|Bardsey Island is a small island off
the coast of the Llyn Peninsular in North Wales. Its Welsh name is Ynys Enlli.
It is also known as The Island of 20 000 saints since, it is said, the graveyard holds the bodies of 20 000 people who lived and prayed on the island over the centuries. As the whole island measures only 1½ miles long by ½ mile wide, this may be an exaggeration!
Whatever the truth of it, Bardsey was one of the most important places of pilgrimage of the Middle Ages. Its remoteness and its reputation as a place of prayer led to its being called the "Rome of Britain" since three (some even suggest two) pilgrimages to Bardsey were considered to be the equivalent of one to Rome.
The community was established by St Cadfan in around 430 AD and is believed to be the first monastic settlement in the whole of Britain.
The pattern of monastic life was rather different from that of todays monks and nuns. There would have been a church but the monks themselves would have lived in individual circular huts - not unlike old-fashioned beehives.
The life was austere and demanding physically as well as spiritually. However, people were attracted to the solitude and peace of the island and, as the figure above suggests, many people lived and died there.
In the 7th century, it offered refuge to the monks who fled from Ethelfrids pagan army. It had conquered Chester and destroyed the monastery of Bangor Is-coed where over 1000 monks were killed.
The remoteness of the island and the treacherous waters that separate it from the mainland made it an ideal refuge.
Eventually, the form of monasticism we are more familiar with was introduced to Bardsey and in the twelfth century, the Augustinian Abbey of St Mary was built.
Bardsey continues to be a place of pilgrimage.
A renewed interest in Celtic spirituality has inspired people to follow in the footsteps of those who found God in remote places.
There is only a small community resident all year round - but in the summer, they are joined by people coming on organised retreats. The island becomes a sanctuary not just for thousands of birds - but for humans too.
The photograph is taken from the site linked below
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