Hermione vs. Melangell

Saints end up in the Lent Madness bracket for a variety of reasons. Some for heroic acts or miracles, some for leadership or great teachings. And some simply because they have cool names (ie. Christina the Astonishing in 2014). Today's saintly souls didn't end up in the bracket because of their names alone, but they are kind of awesome. Hermione vs. Melangell. It just kind of rolls off the tongue -- at least if you can pronounce them. But just to be clear, Hermione is not the one from the Harry Potter series. And Melangell is not the one from, well, no best-selling book series we're aware of. Yet.

Yesterday, Albert the Great proved greater than Leo the Great 54% to 46% in a matchup between two great saints.

Also yesterday, Tim and Scott shared another epic episode of Monday Madness. You can watch it here, but know that we're disappointed in you. Fortunately you can redeem yourself by watching this week's episode and waiting with an expectant heart for next week's version.

Hermione was a saint of the second century who had an ability to both heal people—and avoid martyrdom.

According to church tradition, Hermione was one of the daughters of Philip, the deacon. She and her sisters had the gift of prophecy and were Christians from an early age. We know nothing about her childhood, but we know that when she became an adult, she and her sister Eutychia set out from Caesarea in Palestine to Ephesus, to seek out the apostle John to study with him.

Upon arrival, they discovered that John had died, so they studied instead with Petronius, a disciple of Paul’s. From Petronius, Hermione learned about healing and began to minister to the sick of the city. Meanwhile, the emperor Trajan came to town on his way to battle the Persians. Encountering Hermione, he ordered her to renounce Christianity, but she refused. He ordered her to be hit in the face for hours on end. By all accounts, she withstood this undeterred because she had a vision of Jesus sitting enthroned in front of her, encouraging her. Seeing that she would not renounce her faith—and not wanting to be late for his war—Trajan finally let her go.

Hermione decided this would be a great time to start setting up hospices in Ephesus—a place that was half-hospital, half-hotel, where people could receive both spiritual and physical nourishment. She carried on her hospice work with vigor until the next emperor, Hadrian, came to town. He, too, decided to try his luck with Hermione and demanded she recant her faith. When this didn’t work either, he ordered her to be boiled alive in a cauldron of boiling lead, tar, and brimstone. But one did not simply boil Hermione; an angel appeared and scattered the coals so that the cauldron went cold. Enraged, the emperor came forward and touched the cauldron to see if it had gone cold. (He burned his hand off.)

Not being one to take a hint, Hadrian ordered Hermione to be roasted on something like a big iron skillet. This also didn’t work. He then told two servants to go and chop her head off. When they tried, their hands withered, and beholding the miracle, they immediately converted themselves. Hadrian declared defeat, and Hermione died of natural, non-martyrdom causes in 117.

Collect for Hermione
Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints and who raised up your servant Hermione to be a light in the world: Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 —Megan Castellan


A poem penned in 1723 in the registry of the Welsh church named for Melangell reads: “Melangell with a thousand angels triumphs over all the powers of evil.” Also hunters, as her story goes.

Melangell was the daughter of a sixth-century Irish monarch, as recorded in the book Tours of Wales. When her father attempted to marry her off to a nobleman in his court, Melangell, who wanted to pursue a life of prayer and solitude, fled Ireland. She found sanctuary deep in the Berwyn Mountains in what is now Wales, where she lived as a hermit for fifteen years.

Enter the hunter in our tale, the prince of Powys. While hunting a hare, the prince chased the animal into a “great thicket,” where he was surprised to find instead “a virgin of surpassing beauty.” It was Melangell, deep in prayer, with the hare seeking sanctuary beneath her robe. The prince’s hunting dogs retreated, howling. Impressed by the hermit’s courage and devotion, the prince not only let the hare go free, but he also gave the land to Melangell to be “a sanctuary to all that fled there.”

Melangell founded an abbey on the land, where she remained abbess until her death. Her small religious community ordered its life around prayer and works of mercy, providing sanctuary to all creatures in need. Even the hares. After her death, she became known as patron saint of the hares and other small animals who continued to come to her. The hares became known in Welsh as “Wyn Melangell”—or St. Melangell’s lambs. Centuries later, the Tours of Wales recounted, hunters still refused to kill hares in the parish.

Today, the land remains a sanctuary, ringed by trees estimated to be more than 2,000 years old. Some consider it a “thin place,” where Celts believe heaven and earth seem especially close. The Shrine Church of St. Melangell calls it “a place beyond words and far from the rush of twenty-first-century life; a place where God speaks in the silence and where all people have an opportunity to experience a sense of the holy.”

Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox pilgrims visit the shrine, where bones that are believed to belong to the saint were discovered beneath the floor in 1958. Melangell is remembered on May 27.

Collect for Melangell
O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world, that we, inspired by the devotion of your servant Melangell, may serve you with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

—Emily McFarlan Miller


At about 8:30 p.m. EST, the Lent Madness Voter Security Unit noticed 389 bogus votes for Hermione. These votes were removed, and the suspect addresses were blocked. This is a reminder. Do not cheat. Vote once. Get your neighbors to vote. But don't vote several times, lest you be cast into the outer darkness of Lent Madness.


[poll id="305"]


Hermione: Unknown
Melangell: Unknown


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221 comments on “Hermione vs. Melangell”

  1. For my many hours walking the coast of Wales with my favorite Saintly Limerickist, I vote today for Melangell and her forest friends.

