Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Church of the Virgin at Panteg-a gift, St Cybi, the Miracle and the Well.

Apologies for he darkness of the pictures below. I took them in the evening and they are not as bright as I would have liked.

Scholars , such as W Rees who compiled the ‘Lives of the British Saints’ have placed the first reference to Panteg in the ‘Life of St Cybi’ where its early name was Llandaverguir., where the Blessed St Cybi himself left a small hand coloured bell. He left there to go to Menevia, city of St David and stayed there for three days.

Deinde Ethelic tribuit in perpetuo Sancto Kepio duas ecclesias, quarum una lankepi vocatur, altera autem Landaverguir , et ibi dimisit Kepius parvum digiti sui cimbalum varium. Tunc Sanctus Kepius benedicens Etherlic regem, egressus est inde ad vcivitatem Meneu Sancti David, et ibi moratus tribus diebus et tribus noctibus.Vita Sancti Kebii

The Church of St Cybi (same saint as St Cuby in Cornwall) is well known, but the parish of Panteg has an unknown patron (apart from the dedication to the Blessed Virgin, which was common to all churches )and is adjoining the parish of St Cybi and also of the land of the chieftain Ethelic.(who gave his name to Edlogan (Edelgynion) the Scholar A.r.Rees suggests the likely site to be the church parish next to St Cybi’s, that at Panteg. Llan is clear, but Da verguir -could point to an early tradition of the Saints name. Spellings were not standardised at this time, and mixtures of Welsh and Latin not uncommon as the Church at Pater Ishow's shows at Patrishow.Furthermore all services were held in Latin, and lay people instructed in the meaning of the Mass.Then there is Gwentian dialect as well, which altered spelling, so it is there to consider.

The Legend, the Miracle and the Holy well

We are told that when Cybi his monks and his soul friend, St Cyngar (of Llangefni)came to a small church where the church of Llangibby is now, he stopped travelling for a while with his companions , he laid a cloth on the floor and spread his tent. The Chieftain Ethelic saw them and sent a man down to find out what they were doing, and after finding out the man told Ethelic told him they were monks. Ethelic was furious and went to eject them from his land, but as he rode off in a temper he was thrown from his horse, and his horse immediately died, and worse , as a sign, Ethelic and all his men were struck blind. Then Ethelic prostrated himself on his face and gave his body and soul to God and to his servant St Cybi and he and all his men had their sight restored. Then St Cybi was given two extant Churches, the fair Church on the fair land Llandaverguir /Panteg and St Cybi, where a spring had sprung up on the site where Ethelic had prostrated himself before God. There follows the information that Cybi went from Panteg to St Davids (in Pembrokeshire) for three days and then sailed to Ireland.

Very Early catholic Catechesis?

This account by Iolo gives us more information still. That there were Church buildings here of some description from before the date of the visit of Cybi and his monks and the great miracle. This was probably the result of the missionary efforts of St Medwin (Medw of Michaelston le Fedw. Comments by Gildas and Tertullian attest to the fact that South Wales was Christianised from the very earliest times. (See the new scholarship:St Lucius of Britain by David J Knight.(2009)

St Cybi of Llan-gybi-Some biographical details
Cybi was one of the great Cornish saints, the son of St Selevan of St Levan in Cornwall. Selevan is a Welsh / Cornish version of ‘Solomon’. St Cybi(nicknamed ‘The Tawny one’ also has a holy well at Duloe .He was born near Tregony , or Callington(now called ‘St Cuby’) but claims are made for Duloe near Looe, of whose church he is the original patron. He studied the Christian faith avidly in youth and at the age of 27 he made a pilgrimage to see Pope Symmachus at Rome, who was made a saint, because of his support, financial and spiritual for the northern Italians, who were being constantly attacked by Germanic tribes, and the amount of aid he sent with Christian brothers who took food and clothing to the African tribes, who were also being attacked and killed by Pagan tribes of Germania at the time. Following this Cybi visited the Patriarch Helliah I (494-516) at Jerusalem, an amazing journey at that time, yet many saints travelled to these places from this time onward. A surprising number of people went to Rome and Jerusalem at this time and we know later, under the Laws of Hywel Dda,in the Gwentian code, a criminal could remove a death sentence for a terrible crime and return to the community, if he made a pilgrimage to Rome and confessed it there. It must have been a huge undertaking, but it was Welsh Law. Cybi however, received more teaching and scholarship and then went on to visit Hellian, in the last century before it was overrun by Persian tribes.
Upon his return to his native Cerniw (Cornwall) Cybi began his Christian evangelisation in earnest. he made his ‘Martyrdoms’ constantly putting himself in the hands of God, travelling from Cornwall in his case. He travelled from one monastic settlement to another, baptising and creating new monasteries. Under the laws of ancient British hospitality, each llan was in duty bound to provide food and accommodation for such travellers, free of charge. From the moment he walked into a village with his coloured bell, rung to announce his arrival, (the arrival of a holy man) he would begin to tell people about the amazing plan of Salvation of God and the sacrifice of Christ. In Cybi’s case, he travelled from Cornwall to Wales and Ireland.
He established the Church at St Cybi (Llan-cybi-Llangibby) and has been called one of the MAKERS OF CHRISTIAN WALES. He established his largest monastery at Holyhead (Caer-Cybi—Caergybi)where he was Abbot.

