When you meet someone for the first time, it seems to me, that you can nearly always find something that you have in common — places you have lived, people you have known, views, tastes, maybe you have the same sense of humour — we humans like to do this, to forge bonds with new people.
I have just met Madrun and she is a remarkable woman. She’s been dead 1500 years.
Whatever you call her, Madrun or Materiana, this woman must have learned a thing or two from the turbulent power struggles that raged around her in her early life. She was born a princess, eldest daughter of Gwerthefyr Fendigaid (Vortimer the Blessed), the 5th century warrior king of Gwent who opposed the Saxon invaders from Germany who were allied with his father. He temporarily overthrew his father and took power but eventually is said to have been poisoned by his Saxon stepmother (that’s a recurrent theme!) On his father’s death, his daughter, Madrun, succeeded from her grandfather and rulled with her husband Ynyr (descended from Roman emperor Magnus Maximus). (Thankyou, David Nash Ford for this information from Early British Kingdoms)
The details of her life are obscure but we know she was Christian and that, like many of her contemporaries she travelled to Ynes Enlli (Bardsey Island — at the tip of the Llyn peninsula in North Wales) as a pilgrim.
On the way she and her servant Annun stayed a night at Trawsfynydd. I have visited this area — infact I blogged about the visit and the spooky nature of the place.(Off the Straight and Narrow)
Madrun found it spooky too. She and Annun both dreamed a dream of founding a nunnery there, which they did –the church there still bears Madrun’s name.
Yesterday we were at Tintagel, Cornwall, in a magnificent gale, shouting greetings to fellow walkers with excited wind-tousled dogs. We watched the huge swell and the breakers hitting the offshore islands and sending spray 60 feet into the air.
As we drove away we caught sight of a small church on the cliff and we were drawn to look. Here it is — St Materiana’s (that’s the same Madrun — she ended her days in Cornwall)
Relatively modern –rebuilt in 12th century! But there’s been a church here since the 6th century — I bet you Madrun’s buried here — look at the view.
Someone is keeping an eye on it anyway!