  2. Apparently we don’t know very much about Hermione. And I’m probably somewhat Welsh (my grandmother’s name was Pritchard, and Birmingham isn’t far from the Welsh border) and I learnt Welsh pronunciation from Susan Cooper’s The Grey King. So I’m partial to Melangell, though I’d say the “ll” is closer to a cross between the German (and Gaelic) “ch” and “l”, than to “th”. Richard will have to correct me! Next time I am across the Pond, I must seek out Melangell’s retreat; meantime, our snowy Berks County woods serves that peace well enough. I would do better to dwell in it.

    1. The “ll” is basically an unvoiced “l”. To pronounce it, get ready to say “l”, and blow out silently. The same difference as between “z” and”s”. Now you’re ready to say the longest name of a British railway station:

      Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. I

  3. St Melangell, Patron Saint of Animals for Wales pulls at my heart this morning and gets my vote.

  4. Since the parish I serve is dedicated to Francis of Assisi, it seemed appropriate to vote for another saint known for her love of animals.

  5. Blood will out! I have to vote for Melangell, as she was Welsh.
    (Richard, there are many “thin” places, mostly where there is a tradition of prayer - we were discussing this at our Lent group today. It’s not only in Wales, and I hope you find a “thin place” near you. Heddwch I chi, hwyl fawr)

  6. Although I was very impressed by Hermione’s faith and her ability to withstand all the horrors done to her, I am such an animal lover that I had to vote for Melangell.

  7. The Wikipedia article on Hadrian states:

    “Hadrian continued Trajan's policy on Christians; they should not be sought out, and should only be prosecuted for specific offences, such as refusal to swear oaths.[239] In a rescript addressed to the proconsul of Asia, Gaius Minicius Fundanus, and preserved by Justin Martyr, Hadrian laid down that accusers of Christians had to bear the burden of proof for their denunciations[240] or be punished for calumnia (defamation).[241]”

    That, and the absence of any reference to Hadrian’s having injured a hand, seems to me to cast more than the usual doubt on the pious legends recounted in her bio. Moreover, I too am a lover of Wales and things Welsh, including the Welsh rabbit.

  8. Today's match-up was no contest for me. Melangell has always been one of my favourite saints. I spent my childhood in that part of Powys then known as Montgomeryshire. One of my great-aunts lived in Pen-y-Bont Fawr, near Pennant Melangell, some 63 km (about 40 miles) from my home. In my Sunday School days, I was a Wyn-Melangell, which was the designation used for the youngest students.

  9. Such a tough choice. The write up on Hermione was hilarious, but Melangell's devotion (and protection of small animals) won the day for me today.

  10. If the Greek superscript on the icon of St. Melangell is accurate, then the stress in her name falls on the second syllable and the "g" is hard: meh-LAN-ghel. I voted for her: St. Hermione had a few too many miraculous escapes from martyrdom to be completely credible.

  11. It was so refreshing to read of an early saint who survived the various attempts to dispatch her, but Melangell's story (and locale) is too appealing to me to pass up. And not a hare shall be harmed.

  12. Oh well - another hard decision. If I could split my vote would that be like splitting hares? Sorry - bad joke. I voted for Hermione - but she will probably be the third one I voted for that doesn’t win. My streak continues but I ‘m still having fun and learning about new (to me) saints. ❤️

  13. Hermione's story is powerful indeed, but Melangell is one of my favourite saints and her chapel is one of the most peaceful and powerfully spiritual places I have ever visited. Also, hooray for our animal activist saints who remind us that the other than human is holy too. Melangell all the way!

  14. I could have gone either way but ended up voting Melangell for the bunnies and the thin places.

  15. I’m with Melangell for her work in founding and leading an abbey. Hermione’s work was important, but Melangelll’s had a more lasting significance. They both had cool stories!

    1. Hmm, hospices are still very much in evidence. No matter of course, just thought to point that out. I voted for Melangell, but originally was going to overlook Hermione's incredible bio just to vote for her work with hospices.

  16. Spent several summers in the Berwyn mountains near LLangollen as a child so couldn’t resist Melangell.

  17. There ought to be a pronunciation guide or phonetic spelling included in the write-ups this year. I didn’t know of either saint before and it was hard to choose but I went with Hermione for this COVID pandemic we need healing from.
    Although I may recommend Melangel to my godson Jason as a patron saint of his Red Rabbit Coffee business venture.

  18. Expecto Petronius! I have to go with Hermione. Too tough to be martyred! The stories gave me a chuckle, and that's worth my vote. Also I prefer people that go out and seek to heal people rather than hide away from life, only helping those that come around.

  19. Loved Megan Castellan's fantastical tale of Hermione. What is it with martyrs and kitchen appliances? But Melangell had me from the start, for Wales and Cadfael and bunnies and for thin places. Iona, where my mother's ashes lie, is another thin place. Melangell's abbey is now on my bucket list. Thank you!

  20. Being a proud breeder and owner of Welsh Springer Spaniels, my vote went for Melangell.
    We have shown Welshies for 20 years and recently decided to no longer show or continue
    breeding...47 puppies were enough so, we live with our current crew of Amelia ( age 14 and
    just as bouncy as ever), Ginger ( age 10), G.G. ( age 5) and Gryff ( 14 months - who is the only
    boy dog in the house). Amelia and Ginger have continued in the tradition of Melangell by
    being certified therapy dogs that work with school children in special programs in
    elementary school either because of behavioral issues, mental health and they have worked with
    children who were deaf and had profound speech problems. So, Melangell's healing spirit
    lives on in our Welshies! Love those red and white dogs!!!!

  21. These saints were so long ago that extremely little of a factual nature is in their legends, tales & stories. It seems there is actually something (albeit rather general) known about Melangell's work, leading me to vote for her.