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

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

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