Llandavergui llan da vergui (The Church of the Virgin? (Da Verga)/ Panteg

Panteg, or as shown on older maps Panteague, means "Fair Hollow". I found the church at the end of a long lane off the main road through the village of New Inn, and found it with part of its Welsh form of the Circular churchyard, which was the border of the place which was holy and separated it from outside world. It really is a beautiful place.

We presume it continued as a small Welsh Church, possibly built in stone in Saxon times .The next mention comes in the ‘Taxatio’ of the Pope Nicholas n 1254. This little church was considered too poor to pay tax to Rome , as it was rural (and still remains so today)It was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and in Welsh would have been Llanvair under the Normans. The Normans will have extensively rebuilt the church and later, in the fifteenth century, a large square tower was built, possibly a defensive action at that time , to protect the people and goods against the constant onslaughts of Owain Glyndwr, who had attacked many religious establishments in the County, which they considered the property of the hated Norman usurpers. Goldcliff Benedictine Priory had been sacked as indeed had Llandaff itself, Llanthony and many other places. Weapons and food would have been placed in the tower.

The monk, Adam of Usk was the distinguished Parish Priest here for a while in later Mediaeval times.

Panteg Church changes

In the troubled times of the 16th century, it became an Anglican Church. TheRood screen was removed along with any works of art and statues.

Catholic Worship in Penal times

Catholic Mass continued to be provided from this time onwards at the Llangibby Public House, the White Hart Inn while the local priests had to keep a very low profile and people kept watch. There is still a priest’s hiding place in the Pub.(see photos at the bottom of this blog) This became the Mass Centre for the area.

The Church given to St Cuby became known as St Mary’s Parish Church.
St Mary's, which has been greatly rebuilt and refurbished in the ensuing 450 years and and comprises a western tower, a nave, chancel, south porch, north aisle to the nave, a clergy vestry and choir vestry. There are 3 bells in the tower - all hung for full-circle ringing and there is no better sound as you approach for Sunday Service or a wedding, than to hear the bells ringing out as you walk through the beautiful old churchyard.

Inside, the walls are plastered, with a timber frame roof and there is an arcade of octagonal piers to the north aisle (a most unusual feature). There are plain wooden pews seating just over 200 people, a stone font with wooden cover, a wooden altar rail and pulpit all dating from the Victorian era of mid to late 1800s. A wooden choir screen was added in 1935 whilst the organ chamber was built around 1879. There are stained glass windows to the north aisle with a painted tryptych screen alter below a wonderful east window designed / made by O'Connor and Taylor. The enlargement of the church was completed in 1876 and one more bell added. In 1935 the Chancel screen was added to the Church.

Tithe Barn
There is a tithe barn nearby , it was probably a grange belonging to Usk or Abergavenny Priory-more more research needs to be done. The Tithe Barn became a school in the nineteenth century . A Reverend James confirmed a great many people in the church. He and his wife built the school at Pontymoile as well during the 14 years he was there as clergyman, with his wife. He was greatly esteemed andd the great stained glass window was erected as a tribute to his memory by his friends.

Disestablishment of the Anglican Church 1920

Changes to the governance of the Church came in 1920 with the Disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Wales (before we had been part of the Church of England). The Diocese of Monmouth was newly formed and Panteg became one of its parishes.
Throughout its history, St Mary's has seen many changes and welcomed many people to worship. There have been many changes through all sorts of trials and tribulations, through financial crises and the development from a strictly rural area to that on the fringe of an industrial new town of Cwmbran. In its quiet and tranquil surroundings it remains loved and cherished by its congregation. I experienced some of that welcome when I arrived to take photographs during an evening when two friendly ladies were polishing every pew of the church and we had a warm conversation, while someone outside was mowing the lawn and tending the grounds.
The site has continued since the second century as a place of the worship of Christ and that is a survival story.

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