Thursday, November 11, 2010


I vow to thee my country
All earthly things above

Entire and whole and perfect , the service of my love.

The love that asks no questions
The love that stands the test

That lays upon the altar the Dearest and the Best

The Love that never falters
The Love that pays the price

The Love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

2.O Father, bless our dear ones, away across the sea
Across expanse of waters they call and hope inThee
Away from their country, their captains at their head
O comfort those who mourn for the Living and the Dead
O Jesus be their Sacrifice, their hope and refuge be
The Father, Son and Spirit, the Blessed Trinity.

3.So for Peace among the nations, we pray with one accord
That love may over-come all the hatred of the sword.
We pray for Love in action, our inspiration be
O remember those defenders ,who died across the sea
Lead us Father into Freedom , remember those who died
In the faith of our Salvation, of Christ the Crucified.

4. And there's another country, I've heard of long ago
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King
But her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering
And soul by soul and silently, her shining bonds increase
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

Verses 2 and 3 by Eve Nicholson

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

More from Llanhilleth (Llan-heledd) and a previous post!

Brilliant video of historian Frank Olding, heritage officer of Blainau Gwent telling children about St Illtyd's Church at Llanheledd-or Llanhilleth.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Llanfihangel Pontymoile-St Michael in the 'Circle of Heaven' Cilcoegan.

The Reverend Jennifer Mole showed me round the small but pretty Church of Llanfihangel Pontymoile this week. The second part of its name-the Bridge of Moile is easy to see, a llan is awhat it always was a Cambro- British Monastery and ‘Mihangel’ the name of the beloved and fierce defender of the Lord, St Michael. This was not its original name which was Cilgoegan. So who was this lost saint, who was despatched upon the arrival of the more powerful St Michael, which did not happen until Tudor times, after Henry VIII dispute with Rome and the founding and reorganising of his own church                              

St Michael was a popular dedication in Monmouthshire and often associated with mountains. J Darrell Evans , who wrote the guide book for the church writes' there were so many dedications for this defender of the heavenly hosts in this unstable borderland, they were each given another name to distinguish them'. The nearest village was Pontymoile, more than a mile away, and this name predominated by the seventeenth century.
It was all part of the manor of Cilgoegan, stretched between Cae Brest, the river and the Clarewaun brook and part of the lordship of Usk.
In the ‘Taxatio’ of Pope Nicholas in 1254 it appeared the church of Kilgoigen in his inventory of the churches in England and Wales. When the churches were taken by the king, in the sixteenth century they referred to Kylegoygane annexed to the parish of Panteg. This always seems to have been a small chapel and quite poor. Both Panteg (originally Llandeverguir? Given in the sixth century to St Cybi by the petty king Edlogan after the famous miracle) and Llanmyhangel are given in the charters as belonging for nearly five hundred years to the Priory of St Mary at Usk. Interestingly, neither church appears as having any  assets at all in Henry VIII officials of additions of the land and possessions, including trusts and offerings made by the faithful which he  took for himself.

The parish name seems to have appeared as Llanfihangel Pontymoile on the first published map of Monmouthshire by Christopher Saxon in 1577.By this time ‘llan’ had come to mean church, but it was not exactly this, as we know it was an early British monastary, and as its name suggests, this was perhaps originally a hermitage. (‘Cil’ is Welsh for Latin ‘Cella’ or cell-a hermit’s cell)so St Coegen may have originally been a hermit. However, extensive searches have not revealed such a saint, so Coegan may have simply been humble hermit, living in this little chapel in the grove. There is no doubt that the church was rebuilt in stone after the conquest and served the Christians living around it at a time when most people lived on the land and worked it. Yet the plague perhaps (1315-1317) caused many such small agrarian communities to be wiped out, and the churches attached to them never recovered their former numbers. This seems always to have been a small chapel in a grove, and  though dedicated to St Michael, it seems likely that the British term CEUGANT  suggested the dwelling, the realm of the Druid God, and may have been kept by the Christian hermit living there. Druidic lore was always an oral traditions, whose rites were not even written down until the seventeenth century. In the absence of any important founder, the cell of this hermitage probably existed on the site of an older  and deserted Druid grove and the name stuck for some time. In the  Priory at Usk ,it was simply called Llanmyhangel-obviously the name it was known by from its take over by the Benedictine nuns.
There is also a possible link to Coygan(!) from ceredigion, who was a leader at a hill fort there and it is always possible that this grove was the place where he spent lent away from the world in penance as so many of the saints of this period did. In the absence of any firm sources, however, this is speculation as I can find no other references and this practice of Lenten retreat was common at the time.

