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.

Madley-A Huge church with a crypt, dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary and the Crypt in which the miraculous statue stood

Last week I visited St Dyfrig

Above is the Madonna of Llanllowell near Usk. A Statue of the Virgin stood in the above recently restored CRYPT

.(Dubricius')  birthplace at Madley and the present Church  on 21.9.10
This is the second of my posts about Dyfrig. However, the size of the church at Madley, his birthplace is that first thing, that takes your breath away. We know this area of what is modern Herefordshire (but then in the Welsh kingdom of Ergyng) was devastated by Saxons and taken by them in 577AD, when the Battle of Deerham routed the local British. There was no thick Forest of Dean or Arden to scare them off and Hentland, Moccas and Madley were destroyed or may even have been made into pagan places for a while, the British Church being driven underground, the people enslaved or killed, and many refugees fleeing to Wales as the Book of Llandaff tells us. So following on the re-conversion of Britain in the Mission to the Saxons by St Augustine of Canterbury, with the Saxons themselves converting, the ancient churches began to be rebuilt, usually as stone structures now, and there was certainly an earlier Saxon structure here, still dedicated to St Efrydyl. After the Norman Conquest, however, this was strengthened and a church of some size built. The link with Dyfrig made this church a powerful place of pilgrimage and in 1250 AD the church was greatly enlarged in an early English style, with more new features around 1320 , which give us the church we see today.

The Norman Church

The Norman features can be seen in the North porch, with its Norman window and door and part of the first Norman church built 1050-1100AD. There are also parts of the original Norman wall, the original church having been cross shaped (cruciform). There is also more Norman wall in the Chilstone Chapel. The font is also Norman.There were still slit shaped windows which were there in case the village needed to defend itself against the welsh, who were trying to get their lands back. Churches were often defensive buildings, with food and weapons stored in the tower to withstand siege. Most of the building then is early English, large, spacious as befits a Church of pilgrimage to Dyfrig, and thousands came here at a time when all people loved the saints and prayed for his prayers to add to their own.
The Tradition of Pilgrimage to St Dyfrig, and to the Blessed Virgin

The Norman church was dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary and there was said to be a special statue here to the Virgin Mary, who gave flesh to the Lord. This being a powerful place to pray, poor St Efrydyl having been set aside by the Saxon clergy, many miracles are said to have happened here, and many healings from sickness especially with a holy well nearby, which belonged to the church and would have been known to Dyfrig. There is no doubt he and his mother continued to pray for the people of Ergyng. The mother church for the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary was Hereford Cathedral. However there is no representation of the Blessed Virgin in the Church today, and no representation of Hereford’s greatest saint in Hereford Cathedral. However his effigy and tomb still are to be seen at Llandaff Cathedral albeit the bones being desecrated by the Protestants. We know about the pilgrims and the statue from records in the cathedral from 1318AD.

Madley Church does have Wall Paintings, which would originally have been all over the church. These are high up over the chancel arch and were preserved from the wrecking of the sixteenth century by being whitewashed. These paintings were restored in 1992. They are possibly pictures of the Last Judgement or the Doom, so faithfully restored at St Teilo’s Church in St Ffagan’s Welsh Heritage museum, where their richness and glory tell of the wonderful visual experience of going to church in the middle ages.

There are many features from the later history of the Church after the break with Rome. A wooden pew, many monuments to worthy people and so forth. The sedillia (seating for the priests and deacon ) and the piscina where the vessels for mass were washed and sent directly to the earth after Mass are still to be seen as is the stained glass from the glorious past of the church’s pilgrimage days. The Chancel and Sanctuary area (the rood screen seems to have disappeared, but an opening arch still remains where the choir ascended for Mass on those Pilgrim days) are in the shape of an apse rather than a standard square shape. This has much ancient stained glass which has been preserved. Possibly the ‘model army’ iconoclasts destroyed much of the glass in the seventeenth century, which were lovingly gathered up after they had left. Nevertheless it is a majestic view.On the altar was a beautiful and rich decoration, which may have been a tabernacle, but am unsure.
It should be noted that the rood loft, was the place where many attended confession under the crucifix by the light of the candle, ominously showing the picture of the glories of heaven and the pains of hell in glowing colours.
Crypt Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Only in 2007, the Crypt was restored to be used now for prayer , meditation and meetings. It was originally the place where the statue of the Blessed Mary was kept for the veneration and requests for prayers .The pilgrims, says the guide book would have come down the one set of stairs , prayed and then departed by means of the other stairs. This was quite common in mediaeval times and I have seen the stone coffin of St Radegunde at Poitiers placed in a similar position.Following its use as a Protestant Church, it was for some time used as a coal boiler house. Thankfully no more

