Historically, today is the feast of St. Gildas the Wise, Scottish bishop and author and sometimes listed as Badonicus. He was born in the Clyde River area of Scotland. After becoming a disciple of St. Finnian, Gildas was a hermit for a time in Wales. He was also trained by St. Illtyd. He was famous for writing De Excidiio Britanniae, a Latin work describing moral decline in Britain.
He was probably born about 517, in the North of England or Wales. His
father's name was Cau (or Nau), and that he came from noble lineage.
He lived in a time when the glory of Rome was faded from Britain. The
permanent legions had been withdrawn by Maximus, who used them to sack
Rome itself and make himself Emperor.
Gildas, noted for his piety, was well educated, and was not afraid of
publicly rebuking contemporary monarchs, at a time when libel was
answered by a sword, rather than a Court order.
He lived for many years as an ascetic hermit on Flatholm Island in the
Bristol Channel. Here, he established his reputation for that peculiar
Celtic sort of holiness that consists of extreme self-denial and
isolation. At around this time, according to the Welsh, he also preached
to Nemata, the mother of St David, while she was pregnant with the
In about 547, he wrote De Excidio Britanniae (The Ruin of
Britain). In this, he writes a brief tale of the island from
pre-Roman times and criticizes the rulers of the island for their lax
morals and blames their sins (and those that follow them) for the
destruction of civilization in Britain. The book was avowedly written as
a moral tale.
He also wrote a longer work, the Epistle. This is a series of
sermons on the moral laxity of rulers and of the clergy. In these, Gildas
shows that he has a wide reading of the Bible and of some other classical
Gildas was an influential preacher, visiting Ireland and doing missionary
work. He was responsible for the conversion of much of the island, and
may be the one who introduced anchorite customs to the monks of that
He retired from Llancarfan to Rhuys, in Brittany, where he founded a
monastery. Of his work on the running of a monastery (one of the earliest
known in the Christian Church), only the so-called Penitential, a
guide for Abbots in setting punishment, survives.
He died around 571, at Rhuys. The monastery that he had founded became
the center of his cult.
St. Gildas is regarded as being one of the most influential figures of
the early English Church. The influence of his writing was felt until
well into the Middle Ages, particularly in the Celtic Church.