Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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NONN , ( NONNA , NONNITA ) , saint , ( fl. late 5th cent. ;

daughter of Cynyr of Caer Gawch in Menevia . The tradition about Nonn is contained almost entirely in Rhygyfarch 's ‘ Life of S. David .’ It is said that Nonn , though a nun , was violated by Sant ( Sanctus ) , king of Ceredigion , and, as a result, became the mother of S. David . Gildas , when preaching in a certain church in the district, found himself bereft of speech because of the presence of the unborn David . A similar story is told also of S. Ailbe in the ‘ Life of S. Ailbe ’ ( Plummer , below). Further miracles are said to have occurred at the time of the birth of David . Rhygyfarch states that Nonn thereafter lived a chaste life but Irish tradition makes Nonn the mother also of Mor , mother of S. Eltin , and Magna , mother of S. Setna . Nonn is then said to have migrated to Cornwall , where several churches are dedicated to her. Doble (below) however prefers to regard the Cornish Nonna as a male, a monk who was a companion of S. David . Breton tradition remembers Nonn under the name Melaria . The Nonn ascriptions in Wales , always in close proximity to David dedications, are Llanerchaeron and Llan-nonn in Cards. , and Llan-nonn in Carms. There were also chapels bearing her name under Cregrina ( Llanbadarn-y-garreg ) in Radnor , and Ilston in Glamorgan . The festival of S. Nonn was celebrated in Wales on 2 March.

Sources:

  • The Lives of the British Saints , ii, 288-92; iv, 22-5;
  • Wade-Evans , Vitae Sanctorum Britanniae et Genealogiae , Cardiff, 1944 , 151-3;
  • Plummer , Vitae Sanctorum Hiberniae partim hactenvs ineditae , Oxford, 1910 , i, 53;
  • G. H. Doble , Saint Nonna .

Author:

Hywel David Emanuel, M.A., (1921-70), Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959