The Life of Saint Melangell of Wales (+ca. 590)

ST MELANGELL (whose name has been latinised as Monacella) is interesting because the incident for which she is known is a Welsh version of one that is known in various forms in several European countries. She appears in the pedigrees as a descendant of Macsen Wledig (the usurping Roman emperor Magnus Maximus), and according to her legend her father was an Irish king (probably Scottish, in its later meaning, is intended). She vowed herself to God, and when pressed to marry fled to the part of central Wales called Powys, where she remained hidden for fifteen years. Then one day the prince of Powys, Brochwel Ysgythrog, came hunting in her neighbourhcod, and pursued a hare into a clearing of the forest where Melangell was at prayer. The hare ran for the shelter of her garments, and turned to face its pursuers from a fold of her skirt. Brochwel urged on his hounds, but they drew off, howling; the huntsman tried to wind his horn, but it stuck mute to his lips; and Brochwel approached the girl for an explanation When he had heard Melangell's story of herself, he made her a present of the land on which they were standing as a "perpetual refuge and place of sanctuary", in recognition of God's protection of the " little wild hare" in the shadow of His servant Melangell.

Accordingly she lived the rest of her life there, another thirty-seven years, gathering a community round her which she directed as abbess. But it was also a meeting-place for hares, who never showed any fear of their protectress, so that they came to be called "Melangell's lambs".

The church of Pennant Melangell in Montgomeryshire claims to stand on the site of this happening, and it formerly contained St Melangell's shrine. It still has some mediaeval carvings relating the story of the hare, and the shrine chapel at east end.

Source: Butler's Lives of Saints


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