Monday, July 28, 2008

Llansantffraed juxta Wsg-St Bridget's Church at Llansantffraed Court

How to find the Church

From ABERGAVENNY take the B4598 the Old Ragland Road and continue approx two and a half miles. Then take a left turn at the signpost to the Llansantffraed Court Hotel.
Follow this narrow road and you will se the church on the Right Hand side.
From RAGLAN roundabout (The Castle geatures strongly in our story so is well worth a visit) take the B4598 road sign posted 'Clytha'for three miles. The Hotel sign is posted on the right. If you wish to view the church, you can pick up the key from reception. The hotel serves wonderful coffee!!!

St Bridget's Church- Llansantffraed

The Welsh name Llansantffraed suggests a holy place at this beautiful spot from a very tearly time. The churchyard has been rationlised into a square following in the donation of some land to the church. The Llantsantffraed Court Hotel has some considerable links with the Jones/Herbert family a noble family of Gwent and Monmouthshire who generally remained Catholics, defended them and gave shelter to priests during the terrible times of persecution.

St Bridget came to Wales following the quarrel with her father. God gaveher father the sign she should be a nun and she arrived in Holyhead in Anglesey (Ynys Mon or Mona(Lat) Her cult spread quickly across Wales. She was known to be a Mother Theresa figure in the Age of the Saints and certainly Tatheus of Caerwent, himslef from Ireland would have known of her and may be responsible for the naming of the church at St Bride's Natherwent after her.

The ancient Druid deity called Bride

There was an ancient deity in the Druid practices who was the goddess of fertility and at certain times of the year like Spring and Harvest was given special attention and libations. Ireland was Christianised by St Patrick who is said to have baptised Bridget and the faith will have been in its infancy when Bridget defied her father, choosing the Christian option of the consecrated life of a nun. Ireland's loss was Wales gain, as this Saint's cult was beloved in Wales. Her special cross is seen in some of these churches as are her emblems of the oak leaf and acorn. Oaks were prevalent in Kildare, the site of the famous British Abbey and incidentally the oak was a sacred tree of the Druids belief.

Bridget demonstrated a great love of God. She loved and cared for the poor and is said to have become a nun at the age of eighteen and returned to found her great Abbey under the giant Oak of Magh Life (possibly when her father had forgiven her or died.)The Convent was called 'The Church of the Oak' or 'Ciff Dara' (Kildare in English)Hospitality and care of all God's people was a hallmark of her convents.

Michael Sadler, the current Rector of the Church (it is now administered by the Anglican Church in Wales)

St Bridget is a great model for the prosperous Ireland of today. The Brehon laws which regulatedcivil law in Ireland in her time, stipulated that a freeman had to give food and shelter to any man or woman equal to or lower than his or her own rank. Bridget made a virtue of this law, seing in it the reflection of Christ's word that whatever we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do to him.St Bridget's Day is ccelebrated on 1st of February each year'.

St Bride is St Ffraed in Welsh and as I have said she lived in the fifth century. It is likely that the earliest chapel here was built for the small community or 'llan' in the way I described before under 'Trevethin' eg. how the site was selected and cleansed etc. It possibly at some stage remained a small Old British church until the Norman invasion, although Saxons may have created the stone church at some stage. This phase of the Christian settlement here is patchy but in the scheme of things people worked and worshipped there for centuries.When the Normans arrived no doubt the area was given to the Lords of Abergavenny and perhaps the Church was improved then as by the Fourteenth century, this was the country seat and estate of Sir John Morley. Maud, daughter and heir of John Morley married Thomas ap Gwilym of Perth-hir (or 'Herbert' family)The Herberts were heroes of the Catholic resistance to the unjust persecutions of Catholics and murder of the priests. They harboured them, defended other Catholics and kept the faith alive during the darkest days of the persecution.Many of this famous family are buried in the Churchyard. They had to toe a fine line themselves.In many places in Gwent, a Catholic family would own a local family church and appoint a vicar who would need to turn a blind eye to several things. One of the distressing things being secret midnight burials of Catholics in some churchyards, because they had no burial grounds of their own.This was often the case in Rockfield and St Maugham's Churches.

