Saint of the Day – 5 April – Saint Derferl Gadarn (c 566-660) Welsh Prince, Solodier, Monk, Abbot, Missionary, Local legend holds, that he was a warrior of King Arthur. Born c 566 in Wales died 6 April 660 at Ynys Enlli, Bardsey, Wales of natural causes. Also known as – Cadarn, “Dervel the Mighty,” Gdarn, Terbillius, Turville.
Derferl was born a Prince, the son of King Hywel Mawr; grandson of Hoel I Mawr the Great. brother of Saint Tudwal and the brother of Saint Arthfael.
Derferl is said to have been a noted warrior in medieval Welsh poetry. Tudur Penllyn wrote:
“Derferl in war, he would work his spear wondrously, steel covering is the garment, brave is the appearance.”
Derferl the soldier, whose skill was celebrated the bards of his day, fought in the Battle of Camlan in 537. After the mighty Battle, Derferl is unanimously held in Welsh tradition, to have been visited by grace and received a conversion experience as mighty as his arms of war had been.
He entered the religious life, initially as a wandering Hermit and then he entered the Monastery at Llantwit in Wales. Later he became the Abbot of Ynys Enlli, Bardsey Island, succeeding his cousin St Cadfan. Derferl evangelised the surrounding areas as a Missionary. The Monastery at Llandderfel in Gwynedd, which is named after him is also said to have been founded and established by Derferl.
He died on 6 April 660 at Ynys Enlli, Bardsey, Wales of natural causes. His relics were interred at Llanderfel, Merionethshire, Wales but were destroyed by order of Oliver Cromwell, by order of Henry VIII.
For centuries Derfel was venerated at the Churches of Llanfihangel Llantarnam, which claimed one of his relics and Llandderfel, which featured a wooden Statue. He was an object of pilgrimage at these sites. Derferl was depicted as a warrior in full armour riding a horse rather than as a Monk. The Llandderfel Statue was removed and dismantled by order of Thomas Cromwell during the English Reformation and used to burn a Catholic Priest, and Martyr, Blessed John Forest, at Smithfield in London. This was held to be a fulfilment of a prophecy that the image would burn down a forest. Part of the Statue survives to the present day at Llandderfel.