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What is an Eisteddfod?

Updated on November 17, 2010

Eisteddfod is a Welsh musical and literary festival. The Welsh word eisteddfod means literally "a sitting of learned men," reflecting the fact that the early assemblies were devoted to the regulations of poetry and music and to the conferring of degrees. These festivals were held in Wales as early as the 7th century A.D. Bards who sought degrees in music were required to pass through a novitiate of three years, followed by additional three-year periods for each of the three higher degrees. Only those who received the degree of pencerdd (chief minstrel) were permitted to teach.

In modern times the National Eisteddfod, held every August in different parts of Wales, revives as accurately as possible the bardic ceremonial and customs of ancient Britain. In 1947 an International Musical Eisteddfod was established, and it is held every July in Llangollen. To this festival, choral and dance groups from many lands are invited to present their national folk songs and dances, traditional polyphonic compositions, and works of contemporary composers. Many smaller festivals are held annually throughout Wales.


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