In the sixth century the young Tudno (pronounced “Tidno”) entered the monastery of Bangor is y Coed, (Bangor on Dee), which was renowned for its learning, patriotism and missionary zeal. In faith, Tudno then came to the ancient rock of the Great Orme and climbed the steep paths of the windswept headland to bring to the little round stone huts the message of Christianity.
St. Tudno’s Church, on the Great Orme, is an emblem in stone of the witness of men down the ages to the faith first brought to this part by Tudno, Saint and Confessor.
St. Tudno is now the patron saint of Llandudno and his feast day is celebrated on 5th June.
Extract from T.F. Wynne’s booklet St. Tudno and St. Tudno’s Church, available from the church.
According to ancient Welsh manuscripts, Tudno was one of the sons of Seithenyn, who was himself son of Seithyn Seidi the King of Dyfed. Seithenyn was an important person in the kingdom of Cantref ofa Gwaelod, ruled by Gwyddno Garanhir (Gwyddno the long legged), and might have been a co-ruler. Cantref ofa Gwaelod was a legendary kingdom, below sea level, in the area which is now Cardigan Bay. This was a fertile land protected by a great dyke with sluice gates. Seithenyn was custodian and keeper of the gates but was blamed for allowing the land to flood and to be lost below the sea. It was after this that Tudno, and his brothers, entered the monastery.
This is the beautiful new icon of St. Tudno which has been given to St. Tudno’s Church. In this image, and in the window of St. Tudno in Holy Trinity’s Memorial Chapel, St. Tudno is holding what appears to be a small millstone. This is actually a representation of a whetstone which according to ancient legends was one of the Thirteen Great Treasures of the Island of Britain, all of which had special properties. St. Tudno is suggested to have been the holder of the Whetstone of Tudwal Tudglyd (though this honour has also been given to St. Tudno’s brother, St. Tudclyd, who founded his church at Penmancno). According to the legend, the whetstone would sharpen the sword of a brave man but blunt that of a coward.
The icon and window also show St. Tudno holding an abbot’s staff, as founder of his llan on the Great Orme. A llan was a particular monastic institution of the Celtic church, the word itself meaning an enclosure which would have surrounded the cell and church of the holy man or woman and which would have included other dwellings. The main picture in the icon shows St. Tudno standing on the headland of the Great Orme, with a representation of his church in the bottom left hand corner – whitewashed in the medieval style. In the top left hand corner St. Tudno is shown praying outside a cave. This is Ogof Llech near the Great Orme Lighthouse, which was once accessible and is associated with St. Tudno. It is suggested that St. Tudno might have taken the cave as his first cell on the Great Orme, before founding his llan.