The rood loft was removed from the church after the Reformation, which would have contained a picture of the Doom and the great Crucifix, under which the Faithful would come to confess their sins to the priest sitting there in persona Christi.Nowadays if you approach the pulpit through the Vestry , there is a narrow door through which the person preaching has to approach. This was the door which originally led to the rood loft.

On the south wall of the Church is a very old memorial stone tablet (pictured above) with an inscription in 18th century lettering. ‘Here lieth ye body of Thomas Iones of Glascoed who departed this life in the 14th Day of September. Ano Dom 1713 .Aged 41 years’.

The Wakinshaw Windows are of later date and depict the Holy family in one panel and Christ reading the Scriptures(!) in the other. Walkinshaw funded the Free Press of MMonmouthshire newspaper and the windows are probably to remind people of the fact he was a newspaper man. There is another beautiful window in memory of his son Alexander James, who died at only nine years of age- something beautiful for what must have been a terrible family tragedy.
The ceilings show much wear and tear and flaking plaster which is a shame. It is a very small country church with only `11 regular churchgoers who cannot afford the repairs. The church  has put out an appeal for help for the £8,000 it will take to deal with the roof and stop it collapsing.

 It is a Norman style barrel roof with small; gold rose bosses.the present ceiling comes from the eighteenth century. The whole structure remained intact when in 1924 the church roof slipped off, the crash giving rise to the rumour that an earthquake had happened.

Thefts and an appeal for the twenty first century. 

Sadly the church has to be kept locked because of the large number of artefacts which have been stolen. The vicar tells me lead has recently been stolen from the roof of Panteg Church as well and this little church of Heaven, needs £8,000 to repair the ancient roof with only 11 older parishioners. It is a Grade II listed building. There are only 420 people living in the parish.
Prayers please,  especially at this time. If this amount can be raised, there is a possibility it can be matched.
The Church in Wales website has details of this little church at Pontymoile which is attached to the Church at Panteg if you can help.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mountain llan of the Abbot-Saint Isanus,Isan at Llanishen and St Denis of Paris and the Lost Chapel

Last week, driving up in the Autumn sunshine, on the road to St Arvans to Devauden, I called at Llanishen, where I left the road, drove slightly down the hill and to the church at the side of the road. The autumn leaves fell on each side,but the view was breathtaking, and unchanged from when the blessed Abbot St Isan toiled here for the Kingdom.

 Whilst the church building looks a bit unloved, it has been well cared for and immediately you can see the llan area, all around it. The llan for the early British Church was the ‘circle of heaven’, cleared, prayed over, fasted over for forty days and nights and the church built as its beating heart at the centre. The boundary was hedged or built in stone and the abbot (as he was known) and his twelve monks would toil in the fields and attend the Opus Dei and Mass during the day in the Church according to ancient rights. Penitentials were fierce in the monks desire for holiness. The Mass and daily Church devotions were all in Latin and the families of the ecclesial community lived all around. Some llans were ‘con-hospitae’ with both monks and nuns living and taking part in the liturgical life of the community.

 So it was for St Isan at Llanishen. . In A.D. 535 two monks set out eastwards from the monastery of Llan-Illtyd Fawr, aiming to establish new settlements, or "llans", in the wild terrain below Caerphilly mountain. One of these monks, Isan, established his "llan" on the present-day site of the Oval Park, an ideal location offering a ready fresh-water supply at a natural spring and the nearby Nant Fawr stream. He seems to have later departed to the ancient church he had heard about in Gwent, near the Severn,dating from Roman times, reputed to have had a relic of the martyred French Saint Denis. Unlike most of the early Cambro-British saints, we cannot trace his parentage as there simply is not enough information.

 However we are told he was a Saint or a monk of Bangor Illtyd, or Llan-illtyd Mawr-now Llantwit Major. Baring Gould and Fisher maintain he is mentioned in the Life of St Illtyd, and it appears Abbot Isan was the holy man, who with another abbot visited St Illtyd just before his death.