The Chilstone Chapel (Effigies are in the Chilstone Chapel) was built about 1330 and in it a monument to Richard Williston and his wife (around 1575). This was added after the ‘Reformation’ period. They underwent considerable damage, Richard’s face seems to have been sawn off completely and half his effigy is missing.On the side of the monument are arches and kneeling figures possibly of his children. He was probably quite a beneficiary of the Church. It seems, however the same wwreckers who destroyed the stained glass also destroyed his monument. The monument is surrounded by large light decorated windows, which were much lighter, and at this time the larger larger leaded windows were added all around the church.
The Tower is open (as the church is every day) and there is a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside
But where is  St Mary’s Well?
I was unable to find this on my first visit, but would be most interested to see it.If anyone can furnish me with some directions.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Drawing from Roy Palmer-from a Ms in an Oxford Library of St Dyfrig

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Last week I went in  far away Erging, ( Saxon Archenfield) the country of Glywys, father of St Gwynlliw and the birthplace of one of the most famous and most trailblazing of all the Welsh saints. In about 465 AD Saint Dyfrig –(Dubricius as he became known in his Latin title) was born in Madley. The circumstances of his birth are amazing indeed. His mother, having become pregnant whilst unmarried had been cast into a barrel with her new born child, which had been sealed and then cast into the River Wye, rather like an old Druid ‘Rite of the coracle’-if they survived they would live. So Dyfrig and his mother ST EFRYDYL were allowed to live and Dyfrig grew up at the court. His grandfather was always wary of him , but when he became blinded by a terrible illness, it was Dyfrig, who placed mud on his eyes and cured him, by means of his fervent prayers,to the eternal gratitude of his grandfather. Dyfrig proved to be a good scholar and worked hard at his lessons , determined to become a priest and build the Kingdom, he began to feel drawn away to found llans of a monastic nature like the desert monks of whom he had heard so much. I shall write more of Henllan (hên llan (old llan)later, but here at St Dyfrig’s own village of birth, he caused a wooden casket to be made,dedicated to the Blessed Mother and dedicated also to his own mother, which was possibly made out of mud and wattles.

The Ruination of Dyfrig’s Herefordshire llans or British monasteries

The monasteries of Hentland and Moccas survived until the Viking raids 577AD ,twenty seven years after Dyrig’s own death. The dates of Dyfrig’s life are approximate dates, because of the wholesale destruction of the documents which existed. Madley, Dyfrig’s birthplace became a great place of pilgrimage, as his contribution to bring his people to the Kingdom was huge and remembered long after his death. As a founder of ‘llans’at Henland, Moccas, probably at Madley as well, then his development of the old Roman college at Caerleon , the very full part his played in Christianity this time, as bishop in Caerleon, and in summoning the Holy Dewi to help deal with the Pelagian heresy from his cell at Capel Dewi along with Padarn to address the Welsh clergy at Llandewi Brefi.
Christians crowned as ‘Kings and Queens’ of the Kingdom-

One story, surrounding Dyfrig, is that he ‘crowned’ King Arthur at a ceremony at the central church in Caerleon. Since Arthur was more of a Christian mercenary, fighting against the pagan Saxons, this is unlikely as the local king was King Iddon. Arthur (Emrys in Welsh) may have been, in some way sanctified in his work at keeping away the pagan Saxons, there is no doubt the Saxons were seen as devils. We know Teilo cursed them from the top of the Skirryd. Arthur became crowned as a prince of the Kingdom of Christ in the sense that we all are, who are saints. We should not think of these old stories too literally, but spiritually. Maybe the ‘coronation’ was this baptism of ‘Arthur’ with Gwynhafr and mmisunderstood by Prior Geoffrey of Monmouth from his old texts. His coronation, then may have been a a euphemism for his ‘desire for baptism’ or conversion.

