Friday, April 17, 2009

Pope Eluetherius' Envoy to the British, St Fagan, and St Teilo's Church, Talybont rebuilt at St Fagans



Pope (c. 174-189). The Liber Pontificalis says that he was a native of Nicopolis, Greece. From his contemporary Hegesippus we learn that he was a deacon of the Roman Church under Pope Anicetus (c. 154-164), and evidently remained so under St. Soter, the following pope, whom he succeeded about 174. While the condition of Christians under Marcus Aurelius was distressing in various parts of the empire, the persecution in Rome itself does not seem to have been violent. De Rossi, it is true, dates the martyrdom of St. Cecilia towards the end of this emperor's reign; this date, however, is by no means certain. During the reign of Commodus (180-192) the Christians enjoyed a practically unbroken peace, although the martyrdom of St. Appollonius at Rome took place at the time (180-185). The Montanist movement, that originated in Asia Minor, made its way to Rome and Gaul in the second half of the second century, more particularly about the reign of Eleutherius; its peculiar nature made it difficult to take from the outset a decisive stand against it (see MONTANISTS). During the violent persecution at Lyons, in 177, local confessors wrote from their prison concerning the new movement to the Asiatic and Phrygian brethren, also to Pope Eleutherius. The bearer of their letter to the pope was the presbyter Irenæus, soon afterwards Bishop of Lyons. Eventually the Pope took a stand and declared against Montanists, Gnostics and others.

The ninth-century "Historia Brittonum" sees Lucius as a translation of the Celtic name Llever Maur (Great Light), says that the envoys of Lucius were Fagan and Wervan, and tells us that with this king all the other island kings (reguli Britanniæ) were baptized (Hist. Brittonum, xviii). Thirteenth-century chronicles add other details. The "Liber Landavensis", for example (ed. Rees, 26, 65), makes known the names of Elfan and Medwy,(a stained glass window at Llandaff Cathedral dedicated to Elfan and I posted last year about St Medw, a physician, whose church at MICHAELSTONE Y F(m)EDW was built inside a Roman fort near Newport-tying it to the S Wales area) the envoys sent by Lucius to the pope, and transfers the king's dominions to Wales. "Liber Pontificalis" is authority for the statement that Eleutherius died 24 May, and was buried on the Vatican Hill (in Vaticano) near the body of St. Peter. His feast is celebrated 26 May.

Southamption University Press is publishing a new book in May, Called 'King Lucius of Britain'. Recent research by a recent scholar and archeologist, who argues that Lucius was the first Christian King of Britain and deserves far greater recognition. He is not to be confused with Sankt Luzius of Chur who was a completely different saint and martyr. Our King Lucius was Llefer Mawr who has a tomb in St Mary de Lode in Gloucester.">

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So Saint Fagan was a Roman missionary , who came to Britain and porbably baptised. with Elfyn and Medw the chieftains and nobility of Britain.This is also affirmation, that when Julius and Aaron and Alban were persecuted there was already a thriving Christian Church in Caerleon-whether it was Bede's 300 persons we cannot know, but we are certain it was in the 2nd century not the third when the persecution happened, which ties in with the Julian Julianus stone in Tredunnock, which has been authenticated as second century.

Fagan set up in the Cardiff area and founded his church there, and his small monastery of the Romano-Celtic type, which attracted other Christians, although nothing like a big monastery of the later type. He was a missionary, and possibly the centre of his mission the very fields on which he Museum of Welsh Life is situated. In common with St Julius Julianus, he gives his name to a whole area of the town of Cardiff, which is a good indication of a solid presence connected to the land itself. Elfyn and Medw also set up their centres, and it is possible the unnamed Amphilabus (the 'cloaked one') and Bishop of the Silures who initially escaped the persecution, and fled to Alban actually trained and studied under one of these saints. He later became a martyr, being stoned to death at Verulanium (Now St Albans) Plainly his influence was wide, if details about him are scanty, in a curious way his name lives on, not only in the Great Communion of Saints, but also in the name of the Museum of Welsh Life.


