SAINT BERTRAM (BERTELIN, BETTELIN) OF ILAM AND STAFFORD
By Vladimir Moss
Our holy Father Bertram was the son of a king of the Central English kingdom of Mercia in the eighth century. Thinking of monasticism, he travelled to Ireland, where he fell in love with a beautiful princess. He brought her back to England, and they were living in a forest near Stafford, where a child was born to them. One day Bertram went to look for food. Wolves came and killed his wife and child.
Overcome with grief, he renounced his royal heritage and turned to God. According to one source, he became a disciple of St. Guthlac (+716) at Crowland, and reported the saint’s death to his sister, St. Pega. Many pagans were converted by the example of his heremitic life. Without revealing his identity, he approached the royal court of Mercia and asked for a plot of land to build a hermitage. He was granted some land at Bethnei, near Stafford.
A new king came to the throne, and demanded back the land on which the hermitage was built. It was decided that the matter should be decided through a duel. Bertram prayed that someone would come forward to fight his cause. A dwarf came forward. Bertram remembered the story of David and Goliath and accepted his offer. The dwarf won the contest, and Bertram kept his land.
Once the devil tempted the saint as he had once tempted Christ, to turn stones into bread. Bertram prayed rather that bread would be turned into stones. His prayer was answered, and the devil was defeated. In 1516 the stones could still be seen in the church of the village of Bertomley near Audley in Cheshire (they are not there now).
Seeking solitude from the many people who sought his advice, Bertram went to live in a cave near Ilam in Derbyshire, and lived there until his death. He was buried in Holy Cross church in Ilam, where there are Saxon remains, two Saxon crosses in the courtyard and a holy well.
In 1386 a blind man was cured through prayer at the tombs of St. Bertram.
St. Bertram is commemorated on August 10.