  Llanishen in Glamorgan-was probably his first llan. The Liber Landavensis or ‘Book of Llandaff’ refers to him as ‘Lann Ysan’ and also’ Llan Nissien’. The Normans made of it, the holy martyr of St Denis, patron of Paris, on whose martyred blood the city was grounded. This was from the savage era of persecutions from Rome in which St Maurice also died-also similarly ancient, since they could find no details of St Isan immediately. They rededicated many churches, yet the saintly abbot Isan, was, nevertheless the founder. In the Tintern Charter, to which it later belonged, it was referred to as ‘The Church of Dionyus (Dennis) of Lanissan. The Glamorgan Charter calls it ‘CAPELLA DI SANCTI DIONYSII’ as in the Tewkesbury Charter of 1180 AD. This was sixty years after the canonisation of St David for his defence of Catholic teaching against the Pelagians at Llandewi. It is said there are remains of a still earlier church in the parish called CAPEL DENIS which may even indicate there was a church here (like that at Tredunnock) in Roman times, commemorating a much loved martyr in a time of terrible persecution, which also saw the holy Caerleon Martyrs shedding their blood for the faith. The Feast Day of St Denis (whom I believe is carved in stone above ) is OCTOBER 9th as he is Apostle and Patron of France.

Abbot Isan, who later built his ‘llan’ around this site lived and toiled there. His own Feast Day (although not entered in the Welsh Church Calendar) is December 16th, the day of his death in the sixth or seventh century, which would have made him contemporary with St Derfel.

Inside the church, there were two carved heads at the base of the chancel arch. One appears to be the Blessed Virgin and one that, no doubt of the royal St Denis. There are some wonderful stained glass windows ,one dominating the chancel area, (seen above) with a crucifixion scene in the centre. Saint David is also shown in another window, in bright vivid colours (at Llandewi Brefi with the white dove on his shoulder) The church has been restored in the nineteenth century and a great deal renewed, from Norman times. Again the beauty of the stained glass windows contrasted with the rather dull white and brown interior, with a dark oak pulpit, chairs and crucifix. The rood screen had disappeared. 

The font also appeared to be nineteenth century, The seating was pews in dark brown, and in general the interior was very plain but the stained glass window dominated the whole building. There was little left of the pre-Reformation period, but you had to look over the whole valley from this wonderful site and see the face of God’s Creation as it would have appeared to the British Christians to the Early Romano-British saints and also those of Abbot Isan’s time. This truly was an island of heaven.

Beata es Virgo Maria, Dei genitrix.
The nave without the colour of the chancel area looks a bit dark, and sorry about the lack of sharpness, but it was very dark indeed .

 Sanctus Dionysius  .Ora pro nobis

Sanctus Isanus.Ora pro nobis. Amen

Monday, October 11, 2010


Postcode:of house opposite

The story of Llanveynoe begins in the area of Newport and St Woolos (known to all as St Gwynlliw's).Bugi ap Gwynlliw was the last of the children of St Gwynlliw, the 'pirate' saint of what is now 'Stow Hill' and the Saintly Gwladys, daughter of the great King Brychan Brycheiniog, who had been carried off by Gwynlliw, when he was sick for love of her and had the whole court of Brychan chasing after him. Battle was avoided when Gwynlliw married her,and according to the will of God, her children were like her, great saints of Gwent. The 'Baby' of the family, her youngest and adored son, Bugi, was educated, like his elder brother Cadoc at Caerwent with St Tatheus. Bugi was also, in Welsh known as HYWGI and was one of the four patron saints of the monastery of LLANGWM near Usk, where he may have done his formation as a monk and priest.

When he was old enough to marry, he took for a wife Princess Peren, daughter of the King of Llawden, and then went up to Powys to be nearer to Bugi's grandfather's court.It seems that Peren became a mother to their only son late in life  a son, called BEUNO and this son too, was educated at Caerwent with St Tatheus and taught the Christian faith. Since Tatheus was inspirational, particularly to St Cadoc and a father figure to them all
                                                     Beuno, like his uncle Cadoc decided
to follow the Mission and spread it into North Wales, which was still steeped in pagan lore, where there had been no missionary zeal as yet to evangelise the Mission (Mass) of Christ, to go out into all the world and preach the gospel and baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit. There were some hybrid Druid/Christian communities , which were actually Druid Communities and looked the same in appearance, yet were actually maintaining Druid customs and philosophy and missing the real point of the Christian teaching. This was possible as there were a number of similar points in the philosophy, which had been used to bring Druids to faith.

