Saint Llawddog , or Lleuddad , ( fl. 600? ), is said to have been the son of Dingad ab Nudd Hael , king of Bryn Buga (i.e. Usk ), and Tefrian or Tonwy , daughter of Lleuddyn Lwyddog . Few details are known about his life, but tradition maintains that he worked many miracles. He appears to have forsaken his father’s kingdom in order to live the life of a religious recluse with his brother BAGLAN in Caernarvonshire . His later years are linked with the isle of Bardsey . He was chosen abbot of the island’s religious community, and is said to have ended his days there. A Welsh ‘ Life of S. Llawddog ’ is preserved in National Library of Wales (late 16th cent.). The churches of Cenarth, Penboyr, Llanllawddog in Carmarthenshire and Cilgerran in Pembrokeshire were all originally dedicated to Llawddog. His memory is also perpetuated in the local topography of the places so named, in the form Lleuddad, in parts of the Llŷn peninsula . His feast-day is variously given as 15 Jan., 21 Jan. or 10 Aug.
The local parish Church is dedicated to Saint Llawddog. Although the present building is relatively modern, it is on an important ancient site, and was the “bishop house” of the Cantref of Emlyn.
Within the Churchyard is a stone with Ogam Scrip, still visible and a stone’s thow away on the south side of the river is the Holy Well of St Llawddog.
Account of a talk given by Dr Peter Brooke in Llaneglwys Village Hall, 23rd August 2015
In 787, a Church council was held in Nicaea under the auspices of the Eastern Roman Empire, centred on Constantinople, which authorised the veneration of religious images (‘icons’). The Western Roman Empire, centred on Rome in Italy, had collapsed over two centuries earlier but a new centralised political society was developing under the Frankish King, Charlemagne. In Charlemagne’s court a book was prepared which condemned the canons on the veneration of icons agreed at Nicaea. The book was called the Opus Caroli – ‘Charles’s Work’ – so it was presented as of it had been written by Charlemagne himself. It was an important project, part of the process by which a new Western Empire was being created with its own church, independent of the continuing Roman Empire and its church, centred on Constantinople.
In the event, the project of the Opus Caroli was aborted through the intervention of the Patriarch of Rome, the Pope, still anxious to maintain the connection with ‘New Rome’, Constantinople. Nonetheless a council of the Western Empire was held in 794 – the Council of Frankfurt – which condemned the Eastern council albeit in a much more ambiguous way than had originally been planned.
Obviously what was happening was political. But Peter argues that it also reflects an important cultural difference. The new Empire of Charlemagne was built on the basis of peoples – Irish, Angles, Saxons, Germans, Franks, Visigoths – who had never been subject to the old Roman Empire. Constantinople on the other hand was the continuation of the Empire and therefore heir to the classical tradition of Greece and Rome. The principle writings in defence of the veneration of icons by St John of Damascus and St Theodore the Studite, were never circulated in the West but if they had been, Peter argues, there would have been many people who would have found them quite incomprehensible.
One of their central arguments was that there was an ontological connection between an image (for example of Christ) and its prototype (Christ Himself), so that one could, through the image, venerate the prototype. This was an idea that was well established in the classical tradition but was quite alien to the artist-monks working in what is called the ‘insular’ tradition – the art, sometimes called ‘Celtic art’, that was being produced in the monasteries of Ireland and of the North of England. Insular art is ‘rhythmic’, it is an art that invites us to contemplate in silence the purely ‘abstract’ interaction of lines and colours. Where there are figurative images they are arbitrary and made to conform to the overall rhythm. Peter showed three examples of ‘portraits’ of Christ, from the Book of Kells – all completely different with no thought of producing a recognisable ‘likeness’.
The contrast between insular art and classical art is striking and insular art was widespread throughout Europe. There were other influences at work, including elements taken from the old Roman classical tradition, but the classical ideal was not sufficiently well established to produce the sort of argument on the relation between image and prototype that developed in the East.
