|Almedha the martyr, twenty-third daughter of Brychan Brecheiniog, unfortunately
"suffered martyrdom upon a hill near Brecon, called Pen-ginger. This hill is now generally known by the name of Slwch, though part of it still retains its old appelation. Pen-ginger is a corruption of Pen cefn y Gaer, i.e., the summit of the ridge of the fortification, from an old British camp, the remains of which are still visible. p21-22 of 'The Heroines of Welsh History' by Thomas Jeffery Llewelyn Prichard (1854), now online at Google Books.
Not far from the camp stood the monastic house, which Giraldus Cambrensis calls a stately edifice, where Almedha is supposed to have officiated as principle, or lady abbess. It is now completely ruinated, and can only be traced by tradition to a spot where a heap of stones and an aged yew tree, with a wall at its root, marks its site.
.. [according to a Dr. Owen Pughe,] "The day of her solemnity is celebrated every year on the first day of August."* He then proceeds to record the miracles of the saint, and the faith and religious frenzy of her votaries; upon which his annotator is a little waggish, and hints that they might now and then have taken a cup too much.
*eagle eyes will notice this is Lughnasadh or Lammas.
This are Giraldus Cambrensis's words, from his Itinerary:
There are many churches in Wales distinguished by their names [the names of St Breinioch's children], one of which, situated on the summit of a hill, near Brecheinoc, and not far from the castle of Aberhodni, is called the church of St. Almedda, after the name of the holy virgin, who, refusing there the hand of an earthly spouse, married the Eternal King, and triumphed in a happy martyrdom; to whose honour a solemn feast is annually held in the beginning of August, and attended by a large concourse of people from a considerable distance, when those persons who labour under various diseases, through the merits of the Blessed Virgin, received their wished-for health. Online at the excellent 'Vision of Britain' website. Giraldus wrote this after his tour through Wales in 1188.
The circumstances which occur at every anniversary appear to me remarkable. You may see men or girls, now in the church, now in the churchyard, now in the dance, which is led round the churchyard with a song, on a sudden falling on the ground as in a trance, then jumping up as in a frenzy, and representing with their hands and feet, before the people, whatever work they have unlawfully done on feast days; you may see one man put his hand to the plough, and another, as it were, goad on the oxen, mitigating their sense of labour, by the usual rude song: one man imitating the profession of a shoemaker; another, that of a tanner. Now you may see a girl with a distaff, drawing out the thread, and winding it again on the spindle; another walking, and arranging the threads for the web; another, as it were, throwing the shuttle, and seeming to weave.
On being brought into the church, and led up to the altar with their oblations, you will be astonished to see them suddenly awakened, and coming to themselves. Thus, by the divine mercy, which rejoices in the conversion, not in the death, of sinners, many persons from the conviction of their senses, are on these feast days corrected and mended.
Posted by Rhiannon
6th May 2007ce
Edited 7th May 2007ce