Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Biographies


Saint Bertram, King and Hermit of Mercia

  (7th - 8th c. AD)

Source:  http://www.orthodoxdoncaster.co.uk/ilam.html


A first approach to the indigenous Orthodox Saints and Martyrs of the Ancient Church who lived and who propagated the Faith in the British Isles and Ireland during the first millennium of Christianity and prior to the Great Schism is being attempted in our website  in our desire to inform our readers, who may not be aware of the history, the labours or the martyrdom of this host of Orthodox Saints of the original One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of our Lord.

"The Church in The British Isles will only begin to grow when she begins to venerate her own Saints"     (Saint Arsenios of Paros 1877)


Saint Bertram Bertram was King of Mercia sometime around the 8th century. He is said to have traveled to Ireland in order to discern his feeling of having a religious calling. However, when he arrived in Ireland he fell in love and eloped with a beautiful princess who he brought back to Mercia with him while she was pregnant with his child. They lived a nomadic life with the baby being said to have been born in the shelter of the forest near to present day Stafford. Tragically, whilst Bertram was away hunting for food for them, some wolves came upon their camp killing both his beloved wife and their infant child.

Overcome with grief, he once again turned to God. Renouncing his royal heritage he sought now a life of prayer. It is reported that many pagans from the area were converted to Christianity by the example he gave in his new life.

Without revealing his royal lineage, and presumably in disguise, Bertram approached the court of Mercia asking for, and being granted, land (near to modern day Stafford) where he could build a hermitage.

Meanwhile, a new king took the throne of Mercia but, not being a religious man, he demanded back the land on which the hermitage stood. It was decided to settle the matter by man to man combat. Bertram, obviously not wanting himself to fight being now a religious and peaceable man, prayed that someone might come forward to fight for the hermitage. Somewhat surprisingly, a dwarf came forward offering to fight but Bertram, remembering the story of David and Goliath, readily accepted the dwarf's offer; which was just as well: the hermitage kept its land!

Another story is told of Bertram that, having dedicated his life to Christ, he was sought out by the Devil who tried to tempt the saint to turn some stones into bread. Bertram, though, prayed that some bread would instead be turned to stones. In 1516 it was said that those self same stones were still to be found in the church at Bartomely, near Audley in present day Cheshire.

Being known in the area as a wise and holy man, many sought him out for spiritual advice. As with most holy men and women, though, constantly beset by people and needing to refresh his soul, he sought solitude in a cave near to what is now the village of Ilam in Staffordshire* where he lived until his death.

His tomb lies in Ilam Church (images below). Though originally within the village the church now lies just outside the village.

Ilam Church


Saint Bertram's Tomb with cover



Jesse Watts Russell, anxious to improve his view from the hall he built there in the 1820s, had the village moved to its present location though left the Church where it was. Evidence of Saxon architecture can still be found on the south wall including a walled-up old Saxon doorway. There are also the stumps of two Saxon crosses in the churchyard and, inside the church, there is a magnificent Saxon font. (images above)

Much of the church is Norman and early English, (including the 13th century tower), but with some notable later additions. St Bertram's Chapel was built in 1618 by the Meverell family of Throwley Hall to house the saint's tomb, and this is still a regular place of pilgrimage. The Meverell family's own tomb, a fine early 17th century edifice, almost hidden by the organ, can also be found in the chapel.  The Chantry Chapel, a much more recent addition, was added by Jesse Watts Russell. This was completed in a Victorian gothic style which  fails to comlement the rest of the church. This chapel is a mausoleum to Jesse Watt Russell's father-in-law, David Pike Watts, and includes a fine marble statue depicting David Pike Watts on his deathbed.

St Bertram's well, just south of the church, is said to have been a source of fresh water ever since Saxon times. A little further on is St Bertram's bridge, for a long while the main crossing of the river until a new bridge was built further downstream in 1828. (images below)


(A life of St Bertram can be found in the 1516 edition of the Nova Legenda Angliae.)

(*The village of Ilam is in Staffordshire and not Derbyshire as most people believe and most searches on the internet would seem to indicate. Although its postal location is given as: Ashbourne, Derbyshire and it also has a Derby postcode, it is located just over the border in Staffordshire.)




10th August
Commemoration of Our Righteous Father Bertram,
Wonderworker of Ilam & Stafford

(From: http://www.orthodoxengland.org.uk/servbert.htm)


3 stichera of the venerable one

When, in search of food in the forest, O righteous Bertram, thou didst leave thy wife and child behind, they were set upon by savage wolves and cruelly ravaged and slain; wherefore, overcome with grief at thy great loss, thou didst dedicate thy life to Christ, Who as the Chief Shepherd driveth away from us the spiritual wolf.

