Friday, May 30, 2008
Llanarth Monastery and St Teilo-Llangarth
Tis was another Church which was closed, although there was a telephone number on the blog. I am using Celia Nash's excellent paper on Llanarth, which I got from the Catholic Chapel on Christmas Day. I will write more about that when I reach the sixteenth century. It seems the Celtic subject is so diverse it is like an open bucket, and you keep finding more and more evidence for our Catholic heritage. I arrived at Llanarth (St Teilo's Church)on an afternoon in early April and a man was working in the garden. Sadly I could not go in. The Man who was tending the graves, showed me the Catholic part of the cemetary, which housed the magnificent monuments of the Herbert family, which were quite stunning, and very lovingly tended. The Herbert family remained true to the Catholic Faith during all the times of the persecution, but more of that later.
My friend in the graveyard also told me with great joy of remembrance how he had gone to Lady Llanover's Christmas Party one year as a child and his face beamed when he recalled she had given him a large beautifully painted train set! Lady Augusta Hall, or Lady Llanover was an important figure in the reestablishment of the Catholic Church after the end of the persecution and restoration of the Church in 1851.She singlehandedly helped to bring dispossessed nuns over from Britanny to found new convents and Catholic Schools in Monmouth, Usk, Abergavenny, Pontypool, and Brecon and saw they had everything they needed. But again, more of that later.
Lets get back to this wonderful clas church and monastery and its story-it being a most important settlement in mid Gwent in the 6th century.
I am quoting from Celia Nash's work here."The name Llanarth could be taken to mean 'The Church on the ridge of the hill' but is more likely to indicate there was a sizeable monastic settlement here with a garth or cloister."And this is a pattern we have seen at Beddwellty, Caerwent, St Woolos (Gwynlliw's)and many other such settlements in Gwent in the sixth century. Celia goes on "The earliest mention of it is in the Liber Landavensis (The Book of Llandaff) wich tells us that King Iddon, son of Ynyr Gwent, for the exchange of the eternal kingdom, sacrificed one of his mansions, Llangarth and all its territories to Archbishop Teilo (without any earthly payment)to God and to the Church of Llandaff. St Teilo was Archbishop of Llandaff between 512 and 566. So there was a clas monastery here in the sixth century" and on the site of St Teilo's church.
What is there now is of course a Norman church, but if you look back at the arcives you will see loads of information about Teilo and Llandaff, and the other country retreat of the Bishops of Llandaff at Mathern (Tewdrig's Church of Martyrdom)We have met King Iddon before too. Ynyr Gwent his Father was killed in battle and his mother Queen Materiana (Madryn) of Gwent and brother Ceidio set of from Gwent on a White Martyrdom and ended up in a small 'island' a part of Boscastle called Minster and evangelised Tintagel and Boscastle, currently ruled from Tintagel by Gorlais and his wife Ygraine. The churches at Tintagel and Minster, Boscastle were both dedicated to St Materiana and there were Saxon and Norman buildings on both areas, the buildings remain until today.Iddon, King of Gwent as Arthur did after him (although we believe he was a petty king of Ercing but not a 'High King' but great military leader (see below)
It is impossible to tell whether Teilo himself came to this area to evangelise it, even though the land was given to him and to God and his Church, but it came from Roman Soldiers, from Glastonbury even earlier and Roman soldiers certainly controlled the ford across the Usk near here, which still has the Roman name Gobion.There are so many Christian settlements around here-the 'clas' churches with their resident priest (the word 'Llan' by this time meaning a church and priest. Llantilio Crosenny nearby also shows a link with St Teilo (Tilio) and Llandewi Rhydderch -(Clan dow-ee ruth-rch)perhaps St David had a house there.Llanfair Kilgeddin (definately worth a visit)and Llanfihangel Ystern Llwyn-all show the particular relationship with Our Lady and St Michael.Locally the church is overlooked by the majestic Holy Mountain-the Skirrid, with the ruin of the little Church above dedicated to St Michael, God's greatest protective Angel (mentioned in the book of Revelations)
Celia writes the following:"The Welsh Chronicles tell us that St Teilo, the Bishop of Llandaff was staying at his summer palace in Llanarth when King Iddon (pron Ithon--th as in the))came to ask his help to prevent the Saxons invading his realm."St Teilo thereupon ascended to the top of the mountain of Cresiny (Skirryd)and there stood, with outstretched arms, beseeching Amighty God to give the victory to the harassed Christians; and in consequence of St Teilo's powerful intercession, the Saxons were driven back accross the Wye'.
After his death, his name weas given to the Church on the hill at Llanarth. It is still dedicated to St Teilo and the property of the Diocese of Llandaff".(Anglican)
Entering the churchyard of St Teilos up on the hill, you can see that people are caring for it. IT is round and curved as you would expect. The holy well (at the bottom of the pictures) is a way off and nearer the site of Llanarth Court.It was recently renovated by the Herbert Family, who were descendants of the Earls of Worcester who owned Ragland Castle and held out for the Faith until the fall of Ragland Castle in the Civil War with Oliver Cromwell. It is easy to imagine that this whole village would have been cells and houses surrounding the church,containing the monks and priests, lay people and farmers and cooks who kept it all going. I have written in detail below about the hospitality of these clas churches so won't again. They all seemed to be high up, affording them a certain degree of protection.
I hope to be able to get into the church at some stage.