Saint Seiriol ‘the Fair’ was born in Wales in 494 AD, the son of King Owain Danwyn of Rhos and a younger brother of King Cynlas of Rhos and King Einion of Lleyn. He entered the religious life and lived in a small hermitage on the Eastern Peninsula of Ynys Mon, today known as Anglesey, Wales. His two ruling brothers later decided this humble residence was far too lowly for their brother and founded an important monastery around his cell. Consequently, Seiriol became the first Abbot of Penmon Priory. His hermitage and holy-well can still be seen there today and is, in fact, protected as an historic monument.
Other hermits and monks soon followed their spiritual father onto the island, creating a small community of solitaries. This monastic settlement was still attracting vocations in 1188, when Gerald of Wales visited Penmon, with Archbishop Baldwin of Canterbury, who happened to be preaching the Third Crusade in Wales. In his ‘Journey Through Wales’, Gerald tells us:
‘There is a small island almost adjoining to Anglesey, which is inhabited by hermits, living by manual labour, and serving God. It is remarkable that when, by the influence of human passions, any discord arises among them, all their provisions are devoured and infected by a species of small mice, with which the island abounds; but when the discord ceases, they are no longer molested...This island is called in Welsh, Ynys Lenach, or the ecclesiastical island, because many bodies of saints are deposited there, and no woman is suffered to enter it.’
Seiriol became a great friend of Saint Cybi who lived at Caer-Gybi on Ynys Cybi, or Holy Island, on the far side of Ynys Mon. The two would often walk several miles to meet up for prayers at the Clorach Wells in Llandyfrydog in the centre of the island. This journey with his back to the sun allowed Saint Seiriol's complexion to remain so fair that he was given the epithet of "Gwyn". Saint Cybi, on the other hand was known as Cybi Felyn, or tanned, as he walked in the opposite direction. Rhyd-y-Saint, or Ford of the Saints, railway station on the Red Wharf Bay branch line near Pentraeth, was named so, as Seiriol and Cybi are said to have met there.
In old age, Seiriol retired to Ynys Lannog, renamed by the Vikings as Priestholm, just off the coast from Penmon. It became known as Ynys Seiriol in his honour, though it became known in the 19th century, in English, as Puffin Island. Saint Seiriol is said to have died in 550 AD. Most historians believe that he is buried on Ynys Seiriol - though there are others who claim that he was laid to rest in Penmon Priory church. Not much else is known about this Saint, though it is obvious that he was a man of great courage, fortitude, vision and love of God.
His feast day is February 1st