Giving thyself wholly over to ascetic feats, thou didst dwell as a hermit by Ilam's river, O Bertram, and like the tree planted by the streams of water thou didst bring forth spiritual fruit; wherefore, all thy struggles truly prospered, and Christ, Who loveth mankind, hath transplanted thee to His garden in paradise.

Forty days before His crucifixion Christ our Redeemer was transfigured in glory on Mount Tabor; and Bertram, His chosen servant, was laid to rest, as is meet, in the Church of the Holy Cross of Christ, where his sacred shrine shineth with the uncreated light of the divine grace of Jesus, the Saviour of our souls.


Glory, of the venerable one: Idiomelon, in Tone II

O village of Ilam, not least among the habitations of England art thou, for thy bosom long sheltered the sacred relics of the holy Bertram, who with boldness offereth entreaties for us before the throne of God Most High. And amid the darkness of our age his shrine shineth forth spiritually, like a lamp full of the oil of loving-kindness, guiding the faithful along the path of righteousness, that they may reach the kingdom on high, avoiding the snares of the enemy.


Glory: Idiomelon of the venerable one, in Tone VI

Rejoice with humble Ilam, O city of Stafford, for the sacred relics of the wondrous Bertram were transferred unto thee and placed in thy midst, like as a precious stone is set in a jewel shining with beauty and lustre, to delight the eyes of those who behold it. And let all England likewise exult, for the prayers of the saint are ever made in its behalf, to deliver it from all tribulation and affliction, and from the malice of its every foe. Wherefore, let all Christians be glad, for by the grace of the Lord we truly find safe shelter beneath the wings of his holy supplications.


Troparion of the saint, in Tone VIII

Like newborn lambs are we lacking in any defense, unable to withstand the onslaughts of the spiritual wolves who seek ever devour us; but do thou, O righteous Bertram, come unto our aid, and with the staff of God's grace which abideth in thee drive far from us the savage minions of Satan, that by thine entreaties we may find safety and rest in the fold of Christ in paradise.


And this canon of righteous one, with 4 troparia, the acrostic whereof is Save us from the noetic wolves, O Bertram, in Tone III

Irmos: To God, Who alone saved His people in the sea and engulfed the adversaries, let us sing, for He hath been glorified.
Spiritual songs and hymns let us offer unto Bertram; for, glorified by God, he saveth His people from all perils.
Assailed by afflictions and tribulations, we are engulfed by the sea of our sins; but save us, O Bertram, saint of God.
Vainglory and all the passions didst thou overcome, O holy one, chanting continually unto God, Whom thou didst glorify.

Canon of the Saint

Irmos: Be thou established in the Lord God, O my soul, and cry aloud in praise: There is none holy save Thee, O Lord!
Utterly bereft of family, the righteous Bertram set his hope on God alone, crying: There is none holy save Thee, O Lord!
Sorrow and grief befell the saint, but Bertram did not despair, crying: There is none holy save Thee, O Lord!
Fleeing this vain world, Bertram, Prince of Mercia put his trust in God, crying: There is none holy save Thee, O Lord!


Kontakion of the saint, in Tone II: Spec. Mel.: Seeking the highest

When wolves slew thy wife and child, O righteous Bertram, thou didst withdraw from the fellowship of men for piety's sake dwelling in forest glades and by rushing torrents; wherefore, for thy feats thou hast received a crown from thy Lord.

Ikos: Fleeing the tumults of the world and the tempest of life, abiding in solitude Bertram soared aloft to the heights of heaven like an eagle; and as for many years he hid himself from the sight of men, dwelling in the caves and forests of Ilam, he ever looked to the Saviour and fulfilled His sacred precepts: wherefore, he hath received abundant grace from Him, and shineth forth in splendour, for his feats having received a crown from his Lord.


Sessional hymn of the saint, in Tone I: Spec. Mel.: Thy tomb, O Saviour

Striving toward thy Lord, O godly Bertram, by mortification of the flesh thou didst bury the rebellions of the passions; and after death hast received never-ending life from God. Wherefore, the Church of Christ doth celebrate thy most honored memorial today, O adornment of the righteous.


