29th of January

St Sulpicius Severus, about 407. St Gildas, the Albanian or Scot, 512. St. Gildas, the Wise, or Badonicus, abbot (570?). St Francis of Sales, 1622.

Born. – Emmanuel de Swedenborg, 1688-9; Thomas Paine, political writer, 1737; William Sharp, line-engraver, 1749, London
Died. – Emperor Aurelian, 275; Bishop Sanderson, 1663; John Theophilus Fichte, philosopher, 1814, Berlin; George III., 1820, Windsor; Agnes Berry, 1852; Mrs Gore, novelist, 1861.


This saint, according to his legend, was the son of Can, a king of the Britons of Alcluyd or Dumbarton, and was born some time in the latter part of the fifth century. He was one of twenty-four brothers, the rest of whom were warriors, and were, with their father, usually at war with King Arthur. But Gildas, having shewn a disposition for learning, was sent to the school of the Welsh saint Iltutus. He afterwards went to study in Gaul, whence he returned to Britain, and set up a school of his own in South Wales. Subsequently, at the invitation of St Bridget, he visited Ireland, where he remained a long time, and founded several monasteries. He returned to England, bringing with him a wonderful bell, which he was carrying to the Pope; and after having been reconciled with King Arthur, who had killed his eldest brother in battle, he proceeded on his journey to Rome. He went from Rome to Ravenna, and on his way home stopped at Ruys, in Brittany, which was so tempting a place for a hermit, that he determined to remain there, and he founded a monastery, of which he was himself the first abbot. The Bretons pretended that he died there, and that they possessed his relics; but, according to the Welsh legend, he returned to Wales, bringing back the wonderful bell, which was long preserved at Lancarvan, where he first took up his residence. He there became intimate with St Cadoc, and, having the same tastes, the two friends went to establish themselves as hermits in two desert islands, in the estuary of the Severn, and fixed upon those which are now known by the names of Steepholm and Flatholm, Gildas choosing the latter; and here they remained until they were driven away by the attacks of the Northern pirates. Gildas then settled at Glastonbury, where he died, and was buried in the church of St Mary.

Such is the outline of the story of St Gildas, which, in its details, is so full of inconsistencies and absurdities, that many writers have tried to solve the difficulty by supposing that there were two or several saints of the name of Gildas, whose histories have been mixed up together. They give to one the title of Gildas Badonicus, or the Historian, because, in the tracts attributed to him, he says that he was born in the year when King Arthur defeated the Saxons in the battle of Mount Badon, in Somersetshire; the other they call Gildas the Albanian or Scot, supposing that he was the one who was born at Alcluyd. The first has also been called Gildas the Wise. Gildas is known as the author, or supposed author, of a book entitled De Excidio Britanniæ, consisting of a short and barren historical sketch of the history of the struggle between the Britons and the Picts and Saxons, and of a declamatory epistle addressed to the British princes, reproaching them for their vices and misconduct, which are represented as the cause of the ruin of their country. Some modern writers as of opinion that this book is itself a forgery, compiled in the latter half of the seventh century, amid the bitter disputes between the Anglo-Saxon and British churches; and that, in the great eagerness of the middle ages to find saints, the name was seized upon with avidity; and in different places where they wished to profit by possessing his relics, they composed legends of him, intended to justify their claim, which therefore agreed but partially with each other. Altogether, the legend of St Gildas is one of the most mysterious and controvertible in the whole Roman Calendar, and its only real interest arises from the circumstance of the existence of a book written in this island, and claiming so great an antiquity.

On this Day in Other Sources.


Jan. 29. [1581] – This day, Sunday, there were gay doings in the boy-king’s court of Holyrood, namely, running at the ring, jousting, and such-like pastimes, besides sailing about in boats and galleys at Leith. – Cal.

Domestic Annals, pp.81-98.


This lady [Duchess-Countess of Sutherland] who had, during a long life, maintained a high position in courtly and aristocratic society, and who was possessed of many great qualities, was called to her account on the 29th of January, 1839, in the 74th year of her age. Her death took place in London, and her body was conveyed to Sutherland by way of Aberdeen, and finally interred with great pomp in the family vault, beside the late Duke, her husband, in the Cathedral of Dornoch.

– Gloomy Memories, pp.41-42.

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