Saturday, 5 July 2008

Saints and Stones in Pembrokeshire

I can't begin to describe how beautiful this part of Wales is.
When the sun shines ( as it did for two days when we were there last week!) it is absolute heaven, when it's raining or misty, as it often is, the landscape takes on a strange mystical quality, the lives that have shaped and touched it seem to rise to the surface so that you are more than ever aware of the sense of history and sometimes a blurring of time.
One of the reasons that I wanted to visit this area again was to research some of the old churches and early Christian stones and waymarkers for a series of work I'm planning.

There are many , too many to see in one visit, so I chose some of the sites on the pilgrim routes to the shrine of Saint David in Saint David's Cathedral.

Mike is very tolerant of my strange interests and doesn't seem to mind trekking out into wild and woolly places in search of well. . . a bonus is that we get to see out of the way, beautiful places and often find an extremely nice pub.
This is the church at Llanwnda, dedicated to St. Gwyndaf (whose wife went by the delightful name of Gwenonwy, I just love these names). The site and the stones have been dated to the 7th - 9th century
Can you just see the ocean behind the church?

This is a really isolated spot, not much of anything for miles. Actually, next to the church, there was a man carefully making strange objects, (sculptures perhaps?) out of car exhaust pipes which he had painted pink. Why didn't I take a photo? Anyway next to him there was a tiny single storey cottage with grass on the roof , it was weird, lots of bright colours and odd protrusions ( probably more exhaust pipes), just like something dreamt up by Hundertwasser.

I didn't take a picture of that either, Mike was getting a bit edgy by then. . . who can blame him.

Sorry, I digress, Pilgrims, who often came by sea would find their way with the help of various waymarkers such as the two stones, which have of recent times been set into the walls of the church . There is another one in the hedgerow, down the lane.

This little church is so plain, no decoration at all and the stones are beautiful in their naive simplicity. I love their colours and textures but most of all, their story. Just to the south of the churchyard, through a wooden gate, there is a holy well called Ffynnon Wnda.

Below is a picture of the church at St. Nicholas, another very plain, wonderful building. Oh look you can just see Mike trying to escape!

Inside there are three ancient marked stones and a feeling of deep peace.

The scenery here is extraordinary and we're not far from the lovely isolated coves at Aber Bach and Pwll Deri.

The churches on the pilgrim route are always open during daylight hours, some even provide water and a kettle for one's refreshment!

I think I'd better stop now, I can sense a glazing of eyes. There's loads more if anyone's interested!


Anonymous said...

So lovely and ancient and inspiring and romantic! I'm interested! As you know, in the States we just don't have history like this.

Jo Horswill said...

I can 'almost' sense the history from here in this post Annette, and would love to see and hear about more. I like the the look of those headstones in the little graveyard...did you read them?

Annette said...

Mibsy - Thank you, these lovely buildings really are 'history you can touch'and it's so nice to be able to share it with you.

Jo - so pleased you enjoyed it.The headstones were very old and worn away by the wind and rain. Often though, old stones have stories to tell and I do love to read them , sometimes I do rubbings and occasionally give them a hug, if they look a bit neglected!

sharon young said...

What a lovely idea to hug the neglected stones, I'm sure they appreciate the attention, I often hug the special trees where we live, but have never hugged stones.
These churches look wonderful, I too have a passion for old churches but my OH doesn't really share my total obsession for history.
More please!! A lovely post

Annette said...

Sharon - Thank you. By the way, I enjoyed your holiday posts very much.

Robyn said...

I would love to hear more. The waymarking stones really appeal to me.

rivergardenstudio said...

I have just found your blog. It is beautiful and intriguing! Your purple boots on your banner are amazing. I also love your old churches. I was just on a visit to France and the old churches were some of my favorite destinations. Roxanne