Stories of the Saints

18 February 2017 - 10 June 2017

Hengwrt

This exhibition demonstrates the survival of medieval traditions about the holy men and women who represent an important part of the country’s cultural inheritance.

In the Middle Ages, saints were called upon for healing and protection, and for their help in achieving eternal salvation. Their images and relics were found in the churches in which they were venerated and visited by pilgrims.

Medieval Welsh hagiography (Greek hagios meaning ‘saint’) preserves a wealth of tradition concerning local saints in Wales, as well as saints known across the Christian world. According to these traditions, saints performed miracles, fought with giants and monsters and raised the dead; they were also often prepared to die for their faith. Prose ‘Lives’ and poems were written in Latin and in Welsh, and those that survive allude to other lost narratives, and sometimes attempt to make sense of conflicting traditions. Genealogical texts list saints by their relationships to each other, and include the names of many saints about whom we know almost nothing.

None of the surviving sources were written prior to the eleventh century, and all are much later than the historical period in which the men and women who were later celebrated as saints founded their churches and monasteries in early medieval Wales.