences, and doing it to the glory of God. He
was of those of whom it is written: "In the handiwork of their craft is
their prayer"
(Benedictines, Encyclopaedia, Gill).

St. Sacer (Mo-Sacra) of Saggard, Abbot
7th century. An Irish saint, Sacer was the abbot-founder of the
monastery of Saggard, Dublin (Benedictines).

St. Winwaloe (Guenole) of Landevennec, Abbot
Born in Brittany; died c. 532. Born of exiled English parents,
St.Winwaloe was consecrated to God from his birth and placed in a
monastery at an early age. He became a disciple of St. Budoc (f.d.
December 9) on Isle Verte. He thought for many years that he would
follow St. Patrick's (f.d. March 17) steps in Ireland, but eventually
founded the monastery of Landevennec near Brest in Breton Cornouaille,
which he ruled as abbot. There are several Cornish churches dedicated
to St. Winwaloe, including Landewednack on the Lizard Peninsula in
British Cornwall and Gunwalloe nearby, which seems to indicate that he
had some connection with the area.

A long "Life of Winwaloe" was written at Landevennec in the 9th century,
but it is primarily a collection of legends. The
cultus of St. Winwaloe is still alive in Brittany. There is some
confusion as to whether there are one or two saints of the period named
Guenole. Other variations of his name include Guengaloeus, Gwenno,
Wonnow, Wynwallow, Valois, among others (Attwater, Benedictines,

St. Cele-Christ (Christicola), Bishop
Died c. 728. St. Cele-Christ ('worshipper of Christ) led an eremitical
life for many years until he was forced to accept the
bishopric of Leinster (Benedictines).

St. Foila (Faile) of Galway, Virgin
6th century. St. Foila is said to have been the sister of St. Colgan
(f.d. February 20). The two were patrons of the parishes of Kil-Faile
(Kileely) and Kil-Colgan in Galway. Kil-Faile has been a noted place of
pilgrimage (Benedictines).

St. Lamalisse of Lamlash, Hermit
7th century. St. Lamalisse was a Scottish hermit who has lent his name
to an islet (Lamlash) off the coast of the isle of Arran


Ansterbery, Jennie. Chad, Bishop and Saint

Attwater, D. (1983). The penguin dictionary of saints, NY:
Penguin Books.

Benedictine Monks of Saint Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
(1947). The Book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.

Delaney, J. J. (1983). Pocket Dictionary of Saints, NY:
Doubleday Image.

Encyclopaedia of Catholic Saints, March. (1966).
Philadelphia: Chilton Books.

Gill, F. C. (1958). The Glorious Company: Lives of Great
Christians for Daily Devotion, vol. I. London: Epworth Press.

For All the Saints:

An Alphabetical Index of the Saints of the West

These Lives are archived at:

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