Saint of the Day – 29 March – Saint Gladys (Sixth Century) Queen and Hermit, Mother and widow. Patronages – Newport and Gelligaer in Wales. Also known as Gwladys, Gwaladys, Gladusa, Gwladus, Claudia.
Princess Gladys was the eldest – and best attested – daughter of the saintly Irish immigrant, King St Brychan of Brechnock, Wales. With her countless brothers and sisters, she was raised at the Royal & Christian Court at Talgarth, where she grew into a beautiful young woman. Before long, she came to the notice of some of the most eligible bachelors around, particularly Brechnock’s menacing neighbour, King Gwynllyw Farfog (the Bearded).
Gwynllyw sent envoys to King Brychan requesting the hand of his daughter in marriage, but the holy man sent them away. Gwynllyw was a rough pagan warrior King, quite unsuitable for his delicate offspring. The King of Gwynllwg, however, was not so easily put off and decided he would take his prize by force. With three hundred men to help him, he made a daring raid on Brycheiniog and made off with Princess Gladys. Her father, King Brychan pursued him but the two were accosted by their High-King, Arthur. Struck by the lady’s beauty, Arthur was, at first, tempted to take her for himself but his fellows persuaded him to support Gwynllyw’s cause and Brychan was eventually brought round.
Gladys reigned with her husband as a pious and wise monarch, tempering his, often rash, behaviour and slowly converting him. They became the parents of Saint Cadog known as “the Wise” as well as, Eigion, Cyfyw, Cynidr, Maches & Glywys. Cadog – if not all the children – was raised as a Christian by St Tathyw, probably at his mother’s insistence and later helped to convert his father to Christianity.
Gwynllwg desired to abandon his life of violence and seek forgiveness for his sins. A vision led him to found a hermitage on what is now Stow Hill in Newport, South Wales. Gladys accompanied Gwynllyw into an austere life of a hermit and for a while they lived together there, fasting or on a vegetarian diet and bathing in the cold waters of the river but moved apart to avoid temptation. Gladys then founded a separate hermitage at Pencarn, where, upon her husband’s death, she lived and late, at the Capel Wladus in Gelligaer. Here, she was buried and a Celtic cross slab found there is thought to be her memorial. It can now be seen in Gelligaer parish Church.
Since her death, she has been revered as a Saint. Her feast day is the same as her husband’S, 29th March.