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  Vortigern Studies > Vortigern > The Sources > Bonedd y Saint

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The Sources
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The Bonedd y Saint
and the Hystoria o Uuched Beuno
Robert Vermaat

The Bonedd y Saint

The Bonedd y Saint (‘Descent of the Saints’) was compiled of material closely related tot that of the royal genealogies, at some period during the 12th century, though the Old Welsh form of some names proves that the material is much older in origin. It may have been composed in Ceredigion according to the important position of St David, which also puts the compilation after 1140. At this time St David was virtually acclaimed as the Welsh patron saint by the acknowledgement of the bishop of St David's as metropolitan of Wales by the princes of Gwynedd Owain and Cadwaladr.

Most of the 6th and 7th century early Christians in Wales are alledged to have been of royal descent (see Saints on the move). The numerous versions of these saints genealogies indicate the wide circulation given to them, and they are found incorporated in the Lives of the Saints, which were redacted in the 12th and 13th centuries. The form of the genealogies bears witness to the interrelation of secular and clerical learning. The Bonedd y Saint and other Lives seem to be copies of a variety of compositions of earlier date, and they may have been 'written over' to differ more or less from any originals. As they reflect Welsh social and political conditions, they betray no apparent catastrophe due to a supposed 'push into the hills' by their eastern neighbours the Saxons, but in fact they show a smooth emergence from the Roman period, passing under the name of Britons into the sub-Roman period. On the other hand they have strong and intimate ties with Ireland.

The Bonedd y Saint deals mostly with saints from northern and central Wales, not the familiar territory of Vortigern. All the more strange that it reflects the only source for the connection between Gwent and Vortigern's family (brief 44 & 45). Some versions of the Bonedd y Saint, as shown here, run item 45 together with item 44, which concerns Ceidio ab Ynyr Gwent, making Modrun his mother:

44. Keidyau m. Enyr Guent.
45. Madrun uerch Wertheuyr urenhin Enys Brideyn ac Anhun llauuorwyn idi.
(Keidaw m. Ynyr Gwent a Madrun merch Wertheuyr Uendigeit y uam
(in text B, followed by G).
44 + 45. Keidaw m. Ynyr Gwent, a Madrun merch Wertheuyr uendigeit y uam
B. Kneiddian ap Ynyr gwent, a Madrun verch Wrtheyrn, vrenin Ynys Brydain, a vv yn llavorwyn iddi.
E. Kyneiddian ap Ynyr Gwent, a Thegiwc i chwaer; i mam hwyntev oedd Vadryn verch Gorthevyr vrenhin.
G. Keidiaw m. Ynyr Gwen[t]. Madrvn verch Wrthevyr, brenin yr ynys honn, i vam.

This is most probably an error, but it may have led to the local legend that it was Modrun who died with her grandfather Vortigern in the burning of his Caer Guorthigirn, which in this version was situated in Yr Eifl. This 'Castel Gwrtheyrn' can only be the Iron Age hillfort of Tre'r Ceiri. However, she escaped, carrying her baby Ceidio with her, and fled to Carn Fadrun in southern Lleyn. Popular tradition has this son found a church 2 miles to the north, at Ceidio. A late version of the Bonedd y Saint makes Modrun the mother os another saint, St Cedwyn, which is most likely a further corruption of 'Ceidio'.

Bonedd y Saint.62

(c. 1140)

Cadell d.
Brochuael y.
Kynan g.

The passages above (item 44, 45 and 44+45) contain some duplications. There were two persons called Ynyr Gwent, the second one born c. 540. Tegiwg was a daughter of that second Ynyr (see More Saints), while the form 'Kneiddian' is a false fusion of 'Keidaw' and 'Iddon'. The Bonedd also has a variant version of the genealogy of Powys as reflected in the Harleian MS and the Pillar of Elise (brief 61-62):

61. Garmavn m. Ridicus ac en oes Gortheyrn Gortheneu e doeth er enys [honn ac o ffreinc pan hanoed].
62. Dona e Mon m. Selyf m. Kenan Garwyn m. Brochuael Esgithrauc m Kyngen m. Cadell Dyrnlluc m. Brydw m. Ruduedel Urych m. Eudeyrn m. Gortheyrn Gortheneu.

Though the part between brackets is disputed, it is constructed from the MS B-G (below). F & G close with Cadell, B omits the m. after Urych and reads Eurdeyrn. E has Evrdeyrn and H has Aurdeyrn. These may all be a guess, based upon a scribal error.

