After fleeing Leinster, Melangell found refuge in the wilds of North Wales and went on to become the patron saint of hares, small creatures and the natural environment, writes Cheryl Devaney


Melangell, whose Latin name is Monacella, was the beautiful daughter of the King of Leinster. Her father had arranged for her to marry a rival monarch in order to keep the peace between their kingdoms but Melangell refused and had no alternative but to leave Ireland. She longed for a life of solitude and prayer and fled to North Wales.

In the wilderness of the remote valley of the River Tanat, at the foot of the Berwyn Mountains, she was able to follow her calling. Living as a hermit in a cave with her bed a cleft in a neighbouring rock, she survived on a diet of nuts and berries, her only companions being the wild animals in the area.

For fifteen years she had no human contact until Brochwel Ysgithrog, Prince of Powys (502 – 560) and his huntsmen were out with his hounds. Pursuing a hare into a thicket of brambles, he saw a radiant young woman kneeling deep in prayer.

The hare was hiding under the folds of her robe. Brochwel’s hounds cowered before her and, despite urging the pack to seize their prey, the dogs refused to kill the hare. One huntsman, who was blowing his horn, had the instrument stuck to his lips.

The Prince was so struck by Melangell’s courage and strength that he asked her to marry him. She refused and told him that she wanted to devote her life to Christ. Brochwel was impressed with her account and gave her a parcel of land at Pennant, which means head of the stream, on condition that she build a nunnery for local women seeking a place of peace and solitude.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

Church photo courtesy of Wikipedia