Monk in Wales, Brittany and Cornwall. Believed to have travelled to Rome, Italy. Lived as a hermit in a small cave near Glastonbury Abbey. Abbot of a monastery in Wales. The Welsh town of Llangollen (Collen’s enclosure), Clwd is named for him, indicating that it formed around his hermitage and church.
Collen was at the right time and place to be a transitional figure in the folklore of the region. There are tales of him slaying a Welsh giantess to save the people of Llangollen (the church there still has an image of him in this triumph), and of fighting a duel with a Saracen in front of the Pope. Stories have him being taken to the land of faerie, but always as a Christian, and always showing the power of God over the old ways.
Legend says that Collen was once invited to dine with the King of the Fairies; some say he was asked by a man, some say by a fairy, and some say by a talking peacock; I cannot say. The saint declined three times, but finally accepted. Though the king appeared to live in an enormous castle, wealthy and fair, surrounded by courtiers and servants, and seated before a table groaning under the weight of good eatings. Collen, however, knew him for the lying spirit he was. The saint reminded the king of the fate of the Godless, then sprinkled holy water in all directions; in an instant there was nothing left but an angry, demonic bird, flying away from the scene.
Another version has it that Collen, while he lived as a hermit near Glastonbury, was summoned to settle the eternal May Day struggle of Gwynn ap Nudd, Lord of the Underworld, with Gwyther, Lord of Summer, for the hand of the fair Creiddylad, the Maiden of Spring. Collen ordained that the quarrel would be resolved on Doomsday, and not before. Then with a sprinkle of holy water, the faerie folk and fortress disappeared.
- “Saint Collen of Denbighshire“. CatholicSaints.Info. 16 May 2015. Web. 3 May 2016. <>