Camlan and St Derfyl of Cwmbran

The Battle of Camlan is generally perceived to have been in North Wales now, but there is also a tradition in Cornwall. Wherever it was ,there were few survivors except the saint of Cwmbran, st Derfyl of the Mynydd Maen and a few others, who wearied of fighting turned to Christ, did penance, enacted a ‘Blue Martyrdom’ by donating the rest of his life to the service of others, on the banks of the Mynydd Maen and then at Llanderfel North Wales and possibly as Abbot of Bardsey for the last years of his life.

Dyfrig’s hard work on the Mission

We know a great deal of Dyfrig and his close companions and that he came further into South Wales, first to Caerleon, where he was bishop for a while and caused the old Roman college to be reopened and made ready. He was the Confessor of St Gwynlliw ,Gladws and also gave Gwynlliw the Last Rites ad Extreme Unction before his death. He worked closely with St Tatheus of Caerwent, who had also formed a monastery and seminary there and had instructed St Cadoc in the Christian faith and formed him as a priest. Dyfrig was at the heart of the organisation of the Welsh church, and later invited the Holy Dewi to succeed him following his return from Rome. A great deal of Dyfrig’s life was spent evangelising and explaining the faith to ‘Culdee’ Christians, those Druids, who ostensibly accepted Christ, but denied the authentic teachings of Christianity, which differed from that Druid faith, which they had originally espoused. Even Pelagius himself ( his Welsh name was Morgan and he came from Caerleon-on-Usk)-they called him ‘Brito’ in Rome, where he was a monk and never a priest, was known as a ‘scholar’ (and a most learned one) was steeped in the Druid teachings of his culture. Whilst he himself avoided excommunication many times, by lying to his superiors in Rome and elsewhere, his ideas found resonance with the Welsh clergy, many steeped in Druid tradition and even acting as bards, having learned the ‘secrets’ of the Druid faith in long poems and genealogies , something they continued to do for centuries.

Dyfrig, Dewi and Padarn at Llandewi Brefi

The threat to Christianity persisted and it needed a powerful bishop or Churchman to put them right. Dyfrig called a great synod at what is now known as Llandewi Brefi to try to speak some sense into them, but was, by now, old and within five years of his death. He spoke with Padarn, his friend (known in Rome as St Paternus) and they decided to go to Capel Dewi, where Dewi was undergoing a life of a hermit’s contemplation, following his visit to Rome and Jerusalem with Padarn. It seems David (Dewi) was famous for his preaching in Caer Salem or Jerusalem where the Patriarch had given him a special cope. Teilo and Padarn had been given gifts as well. David seemed to be charismatic, young, tall and powerful. Padarn told Dyfrig about his gifts. David was an intensely holy man and happy in the presence of his Lord in the Llanthony valley. He refused the messenger’s request to come to the Synod, and finally Dyfrig and Padarn themselves had to seat themselves on horses and travel all the way there and convince David of the threat to the church. This was, after all Dyfrig’s job as Bishop.

Clearly Dewi was the man for the job. His holiness (he only ever drank water)and charisma made the priests sit up and listen to the authentic Church of Christ. His powerful voice carried over the gathering as he preached before five large wax candles representing the wounds and sacrifice of Christ . It is said that the passion of his speech caused him to levitate and that whilst speaking a white dove came and landed on his shoulder, and the person who had recalled this story, put this in as an image of the Holy Spirit ‘taking him over’ as he spoke. He explained again the meaning of the Sacrifice of Christ, the authority Christ had given to the Church and the meaning of the Eucharist as the Passover meal of Christians and real presence of Christ. Following his powerful preaching the untrue teachings of Morgan=Pelagius were gone, and the Faithful were reassured and went back to the parishes with clear doctrine.