On leaving Caerwent it seems Beuno decided to found his own Llan not far from that of his parents. He would have had his twelve fellow monks to help and they came to this district of Llanveynoe, which is in one of the most beautiful and remote areas of the Black Mountains and yet the present church , whilst having points of interest from this early period
The land at Ewias was given to him by King Ynyr Gwent King of Gwent (husband of St Materiana of Cornwall who observed Beuno was 'humble, chaste and generous and in every respect keeping the commandments of God.
Beuno was also a kinsman of St Kentigern,(Mungo).It was more likely the land given to him was by Iddon, son of Ynyr, however, as a devastating raid on their camp near Chepstow by Saxons, killed Ynyr, 'torched' the camp and sent his mother (Madryn-St Materiana) and brother St Ceidio to Boscastle in Cornwall on their White Martyrdom.
The other lands were Ewyas Leol, and Ewyas Harold and the llan of St Clydawg was nearby. The pictures nearby testify to the importance of this site.
The County archeologist Dr Keith Ray, has found the remains of the llan below the west wall of the churchyard, which appears to have been conformed in later times to a square wall.The original church was almost certainly on the
circular llan mound, under the present church. No doubt that this was a monastery settlement of this Welsh saint.

The antiquarian founder of 'ley lines' wrote a book 'The Old Standing Crosses of Hereford-shire and it must not be forgotten this was still Wales at this time. This was Alfred Watkins. He describes one of these crosses in Llanveynoe Church as depicting an early type of Crucifixion image (which may be gathered from the scene)The other cross shows the early symbols of Christ XPC (from the Chi Rho image)and the IHC from the Greek words for Christ and Jesus. He thinks the third symbol represents the OMEGA(I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the End-alpha and Omega being the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.)The remainder of the inscription reads: HAES:DUR FECIT CRUCEM ISTAM or HAESTUR MADE THIS CROSS.
George Marshall alerted Alfred Watkins to yet another stone cross lying near the church and in 1929, we are told helped the local Anglican vicar to carry this short arm cross (pictured below left) and erect it in the churchyard. It is so old that its history seems lost, though it iss safe to assume it was present at the time of St Beuno and his commmunity. This brings the number of stone crossses to 5. One was discovered as recently as 2005 hidden on the North wall and another into the south wall. This was therefore a site of considerable historical and religious importance, as it should be, with Beuno being a grandson of the King of Brycheiniog.
Seeing the Church as I did last week (October 2010) it was incredible to think of this area being constantly charged with the singing of psalms, the hundreds of genuflections, readings i holy scripture, daily offering of Mass, as it had in Beuno's day, and where it has been claimed a school may also have been set up to help in Beuno's own mission,, to take the Faith to North Wales and re-energise it for Christ. Kentigern had designated Asaph to follow his missionary work in Merioneth. and so, having established his Llan near his parents and grandparents Beuno moved North to found great and important monasteries there and take the great Mission of the Holy Dewi in South Wales , which had established llans all over, to North Wales, Pistyll, Clynnog(616AD) and other places.-                                                                   
Berriew and Bettws in Powys Llaynycil ,Gwyddelwern Caruglwch,Penmorva in Gwynedd
Aberffraw and Trefdraeth in Anglesey.

Establishing a Christian llan meant a basis for orthodox Christianity in a whole region, where young monks and priests could sstudy and grow up in the faith,
Whilst at Llanfeuno, Prince Bugi (Hywgi) became terminally ill and sent for his beloved and only son to give him his blessing. Beuno said to his fellow monks Let three of you remain in this place and I will go to my father, who is very ill' and departed. St Beuno commended them to the King and the people of the country. He then went to his parents' llan and Mass was said in Prince Hywgi's sick room and he received his 'Viaticum' (the 'food for the journey')and made his last confession. His end on this earth was deemed to be 'perfect'.
Beuno  planted an acorn by his father's grave. It grew into a great tree . One branch curved down to the ground and then rose again "and there was a part of this branch in the soil, as at present; and if an Englishman should pass between this branch and the trunk of the tree, he would immediately die; but should a Welshman go, he would in no way suffer." Thus the saint's involvement with Llanfeuno ended.

