Dedicated to St David Lewis

Dedicated to St David Lewis
The Great Saviour of the world, save every soul of you all. I believe you are met here, not only to see a fellow countryman die, but also with the expectation to hear a fellow countryman speak…Let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief; but as a Christian, and, therefore, I am not ashamed. (Last Words of St David Lewis 27.August 2011

Monday, 7 March 2011

ST Nefyn's, Nwyfain (Nuvien's) CHAPEL Crick -and Brychan's Granddaughter

The Book of Llandâf mentions (31,43 and 90pp) ‘villam Sancti Nuvien cum ecclesia’     Later Ecclesia Marmouric id est Lann Uvien (p206'Marmouric' means 'Meurig's place . At the east end of the window there are two square windows with a good rose window in between. At one time it was attached to Caerwent, for in an inspection of 1336 recording of theadvowson of Caerwent we read
'cum capellis de Llannayre Dynan et Sancti Nyveyn (al niveyn) eidem Ecclesiae annexis'.(arch cam 1909 pp 113-4)
 There are other instances of the disappearance of the initial ‘n’ due to ‘Lann’ coming before its name.There is also the reference in the book of Llandaff, to Bishop urban, trying to boost the claim to Llandaff as a diocese, and possible archbishop, of all the small Welsh chapels being rededicated to long forgotten saints after their brief use by Saxon priests.It is possible at this time that there was confusion over St Nwyfan (a North Wales saint) and St Nefyn (granddaughter of Brychan, whom I believe is much more likely in the South Wales location). However Baring Gould and Fisher suggest that Nuvern was a male saint.
There is no reference to it being a llan in the Book of Llandaff, however it is possible, since Nefyn being a King's granddaughter is unlikely to have been left as a hermit.
King Meurig and his father, the Martyr Tewdrig
Mamouric mean’s ‘Meurig’s place’ and this location probably fits the son of King Tewdrig (tomb in Caerwent Church). Meurig is the Welsh version of ‘Maurice’ As a soldier he was named after this saint, St Maurice (Moritz) being a popular martyr all over Europe.Meurig and Tewdrig were Kings of Morgannwg. St Tewdrig had
secured his martyrdom fighting alongside Meurig against the pagan Saxons at Brockweir and brought his dying father to Mathern.
Among the places mentioned in the area are ‘Aper Pull Muric’ (anglicised to Pwllmerrick) and ‘Aper pull Neuynn’(Liber L p142-3)369 not necessarily named the ‘Mouth of the Hunger Pill ‘ as it has been-but perhaps the pool of Nyfern.

Archeologica Cambrensis mentions the mansion as being almost in its original state. The remains of the chapel of Nefyn or of Nyfain are still to be seen, converted into a barn in the yard of the old Manor House of Crick, an old house which is today almost in its original state.
At the east end of the chapel are two square windows with a good rose window in between. It appears to have been attached to Caerwent at one time, for an inspeximus of 1336 recording the grant of the advowson (administration)of Caerwent, we read
‘cum capella de Llanyre Dynan, et Sancti Nyveyn (al Niveyn)eidem Ecclesiae annexia(Willis :Llandaff  1719) 
In Henry VIII valor of 1535, however,the church of Mathern is described as ‘The Parish Church of Matherne, Trikke and Rulston (Runston) Trikke is a misspelling of Crick, situated just within the border of the old parish of Runston.
The setting of St Nyvern chapel and Crick Manor and their open relationship with the valley to the north east are beautiful and maintained and the impacts of the nearby commercial use have been mitigated. It has a positive link to Bradbury;s farm and so there is a rural feel to the chapel cottage (sometime called 'Brook Cottage')

Sir Joseph Bradney in ‘A History of Monmouth’ writes the following.
In the ‘Manor of (p140) the ancient mansion stands on the north side of the road. The windows with stone mullions, appear to be of early Tudor period. The hall is raised five feet off the ground, the kitchens being of a lower level.
Crick,’ he writes

>If you look carefully, you can see the rose window traced in the wall.
Bradney writes: 'Within a few yards is the chapel, dedicated to St Nefyn, granddaughter of Brychan and wife of Cynfarch Oer. Their son was Urien Rheged'. At the east end of the chapel, which is now used as a barn, are two lancet windows. The Chapel was used as late as 1616 when on 13th January Nicholas More married Cecilia More in Cricke Chapell. In the orchard next to the fold yard is a square plot of ground, surrounded by a shallow moat. This, doubtless is the site of the original castle or small fortress erected by William Denford, which in the fifteenth or early part of the 16th century was deserted and the present house was built out of the William Denford, which in the fifteenth of early part of the 16th century was deserted and the presnt house built out of the materials.

