Melangell – Saint of Hares and Rabbits

Melangell – Saint of Hares and Rabbits

The story of Melangell is one that is beautiful and powerful. Featuring a princess, a prince, an animal in distress and a happy ending, it could quite easily be a fairy tale or a Disney film. Yet it is a relatively unknown story.

“Once upon a time, in the 6th or 7th century, a young Irish princess fled her home after vowing celibacy and refusing her father’s command to marry a nobleman of the court. Melangell took refuge in the Kingdom of Powys in Wales. There she lived as a hermit, completely alone in the wilderness. She did not see a man’s face for over fifteen years, until one fateful day.

While she was in deep devotion, a hare ran out from the thicket and hid under the skirt of her dress. The hare was followed by huntsmen and dogs of the Prince of Powys. Despite the efforts of the huntsmen, the dogs stood at a distance howling and unwilling to seize the hare from the praying woman. Melangell refused to give up the hare, even though, by being on the land of the prince it was by rights his property. This was a bold move but something about the hare moved her to protect it, and the dogs responded to that.

The Prince, Brochwel Yscythrog, was so taken by the woman’s courage and beauty, he did not pursue the hare any further. Instead, he declared the land sanctuary to all that fled there. On the spot an abbey was formed for women seeking refuge, where Melangell became abbess for 37 years until her death.”

Melangell was made the Saint of Hares and Rabbits. It is said that if anyone utters “God and St. Melangell be with thee” to a hare being pursued by dogs it would escape. To this day, hares are not hunted in the area.

The Abbey no longer exists, but a nearby church was built in the 12th century which became Pennant Melangell. Surviving the reformation by locals hiding Melangell’s shine and reliquary, this church still stands and is a place of pilgrimage for hare and rabbit lovers. The church is full of beautiful artwork depicting the story of Melangell and it is testament to how powerful her resolve was and importance to the people of Powys that it has lasted all this time. The story of Melangell has been passed down through Welsh oral tradition, carvings, songs, and poetry, with some only recently discovered and translated. 

Melangell gave up a life of riches and wealth to live a simple life, and her respect for the hares and those seeking refuge offer a powerful message even today.


Inspired by Melangell, artist Kate Powell drew this stunning piece for us. It features fifteen of the rabbits rescued last summer from our Rainbow Rabbit Rescue. In the centre is Melangell holding the hare.



Me, at Pennant Melangell, in the rain.

The place is so beautiful, and tranquil. A yew tree that is around two thousand years old sits at the entrance to the church. I am not a religious person, but this place is so peaceful and the story of Melangell seems so real in such a secluded place. At the end of a long and winding road, this place seems miles, years even, from the real world, as if should you turn a corner you could find Melangell protecting a hare.

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