Eventually the West produced the beautiful fusion between rhythm and representation that we call ‘Romanesque’ art. In the East too the classical tradition was modified by the influence of other, non-Roman cultures. Russia inherited its religion and its iconography from Constantinople but not the full pre-Christian classical heritage. The Russian icon (at least until the seventeenth century) is certainly figurative, affirming the relation between image and prototype, but there is a greater emphasis on purely pictorial, or ‘abstract, principles of construction. Round about the fourteenth century – but these would all be topics for other talks – the early Italian ‘Renaissance’ would be heavily influenced by classically trained artists and thinkers going West as the Eastern Roman Empire shrank before the advancing power of Islam. And in the seventeenth century the eastern icon tradition in both the Greek-speaking and Slave worlds, would fall (and what a fall there was!) under the influence of a later, almost photographic, ‘Italianate’ school of painting.
From Strata Florida, take the B4340 four miles east to Tynygraig. At Ystrad Meurig take a sharp turn left onto a steep road (signposted ‘Swyddyfynnon’) and after half a mile turn right onto a narrow lane to Llanwnnws.
This porch of this remote church contains a very fine inscribed early Christian monument. The stone reads: XPS Q[U]ICUNQ[UE] EXPLICAU[ER]IT H[OC] NO[MEN] DET BENEDIXIONEM PRO ANIMA HIROIDIL FILIUS CAROTINN: ‘(The Cross) of Jesus Christ. Whoever shall (have) read this name, may he give a blessing for the soul of Hiroidil son of Carotinn’. The formula, lettering, language and cross-from all suggest a ninth-century date.
Latin inscribed stones such as this are our earliest significant remains of the early churches in Wales. This one follows a formula found elsewhere (for example the Pillar of Eiliseg in Llangollen and on monuments in Ireland) which exhorts the viewer to pray for the dedicatee of the monument, Hiroidil son of Carotinn, by saying the name of Jesus, which is the name inscribed in contracted form in Greek capitals XPS, i.e. Christus (with a contraction mark on the middle letter), on the top of the stone.
A monument such as this was likely to have stood in a visible place. At Maen Madog in Glamorgan we find one such stone by the side of a Roman road. Often they were taken into churches for preservation, so we do not really know where this one was originally placed.
Llandre (Llanfihangel Genau Glyn)Church sit in a small village 5 miles north of Aberystwyth. It is more properly named Llanfihangel Genau’r Glyn, but it shortened name was easier on the tongue so is in more common use. There is a persistent legend that the church was originally intended to be sited at Glanfred, on the banks of the Leri about a mile to the north-east, and be dedicated, like the church at Llan-non, to St. Ffraid- or Bridget.
The builders constructed the walls, but each morning when they returned to their work, and the previous day’s work had fallen down. One day apparently a mysterious voice was heard whispering in the wind. It gave instructions that the church was to be dedicated to St. Michael (Mihangel), and built at the mouth of the valley – Genau’r Glyn.
The dedication to Mihangel suggests an early Welsh church. There are about 100 dedications to the Archangel in Wales, and 8 in Ceredigion. The Celtic cult of Mihangel is associated with heights according to Padraig O Riain in the Cardiganshire County History.
The church used to be called Llanfihangel Castell Gwallter, and this name is to be found on the communion cup which is dated as 1573. An antiquity of the area is given by the presence of the “Holy Well” just below the lych gate and recently restored. The tradition in the village is that it was used as a healing well not that long ago.
The present building, a 19th century restoration, stands at the entrance to a steep cwm. The graveyard extends outside the walls so that scattered tombstones poke up through the woodlands on the steep slopes above the church. The slope is unstable in places, and the graves are gradually tumbling down the hill.
A Community service restoration project in the area is slowly helping to rework the nearby walls and re-enforce the church lands.
Confession in life can manifest itself in many different forms. Most societies hold the confession of things done that are wrong as the basis of a judicial process, usually the issues are unwillingly teased out. Then of course there are varying ways of addressing these in terms of censure.
Within a Christian context, the Scriptures and the teaching and the practices of the historic Church has emphasised the importance of confession within an individual’s sacramental life. (more…)