Canon of the Saint

Irmos: Thou hast shown us constant love, O Lord, for Thou didst give Thine only-begotten Son over to death for us. Wherefore, in thanksgiving we cry to Thee: Glory to Thy power, O Lord!
Overcoming all the passions by thine ascetic struggles, O Bertram, thou wast filled with constant love for the Lord, crying out to Him without ceasing: Glory to Thy power, O Lord!
Mediator, advocate and intercessor art thou for us who honor thee, O righteous one; and delivered by thee from evils, in thanksgiving we cry unto God: Glory to Thy power, O Lord!
Thou didst lay waste to thy body, O saint of God, mortifying all the carnal passions, that, purified and hallowed, thou mightest cry unto Him with gladness: Glory to Thy power, O Lord!

Canon of the Saint

Irmos: Having dispelled the gloom of my soul with Thy light, O Christ Who alone art full of loving-kindness, receive me. Out of the night I cry unto Thee: Illumine my thoughts!
Ever dispelling from his soul the darkness of the passions by grace divine, the glorious Bertram, shaking off the gloom of despondency, entered into the uncreated light.
Now the light which once shone forth from thy holy relics, O saint, shineth forth from thine empty sepulcher, driving gloom from our souls and illumining our thoughts.
O Christ Who art full of loving-kindness, accept the intercessions of the holy Bertram: Stave off the passions from us, and mercifully illumine our minds.


Canon of the Saint

Irmos: With unceasing groans I cried unto our compassionate God, and He hearkened unto me from the uttermost depths of hades, and hath raised up my life from corruption.
The pain of guilt and despair would have brought thee down into the uttermost depths, O Bertram, but our compassionate God raised up thy life from corruption.
In penitent sighs and groanings the righteous Bertram cried unto the Lord, Who with great compassion hearkened to his lamentations, and raised him up unto life.
Compassion and mercy did the righteous Bertram seek from the all-holy Spirit, Who heard his ardent pleas, and sent His consolation upon his troubled soul.

Canon of the Saint

Irmos: Blessed art Thou, O God of our fathers, Who cooled the flame of the furnace and preserved the Virgin Theotokos who gave Thee birth!
O the ascetic feats undertaken by the blessed one! For by his struggles he cooled the furnace of carnal passions and preserved his soul from their fire.
Love for God and neighbor filled thy soul, O Bertram, wherefore, thou makest bold entreaty to the Lord, that He spare us from fiery torment.
Valiantly did the holy Bertram do battle against the adverse foe, prevailing mightily over the demonic hordes, and cooling their fiery darts with prayer.


Canon of the Saint

Irmos: O ye works of the Lord, bless the Lord, Who appeared in the guise of an Angel and cooled the children in the midst of the burning furnace.

Sing ye praises unto the favorite of God, Bertram most rich, who, doing the works of the Lord, cooled the burning furnace of the carnal passions.

O ye servants of the Lord, sing ye to the righteous Bertram, who in the midst of the earth led an angelic life, and hath passed over unto God.

Bless ye the saint of God, O ye children of the Church, for like an angel he cooleth the burning furnace of all our temptations by his supplications.


Canon of the Saint

Irmos: O ye faithful, in oneness of mind let us magnify with hymns the Mother of the Light, the haven of salvation for our souls, who remained a Virgin after giving birth.

Truly the tomb of the holy and righteous Bertram is a sure haven of salvation for our souls; wherefore, in oneness of mind let us magnify the favorite of God with hymns.

Remembering the ascetic feats wherewith the godly Bertram trampled the passions underfoot and put the demons to flight, let us honour his sacred memory with hymns.

All our sorrows let us set before the man of God, laying them upon his stone-wrought sepulcher, that he may lift from our shoulders the burden of our griefs.


Exapostilarion of the saint:

The shrine of thy holy tomb is for us like a heavenly banquet-table, O righteous Bertram, richly set with spiritual food for us who hunger and thirst after righteousness.


Glory: Idiomelon of the saint, in Tone VIII

Come, ye Christians of these latter days, and let us lift up our voices in hymnody, giving utterance to goodly laudation, praising our righteous father Bertram. For, bereft of his family by the inscrutable providence of God, he cast aside his princely rank and wealth, and amid great privation and voluntary poverty, withdrew into the wilderness, and there struggled against the weakness of his nature, prevailing over the delusions of the demons. Wherefore, in heaven he hath received the wreath of victory from the hand Christ his Master, and there prayeth with boldness in behalf of those who honor his holy memory with love.

Holy Father Bertram, pray to the Lord for us!

Article published in English on: 20-3-2011.

Last update: 20-3-2011.