St David as Bishop and his mother at Llantarnam

Dyfrig knew he was getting older and that the church needed David to steer a re-evangelisation of the church. He retired as Bishop to his llan at Llandaff. Like so many quiet and holy men, David had to become an administrator now and lead another mission for Christ in South and West Wales. He travelled all over the diocese-even to Leominster where he revived and revitalised the monastery and also travelled right down to Glastonbury, where he rebuilt the church, believed to have been built by St Joseph. It is here he is said to have had his famous dream. Where Dyfrig had shown the way in founding monasteries or ‘llans’which had founded the new structure of life, after the Roman departure, David now travelled around his diocese, especially in South Wales and founded many more . The many dedications in Monmouthshire to ‘Llandewi’ bear testimony to that work. He found Caerleon to noisy and cosmopolitan, however. It was still the capital city and too much for him. He therefore decided to move home to the Pembrokeshire coast where he was born. While David was at Caerleon, there is a tradition his mother, the holy Non also founded a llan at Llan-sant-non, which became known as Llantarnam, the parish where St Derfel founded both his llans at Llanderfel and at St Dials.

Dyfrig’s Last Years

Dyfrig went on to spend the last years of his life at Llandaff, with Bishop Teilo , who succeeded him. He spent his life far from his Ergyng roots. The Church at Madley, dedicated to his mother St Erfrydyl, where she presumably spent her life in Christian service and contemplation on the Mission of Christ, became a place of pilgrimage for those who remembered the service of the great saint.St Dyfrig died at Llandaff and was taken, at his wish, to Bardsey Island in North Wales for burial. This was the legendary ‘Isle of 20,000 Saints’, with a monastery founded by St Cadfan as Abbot and where Derfel is later said to have succeeded him. In Norman ttimes, however, Urban the Norman bishop of Llandaff strove to improve the importance of the see, and had Dyfrig’s relics exhumed and brought back. I read somewhere that St Dyfig had been formally proclaimed a Saint, canonised by Urban, at this time. St Dyfrig had a tomb and effigy, which can still be seen but his remains were desecrated by Protestants in the sixteenth or seventeenth century.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Message to the Faithful of Wales from Pope Benedict

Bishop Regan's Welcome to Pope Benedict from the People of Wales

18/09/2010 12:30 pm
Westminster Cathedral, Chapel of St Paul, Saturday, 18 September 2010

Your Holiness,

On behalf of the Catholics of Wales, and of Wales itself, I am immensely privileged to offer you our most sincere sentiments of loving respect and deep appreciation of all that you do for the building of God’s Kingdom on earth.

Our joy that you are here in Britain is tempered by our disappointment that you cannot visit Wales on this occasion. But that regret is itself a sign of our esteem for you and your ministry of love in truth, Caritas in Veritate.

We are delighted that you are reaching out to Wales by lighting the candle held by Our Lady of Cardigan as she presents to us her Son as the light of the world.

That light is reflected to us by all those who have lived open to God’s love, people who are represented by St. David, the Patron of Wales. In blessing this mosaic dedicated to St. David you remind modern Wales we must not forget the Christian values that formed this nation of Wales throughout its history.

Dad Sanctaidd, ar ran Catholigion Cymru, a Chymru ei hun, mae hi’n fraint arbennig iawn i mi allu cyflwyno i chi ein teimladau diffuant o barch cariadus, a gwerthfawrogiad dwys o’r hyn rydych chi’n ei gyflawni i adeiladu teyrnas Dduw ar y ddaear.

Mae ein llawenydd yn cael ei dymheru gan ein siom nad ydych yn gallu ymweld â Chymru y tro hwn. Ond mae’r siom hwnnw, ynddo’i hun, yn arwydd o’n hedmygedd ohonoch ac o’ch gweinidogaeth o gariad mewn gwirionedd, Caritas in Veritate.

Rydym yn falch iawn eich bod yn ymestyn tuag at Gymru trwy gynnau’r gannwyll a ddelir gan Ein Harglwyddes o Aberteifi wrth iddi gyflwyno’i Mab fel goleuni’r byd.