The Museum of Welsh Life (Amgueddfa Werin Cymru) lies just outside Cardiff, in a beautiful setting near the River Taff. I wrote all about St Teilo in a previous post last year, and about the colourful transition of his relic all around the world.If you look at the boxes on the LHS, you can scroll down to all the archives from last year, and I believe it was in an April or June page.There is also a Podcast on Mary in Monmouthshirelink to all the programmes in the left hand side boxes)

In 1508, Michaelangelo was painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Ten years later, another craftsman was painting the walls of another church, Llandeilo (the Llan or holy place of St Teilo)at tal y bont. We will never know his name, but what he did has been re-erected and repainted from exact copies as it has been reproduced exactly as it would have been in the 1520's before the time of trial when all such lovely things were limewashed, which in fact preserved them over centuries, as the Welsh were unhappy about the wrecking of the beauty of the churches. All the surviving original materials have been used in the complete reconstruction of the churc and its oil paintings, and missing items have been researched by experts. Floor tiles and glass , altar furnishings and furniture have been meticulously re-created. A new, hand-carved rood screen was made and decorated. The Painting of the Doom over the Rood the most amazing as it the shock of seeing a church so brightly coloured and beautiful with paintings, and devoid of pews.The result is breathtaking. The Custodian said to me, that a woman had said to him, that if churches looked like this today they would be full, as just to gaze upon it was a vision of heaven.

St Teilos

St Teilos was originally built on the banks of the River Llwchwr near Pontardulais. (The Old CHurch on the Marsh)as it was fondly called on its original site.The full translation of the Welsh name is 'The Holy place of Teilo by the crossing point of the River) There is no longer a bridge, but the church was at one time on one of the main routes through Wales, possibly for pilgrims on their way to St David's.Travellers entered the church to pray for safe passage accross the tidal waters of the River Llwchwr (TH-oo-thoor approx pron). A painting of St Christopher was always the first thing seen in a Mediaeval Church-associated with safe travel and pilgrimage. To die after seeing an image of Christopher was associated with immediate take up into heaven. Here at Talybont, is no exception. He is photographed through the door above.The Church was a central part of Mediaeval life and one of the only large meeting places available to the community.Eisteddfods, sports and festivals and fairs took place in the graveyard!
The church's rich decoration was a vision of heaven, acting as an audio visual backdrop for the Sarum Latin Mass, celebrated there on Sundays. Further visual stimulus was provided by symbols, images and messages, all woven into the theme.

There was indeed an earlier clas or Llan established here from the sixth century, and indeed the present church (now rebuilt and restored at St Fagans) dates back to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, as does the font. During the Fourteenth century, two chapels were built on to the church, creating a cruciform or cross shaped plan.It then formed an aisle during the fourteenth and fifteenth century. 1500-1540 it was again repainted with scenes from the Passion cycle together with popular saints, St Thomas Becket,St James and inevitably Margaret of Antioch, and finally the porch was built.It was completely stripped during the time of the 'reformation' and everything whitewashed. It ceased to function as a parish church in 1852 when a new St Teilo's parish church was built in nearby Pontardulais. The old church remained in use for burials and swerview but in 1073 these ceased and the church ell into decay. The roof tiles were stolen leaving the structure exposed and compromised and in 1982 the anglican Church in Wales offered the building to St Fagans for reconstruction.It had been in use for 800 years by Catholics and Anglicans.
At St Fagans a new bell was also cast by Taylor, Eayre and Smith, Bell founders of Loughborough.(cast Great Paul at St Pauls Cathedral)1881. The bell here is obviously more modest but uses all the ancient techniques and used as a model the 15th century bell at Llantwit Major (see previous blog).It has a prayer in Latin around the crown like so many mediaeval bells



The Rood screen used to screen off the Sanctuary-the holiest part of the church, where the Blessed Sacrament was kept, and where the oly Sacrifice of the Mass is offered from the nave, where the ordinary people sat. The nave (meaning ship) provides the image of the protected people of God, in the ark of Noah, travelling to heaven. An image of Doom was provided above, but also the righteous climbing to heaven with Peter, and the Crucifix reminding the people of the Triumph of the Cross. Also there were the Blessed Mother, Our Lady, Mary, and Christ's favourite disciple John , representing the church. John was to look after Mary and Mary was now to be his mother.Very few of the rood figures remain because of the wholesale destruction during the 'reformation'and St Fagans is lucky to have two in the Collections in the Oriel Gallery no 1.

