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January 29

St Gildas the Wise - January 29

Saint Gildas the Wise
Abbot, Founder
First English Historian
(Around 516 – 570)

Be ye, therefore, imitators of Christ, as beloved sons; and walk in the love of God, and be always mindful of His words. But love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. For the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but love ye the Lord Jesus Christ and His words with all your hearts: for He has said, If any man love Me, he will keep My words, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself unto him.”

Saint Gildas the Wise

Saint’s Life Story

His Early Life

Gildas was born in Scotland, possibly at Clydeside, around the year 516 to a noble British family. Gildas is often called “Badonicus” because he was said to be born in the same year the Saxons were defeated by the Britons in the battle of Mons Badonicus (Mount Badon)near Bath, Somersetshire, England. Gildas’ father was called Caw Cawlwyd and there is no information about his mother. Gildas was sent from his Clydeside home to the great monastery of Llanilltud Fawr in South Wales studying under Saint Illtud, together with Saint Samson and Saint Paul Aurelian.

Ordained a Priest

In 525, after Gildas completed his studies under Saint Illtyd, he travelled to Ireland in the company of Dewi Sant (Saint David) and Saint Cadoc. He moved from one monastic center to another, in order to continue his studies. While in Ireland. Gildas was ordained a priest and returned across the Irish Sea to teach and preach around his native Clydeside. Gildas became a fervent evangelist, spreading the message of Christianity throughout Britain. He founded numerous churches and monasteries, playing a pivotal role in establishing and strengthening the Christian faith in the land.

In due time, Gildas made for Wales to stay with Saint Cadoc at Llancarfan. From there, he went on pilgrimage to Rome meeting the pope on his arrival there. On his return, Gildas elected to settle on the tiny island of Flat Holm in the Bristol Channel. Here, around 540, Gildas wrote his treatise “De Exidio et Conquestu Britanniae” (On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain) a thundering denunciation of the British clergy and secular kings. In it, Gildas blamed the laxity of the clergy and the secular rulers for the collapse of Romano-British civilization and in so doing laid the foundation of the great monastic upsurge that was to take place a half-century or so later.

Gildas also wrote a longer work, The Epistle. This is a series of sermons on the moral laxity of rulers and of the clergy. In these sermons, Gildas shows that he had a fine knowledge of scripture, Virgil and the Letters of Saint Ignatius of Antioch. He also became a respected teacher, imparting his wisdom and knowledge to prominent figures such as Saint Finnian of Clonard, Saint Kenneth of Wales, and Blessed Bieuzy of Brittany.

Settled in Brittany

Four years later, Gildas decided to settle in Armorica (modern day Brittany, France). He established a hermitage on the island of Horat near the town of Vannes, becoming a hermit and dedicating himself to a solitary existence in prayer and meditation. Although Gildas settled on an island, he did not cut himself of from the world and soon established a monastery and school on the mainland nearby (in modern day Saint Gildas-de-Rhuys in Morbihan, France). Over time, his reputation drew others to him, and his hermitage transformed into a thriving monastery, with Gildas serving as its revered abbot. In 546, Saint Cadoc followed him across the channel and settled as a hermit near Etel.

Bell Legend

Gildas made a further visit to Rome and called on Saint Cadoc on the way. This time Gildas carried a sweet-toned bell as a gift for the Pope. Saint Cadoc asked Gildas for the bell but he insisted that it was a gift for Saint Peter’s and carried it on to Rome. On presenting the gift to the Pope, the bell would make no sound. So, it was brought back to Etel where, upon giving the bell into the hands of Saint Cadoc, it resumed its beautiful chime.

Returned to Ireland

In 560, Gildas returned to Ireland at the invitation of King Ainmeric to reorder the monasteries, restoring discipline and liturgy. While there. Gildas taught in the great School of Armagh and visited the great monasteries of Bangor and Clonard.

Back to Brittany

For his final years, Gildas once again settled in Brittany, founding a monastery at a place which bears his name: Saint Gildas-de-Rhuys in Morbihan. A holy well bearing his name lies nearby. Of his work on the running of a monastery (one of the earliest known in the Christian Church), only the so-called Penitential, a guide for Abbots in setting punishment, survives.

His Death

Gildas died on January 29, 570 on the island of Houat, situated in modern-day Brittany, France. According to his wishes, his body was placed in a boat and allowed to drift. Three months later, his incorrupt body was discovered in a nearby creek and he was brought back to the church in Rhuys. His tomb stands behind the altar of the present church which also contains some other relics.

Because of his learning and literary style he is sometimes known as Gildas sapiens (Gildas the Wise). Saint Gildas the Wise is regarded as the first British historian. Copies of his writings are preserved in the Cambridge University Library.

Born:                   Around 516 in Scotland, possibly at Clydeside

Died:                   January 29, 570 on the island of Houat, Brittany (France)

Beatified:           Pre-Congregation

Canonized:        Pre-Congregation

Feast Day:         January 29

Patron Saint:    Bell Founders; Welsh Historians



Sometimes it may be hard to tell the truth as that “white lie” won’t hurt anyone. Saint Gildas the Wise told the truth by condemning the corruption of British kings and clergy in his book, On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain. He boldly proclaimed the truth and warned his contemporaries to turn back to God. However, this was quite challenging for Saint Gildas the Wise, but he did not back down from the challenge of telling the truth and evangelizing with his holy lifestyle.

How often do you stay silent when you could speak the truth of God’s goodness in your life? How do you respond to the things that the Lord challenges you to do?


Saint Gildas the Wise,

You used your God-given gift of words for His greater glory through telling the truth in your words and actions.

Intercede for us, as we pray, for the grace to follow Jesus truthfully, in offering everything for God’s glory alone.

Teach us to not take anything for granted, that all our talents, however small, may be employed in God’s service, for the salvation of our souls.

Saint Gildas the Wise, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

Archdiocese of Thyateira & Great Britain – Gildas the Wise

Aleteia – Writings of saints reveal first mentions of King Arthur

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 29 January -St Gildas the Wise

Angelus – Saint of the day: Gildas the Wise

Catholic Exchange – St. Gildas the Wise

Catholic Ireland – Jan 29 – St Gildas (500-570) Itinerant Monk

Catholic News Agency – St. Gildas the Wise Feast day: Jan 29

CatholicSaints.Info – Saints of the Day – Gildas (Badonicus) the Wise, Abbot Bishop – by Katherine I Rabenstein

Celtic and Old English Saints – St. Gildas the Wise, Abbot Bishop

Dynamic Catholic – St. Gildas the Wise

Independent Catholic News – St Gildas

National Catholic Reporter – Jan. 29, St. Gildas the Wise

New Advent – Edmonds, C. (1909). St. Gildas. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Gildas the Wise (c.500-570)

Video Link

Saint Gildas The Wise – YouTube (Divine Mercy Prayer)