Mae’r goleuni hwnnw yn cael ei adlewyrchu atom gan bawb sydd wedi byw bywyd sy’n agored i gariad Duw, pobl a gynrychiolir gan Dewi Sant, Nawddsant ein gwlad. Wrth fendithio’r mosaig yma a gysegrir i Ddewi, rydych yn atgoffa Cymru heddiw na ddylem fyth anghofio’r gwerthoedd Cristnogol a ffurfiodd genedl y Cymry trwy gydol ei hanes.

[Here he presented the book of William Davies’ 'Y DRYCH CRISTIONOGAWL']

I have great pleasure in presenting to Your Holiness a striking reminder of those who have gone before us. Blessed William Davies wrote a book of Catholic devotion called ‘Y Drych Cristionogawl’- ‘The Christian Mirror’, which was the first book published in Wales. The romantic story of its being printed in a cave on a remote seashore has entered the folklore of Wales, and it speaks to us of a people who loved the Catholic Faith, and were prepared to sacrifice all for the one thing necessary, the love of God in truth.

This facsimile printed this year of a book printed in 1588 calls us to the same witness as we see in the lives of Blessed William Davies and the other Welsh martyrs, Catholic and Protestant.

Westminster Cathedral, Chapel of St Paul, Saturday, 18 September 2010
Dear Bishop Regan,
Thank you for your very warm greeting on behalf of the faithful of Wales. I am happy to have this opportunity to honour the nation and its ancient Christian traditions by blessing a mosaic of Saint David, the patron saint of the Welsh people, and by lighting the candle of the statue of Our Lady of Cardigan.

Saint David was one of the great saints of the sixth century, that golden age of saints and missionaries in these isles, and he was thus a founder of the Christian culture which lies at the root of modern Europe. David’s preaching was simple yet profound:little things  his dying words to his monks were, “Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things”. It is the little things that reveal our love for the one who loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19) and that bind people into a community of faith, love and service. May Saint David’s message, in all its simplicity and richness, continue to resound in Wales today, drawing the hearts of its people to renewed love for Christ and his Church.

Through the ages the Welsh people have been distinguished for their devotion to the Mother of God; this is evidenced by the innumerable places in Wales called “Llanfair” – Mary’s Church. As I prepare to light the candle held by Our Lady, I pray that she will continue to intercede with her Son for all the men and women of Wales. May the light of Christ continue to guide their steps and shape the life and culture of the nation.

Sadly, it was not possible for me to come to Wales during this visit. But I trust that this beautiful statue, which now returns to the National Shrine of Our Lady in Cardigan, will be a lasting reminder of the Pope’s deep love for the Welsh people, and of his constant closeness, both in prayer and in the communion of the Church.

Bendith Duw ar bobol Cymru! God bless the people of Wales!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


The new mosaic has been unveiled and the following a brief report from the 'Papal Blog'.
The mosaic is wonderfully bright and full of gold and silver that really bring the wall outside St Paul’s Chapel alive. In the centre is a depiction of St David, the patron saint of Wales, standing on the mound at Llandewi Brefi, defending the church's teaching against the Pelagian heresy.
In the mosaic of the mound is an actual piece of rock from Llandewy Brevie in Wales, where it was said that the ground rose beneath St David as he was preaching to allow people to hear him better. Around his head is written 'Dewi Sant', his name in Welsh, and just above is a small red, sixth century bishops mitre recognising that Saint David was made a bishop of the Roman province of Menevia.

The final product has been thanks to two people in particular – Ifor Davies, the Welsh artist who designed and painted the original image, and Tessa Hunkin who created the mosaic itself - both of whom had to work to a very tight deadline to have the mosaic completed.

