Celts to the Creche: Day 31
St. Non of Wales
Died about March 2, 589AD
On this 31st day of our journey with the Celts to the Creche, we meet St. Non, whose name means “nun.” She was the mother of the patron saint of Wales, St. David (Dewi Sant). She died about 589 AD. She may have been a daughter or granddaughter of Brychan, king of Brecon in South Wales.
Legend says that Non was a virgin and was raped by Sant, the King of Ceredigion. She became pregnant with David. Another story states that Non stopped into a local church to get a blessing for the upcoming birth. When the preacher found himself unable to preach in the presence of her unborn child, this was taken as a sign that the child would himself be a great preacher.
Chapel: Non’s chapel stands near the original Celtic foundations on a cliff top overlooking the gorgeous St. Non’s Bay, about a mile south of St. David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire. The chapel along with St. Non’s Well is located on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Walk.
Very close by St. Non’s Holy Well, a St. Non’s Chapel was built. Later, farmers began to dismantle St. Non’s Chapel to use for mending their stone fences, so her chapel was rebuilt in 1934.
Holy Well: St. Non’s Holy Well is close to the chapel and it is considered to be one of the main healing wells in Wales as it is famous for curing eye diseases.
From: (Survey of St. David’s by Browne Willis, London 1717):
“There is a fine Well beside it (St. Non’s Chapel), cover’d with a Stone-Roof, and enclos’d within a Wall, with Benches to sit upon round the Well. Some old simple People go still to visit this Saint at some particular Times, especially upon St. Nun’s Day (March 2nd) which they kept holy, and offer Pins, Pebbles, Etc at this well”.
According to the St. Non’s Retreat Centre website: “Near the Chapel ruins is the Holy Well of St Non which tradition says sprang up at the birth of St David. It is regarded as one of the most sacred wells in Wales. The water is considered to having healing and miraculous powers. Even after the Reformation the well continued to be frequented by the faithful. It was fully restored and rededicated by the Passionist Fathers in 1951.At the same time a small shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary was placed opposite the well.”
Original location of St. Non’s Chapel before it was dismantled by farmers. Very near to the 1934 St. Non’s Chapel. Photo taken in Sept. 2009 when I visited this beautiful and serene place.
Non’s Retreat Centre is on the same promontory as Non’s Chapel, well, and chapel ruins are located. They have various retreats throughout the year with accommodation.
Non died in northwestern Brittany, France and is buried at Dirinon, ten miles east of Brest in Brittany. She is also commemorated as a holy woman not only in Wales, but also in Cornwall, England, and in Brittany.
Feast Day March 2
What a wonderful example Non’s life is of God turning something horrible in our life into something that blesses and transforms the world. As we journey with Non, a Welsh Celtic Saint to the Creche, let us take the truth deep into our souls that Christ can make all things new. That even the worst thing in our life can be transformed by the Creator Spirit into something beautiful and sacred and lovely.
Prayer: O Christ of the Universe, you know the deepest, darkest, most painful place of my soul. Shine the light of the Star of Bethlehem into that secret sanctuary that only You and I know about and may healing begin. Amen.
A few resources:
Brown, Michelle P. How Christianity Came to Britain and Ireland. Oxford, UK: Lion Hudson, 2006.
Earle, Mary C. and Sylvia Maddox. Holy Companions: Spiritual Practices from the Celtic Saints. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 2004.
Evans, J Wyn and Jonathan Wooding. St. David of Wales: Cult, Church, and Nation. (Studies in Celtic History, v. 24).Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2007.
Gregory, Donald. Country Churchyards in Wales. Gwynedd, Wales: Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 1991.
Jones, Andrew. Every Pilgrim’s Guide to Celtic Britain and Ireland. Ligouri, Missouri: Ligouri Publications, 2002.
Jones, Kathleen. Who are the Celtic Saints? Norwich, UK: Canterbury Press, 2002.
L’église Sainte-Nonne. Dirinon, Brittany, France.
Meehan, Bridget Mary and Regina Madonna Oliver. Praying with Celtic Holy Women. Hampshire, UK: Redemptorist Publications, 2003.
Rees, Elizabeth. An Essential Guide to Celtic Sites and Their Saints. London: Burns & Oates, 2003.
___________. Celtic Saints in Their Landscape. Stroud, UK: Amberley Publishing, 2011.
___________.Celtic Saints: Passionate Wanderers. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2000.
“The Life of St. David” by Rhygyfarch in Celtic Spirituality, ed. by Oliver Davies and Thomas O’ Loughlin. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2000.
Sellner, Edward C. Wisdom of the Celtic Saints, rev. and expanded. St. Paul, MN: Bog Walk Press, 2006.
Williams, Peter. The Sacred Wells of Wales: A Tour. No publisher info. 2001.