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.
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.
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
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
(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.)
of Our Righteous Father Bertram,
Wonderworker of Ilam & Stafford
stichera of the venerable one
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
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
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.
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
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
Troparion of the saint, in Tone VIII
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.
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.
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.
And this canon of righteous one, with 4 troparia,
the acrostic whereof is Save us from the noetic
wolves, O Bertram, in Tone III
Canon of the
thou established in the Lord God, O my soul, and
cry aloud in praise: There is none holy save
Thee, O Lord!
bereft of family, the righteous Bertram set his
hope on God alone, crying: There is none holy
save Thee, O Lord!
and grief befell the saint, but Bertram did not
despair, crying: There is none holy save Thee, O
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
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.
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,
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
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!
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!
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
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!
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.
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.
Who art full of loving-kindness, accept the
intercessions of the holy Bertram: Stave off the
passions from us, and mercifully illumine our
Canon of the
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
of guilt and despair would have brought thee
down into the uttermost depths, O Bertram, but
our compassionate God raised up thy life from
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
Canon of the
art Thou, O God of our fathers, Who cooled the
flame of the furnace and preserved the Virgin
gave Thee birth!
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.
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
Canon of the
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.
praises unto the favorite of God, Bertram most rich,
who, doing the works of the Lord, cooled the burning
furnace of the carnal passions.
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.
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
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
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
Remembering the ascetic feats wherewith the godly
Bertram trampled the passions underfoot and put the
demons to flight, let us honour his sacred memory
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:
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
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