Ifor Davies revealed at the unveiling of the St David mosaic that he considered this mosaic one of his greatest achievements. He told the small audience gathered for the official unveiling: “This has been the most exciting thing that I could ever imagine doing”. We imagine that having Pope Benedict come to bless the mosaic can only make it even more exciting!
  Bishop Edwin of Wrexham
Bishop Edwin of Wrexham is addressing the pope, greeting him from the People of Wales and Pope Benedict will light the taper on the statue of Our Lady of the Taper (Mair o Aberteifi) This is a replica of the very old statue found on the beach at Cardigan and brought into the church. It was destroyed at the 'reformation' by Henry VIII but was the focus for many people's prayer requests to Our Lady. This statue has been restored at the beginning of the last century and be brought to Westminster Cathedral from Cardigan, resting at Bristol Cathedral for a vigil ..
 The little statue of the Lady of the Taper.One of Two in Wales-the other is Our Lady of Penrhys.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


The 2010 Holy Wells Conference began at Lampeter University on 11 and 12th September, with a series of interesting talks.At 10am we had a report by Jemma Bezant from Lampeter , in which we were shown a clear photo of the Nanteos Cup, a 12th century wooden mazer bowl, known locally as the Holy Grail of Strata Florida Abbey. In a beautifully illustrated and clearly delivered lecture, we were shown aspects of the water courses and wells around Strata Florida Abbey.We learned there were several holy wells around the Abbey and she showed us the 'mandatum' in the Abbey, where pilgrims would wash etc. There was some discussion about this ,because ot its location, but there were many leats and streams from the holy wells, giving  particular blessings to the Abbey,which had a distinctly Welsh character with old British carvings .The family who owned the Nanteos Cup have put it somewhere now where it can no longer be handled, and no longer live at Nanteos House, although one member of the group remembers handling it. Following this lecture and coffee, another excellent talk by Maddy Grey on
More information about the Shrine of the Virgin Mary of Creke (Crug) which was one of the granges of Margam Abbey ( ruined by Henry VIII). In a fascinating lecture she pointed out the proximity to the Shrine of the Blessed Mary of Penrhys and how the Grange at Pendar may have been connected with Penrhys and the Chapel, and Our Lady's Holy Well which were both served by Margam.From an earlier conference of the Welsh Catholic History Society,I know a pilgrimage has come here in recent times with the Archbishop of Menevia.We also learned of a wealthy Welsh businessman with excceptional sartorial taste who had left money to the 'ymago' the statue of the Blessed Mary. It seems it was a smaller scale thing altogether than Penrhys, and we learned that in penal times, it seems infants were brought here to be secretly baptised by a local priest, while the family waited outside.The Well at the Crug has been authenticated as mediaeval and is in good order.
Father Brendan O'Malley was next on the stage with his talk about following the trail of Francis Jones in Pembrokeshire.This being the department of archeology we had vivid insights about this former Cistercian monk and his pilgrimages walking along the coast of Pembrokeshire into nooks and crannies and crags and cataloguing every well. This was an inspiring and uplifting thought, about the source of water and its link with the Holy Spirit - really inspiring.I was intrigued to read it when he said he was amazed at how local people used the wells!

Dr Jonathan Wooding,senior lecturer in Religious History at Trinity St David , as Lampeter is now known, was keen to provide a database ,using Father Brendan's work and the work of all present in finding and restoring these sites, particularly holy for Christians and others.

Anwen Roberts gave an interesting insight into who designed 15th century architecture of  Holywell and presented an interesting thesis, that while Lady Margaret Beaufort, grandmother and benefactress of St Winifrid's Shrine may have formed perhaps a big reason from protecting the place from the iconoclasm of her grandson's minions, that in fact the prime motivators, masons and carvers, probably came from Basingwork Cistercian monastery nearby.Many slides and details were shown to show similarities between the Chapel of Henry VII and other work in London and the work in Holywell. The explanations of the beautiful fan vaulting were beautiful, and the carvings in the shrine chapel of members of the Stanley Family (into which Lady Margaret had married)which were inside the chapel. An interesting and thorough insight, even into the nineteenth century 'restoration' where battlements were added, that were never there before.

Present were the Wellsprings Foundation, which works to find and restore these ancient places, Richard Suggett, who has written a book on Magic and Folklore in Wales, and gave an interesting and gripping acccount of the whole idea of cursing wells. The new Guardian of the Llaneilian Well ,Jane Beckermann has just finished an MA thesis on her well and botth disagreed slightly on the whole idea of cursing-nevertheless food for thought.