The Original Mansion

The original mansion, possibly a small castle (Bradney) occupied a position between the present Hotel and Church-some foundations lie under the beautiful lake. In the later part of the eighteenth century and early nineteenth the house was occuped by the P James Green of Arundel who was buried here in 1814.

Afterwards it was the residence of the Anglican Bishops of Llandaff and was for many years the home of Edmund Herbert the Chief Constable of the County. The main house was rebuilt in 1912 and restored recently, although some parts of the restaurant date back to 1670 and I understand it was restored along similar lines to the original mansion.

It became a hotel and was aquired by the Morgan family in 1997 and is personally run by them. This Anglican parish is the smallest in the county (290 acres only)and the boundary even excuding the gatehouse.There are various monuments in the church to people connected with all the families who lived in the house.

The Church in 1800

Had a south porch and a west window. The porch was rebuilt in the late 19th century, the big era of restoration of Anglican churches by the Victorians and rebuilt in stone on the West Wall.Bell cote could be 17th or 18 century (ties in with its being used as a parish church under new rules)but it seems according to an architect Richard Kay , much of the work is far earlier (late 15th century)

The Font and Rood Screen

The font is Norman, but the stem and base re cut.The foundations of the church building and walling of the nave and chancel-sanctuary area also are Norman (11th century)There is also a difference in the siting of the south window. This drawing of Sir Richard Hoare of the earlier church.The archway is 19th century copy and screen 20th century but using earlier material. The 'King's England-Monmouthshire mentions 'a graceful old chancel (rood) screen of pale oak'.The place where the steps to therood loft were have been found in the North Wall of the nave.Bradney records when visiteing in 1908 there was a chest of oak handsomely carved which stood on the chancel and probably made up from the old rood screen of the mediaeval Catholic church.But remnants of it may be in the present chancel sreen.

The Alabaster Panels


These have been set into the wall on either side of the east window. They still show some traces of the bright mediaeval colours, and show the burial and resurrection of Jesus. They are, as you can see very fine. These probably came (Bradney) from the original catholic altar of the church, removed in 1786, when repairs were made. These were early fifteenth century and there were schools in York, Nottingham and London producing this, but they are quite unique among small Welsh churches and they would be of special historical significance if they could be proved to have been in the church since before the Henry VIII period.


The piscina

The small special sink used to pour away the water used at Mass can be seen in the south wall of the chancel.(Previously Sanctuary where The Blessed Sacrament waskept))

The Mediaeval Preaching Cross

The base of this cross used for preaching by Franciscan Friars and Preaching Monks ;lies outside the door of the Church. These crosses, the heads of which contained scenes from the Bible were all universally destroyed when Oliver Cromwells model army and General Fayrfax, who destroyed Raglan Castle went rampaging round desecrating churches and crosses in the name of Puritanism. The destruction at that time also took in some of the mediaeval stained glass of the Priory Church of Our Lady, Abergavenny (now St Mary's Parish Church).

One thing is sure, there is little evidence of emblems of St Bridget inside the church today, but the church head Mass here from the sixth century to the sixteenth centuries-nearly a thousand years, before Henry VIII made his alterations.

Maeleine McCann

Now that it seems the Portuguese police have decided to temporarily shelve the church, disgraced Policeman Amaral has published a book. He had decided the parents and Murat were guilty and ignored other possibilities, although it seems certain leads were followed up. Like the mother of Yeremi Vargas, another Portuguese mother who wandered around Lisbon with A5 leaflets showing the picture of her son because of lack of support by anyone it seems, and Mrs Cipriano, who seems to have got a lot of bruises during her interrogationshortly before being gaoled, I actually hope tha people will support them with their prayers. Madeleine is not the only missing child, but one which symbolises all the others, including Ben Needham. A vigil is kept up at the internet site given on the Left in one of the items.Above all pray for support for Gerry McCann, Kate McCann and all the parents of these children. Above all.what you can do is to contact your MEP and MP and ask them to support the Amber Alert scheme, which has proved so good elsewhere.

Recently I visited the little church at St Brides in Wentloog for this blog, and there in the childen's corner a framed picture of Madeleine-always in their thoughts until the wicked person who took her returns her to her parents.

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