The llan continued for some hundreds of years until the area was overrun with Saxons and the Church first sacked and looted was rebuilt in stone and finally in Norman times rebuilt on its old site as a stone church , now to be a daughter house of St Clydawg at nearby Clodock (no doubt its association with a miracle worker being the reason the British name was retained)Llanveynoe (the anglicised place name, still giving the real clue to its original founder) was renamed St Peter, although later St Beuno was reinstated.
The Church itself is unremarkable and simple with its sanctuary now an undivided chancel, Nave and bellcote built of local sandstone. The eastern wall has two windows which appear to be modern, and also the north wall. Between the two windows is a blocked 13th century lancet window. In the south wall are two more mmodern windows and there is a much restored doorway to the vestry and west of that is a modern doorway and porch.In 1675, Jane Gunter, possibly a Catholic of the famous Catholic Abergavenny Gunter family left 5 shillings' for the glazeing of the North Wyndow of the Chapelll of Llanveynoe'.

I am grateful to Priscilla Flowers-Smith of the parish for her guide notes at Llanveynoe Church.

The pictures to the left, show details of thhe crosses of this important monestary and also the land on which the original monastery buildings would have been erected.

In common with the Desert
Fathers, the men at Llanfeuno would have praised God in his creation, looking over the valleys as they went about their work, singing the psalms at sunrise to sunset and through the night, in a fiercely ascetic way, not at all the fuzzy 'Celtic' feel of the 'new age nostalgia'. These were men who stood in freezing water up to their arms in order to atone
for their sins. They were in communion with Rome, even though at that time only Bishops had to be celibate. Of course most people then livved on the land and not in the towns and many villages were depopulated because of the plague and because of landowners being given the church lands and then throwing the people off it.
I drove a little way up the golden valley and looked down over Llanthony and Cwmyoy. These hills were called 'Hatterall' but mean
'At y Heul' Towards the Sun.
It should not be forgotten also that the entire area was not far from Capel Dewi itself, the original cell of St David at Llanthony
The Llan area lies beneath this field, where the monks lived and worked.

Side of the Church(North Wall)

The llan was quite extensive....with the hills behind
The most ancient stone cross found by Alfred Watkins and reerected together with the Anglican Vicar in the nineteenth century.This is believed to date to St Beuno's time, or those of his successors.

Black Mountains and Hatterall Hills
A farm near Llaveynoe, similar to the occupation of the monks and their families and retainers.
It was Beuno's great missionary zeal- and his greatest work was in North Wales which made him one of the most famous of the early Welsh Saints. Perhaps, however it was his part in the early training of the nun, St Gwenfrewi of Trefynnon (Holywell) which made him best known in our time. He was instrumental after her encounter with the lusty Caradoc in her resuscitation and future life as a nun in Henllan and then in Gwytherin, and then as Patroness of Wales and the most famous of the Welsh Saints today, where her shrine at Holywell is attended by tens of thousands every year.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Brychan Brycheiniog, the famous king of Irish ancestry, married into the community of Garth Madrun or Talgarth, where a number of settlers had lived for some centuries, granted land by Cunebelinus. Brychan’s children and grand children were famed saints of Wales and Cornwall, who were of the line of Brychan Brycheiniog, his line being one of the ‘Three Holiest in Wales’.

St Cladawg-eldest son.

< This picture of a statue in Cil Pedic's Church (Kilpeck) could be (British tonsure) St Clydawg, except he is not depicted with a crown-but does have a martyr's palm. It may also ,of course be St Pedic.Whether in statues of this period a crown may have been shown is another matter>

(In the Welsh Primers of 1546, 1618, 1633, Cotton Manuscripts , Welsh Almanacks . Alwydd Paradwys gives the date as August 19. Also other sources favour this date.)

The story of St Clydog was first written down from the oral tradition of the Bards in the twelfth century in the Book of Llandaf. His life story is also told by John of Tynemouth in the thirteenth century, which was a transcript of the Liber.

