Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Holy Hentland in the land of Ergyng and St Dyfrig's HOLY WELL

Location: Off A49 going from Ross on Wye(junction ofM50) to Hereford. Turn Right to Hoarworthy. When you reach (after about a mile) a sharp turn to left, turn right and Hentland is signposted. Drive to the end of the road. From Hereford, obviously turn left to Hoarworthy.

Hentland Church is one of the oldest in the area of Ergyng/Glwyssing. Most of today's (now Anglican) church exists from the 13th and 14 centuries, but back in the sixth century, the famous saints Dyfrig (Dubricius) trained from a young child as a religious went to this charming little village and gained land,possibly the gift of his grandfather and founded his first 'llan'-a small early British monastery.Dyfrig was to do more and more in the way of evangelisation and the fact Churches are dedicated to him throughout Ergyng, Glamorgan and Gwent is testimony to his popularity . This llan is said to have been one of the first two he created , here in Ergyng, now on the border between Herefordshire and Gwent. (Glywyssing) and the other at Moccas, also in Ergyng. 

The circular nature of this early British monastery can immediately be seen, including an interesting water spring ad Holy Well.
The Well is outside the llan and has a lip for humans and also another for animals. It is in a mysterious little dip next to the present Norman church, although the main part of the Church now dates to the 13th and 14th century. Dyfrig's founding of the llan here though dates the first little mud and wattles or wooden church to the fourth or fiffth centuries and definately by the sixth century it would have been thriving. The Spring would have been a useful place to build a llan and the water is clear and pure.

The name Hentland is an anglicization of 'Hen Llan' 'Old Holy Place'. Dyfrig, or Dubricius as he was known in Latin, was not a legendary figure. He was Bishop of Llandaff. He was responsible for bringing St David from his hermatage at Capel Dewi in Llanthony to the Synod of Llandewi Brefi to defend the Catholic Church's teaching against the wrong teaching of Pelagius-another Briton, also with Druid influence in his thinking. Dyfrig was also responsible for receiving St Gwynlliw of Newport into the Church and for shriving and giving him Extreme Unction before that saint's death. As such he was closely connected with St Cadoc, Gwynlliw's son. As Bishop of Caerleon as was his job description, he also revitalised the disused and neglected Roman college at Caerleon. It was David who took the Bishopric to Menevia finding Caerleon too noisy.After Llandewi Brefi, Dyfrig relinquished the Bishopric to David, believing it needed a younger man such as David to control the Druids and Pelagian thinkers. Dyfrig had founded monasteries in many places and then withdrew to the monastery (Llan) on the river Taff (llan daf)or Llandaff near Cardiff.

The beautiful stained glass of the saint was dedicated by a forner Anglican Vicar William Poole (1854-1902) There was another monastery at Llanfrawther  (Llanfrother-Church of the Brethren) Worship has gone on here for over 1,600 years. Stained glass of Dyfrig is also in evidence from the 15th century, also depicting Dyfrig.

The organ is startlingly brightly coloured and its pipes provides a rich addition to the colour in the chancel/Sanctuary. In a restoration programme of 1853, a design of polychromatic decoration was put on the walls, it seems obscuring the earlier mediaeval wall paintings, but we don't know the state of those. It is just a design like a stem with leaves but there are words on it in rectangles which are hard to read.

Interesting was the modern(1920!) wheeled funeral bier and a 17th century chest with original lock plate recently restored.There is a Jacobean (James I) carved chair, 17th century pulpit, 19th century screen but the poppy heads on the choir stalls are pre 'reformation'.

The Tower is original with one mediaeval bell (other 3 1628) Tower needs strengthening before the bells can be rung, which is major work.

There is a mediaeval lantern cross (14 century) with four facets
1 The Madonna and Child (East)
2 Saints Mary and John (West)
3St Teilo (South)
4 St Dyfrig (North)
It is unusual in Britain to find them all in their original positions.

The font is late 16th-17th century.There is a stone credence and piscina in the sanctuary. To the left of the sanctuary is the entrance to the Rood Loft. There under the crucifix the penitents would come for confession. Unfortunately this appears to have been taken down by the authorities, and it would have been a most beautiful sight, judging by the beautifully painted rafters, in green and red and gold above the sanctuary.The words over the arch of the 19th century screen could not have compared, with the picture of the Doom with its bright colours, dire warnings and glorious scenes of salvation.

The yew trees in the yard are very old and common in llans being both sacred for the early British and useful for Elizabeth I's bowmen. The one by the gate into the lane was planted in Shrove Tuesday 1615 according to records.

Pax Cakes
On Palm Sunday each year, the ancient custom of the blessing and distribution of Pax Cakes takes place paid for with money from a local titled lady. with the Blessing of 'Peace and Good Neighbourhood.'

The Way to the well is simple. From the grassy church car park. Turn left and walk back a little way to the small track which leads you gradually down the slope. You walk through a track of wild flowers, garlic and nettles-not on path towards the stream. There is a small wooden bridge over the stream. the well is up on the right hand side.
A delightful place to sit and pray-as no doubt St Dyfrig would have found.

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