Introduction Edited text Manuscripts Cymraeg

9. Moliant i seintiau Brycheiniog

edited by Eurig Salisbury


A total of 42 saints associated with Brycheiniog are named in this poem, with the intention of seeking their blessing upon Huw Cae Llwyd’s pilgrimage to Rome in 1475. Following the tradition of holding jubilees in Rome at intervals since 1300, Pope Sixtus IV (1471–84) declared 1475 a jubilee year, during which sinners who visited a specific number of churches in Rome could attain remission of their punishments in purgatory. Huw composed another poem in which he described the churches he visited in Rome, as well as a poem of praise to his patron, Ieuan ap Gwilym of Peutun near Brecon, when he was in Rome (MWPSS poem 16; HCLl poem XXX). He names Ieuan in both poems, but the patron’s exact role in the pilgrimage is unclear. Nonetheless, it is likely that Huw visited Rome on his patron’s behalf, as well as for his own benefit, as did Lewys Glyn Cothi when he visited Rome on behalf of Wiliam Fychan ap Gwatgyn Fychan of Rhydhelig in north Herefordshire (GLGC poem 90). Ieuan is not named in the present poem, but Huw skilfully calls on Brycheiniog’s noblemen for patronage so that he can complete the journey as their representative.

The poem is reminiscent of praise poems to Brycheiniog by Siôn Cent, Llawdden and Hywel Dafi (IGE2 poem LXXXIX; GLl poem 18; GHDafi poem 59), yet its specific context and emphasis on the saints sets it apart. After the poet has praised Brycheiniog in the first lines, the extent of that land, as Huw saw it, is made clear in lines 5–12. Three compass points are represented by four rivers: the east by Baedan brook near Abergavenny, the south by the upper reaches of the river Cynon and the north by the rivers Irfon and Wye (no mention is made of the western boundary). Two cantrefs in Brycheiniog are named, Cantref Selyf and Cantref Talgarth, as well as the commote of Ystrad Yw (in Cantref Talgarth) and the parish of Y Glyn in Y Cantref Mawr. No mention is made of Cantref Buellt, which is irrelevant, to all purposes, in terms of locating the holy places of the saints named later on. But it cannot be ignored completely, for Huw’s use of the river Irfon as a boundary line suggests that a sizeable tract of land in south Cantref Buellt, between the rivers Irfon and the northern boundary of Cantref Selyf, remained part of his Brycheiniog (for a useful map, see Lewis 1960: 38). This tract of land included churches dedicated to both Cynog (l. 20n) and Mary (l. 23n Mair).

Huw’s skill in this poem is seen in his ability to name over forty saints in a series of ten couplets (19–38). A church, chapel or altar had been dedicated to every one of these saints (23 of whom are native saints) all across Brycheiniog, most of which are concentrated along the Usk valley and in and around Brecon. Then he praises the people of Brycheiniog, whom he hopes will give him nerth ‘support’, or rather patronage, to travel to Rome (39–46). Huw tries to persuade them by asserting that he will pray on their behalf and that everyone should consider the significance of the fact that God is the Father of mankind (47–70).

Not long before Huw Cae Llwyd went on a pilgrimage to Rome in 1475.

Previous edition
HCLl poem XLV.

Metre and cynghanedd
Cywydd, 70 lines. Cynghanedd: croes o gyswllt 20% (14 ll.), croes 43% (30 ll.), traws 9% (6 ll.), sain 17% (12 ll.), llusg 11% (8 ll.).