St Nuvern's Chapel is now a private cottage.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Enchanting Valley with a small lost church MICHAELCHURCH in ERGYNG

 One thing was certain , from the moment I drove down to this little chapel near Tretire (HR2 8LD),this little chapel was a very ancient site of worship. You felt it as you arrived.

For the Welsh, accustomed to dealing with Llans, it has a customary circular churchyard and a pool. In the Book of Llandaff (as Michaelchurch was in mediaeval times on the border of the diocese of Llandaff with Tretire) it is mentioned as a hermitage-Cil (Latin 'Cella' or cell)lwch (or cell by the pool). This refers perhaps to a mud and wattle church constructed by  a hermit, whose name we do not know. Perhaps the clue, however, is in his prowess as a fighter of evil against the pagan Saxons, which finally swept over the whole area in 600 and razed it to the ground. God's Will it may have been, but all of St Dyfrig's monasteries in the district were wiped out and the refugees who had survived fled to Gwent. It was not long before Christianity was brought again to the Church by missionaries (second century ones had included Fagan, Medwyn Dufan and the second bishop of Londinium, Elfyn) the rather charmless St Augustine and the churches began restoration in wood or more usually in stone. I can imagine this small building to be a hermitage, set, as it is in a small hidden valley (hard to find without the postcode above) and cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust.

Whereas Tretire was simply a local church and the name geographical (Settlement on the Ford) Michaelchurch was always ecclesiastical, and an early site here long before 1056 AD when Bishop Herewald of Llandaff dedicated his new church to St Michael. The guidebook gives an indication that it was more important than Tretire to start, but declined in influence from the time of Henry VIII.

I) BECCICUS DONAVIT. Beccicus is unlikely to be his British name, but we don't have any more information except there is proof of cocupation in Roman times.

Tretire church was rebuilt in 1856 by Victorians but Michaelchurch retained many mediaeval features, though the original stone altar is presumably under the dais of the wooden table there now, complete with consecration crosses. This was quite common in the reformation amongst congregations wishing to keep their real altars.

The church was built of rough Devonian sandstone, easily available and cheap. The roof was reconstructed in 1720 and covered with heavy stone slates .

The Church is open every day.

The side walls are not perpendicular inside but are canted outward more than a foot between floor and eaves.This seems to have been the original design and the \north and west walls seems to be of Norman construction in late 11th or 12th centuries.Most windows date from the thirteenth century.

< Well and brook

There is a fourteenth century one and the one behind the Roman altar which seems to date from 1909 during repairs but was the original North door. The window has part of a twelfth century decorated tympanum as well  and there is a narrow loop light in the west wall, probably says Colin Flood Page, the only example of the surviving Norman window

You wil have to scroll down for the rest of the post, as managing the pictures is proving very time consuming. More information:





South doorway and door are 14th century, but the porch is 17th century.There is a small bell turret and two bells, one from the fifteenth century and a larger one from 1720.They can be chimed. There is a screen and a pulpit, but a rood screen from the Middle Ages, and the screen seems to have been repaired and worked again in the 17th century. There are many wall decorations, lilies and usual ochre colours.These are thirteenth century work and well preserved in places! There are consecration crosses beside the altar area . Since 1888, it was virtually disused because of a disappearing poopulation.The carvings of the angels are ancient, but partly recarved by the priest (1812-70) John Wood.

In 1973, the church became taken on by the Churches Conservation Trust and there have been ongoing repairs to preserve the church for future generations. I sang a Salve Regina and left after looking at the spring and pond.

