In this week’s instalment of Battles for Wales I’ll be talking about the battle of Maes Garmon, near present day Mold, north Wales.
The battle of Maes Garmon is a Welsh tradition dating back to the year 429 lead by Saint Garmon.
However, the so-called battle itself didn’t happen in the traditional sense of a battle between two opposing forces fighting to win the day.
It’s also known as the ‘Alleluia Victory’, there’ll be more on why it’s named as such later.
There are some disputes as to where this battle took place and the place names.
Saint Garmon’s Latin derivative is Germanus, the problem being that it doesn’t cymricise to give us Garmon, although there is some agreement that Garmon is an indigenous Welsh word that stems from – garm ‘a shout’.
According to the history of Gryffudd ap Cynan the Alleluia Victory took place in the Nant y Garth pass near Llanarmon-yn-Iâl as the geography matches the description of the Venerable Bede’s descriptions.
However, it’s more than likely that two stories from the same time have been interwoven and the details muddled together.
Saint Garmon’s previous title to that of saint was Germanus of Auxerre, who was a bishop of Auxerre in Late Antique Gaul or what is now present-day France in the 5th century.
He also held a high-ranking government official position prior to becoming a man of the cloth but abandoned the role to devote his time and energy to spreading the ‘good word’ and protecting his ‘flock’ in dangerous times.
Garmon is known for personally confronting the Barbarian King Goar, the leader of the Alan’s who led his followers up the river Rhine during the multi tribe invasion of Gaul of year 406, only to quickly join the Romans and become part of the political running of Gaul.
Perhaps, however, Saint Garmon is best known for his journey in the year 429 to Britain to combat Pelagianism, a belief in Christianity that original sin did not taint human nature and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without special divine aid.
A Gaulish assembly of bishops chose Garmon and Lupus, Bishop of Troyes, to visit the island. They went to combat the threat and satisfy the Pope that the British church would not break away from the Augustinian teachings of divine grace.
Saxons & Picts
The English Benedictine monk, The Venerable Bede and Constantius’s Life of Garmon both mention the Christian Welsh victory against the Saxons and Picts in 429.
The Saxons, a term used by the Brythons to describe Germanic people of what is now England, were Germanic tribes and essentially raiders who had secured an alliance with the Picts of what is today, Scotland
The Picts themselves, however, were not a single group of people but more a conglomerate of different groups of people that hailed from north eastern Scotland.
They were also of Brythonic decent and spoke a language strongly related to the Brythonic language. But such is the nature of the Celts, fighting each other was a common occurrence.
The Alleluia Victory
It is said that Saint Garmon heard of the approaching Pictish/Saxon raiding army and went to meet them, leading the Christian Welsh into battle.
The tradition goes that Garmon baptised the Welsh before concealing the Welsh army behind trees in a narrow valley.
Bur before there was any bloodshed, Garmon at the head of the Welsh army, waited for the enemy Picts and Saxons to reach a clearing intending to ambush them.
The Welsh leapt out from behind their covering into view and following the guidance of the saint, brandished their flags and weapons whilst shouting at the top of their voices, Alleluia! (hallelujah).
Their voices echoed off the rocks and hillside which lead the attackers to believe the force in front of them was much larger than it appeared.
In their panic, they dropped their weapons and spoils on the ground and fled the way they came. It’s said that some of the raiders had fallen into a nearby river and drowned in their panicked retreat.
The Welsh had won the day without having shed a drop of blood.
My name is Lee Felton, I’m one of the editors on Ein GWALD’s News Portal, National Secretary and Graphics Officer. I have a Valley’s working class background and I’m not afraid to say what I think. If i’m wrong, I’m wrong, and I’ll be the first to put my hand up.