Master Carver Emyr Hughes carved the new figures of Our Lady and St Teilo from originals in Brittany.

There are many such remnants of rood screens found in various Churches around Monmouth, the most splendid (although no longer coloured) being at Llangwn Uchaf near Usk. this one is breathtaking. Again this was another original Old Welsh monastic settlement and I blogged about it in the summer of last year.A full booklet with the complete history and pictures of the reconstruction of St Teilos is available from the folk musieum. Entrance to the museum is FREE and car parking £2.50

This is a link for the Welsh Catholic History Society in Cardiff, who are at this time updating their website and when it is up again, you will be able to find out about the special Sarum Mass recreated for the opening of the Church at St Fagans. Currently there are no plans to license it for marriages and baptisms, but demand may eventually lead to that.">">

Sixth Century Britain and St Illtud's today


Llantwit Major and the Great Theological College and School at Llanlltyd Fawr

I posted extensively about the life of St Illud of Wales last year and also recorded a podcast -look for the link on the left hand boxes .The life and ministry of Illtud after his conversion by Cadoc was to become one of the great educators and teachers of the Church in those times. The normal regime will have been followed and one of the students was St Hernan mentioned as founder of Lanherne in Cornwall.Llantwit Major (Llan-Illtud Fawr(major)became one of the greatest centres of Christianity in sixth century Britain. The students were divided into twenty four groups , each responsible for one hour's worship each day, so that prayer and praise ascended to heaven to God Continually. Tradition tells us there were only three centres in Britain which practised this unceasing praise 'LAUS PERENNIS-Old Sarum near salisbury, GLASTONBURY (YNYS WITRIN) and LLANTWIT MAJOR. The significance is indicated in the stone memorials which are grouped together in the west church. He was a Catholic pioneer of the Early Church and his memorial is here, just as he is with the saints of Heaven. His Feast Day , according to the Roman Calendar is on November 6th. The monks of the early church were buried under what is now the west Church.

The church you see today is not Illtud's original foundation. What remains is the 'island' structure .In the 11th century, after the Conquest by William of Normandy South Wales was gradually taken over by the Normans.We have already discussed the squabbling among the Welsh princes which led to this. The local Lord had his base in Cardiff, but kept Llantwit Major in his own hands to supply his garrison with grain (lying as it does in rich farmland).Fitzhamon built the Abbey at Tewkesbury and in 1102 he gave the church at Llantwit Major to Tewkesbury with its tithes.It became an ordinary church rather than a theological college at some point.Obviously the church was properous during the Middle Ages and the church was also rebuilt.The original Celtic site, probably stood on the grounds of the West Church and this was rebuilt by Normansaround 1100, although the only Norman remains are the archway over the south door and some fragments of masonry.In the thirteenth century the East Church was built, the south aislle extended the full length of the church . A tower was built and the church twice raised.Also two squints were added.So there were also two piscinas. The Roof on the older West Church was rebuilt in the fifteenth century.

The MEdiaeval Church would have been very different from the present day one

The West Church was the Parish Church and the Canons worshipped in the East Church. The floor was of beaten earth and there were no pews,only the elderly and sick sat on the stone benches around the wall.(cf. the saying 'The weakest go to the wall')The Church had its wall paintings and its rood over the chancel arch , although they were limewashed by the ever zealous puritans who also removed, altars, statues and ornaments.

John Wesley even preached here on 25th July 1777 He wrote (courtesy of Vivian Kelly in the Guildebook)

About eleven I read prayers and preached in Llantwit Major church to a very numerous congregation. I have not seen so large or so handsome a church since I left England. It was sixty yards long, but one end of it now in ruins. I suppose it has been abundently the most beautiful as well as the most spacious church in Wales.'
Various other changes were also made by the Anglican authorities, until the present day.

The Galilee Chapel

Right at the back is a Chantry, called the Galilee Chapel.This was originally a two storey building and the remains can be seen of two staircases.The lower storey was used as a crypt and the uppwer storey is a chapel. In the east side of the chapel are two niches one of the 14th century, one of the 15th century . There are reports of a tree of Jesse being in one (and probably Our Lady in another. Sir Hugh Raglan endowed the church as a chantry. Every day, the priestwould say prayers for the sould of the dead, principally the benefactor and his family. An act of 1545 dissolved the chantries (Henry VIII and his followers) so it ceased to function and the church fell into decay.