Clydog was the son of Clydwyn, who was a son of Brychan. Clydwyn was himself a saint from the Cognatio de Brychan. It is stated that he ‘invaded the whole of South Wales or ‘conquered Deheubarth,’ and that he was the father of Clydog and Dedyw and both of them ruled here. There was also a daughter ,St Perdita, that has been ascribed to him. It is probably not true that he conquered the whole of South Wales. All the genealogical lists make him son of Brychan, but also that he may have been King of Ceredigion and Dyfed Clydwyn also had a daughter, aside from his two sons, named Gwledyr. He shares a feast day with his father St Clydwyn. A place called ‘Cruc Cletwyn’ (his mound’) is mentioned in the Talley Abbey Charter of 1331.Hid aunt was St Clydai the Virgin. Was married three times to Prawst(1), Ribrawst(2) and Roistri (3) and his other brothers were Arthen,Papay,St Cynon (of Abercynon near Penrhys),Dingat (of Llandingat (Dingestow),Pasgen, St Cynlefr the Martyr,(Merthyr Gynlefr), St Berwen (llan in Cornwall)Cydoc or Iddog (Llan in Britanny-Ton Ridoch)The Sepulchre of Brychan was on the island called Ynys Brychan and is near the Isle of Man. Another source (Cott manuscript) says Brychan had thirteen sons and twenty four daughters!

He was King here in Ewyas (partly in Monmouthshire and partly in Herefordshire-the old Welsh  Kingdom of Ergyng) He was one of the king-saints, ruling with justice, peacefully and with holiness.His early formation as a Catholic priest was at Llancarfan under the glorious Saint Cadoc, son of St Woolos(Gwynlliw) of Newport. He and his brother studied theology and philosophy, Latin and Greek there and were ordained. Cadoc himself was a prince. They spent a great deal of time there and worked with him in Cadoc’s own foundations in Monmouthshire and Glamorgan.

On his return to Ewias, acertain woman, the daughter of a nobleman, fell in love with him and would marry no one else. One of Clydog’s nobles, a Saxon, his eye having fallen upon the woman, decided she should be his and no one else’s. The following day whilst the holy and noble King, after having attended the Mass, went out hunting and whilst taking aim at a stag, was shot and killed by his erstwhile friend. The body was placed on a cart and driven towards a river, where there was a ford. This is the bridge area at the stream below the present church, where the water is very shallow. The river Monnow, which also flows through Monmouth, was a barrier and the yoke carrying the cart broke and the oxen would not be driven further. There the great king died and was buried. A great fire was seen to be burning over the grave that night and the Bishop (probably Teilo) ordered that there be built a Martyrum or Martyr’s Chapel over the place of his grave. His sorrowing people, who had loved their wise and saintly king did so. This is Caer Gledog, now in England (Loegr) Probably nearby Longtown was meant by this , where there was an ancient British Camp. (Caer)The Book of Llandaff (Cardiff area) affords proof that Brychan’s rule extended into this area.

There was a further story that two men who had been at loggerheads for a long time vowed upon the tomb of St Clydog to be reconciled. On their way back from the church ,one turned on the other and treacherously murdered him, but immediately afterwards, stricken by a guilty conscience, he fell upon his spear and died miserably.
 In Welsh, the scene of St Clydog’s martyrdom, (as a Christian King by an evil traitor) allowed the people to acclaim him a saint, which was granted at Llandaff by the Bishop-possibly St Teilo. )was known as MERTHYR CLYDAWG or Merthyr Clydawg –his Martyrium, a chapel in which the body of a martyred saint is interred by his grieving brother,Dedyw (who ruled after him, and also founded a llan at Llan-detty at Bwlch in Powys. His church is in Ewias where he was killed by pagan Saxons.Following the martyrdom of the Blessed Clydog, the hermits Llibio,(Cleebeeo)Gwrfan (goorvan)and Cynfar (Kunvarr) were the first inhabitants and cultivators of the place after the martyrdom of St Clydawg the Martyr. So famous was he, that a people were named after him, including a eleventh or twelfth century Bishop of Llandaff.
In later times, Clodock was called ‘Hundred’.The notorious Henry VIII extirped Wales in 1535 and so Clodock was forcibly taken into England. The parish remained as part of the new Anglican See of Llandaff until 1858 when it was taken over by Hereford. However, this always was Welsh Wales as everyone spoke Welsh here until the beginning of the nineteenth century.

