The sheltered valley of the Nant Tawela (Tawela Brook) is only a few miles from Lampeter, but still, in the 21st century, retains something of the remote and isolated ‘feel’ that it must have possessed for more than a millennium. There has been a Christian presence here since the 5th century. The present church dates only from 1873, but is on an ancient site. (A church was mentioned here in 1281.) It is all but surrounded by early earthworks (best seen from the air!) the church situated within an inner enclosure. Is this possibly the “llan” or sacred space of the settlement founded by St Sulien? The evidence is strong; there are no fewer than three early Christian monuments on the site, one only rediscovered in May, 2013. The earliest, built into the church wall, bears the inscription “Silbandus iacit” – an abbreviation of a familiar Christian grave-marker formula, “Silbandus lies here”. It is accepted that “Silian” (or Sulien, which would have been pronounced in a similar way) is probably an abbreviation of this name, and that Silbandus was the founder of this holy place, to which he had resorted for ‘peace and repentance’.
Sulien is not an uncommon name among early generations of Christians; a St Sulien was the abbot-founder of Luxulyan in Cornwall, and another St Sulien is associated with Cornouaille in Brittany. A third St Sulien is connected, with his brother or cousin St Mael, with Corwen in mid-Wales. One Sulien was bishop of St Davids in the 11th century, and it was his son, Rhigyfarch, who wrote the “Life of St David”. The Sulien or Silbandus of Silian must be added to this illustrious and holy company. The feast days of the saints Sulien are many and various, but a likely date for our local saint is September 2nd. We ask for his prayers.