The former chantry priest's house lies derelict next to a garden of remembrance for Cremated people and the church seems to be in three parts.

In 1940, the building had been destroyed by a bomb which destroyed it and also blew out the windows in the south aisle of the church.On the hill overlooking the Abbey are the remains of the old monastery buildings , and among them the remnants of a large grange or farm, belonging to Tewkesbury Abbey.Excavations in 1037 found the remains of a farm house, dairy,, bakehouse, brewhouse, stables, a cowshed,an orchard and a number of fields.The entrance to the grange, sitauted in the Monastery Field and the Bishop's Palace Fieldwas through the Gate House, a 13th century building of two storeyswith an outside staircase-the farm entrance can be seen in the masonry of the wall.The Tithe Barn was 36 metres long ,built of stone with an oak roof and large doorways in the North and South Walls. It was also 13th century. After 1836, tithes could be paid in cash rather than produce so its use diminished and it fell into decay and was demolished in 1880, when the new vicarage was built. In the Great Ley Field near the site of the Tithe Barn , stands a mediaeval circular dove cote , made of limestone blocks, coeval with the Gate House. The Grange was occupied for five hundred years until 1539 when it was taken by Henry VIII and his followers.


I found this place to be very special. It was the starting place of study for so many of the early Christian Saints of what is now Wales, Cornwall and Britanny.An I am sure I will return. Don't forget to check out the podcast of St Illtyd. The link is right at the bottom of the blog page, and also in one of the boxes to the left.(listen Online) Or download the series free from iTunes as 'Mary in Monmouthshire'

If you missed the original posts, here is a short catch up:

Illtyd was one of the most revered saints of the early Breton/ Welsh Church, by tradition a cousin of the fabled King Arthur of the Britons. He was of the family of Wales and , he and his wife Tyrnihild lived as members of a Glamorgan chief’s army until they became hermits near the river Nadafan. Illtyd then studied with St.Dyfrig and founded the great abbey of Llanilltud Fawr in Glamorgan, Wales. He was a reportedly converted from his soldier’s life by St. Cadoc, son of Gwynlliw of Newport. According to one Welsh source , Illtyd was one of the three Knights of the Holy Grail. He died in Brittany. Many churches were dedicated to him, chiefly in South Wales. Born in Armorica, of Bicanys and Rieniguilida, sister of Emyr Llydaw, he was a greatnephew of St. Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre. According to one account he crossed to Britain and joined King Arthur's Court, and later went to Glamorgan, where he was miraculously converted by St. Cadoc at Llancarfan (still to come). These details, however, rest on a late life of the saint (Cottonian manuscript, Vesp. A XIV).

He was reputedly ordained by St. Dubricius, Bishop of Llandaff, and with the assistance of Meirchon, a Glamorgan chieftain, to have built a church and a monastery, which became a centre of learning, one of the three great monastic schools in the Diocese of Llandaff. Among the scholars who flocked thither were Sts. Gildas, Samson, and Maglorius, whose lives, written about 600 ("Acta SS. Ordinis S. Benedicti", Venice, 1733), constitute the earliest source of information on St. Illtyd

Llantwit Major (Llanilltyd Fawr)

According to these sources, his theological college was situated on a small waste island, which, at his intercession, was miraculously reunited with the mainland, and was known as Llantillyd Fawr, the Welsh form of Llantwit Major, in South Wales. The story of the miracle may have been inspired by the fact that the saint was skilled in agriculture, for he is supposed to have introduced among the Welsh better methods of ploughing, and to have helped them reclaim land from the sea.

The legendary place of his burial is close by the chapel dedicated to him in Brecknockshire, and is called Bedd Gwyl Illtyd, or the "grave of St. Illtyd's eve", the old custom of having been to keep vigil there on the eve of his feast, which was celebrated 7 February. There is still to be seen in Llantwit Major a cross, probably on the ninth century, bearing the inscription: SAMShortcuts: press Ctrl with: B = Bold, I = Italic, P = Publish, D = Draft more


The Houselt Cross,
also in the Church is 1.9m high.Has the insignia

ES EUS. (I the Name of the Father and SOn and Holy Ghost ,Houslet prepared this cross for the soul of Rees, his father)

Hywel, son of Rhys was probably Hywel ap Rhys who was king of the land between the Tawe and the Usk in the ninth century.

