Saints of the Day – Illtud, Abbot

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Illtyd; date and artist unknown; Holy Trinity Church, Abergavenny, Wales; photographed on 24 May 2011 by Gwenddwr; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

(also known as Illtyd, Iltut, Illtut)

Died c.505 (another source says 450-535); feast day formerly on July 7. Illtud, clearly an outstanding figure and one of the most celebrated Welsh saints, labored chiefly in the southeastern part of the country. His vita written circa 1140 has no historical value; but the Life of Saint Samson, composed about 500 years earlier, has some important references. This author names him as a disciple of Saint Germanus of Auxerre, who ordained him. It calls Illtud ‘the most learned of the Britons in both Testaments and in all kinds of knowledge,’ and speaks of his great monastic school.

This establishment was Llanilltyd Fawr (Llantwit Major in Glamorgan), where other prominent saints besides Samson are said to have been Illtyd’s pupils. The monastery of Llantwit survived in one form or another until the Norman conquest (1066).

The author of Samson’s Life also describes Illtud’s death, in illustration of the saint’s power of prophecy. The passage is an impressive one, but it does not state where or when the death took place.

Nevertheless, most of his life is derived mainly from legend and unreliable sources. According to them, he was the son of a Briton living in Letavia, Brittany (some scholars believe Letavia is an area in central Brednock, England, rather than in Brittany), who came to visit his cousin King Arthur of England about 470.

The later vita says that Illtud married Trynihid and then served in the army of a Glamorgan chieftain. When one of his friends was killed in a hunting accident, Saint Cadoc is said to have counselled him to leave the world behind. This is, of course, improbable because Cadoc would have been a mere lad.

The story continues that Illtud and Trynihid took Cadoc’s advice and lived together as recluses in a hut by the Nadafan River until he was warned by an angel to separate from her. He left his wife to become a monk under Saint Dubricius, but after a time resumed his eremitical life by a stream called the Hodnant. He attracted many disciples and organized them into the Llanwit Major monastery, which, according to the ninth-century Life of Saint Paul Aurelian, was originally “within the borders of Dyfed, called Pyr,” usually identified as Calder (Caldey) Island off Tenby. The monastery soon developed into a great foundation and a center of missionary activity in Wales.

Many extravagant miracles were attributed to him (he was fed by heaven when forced to flee the ire of a local chieftain and take refuge in a cave; he miraculously restored a collapsed seawall), and he is reputed to have sent or taken grain to relieve a famine in Brittany, where the place and church names attest to some connection with Illtud.

His death is reported at Dol, Brittany, where he had retired in his old age, at Llanwit, and at Defynock. One Welsh tradition has him as one of the three knights put in charge of the Holy Grail by Arthur, and another one even identifies him as Galahad (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Doble, Walsh).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 10 August 2020. Web. 18 September 2020. <>