Saint Brychan was a 5th century King of Brycheiniog in South Wales, famous for his many saintly children.
Celtic hagiography tells us that Brychan was born in Ireland, the son of a Prince Anlach and his wife, Marchel, heiress of the Welsh kingdom of Garthmadrun (Brycheiniog), which the couple later inherited. Brychan was tutored by Saint Drichan and, as a young man, was sent as a hostage to the court of King Banadl of Powys, thus securing peace in his father's kingdom. He raped the king's daughter, Banhadlwedd, and she bore him Saint Cynog. Upon his father's death, he returned to Garthmadrun where is reign was remembered as a glorious age of Christianity.
Portraiture and veneration
A 15th century stained glass window in the parish church at St Neot in Cornwall, supposedly depicts Brychan, seated and crowned, holding in his arms eleven children. This, however, has been described by a standard modern guide as "God the Father with souls in his lap". His feast day is 6 April.
Children of Brychan
According to Christian tradition, Brychan married three times and had a very large family. These are mentioned in several manuscripts, including William Worcester, John Leland and Nicholas Roscarrock. The number of children attributed to him varies from twelve to sixty-three, the number most frequently encountered being twenty-four. There are two main lists however, one of Welsh origin and one of Cornish origin. Most of his children appear to have travelled from Brecon to evangelise Cornwall and North Devon, where they are now venerated, but there is little agreement between the two lists. Some are referred to as being 'in Manau' which has led to associations of Brychan with Manaw Gododdin in modern Scotland; although the Isle of Man seems more likely.
The numbers of children may have grown over time, as more and more seculars as well as saints wished to claim descent from one of the 'Holy Families of Britain'. Listed below are children from Welsh, Cornish, Irish and Breton sources, as recorded on the Early British Kingdoms website:
Sons in Welsh sources
In the Cognacio Brychan, De Situ Brecheniauc and Jesus College MS20 are listed Cynog, Rhain Dremrudd, Clydwyn, Arthen, Papai, Dingad, Berwyn and Rhydog. Also listed, but not in all three, are Cynon, Pasgen, Cylflifer, Marthaerun and Rhun. Other Welsh sources claim the following additional sons: Caian, Cynbryd, Cynfran, Cynin, Dogfan, Dyfnan, Dyfrig, Hychan, Llecheu, Neffei, Rhawin, Llofan, Llonio, Heilin, Afallach, Gwynnen and Gwynnws.
Daughters in Welsh sources
The De Situ Brecheniauc lists: Meleri, Hunydd, Gwladys, Ceingar, Tudglid, Nyfain, Gwawr, Marchell, Lluan, Gwrygon Goddeu, Arianwen, Bethan, Ceinwen (Keyne), Cerddych, Clydai, Cynheiddon, Dwynwen, Eiliwedd, Goleudydd, Gwen, Lludd, Tudful, Tudwystl and Tybie. Other Welsh sources claim the following additional daughters: Beiol, Tydieu, Eufail, Hawystl, Edwen, Gwenrhiw, Tudwen, Callwen, Gwenfyl, Gwennan and Mwynwen.
Listed in the 'Life of Saint Nectan' are, by his wife, Gwladys:
Adwen, Canauc (Cynog), Cleder (Clether), Dilic (Illick), Endilient (Endelienta), Helie, Johannes (Sion), Iona, Juliana (Ilud), Kenhender (Cynidr), Keri (Curig), Mabon (Mabyn), Menfre (Menefrewy), Merewenne (Marwenna), Morewenna (Morwenna), Nectanus (Nectan), Tamalanc, Tedda (Tetha), Wencu, Wenheden (Enoder), Wenna (Gwen), Wensent, Wynup (Gwenabwy) and Yse (Issey).
According to Robert Hunt, of the holy children that settled in Cornwall, we learn that the following gave their names to Cornish churches
- Johannes at St Ive (probably incorrect)
- Endelient at Endellion
- Menfre at St Minver
- Tedda at St Teath
- Mabon at St Mabyn
- Merewenne at Marhamchurch
- Wenna at St Wenn
- Keyne at St Keyne
- Yse at St lssey
- Morewenna at Morwenstow
- Cleder at St Clether
- Keri at Egloskerry
- Helie at Egloshayle (this is incorrect)
- Adwen at Advent
- Lanent at Lelant
The Book of Leinster lists the following sons by Brychan's wife, Dína daughter of the King of the Saxons: Mo-Goróc, Mo-Chonóc (Cynog), Diraid, Dubán (Dyfnan), Cairinne (Caian), Cairpre, Iast, Ellóc (Dilic), Paan, Cáemán and Mo-Beóc,
Breton tradition says that Brychan married Menedoc daughter of Constantine, King of the Scots. Together they were the parents of Saint Nennocha.