There is also

The Pillar of Samson


In the Name of the most high God begins the cross of the Saviour which Samson the Abbot prepared for his soul, and for the soul of Iuthahelo the King and Arthmael and of Tecan.

Iuthahelo was ITHEL (brother in Lae of St Materiana of Boscastle and Tintagel)
He died in 846.AD

last stones date from the ninth and tenth centuries and there is a suggestion that there ws a flourish sculpture tradition at that time in the monastery, before the Normans.The Normans probably converted the monastic settlement into an Augustinian one, but it probably was just a grange of Tewkesbury Abbey, and staffed by their monks.

St Petroc Apostle to Bodmin and Padstow and St Thomas of Canterbury

St. Pedrog,Abbot of Lanwethinoc (Born around 468-died 564)

Petroc, as he is generally known in Cornwall where he was patron saint, was a younger son of King Glywys Cernyw of Glywysing, which was in modern day Monmouthshire. When his father died, the people of Glywysing called for Pedrog to take on the crown of one the country's sub-divisions like his brothers, the eldest son of whom was Gwynlliw of Newport, father of the Great St Cadog, who was therefore Petroc's nephew. Petroc, however was drawn to express the love of God in areligious life and left, with several followers, to study theology at one of the great theological colleges in Ireland.

Pedrog's pilgrimage to Rome and White Martyrdom to India

Some years later, Petroc and his band returned to Britain.They landed on the shores of the River Camel in Cerniw (Cornwall). They were directed, by St. Samson, to the hermitage of St. Wethnoc who, seeing Petroc's superior piety agreed to give him his cell in return for Petroc naming the place Llanwethinoc (- Petroc's Stow) in his honour. Petroc founded a monastery on the site but, after thirty years there, he decided to go on a pilgrimage to Rome, via Brittany. As he returned, just as he reached Newton St. Petrock (Devon), it began to rain. Petroc predicted that this would soon stop, but it continued to rain for three days. In penance for such presumption, Petroc returned to Rome, travelled on to Jerusalem and finally settled in India where he lived for seven years on an island in the Indian Ocean.

Pedrog's return to Britain and Pilgrimage to the Island of Saints (Bardsey-Ynys Enlli)

Petroc eventually returned to Britain (with a wolf companion he had met in India), but may have gone on a further pilgrimage to Ynys Enlli. He founded more monastic settlements at St. Petrox (Dyfed) and Llanbedrog (Lleyn) on the way. Back in Cornwall, with the help of Saints Wethnoc and the famous Samson of Dol, he defeated a mighty serpent which the late King Teudar of Penwith had used to devour his enemies. When he had done this, he departed from his monastery at Llanwethinoc (Padstow) to live as a hermit in the woods at Nanceventon (Little Petherick). Some of his fellow monks followed his example at Vallis Fontis (St. Petroc Minor). It was while in the wilderness that a hunted deer saught shelter in St. Petroc's cell. Petroc protected it from the hungry grasp of King Constantine of Dumnonia and managed to convert him to Christianity into the bargain. See my earlier post of St Constantine's Well and Chapel near Padstow, from last week-scroll down.

Settlement in the 'Abode of the Monks'or Bothmena (Bodmin)

Petroc later moved still deeper into the Cornish countryside, where he discovered St. Guron living in a humble cell. Guron gave up his hermitage and moved south,but St Guron's well still flows outside the Church. This allowed Petroc, with the backing of King Constantine, to establish a second monastery called Bothmena (Bodmin - the Abode of Monks) after the monks who lived there. Petroc eventually died at Treravel, while travelling between Nanceventon (Little Petherick) and Llanwethinoc (Padstow), and was buried at Padstow. The monks there later removed themselves, along with Petroc's body, to Bodmin where his beautiful Norman casket reliquary can still be seen today. Hope you enjoy its picture.

The Chancery of St Thomas of Canterbury

Thomas of Canterbury's Chantry Church lies in a ruin to the east of the ancent parish church in Bodmin. Built ont he church 'area' it was desecrated by Henry VIII officers and general bullies. You can still see the sedillia and piscina and so forth and there are large spacious wondows. In a lovely setting the ruin is well worth a visit!