The Roman altar has been carved into a 'stoup' which is for Holy Water, with which the Christian signs himself with the cross in remembrance and renewal of his baptism and would have been found near the door in pre reformation times.This was thrown out and found by the vicar in a heap of rubbish by priest John Webb , and the upper part in the village where it was being used by the doctore to prepare herbal medicines. The two halves were re-united and placed back in the church in 1908. The font is 12th century.

By the west door his part of a coffin lid with a circular head.

The rather sad little table on the dais and probably the original altar is underneath. ook at the thirteenth century wall paintings behind. Click on any picture to make it bigger!
Angel carving crushing evil?
 Interior of the little church and rood screen.
St Michael, Archangel with the flag of the paschal Sacrifice on his shield.

Thirteenth century carving
The guidebook points out that Welsh was spoken here until the beginning of the twentieth century, it having always been Welsh Ergyng, before conquest and local people would have called it Llanfihangel (Mihangel being Welsh for Michael) There is curiously also with an old Roman pagan altar to the 'god of a well-used public place' (Colin Flood Page in the guidebook) He mentions the Roman altar (picture below) in a blocked doorway which reads DEO TRI(VI

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

St Triac (Llandyfriog) Malpas, Clunaic Benedictines and the Nuns of Monmouthshire

The Ancient priory of St Mary the Virgin, formerly St Triac (aka Brioc) , now St Mary's Anglican Parish Church,  I was very kindly shown around last week by a lively group of flower arrangers. The interior of the priory church has no specifically Catholic features left,  it has been extensively renovated inside and it  will shortly gain a modern  extension to the church. However the arches and windows seem to be in the original Norman Style and are very ancient and lovingly restored. The Church is very colourful indeed, and seems to be really well cared for by the congregation.
              In 2009, I wrote a post in the series of Benedictine Houses in Gwent and wrote about the later history of  St Triac (Brioc's) Clunaic (Strict Benedictine) Priories. More interesting still is the fact that it was a house of the Abbey of Monte Acuta (now 'Montacute House') and appeared in various records. read the old post below.

In 1132 Charter of Robert, Earl of Gloucester, confirming the gift of Malpas Village and church to Montacute Priory. It also refers to Novo Burgo (Newport)  (-one of the earliest references to the existence of the town as a "New Borough")     See: Robert B. Patterson 'Earldom of Gloucester Charters' 1973. No.156 page 146.

It would seem, therefore that the present priory church, built on the former llan island of St Triac was actually begun after this time to accommodate the monks of Montacute Abbey, It seems the monks of Montacute were to serve the chapel and administer the lands and tithes for the abbey. This may seem grasping by the monks, but in fact,stone buildings such as these are very expensive to maintain and did need a financial input-just as much as today. The congregation therefore supported its church regularly and also supported with oblations or offerings for special prayers.   What was there before was probably a small stone church of Saxon or more probably early British mud and wattles, or even wood.  The Monks of Montacute were from Cluny, a French house, now demolished. However the same pattern for the abbey used, was that of Worcester Cathedral-also a former Abbey) There is more information on the link above about the later history of the Priory, until it was seized by Henry VIII agents.

In 1239 MALPAS there was an agreement between the abbot and convent of Gloucester and the Prior and convent of Montacute and the Prior of Malpas....the abbbot and convent of St Peter's Gloucester or their assigns, should receive, peacably and fully, all the tithes of Mendelgif and of all things of old belonging to the church of Newport, without hindrance or annoyance.                                                      
Translated by James Conway Davies Episcopal Acts Relating to Welsh Dioceses 1066-1272 1948. Vol.II page 715.
Published in Latin by W.H. Hart Historia et Cartilarium Monasterii S. Petri Gloucestriæ 1863. Vol. II. No. DXXVII, pages 62-63.  

