Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Saint Illtyd

Eltut, Illtud Farchog, Illtud the Knight, Illtyd the Knight, Iltutus
Latin: Hildutus
Born: c. 480, South Wales
Died: Date unknown, Wales

According to Life of St. Illtud, written about 1140, Illtud was the son of a Breton prince named Bicanus and Rieingulid, Illtud was apparently the cousin of Arthur, whom he served as a warrior during his early years as a soldier. He was sometimes called St. Illtud the Knight. As an unusual combination of warrior and monk, St. Illtud may anticipate Galahad. Nennius mentions Illtud and his holy altar, but does not connect them with Arthur.

Nixon-Kennedy calls Saint Illtyd as the daughter of Rieingulid, according to Welsh tradition. She is said to have been related to Arthur and to have served as a warrior under him.

He died in mid-sixth century, was a Welsh saint, found under abbot of Llanilltud Fawr in the Welsh county of Glamorgan. He was also said to have re-established the attached monastery school known as Cor Tewdws, after it had been destroyed. Among the pupils can be found Gildas the Historian, Samson of Dol, Saint David of Wales and Saint Patrick of Ireland.

The 7th century Life of Saint Samson claims that Illtud was a disciple of Germanus of Auxerre (although this does not necessarily mean that he was taught by him directly), that he was the most learned Briton in the study of scripture and philosophy, and that was the abbot of his monastery in Glamorgan. He appears to have been married at some stage and may have had a military background.

The earliest Life of Illtud, full of implausible legends, was written about 1140. It claimed that he sailed to Brittany with some corn ships to relieve the famine. Some Breton churches and villages certainly bear his name. In the Life, Illtud is the son of a minor Breton prince named Bican Farchog, who begins his career as a skilled warrior, serving his maternal cousin, King Arthur, and others until his wild ways brought him into conflict with Saint Cadoc at Llancarfan Abbey. Illtud’s warband raids the abbey, but the monks pursue them into a bog where the earth swallows all of them except Illtud. Cadoc reminds Illtud of his religion, and the humbled warrior takes up the monastic life.

An inscription on a cross at Llantwit says:

Samson placed his Cross here for his soul, for the soul of Illtud, Samson, Rhain, Sawyl and Ebisar.

It is possible that it was erected by Saint Samson himself in the sixth century, although it may be somewhat later. There is no formal evidence for a cult of Illtud surviving from before the eleventh century. However, his monastery reputed to contain hundreds of monks and was one of the most influential in South Wales, and many churches in Wales are dedicated to him, including St Illtyd’s Church (now Llantwit Major), which stands on what is believed to have been the site of the monastery.

The Life tells of Illtud’s bell being recovered from King Edgar’s armies and of Illtud’s protecting his people against the people of North Wales in the time of William the Conqueror.