Various texts about St Silin.


Book of the Saints
By Monks Benedictine Monks

SILIN (SULIAN) (Sept, 1)
(6th cent.) A Prince of North Wales, who, in the 6th century, after living for some years as a hermit in an island off the coast of Anglesey(!), passed over into Brittany, and gathering many fellow-workers around him, laboured at the conversion of the heathen still remaining in that country.


An essay on the Welsh saints or the primitive Christians, usually considered to have been the founders of the churches in Wales. Rice Rees (1836)

Sulien, called also Silin, a son of Hywel ab Emyr Llydaw, is said to have settled in Bardsey. He was the founder of Llansilin and Wrexham, Denighshire, and of Eglwys Sulien, Cardiganshire. The chapels of Capel Silin under Wrexham, and Capel Sant Silin in the parish of Llanfihangel Ystrad, Cardiganshire, both in ruins, were called after him. His commemoration is Sept 1. which led Browne Willis to confound him with St. Giles, whose festival occurs on the same day.

The Lives of the Saints. With introd. and additional lives of English martyrs, Cornish, Scottish, and Welsh saints, and a full index to the entire work (1914)

Sulien, At. Wales, 6th cent.

Sulien or Silin is said to have founded churches in Denbighshire and Cardiganshire, and to have spent most of his days in Bardsey. He accompanied S. Cadfan from Brittany. There S. Sulian is commemorated as the son of a Welsh prince, Brocmael. His brother is called Maen, and this may be the Mael who, according to the Welsh, was brother to Sulien. The Sulien known in Wales was son of Hywel ap Emyr Llydaw.
No Brocmael is known there, but Brochwael Ysgythrog, Prince of Powys, is perhaps meant. The Breton story is that Sulian entered the religious life at a very early age; in fact, ran away from home and placed himself under the Abbot Guimarch, at Meibot — that is to say, Gwyddfarch, at Meifod, in Montgomeryshire. Gwyddfarch seems to have been the founder of this school, which passed afterwards under S. Tyssilio, son of Brochwael.

The father, very angry, sent to have the abbot killed, but his emissaries did not carry out his orders. Instead, Gwyddfarch dismissed the boy, who crossed the Menai Straits and settled in Bardsey, which took his name as Ynys Sulien. There he remained seven years, till recalled by his old master, who desired to entrust to him the charge of Meifod. On reaching the place, Sulien found that the old man was bent on making a pilgrimage to Rome, and he used his best endeavours to dissuade him from so doing, on account of his advanced age. On the death of Gwyddfarch, Sulien was elected in his room. In the meantime, his father had died, and his brother had succeeded to be head of the tribe. The wife of this brother fell desperately in love with the young abbot, and to escape her he fled. He retired to Builth, in Brecknockshire. But still an object of pursuit, he fled still farther, crossed into Brittany, and settled near Aleth, now S. Malo, where he remained till his death, on November 8


The Coptic Synaxarion

29 July

6th Century - Son of Brocmail a King of N. Wales. As a youth he angered his father by following a company of monks and associating with them, but his father later relented and acknowledged that he wanted to become a monk. His abbot blessed him to live as a hermit on a island in Menai Straits later becoming the abbot of the community. A local woman became infatuated with him so he left and travelled to Brittany founding a small monastery of 15 in Rance where St Samson met him once. He returned to Wales when he learned that the woman had passed away but he preferred to stay where God led him. He sent his gospel and staff back to the monastery in Wales as a token of his love for them.


Ordnance Survey map of 1876 showing the church in Llansilin  as St Sulien's Church

St. Silin's Church, Llansilin

Unlikely identity

Only in The Lives of the British Saints by S. Baring-Gould and John Fisher, is it claimed that St Silin is the Welsh name for St Giles (in Latin, Ægidius), who is believed to have been Greek, and who lived in France in the 7th century. St Giles had a popular cult in 12th Century, and numerous churches in England and Scotland were dedicated to him. In the 'Red Book of St Asaph dated 1296, the church in Llansilin is refered to as "Ecclesia S'i Egidii de Kynlleith".

It seems likely that St Silin's church in Llansilin was amongst the renaming of churches at the time, and that the original dedication was most likely to be of a 6th century Breton saint who was an abbot of Meifod, which is just 12 miles away from Llansilin.

There are numerous claims that Silin is the same as Sulien (or Sulian).  This is very possible, as, u
ntil the mid 18th century, there was no universally used English dictionary. Before this, names would have been spelt in all manner of ways. It is easy to see how Silin and Sulien (pronounced more like 'Seelien' in Welsh) would have been different spellings for the same name.
This interchangeability is made clear in the Llansilin Ordnance Survey map of 1876 (left), where St Silin's Church is clearly named St Sulien's Church.

Various versions of the link between saints Sulien, Sulian and Silin can be seen below.