So it seems from this time, that St Peter's Abbey Gloucester was entitled to oversight of all the tithes belonging to St Triac's as the agents seized the monies owed to the priories
Priory.I am grateful to Bob Trett who has researched this information, as it enhances the former post, although it seems by the time the Priory was seized, it was at least still collecting the tithes of Mendelgieff,  and the it is mentioned in the accounts,

Saint Triac

St Triac was also known as St Brioc or St Briavel (Briomagl) or St Brieux in Brittany. It is a difficulty that there was no standard spelling of British, and Latinisation to Triacus did not help nor a Welsh version (Dyfriac). He was not from Gwent but spent time here.
Triac was born in Ceredigion around 440AD
St Germain Bishop of Auxerre leaves Ireland to establish schools for theIrish missions and is given Triac to train.450AD, so only ten years old.St German also ordained Patrick (aka Succatus) as priest and later consecrated him Bishop of Ireland
 .St German was hugely important in Gwent and Glamorgan during this early British Cambrian period in preaching against the heretSt Germain was hugely
454AD St German  re-founded Caer-wogorn and then departed with his pupils to Paris.
465 AD Returned to Ireland  Brioc also received priests apostolic ordination
by Bishop Germanus and returns to Wales.
important in Gwent and Glamorgan in preaching against the Pelagian heresy of Morgan of Caerleon-on-Usk, before St David’s great mission against the false teaching some time later.

The llan (in some ways following the Druidic usage of ‘Circle of Heaven’or ‘Gwynfyd’) signified the Trinity for the Christian brothers who followed them. The holy ground was carefully prepared . Marking out the site, clearing it, exorcising the local well for baptism and water source and then forty days of fasting and prayer on the site, before the church was built , usually of wood or mud and wattles. Outside was the ‘World’, its wickedness and evil. In the heart of the llan was the church, and inside this was the throbbing heart of Christ, reserved in the Eucharist in the tabernacle at the altar. This very much followed the practice of the Desert monks and followers of St Augustine of Hippo, whose followers in later times were so active in the poor Augustinian Friars, who nursed so much of Mediaeval Newport through the plague and the Augustinian Canons of Llanthony, The Faithful often wished to be buried under the church, as close as possible to Christ.
530AD He is recorded to have visited the court of King Childebert and has the grants made by Rhigual confirmed. He returned to Britanny and then died. The Body of St Triac was translated on July 23 1166 in the presence of Henry II of England and William, Bishop of Angers, where it had been taken in the tenth century, on account of the attacks of Vikings in the North of Brittany.
The only other surviving monasteries of St Triac (aka Brioc) are at Llandyfriog in Ceredigion (Rees gives Tyfriog (House of Brioc/Triac) ap Dingad-indicating that St Dingat was the father of Triacus (the Latin form of Brioc)Approximate date of the death of St Illtyd was 537AD.
There is also a Church dedicated to him in Cornwall-St Brioc near Wadebridge (I have posted on this church also)

In iconography, he is see an abbot's robes, sometimes with a wolf at his feet.

 On returning to his monastery at Saint Brieux St Triac,he found his nephew Tudwal in possession and unwilling to receive him (ingratitude!) He goes on to the land of Rouvre.
The Nuns of Saint Brieux
Interestingly in 1900 when the religious orders in France had all their religious schools closed, it was nuns from Saint Brieux, The Daughters of the Holy Ghost,  who were invited and sponsored by Lady Llanover to come to Monmouthshire-Monmouth, Brecon, AbergavennyUsk and Pontypool, where they remained for over a century and a half, teaching and working with the many poor Irish children , who lived in the area of Pontypool, who had most need of their services. The ancient Hanbury Family provided their former home for the school, which is now called St Alban’s Catholic School.
In their acceptance letter to Lady Llanover, they wrote that just as the great Evangelist Triac /Brioc had brought the gospel and worked for it in that area of Armorica, they were happy to return the favour. The Catholic church had only been allowed to restore the hierarchy around 1850 and the whole church needed rebuilding after two centuries of vicious persecution. It was grateful for the willing participation of such religious orders.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Beautiful St Arfan's on the Banks of the Wye ( Llanarfan)