St Clydawg’s church, emulating the spirit of ‘mercy’ for fugitives contained a sanctuary ring which a ‘criminal’ could grasp to ask for refuge ,so Clodock church was chartered as a 'place of refuge' for those escaping from their enemies.The door itself could also be secured with an oak bar. The criminal could remain for forty days, and would have to be provided with food by the congregation .After that time, he would have had to ‘abjure the realm’, that is walk directly to the coast and take the first available boat abroad and never come back. Alternatively, he could give himself up for trial, and with luck, after forty days, those investigating the crime may have come to a different conclusion.
 The Welsh Border runs alongside the mountain and there was much rivalry between the Border people, hence the strong solid door dating from around the l5th century. The church is full of history, with faded wall paintings, coats of arms and a Decalogue. It has a memorial stone which is thought to date from around AD 750-850, 'To the dear wife of Guinndo, a resident of this place. In fact there are more memorials to local people than images of the saints and angels of God.Much would have been lost in the restorations.

 Because Saint Clydawg was a Martyr, many came to pray at his tomb, pilgrims arrived at this remote place on his feast day, November 3rd.Masses would be said over the tomb. However, it is possible the feast day changed in Norman times, or even earlier. The pilgrims’ season is normally from May to October, because summer weather brings more pilgrims as winter weather would make these pilgrimages more difficult, as snow and bad weather often make the areas impassable. The upkeep of a church is very expensive and the Bishop may have introduced a proxy date for the saint for the convenience of the common good of the faithful, with a local feast celebrated on the November date, when the elderly and disabled would not be so cold. This would have been the local bishop’s prerogative.
Alwydd Paradwys was a Catholic source, and the date may have come from an later Martyrology in Rome. It was the miracles which drew the pilgrims, asking for the saint’s help with prayers. People always needed miracles and prolific celebrations may have happened on both dates. There seem to have been many miracles at St Clydawg's before the
reformation ceased.
The Englishman Whytford gives on November 3rd however:
‘In England ye feest of saynte Clitauke a martyr, a kynges son of strayte justyce, a lover of peace, and of pure chastite, and of a stryte and perfyte lyfe ye was cruelly slayne by a fals tratour at whose deth were showed many miracles and at his tombe after many moo’
St Clydog should be represented holding a sword in one hand and a lily in the other and crowned as a prince,in Norman times.

The Twelfth century church had the following boundary from the Book of Llandaff:
Merthyr Clitauc-‘Clodock’ Its boundary is the sone in the Waun Fraith on the cecin,North end of Hetterall (at yr Haul-to the sun) Hills, along it to Rhiw Gwrw, to the stone on the Cecin of the allt, along the Cecin on the edge of the Brec. Black mountain upwards as far as the stones opposite to Nant Trinant , the Turnant , along it, downwards as far as into the Olchon , along it, the Olchon, downwards as far as Ynys Alarun at its top end , to the Maen Tyllog to the crug to the Monnow , across the Monnow to Aber Nant Cwm Cinreith, the nant throught its length as far as the Mynys Ferfun (anglicised later to Money farthing-trans ‘Fersun’s Hill’)along the Mynys Ferfun to the Loch of Fer un, along the mountain to the source of the Hilin, along the Hilin as far as the Monnow. Along the Monnow downwards as far as Aber Ffynon Bist, along Ffynon Bist as far as its source, From its source to the Cecin straight upwards making for the Waun Fraith (Wine vryth)on the Cecin on the Mountain, as far as the stone where the boundary began.'

 It was served by The Abbey of John the Baptist at Llanthony, who were its patrons. Its dedication was to St Clodock. In Rome, in the Taxatio of Pope Nicholas where Clydag is referred to in various Latin forms ST CLEODICUS ST CLYDOG ST CLODOCH ST CLADOCUS( as in evidence of 1517). It was valued in the taxation at the enormous sum of £20, so must have been quite a rich church.It is given as being the Diocese of St David. Since the whole area was overrun by Saxons around 600AD it is likely the Saxons, when they became Christianised, improved the church and it was this church which was rebuilt in Norman times and became attached to the nearby Priory of Augustinian Canons in nearby Llanthony.