The penultimate talk was given by Father Timothy Pierce about Orthodox use of water and the use by the local community at nearby Llangybi of St Cybi's well. There were stunning pictures of the beautiful vestments around the well and the ceremony of the blessing of the water. Father Brendan also talked about plunging the Crucifix into the water, which plunged life and holiness into it and made it sacred.

I have only been able to give brief details of each speaker's offering but there were many many interesting details which I have no space to put here in a blog designed to 'whet your appetite'!

Following a brief trip to Llangybi to see this well, I tried to find Mass in Lampeter, (Llanpedr)but was unsuccessful, and sadly I found out there was not one on Sunday either!

Next morning we visited the two wells outlined above after an extremely wet night. there were between 15 to twenty people, I did not count exactly but we made for the White Hart at Llanddaron, where we were supposed to meet for coffee, sadly it was closed and the host unable to make coffee, because he was moving some pigs with his children from a field into a trailer-an interesting if sad spectacle forr a 'townie' like me.

CAPEL ERBACH is on private land and near Banc y Mansel, Porthrhyd, just a little further up the road to Swansea,a turn on the left, if coming from Camarthen. A mediaeval road ran ovver the present one through trees and past the main farm house down to the grove where the chapel was. It is important to ask permission of the owner of the property to see the well, although it is ffreely given to serious well finders.The west wall is virtually intact and has a fine arched doorway and trefoiled window, but there is not much left inside, the stream running unde rthe altar and through the centre of the chapel. Wellsprings details give this as a well which is good for sprrains and quartz pebbles werre found in the stream from the well. It was partially excavated in 1970 by the Camarthenshire Antiquarian Society ,as having a Norman door, and a niche for a statue -probably the saint to whom the chapel was dedicated -and a rill through which water flows.No well was found in the chapel but a cistern between the west door and altar fed by the stream flowing beneath. It was suggested the sick bathed both at the cistern and at the rill.There seems to be a man made conduit in the middle of the chapel frrom which the water flows. A prayer was said in the chapel, it being a Sunday and several of us (according to Christian use had to bless our rosaries in the water three times)Chapel erbach is larger than Begewdin (16ft by 35ft 6ins).

After lunch we went to Capel Begewdin which was at Wern las , Porthyrhyd. It lies deep within a wood on private land, we were lucky the owner was so happy to give permission following a visit by earlier Wellsprings members. They were, says Chris Naish, who has furnished so many of these details, (Map SN 513147) We trudged up an ancient track right over a field and saw the walls in the trees. It was so muddy , those with 'pilgrim sticks' were much safer .There were little streams all around. The ambience of the chapel was arresting and very gothic or romantic. Both Capel Erbach and Capel Begewdin were chapels of ease to nearby Llanarthne church, but both look suspiciously like early Christian llan sites or hermitages, on which later small chapels were built.It is easily accessible,but perhaps better when it has not been raining all night. Walking in increasingly boggy ground, albeit in Wellington boots is not to be recommended without a 'pilgrim stick' to steady you and - yes- you've guessed it, guess who hurtled headlong into the mud after such embarrassment. Camera, batteries etc all went askew into the mud , however, fortunately all was well again, when everything was dried off, I managed to get more pictures-good for Canon! A candle was left and we climbed up  after exclaiming at the romantic nature of the place.The talk given to Llanelli Arts Society of 1971, says the following
'It remains a fine and romantic structure where it is still possible to determine the masons' marks on the trefoil window , a niche for a statue of a saint and the site of the well. Seeing this ruin for the first time on a summer's day, one is irresistably reminded of the paintings of the pre-raphaelite movement.Cows, eglantine, wild garlic and endless briars bar ones way to this 'capel y coed'(Chapel in the wood)and one is irresistably reminded of Burne Jones 'Sir Imbrasas at the Holy Well'.If the members of the society could make the journey with their equipment, they might profitably and enjoyably record one of the great architechtural and ecclesiastical relics of the county.'
Again, nothing is known of its history or the meaning of the name 'Begewdin' but it should be recorded that the owner of the farm gives its meaning as 'the place where man was found'.

Rill in Begewdin and above at Erbach