                                                                                 St Arvans is a church on the banks of the Wye ,just

  about a mile from the Monmouthshire border town of Chepstow. It seems to have been attached to the old monastery of St Kynemark , about which I posted in Mary in Monmouthshire dot blogspot dot com, the sister blog to this. In the fourteenth century procurations added to the Book of Llandaff is is called Ecclesia de Sancto Aryuno or Arvino .In 1254 it ccertainly belonged to the monestary at St Kynemarks and like Trellech Grange and Penterry became part of the Hamlet.
 However St Arfan seems to have been a hermit or even the resident        priest at the small chapel here. The name has been spelt in many different ways and traditionally Arvan (or Ervan, Arvin and Arveyn) is known to have been resident at the settlement. Traditionally he was of the ninth century and he is said to have supported himself by fish he caught in the Wye. He, like so many Welsh used a coracle to fish but died but was drowned when his coracle sank and the church's website says there was for many years a stone carving showing a coracle and a salmon. This early structure was possibly a wooden or mud and wattles affair, yielding to perhaps a small stone building, but most of the original building still existing was late Norman.    

In the fourteenth century procurations of the Book of Llandaff (Liber Landavensis) it is called Ecclesia di Sancto Aruyno (p 322) By 955, however, it seems to be that spoken of as Ecclesia Sanctorum Jarmen et Febrec (p219) A deacon had fled here for sanctuary when he had basely murdered a man who was binding up his wounded thumb! The circumstances say Baring Gould and Fisher , were these.The deacon ,Ili  accosted a reaper called Merchitir in a field , and they had an argument, when the reaper struck at the deacon with his hook and sliced off one of his fingers. the deacon begged the man to bind up the wound and whilst the latter was doing this, he stabbed him to the heart with a knife and then ran to the church for refuge. The relatives of the murdered man of Nowi(Nogui) broke into the church and killed the deacon before the altar! Bishop Pater was furious. He summmoned a council and threatened the king with excommunication, unless the culprits were delivered up                                                                                                         

(Sinodo judicante diffinitum est ut unusquisque eorum suum agrum,suam que substantiam insuper et pretium animae suae hoc septem libras argenti redderet ecclesiae quam maculaverat)
All the men lived near the church, which benefited from the fines and there is no doubt at this time in 955 it was called the Church of SS Jarman and Febric as the Book of Llandaff confirms it in the document relating to the grant of Llan Beduei (otherside known as 'Penterry') to the Church of Llandaff. Sir John Rhys (Archeologica Cambrensis 1895 p.38 in an article of goidels in Wales) regards Febric (aka Jarmon) as the Goedelic form of a name which occurs in the St Teilo Gospel (otherwise known as the Book of Chad(!!) as GUHEBRIC and in the Book of Llandaff as Guebric and Huefric.

   The local King Nogui gave up the men and the Bishop confined them to prison at Llandaff, fast chained for six months and then only released them after they paid a heavy fine in money and surrendered all their possessions to the churchHence he is linked to St Guernabui , who was a disciple of St Dyfrig/ Dubricius. He was appointed princeps or head of a mmonastic settlement in Garth Benni. This place is identified as Welsh Bicknor. Pepiau son of Erb, king of Ergyng (west Gwen) granted Mainaur Garth Benni 'usque ad paludum nigrum inter silvam et campum et aquam et jaculum Constantini regis socri sui, trans Guy amnem ' to God and Dubricius and delivered it into the hands of Junapaelus'. It is possible that the term jaculum Constantini regis socris sui
could refer to a menhir or burial stone of the former king used as a marker.

Guwernabui is mentioned as having had a pupil called Gurguare , a disciple meant to succeed him at Garth Benni . He seems to have been associated with Aidan the bishop at the granting of Mafurn by Cinuin son of Pepiau and at the grant by Arthryws, King of Gwent to Bishop Comeregius and a regrant  after devastation of Llan Cynfarch (Lann Cinmarch) Llandewi , Llan Junabui and other churches.  Gurguare appears as an abbot of Llan Ennniaun or Llandogo (dedicated to St Euddogwy) which is not far away from St Arfans.It seems, therefore to have had a fair share of holy founders.

I must say I found this quite a hard judgement, considering the original murder was by the deacon, but still neither man was able to tell the tale.
Nathaniel Wells of Piercefield Park paid for the distinctive octagonal tower which can be seen here and was built in 1820.