Saint Afan

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Afan Buallt
Died Late 6th century
Llanafan Fawr, near Builth Wells, Wales
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church
Anglican Communion
Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast 16 November[1]

Saint Afan (sometimes spelled "Avan"), or Afan Buallt, was a Welsh bishop and saint of the 6th century.


According to tradition, Afan Buallt[2] was the son of Cedig ap Ceredig, son of Cunedda Wledig, king of Gwynedd. One source gives his mother as Tegwedd, daughter of Tegid Foel of Penllyn, a legendary figure who is the mother of Taliesin in the tale of Ceridwen and who is associated with Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake). Afan was the founder of Llanafan Trawsgoed in Ceredigion. He was buried in Llanafan Fawr, where his purported tomb is found, inscribed "Hic Iacet Sanctus Avans Episcopus." He may have been the third bishop of Llanbadarn Fawr, Ceredigion.[3] He was a bishop in the Cantref of Buallt later incorporated into Breconshire.[4]

Through his father's line, he was a cousin of Saint David, patron saint of Wales. One account gives him as an ancestor of a 10th-century bishop, Ieuan, who was killed by Viking marauders.[1] The church dedicated to him was once apparently a site of pilgrimages, and site of at least one miracle: the Anglo-Norman lord Philip de Braose was hunting nearby and decided that the church was a suitable place for him and his dogs to spend the night. When he woke at sunrise, his dogs had gone mad and he was blind; his sight was only restored when he resolved to fight in the Crusades.[1]

The same story is recounted by Giraldus Cambrensis in his Description of Wales (1188):

At this point I must tell you what happened, in the reign of Henry I, King of the English, to the castellan of Radnor castle, in the territory of Builth, which is not far away, being adjacent to his own lands, which he himself conquered. He had gone into the church of Saint Afan, called Llanafan in Welsh, and there he had spent the night with his dogs, which was a foolish and irreverent thing to do. He got up at first light, as hunters are wont to do, but he found that all his dogs had gone mad and that he himself was blind. He had lost his sight completely and he had to grope his way out with his hand...

Gerald of WalesThe Journey Through Wales and the Description of Wales [5]

The narrative goes on to say that the nobleman never regained his sight, but fought in the Crusades blind, whereupon he was "immediately struck down by a blow from a sword and so ended his life with honour."[5]


S. Baring-Gould in The Lives of the British Saints (1907) states that he was the son of Cedig ap Ceredig ap Cunedda Wledig, and that his mother was a Saint Tegfedd or Tegwedd, the daughter of Tegid the Bald (Tegid Foel), Lord of Penllyn in Meirionnydd, and that he lived in the early part of the 6th century.[6] Afan is given the epithet Buellt, or Buallt, indicating a connection with a cantref of that name.[6] Afan as a man's name is probably a loan from the Latin Amandus; it also occurs as a river name.[6]


Baring-Gould details that Afan was murdered by Irish pirates (or by Danes) on the banks of the River Chwefri, and that the tomb at Llanafan Fawr marks the site of his martyrdom. A source is quoted saying that "it is not improbable that he was the third Bishop of Llanbadarn; and his churches are situated in the district which may be assigned to that Diocese."[6]


Two churches in the deanery of Builth were dedicated to him, Llanafan Fawr and Llanafan Fechan, and another in the deanery of [lanbadarn Fawr in Ceredigion, called Llanafan-y-Trawsgoed. Some suppose that there was once a See of Llanafan Fawr and that Afan was its bishop, though this is improbable; the supposition arises from the inscription on Saint Afan's grave at Llanafan Fawr, which reads HIC IACET SANCTUS AVANUS EPISCOPUS ("Here lies Saint Avan, Bishop").[6] The letters are deeply cut in Lombardic script, slightly ornamented, and on the top-stone of a plain oblong altar tomb in the churchyard. The tomb is not older than the end of the 13th or the 14th century.[6]

The Demetian Calendar gives Saint Afan's festival as November 16, but other calendars, including the Welsh Prymers of 1618 and 1633 give the 17th.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Jones, Terry. "Afan". Patron Saints Index. Retrieved 2007-12-30. 
  2. ^ Rees, p. 208
  3. ^ Enwogion Cymru 1852: 29
  4. ^ "St. Afan". Saints and Angels. Catholic Online. Retrieved 2007-12-30. 
  5. ^ a b Gerald of Wales (1978). The Journey Through Wales and the Description of Wales. Penguin Classics. pp. 78–79. ISBN 0-14-044339-8. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Baring-Gould, Sabine (1907). The Lives of the British Saints: The Saints of Wales and Cornwall and such Irish Saints as have Dedications in Britain. London: Charles J. Clark, for the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion. pp. 114–115.