Bonedd y

(c. 1140)

Ynyr Gwent

These are the foremost copies of the tract known as the Bonedd y Saint:

  • A (Peniarth MS 16), fos. 53v-54v ('Bonhed y Seint'), early 13th century, incomplete and breaks off after urenhin in brief 45.
  • B (Peniarth MS 45), pp. 286-291 ('Bonhed Seint Kymry'), late 13th century, complete but with gaps.
  • C (Peniarth MS 12), fo. 25r-v ('Boned y Seint'), early 14th century, much abbreviated. These pages really belong to the Peniarth MS 4 ('The White Book of Rhydderch', c. 1320).
  • Dd (Hafod MS 2), fos. 209v-212r ('Bonheyd Seynt'), second half of the 14th century, sometimes called 'Llannerch MS'.
  • D (Hafod MS 16), pp. 110-112 (no title), c. 1400, incomplete. Also: Peniarth MS 50 ('Y Cwtta Cyfarwydd', 1415-1456), and a copy in Cardiff MS 25 (Hb), pp. 108-110.
  • E (Llanstephan MS 28), pp. 69-75, c.1475, taken from the lost Hengwrt MS 33.
  • F (Peniarth MS 27), part 2, pp. 67-70, c. 1475-1500.
  • G (Peniarth MS 127), pp. 43-49, c. 1510.
  • H (Peniarth MS 182), pp. 63-74, c. 1514.
  • Ha (Peniarth MS 137), 199-204, c. 1541.
  • L (Peniarth MS 177), pp. 262-267, 269. Also Peniarth MS 178, part 1, pp. 19-20 and Peniarth MS 132, pp. 119-121, c. 1544-1577.

The list continues with J, K, Ga, La, TW, M, Fa, Hb, and Y, and consist of no less than eleven more MSS, written or copied between 1565 and 1700.
Not to be confused with the Bonedd y Saint is the late medieval Achau'r Saint ('Pedigrees of the Saints'), which is a mostly corrupt copy of the former.

The Hystoria o Uuched Beuno

This Welsh 'Life of St Beuno' (Jesus College MS 119 or 'Llyvyr Agkyr Llandewivevi', fos. 104r-110r) was written in 1346 and might be an abbreviated translation, paraphrase or both of a lost Latin Life of the saint. It might be cosidered that the Life of St David occurs as a similar Welsh translation in tne same Elucidarium in which the Hystoria o Uuched Beuno was published, but of course that in this case the Latin original is known.

The form of Cateyrn or Catigern, son of Vortigern is also represented in the

Buchedd Beuno, ch. 24:
Llyma ach Beuno. Beuno vab Bugi, vab Gwynlliw, vab Tegit, vab Kadell Drynlluc, vab Categyrnn, vab Gortheyrnn, vab Gorthegyrnn, vab Rittegyrn, vab Deheuwynt, vab Eudegan, vab Eudegern, vab Elud, vab Eudos, vab Eudoleu, vab Auallach, vab Amalech, vab Belim, vab Anna. Mam yr Anna honno oed gefnitherw y Veir Wyry, Mam Christ.

Not only do we see a clear duplication of two forms of Vortigern, but there is a variant of the pedigree of Powys (again), in which Cadell is made the son of Catigern. The Bonedd y Saint makes Cadell the son of Britu, who is here the great-grandson of Vortigern! Clearly there were more variants about than the ones in the Historia Brittonum and the Pillar of Elise. The latter must be seen as authoritative though because of its age. The Bonedd y Saint might supply us here with a combination of several such variants. Finally, we see that Vortigern is backed up to the pedigree usually connected with Coel Hen.

Kadell drynlluc


  • Bartrum, P.C.: Early Welsh Genealogical Tracts, (Cardiff 1966).*
  • Bromwich, R.: The Character of the Early Welsh Tradition, in: Chadwick, Studies in Early British History, pp. 83-136.*
  • Chadwick, H.M.: Vortigern, in: Chadwick, Studies in Early British History, pp. 21-33.*
  • Chadwick, H.M.: The Foundation of the Early British Kingdoms, in: Chadwick, Studies in Early British History, pp. 47-56.*
  • Chadwick, N.K. et al: Studies in Early British History, (Cambridge 1959).*
  • Chadwick, N.K.: A Note on the Name Vortigern, in: Chadwick, Studies in Early British History, pp. 34-46.*
  • Vitae Sanctorum Britanniae et Genealogiae, ed. A.W. Wade-Evans, (Cardiff 1973).

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