 This was part of the work of the Norman de Lacey family, who built the castle at Longtown on the rruins of the British Caer (Camp). He appointed a secular priest to serve Longtown in the first instance, but after that the Canons at Llanthony, which he founded with Bishop Ervistus, became responsible for serving the church and village, and there would have been a place of accommodation for visiting priests, possibly even in the Church house adjacent to the church, where a more modern house now stands. There may have been, however more ancient Llan buildings available. The Tithes from the church were, therefore given to Llanthony and the canons or black monks were priests here for two hundred years.

 My Visit 5th October 2010

No one could imagine a lovelier setting for the church and it is quite clear this was a wonderful part of Clydawg’s kingdom.The mountains all around looking down on it and a fast flowing stream and holy well on the south bank of the river.A Norman tower looks down and a tri partite structure shows. The chancel area in the front was probably the original Welsh/Saxon site and then the nave and tower added in Norman times. Interestingly there is an arched recess in the chancel.

One splash of colour, a beautiful stained glass window!

 When I entered the church, I was, I have to say, that in spite of the awe inspiring scale and height of this church of pilgrimage, it seemed totally devoid of the colour and charm of a Norman Church. Little pictures peeped out like an enchanting cherub over the pulpit and part of an annunciation(oh please let it be restored!), even a coloured fresco of the Blessed Virgin,in the window splay near the pulpit but for me, the building seemed dominated by its dark brown boxed pews , oak choir stalls and an absolutely enormous three decker pulpit and sounding board, which made it ‘feel’ more like a Non conformist chapel, the altar being a simple wooden table. One wonders, as in so many churches, whether the original Norman altar complete with consecration crosses may be interred under the present table dated about 1650, in the height of the Cromwellian period, with Laudian rails and Housel bench, part of the changes ordered by the Anglican Archbishop Laud. The table is surrounded with rails, allowing the Communicants to gather around it. Some of the choir stalls are beautifully carved with flowers and dragons, but the overall effect quite cold with its brown and white.
 There was another restoration in the twentieth century and when the Anglican Revd F.G.Llewellyn arrived in 1916, he found the church virtually a ruin and he raised money to repair and restore the fabric of the church, which was vitally important for its survival.

The font is still that of the old Catholic church and dates from 1290, made of hand cut stone,but quite small, standing on a shaft as big as the bowl.

The priest’s door is still there on the South Wall. Known as the ‘monks’ door’it would have been used by them when they said Mass or came in for the daily office. The oak door is oak studded and dates from a much later date. As in Orthodox churches today, there would have been a rood screen or loft (which were torn down during the sixteenth century)and so the priests would have entered the sanctuary (where the Blessed Sacrament was held in the Tabernacle) and they believed this area was holy and only the ordained could enter. Likewise, no sanctuary lights to show Christ present at all times.

 The two plinths at the south side of the arch are empty. It is sad to think of the hatred which smashed the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom the angel so honoured. She is missing, along with a representation , no doubt of St Clydawg the martyr, similar to those in nearby Kilpeck Church.
In 1645 Scots pillaged the valley and stole the communion plate, since the earliest now there was dated to 1695, so must have been made for the seventeenth century restoration. There are three chests made out of a single log in which records were kept. That of St Peter’s in Longtown (now a private house) was probably the place of the third chest’s origin.
  The Gallery was built in 1700 to house the village orchestra and choir and is large, with a music stand, seats for musicians and the choir benches are raked so those behind could see. The large scale of the church is obviously due to its pilgrim status in Mediaeval times, and it now looks a very different church from that appreciated by the pilgrims.
 The joyful colours of heaven seemed to be gone from the church in the brown and white. I know villagers would have grown up and love their church, but coming from Wales, it looked more like a chapel. It is going to be interesting how the present congregation will refurbish the church to hand on to the next generation. I hope there will be more colour, having seen St Teilo’s wall paintings at St Ffagans in the Welsh Heritage Museum, you can see how beautiful these churches would have been in the fifteenth century. Only my opinion though, as it is clearly a well loved and cared for church.