Teilo, Bishop in Wales, sixth century

Saint Teilo, Bishop in Wales

Teilo, an important sixth century British monk and bishop, was probably born at Penally (Penalun), near Tenby in what is now Pembrokeshire, Wales.  He was a pupil of Paul Aurelian, known later in Cornwall as Saint Pol, and either studied with or under Dubricius (Saint Dyfrig), one of the earliest and most important saints of south Wales.  Teilo had episcopal of a number of monasteries in what is now western Wales, the chief being Llandeilo Fawr (which means, the the Great Church – or Abbey – of Saint Teilo).  With the coming of the Yellow Plague in 547, Teilo fled to Brittany, staying with Samson at Dol for seven years and founding a number of churches during that time.  Soon after his return to Llandeilo Fawr, Teilo died.

Ancient church dedications to Teilo are found in in the vicinity of Carmarthen and in Glamorgan and Pembrokeshire.  In the Middle Ages, three churches – at Penally, Llandeilo Fawr, and Llandaff – each claimed to have his body.  According to a biographical sermon composed in the early twelfth century by Geoffrey of Llandaff, a dispute had arisen among these three churches about who should have his body.  During the night, the body multiplied to three so that each church would have his relics – an apparent ex post facto invention to explain three different sets of relics.  The likely tomb of Teilo is in Llandaff cathedral, and his shrine on the south side of the high altar became a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages.  The tomb was opened in 1850, and inside it was a record of an earlier opening in 1736:  “the parson buried appear’d to be a bishop by his Pastorall Staffe and Crotcher”.  The staff had fallen to pieces, but the “crotcher” (crozier head) of pewter still just held together.

Teilo is one of the patron saints of Llandaff, and he is commemorated on this day in the Calendar of the Church in Wales.

prepared from Celebrating the Saints and The Oxford Dictionary of Saints

The Collect

O God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant Teilo, to be a bishop and pastor in your Church and to feed your flock: Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that they may minister in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The icon of Saint Teilo is from Aidan Hart’s gallery of Western Orthodox saints and is reproduced here with his kind permission.

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