|Coetan Arthur on St.David's Head|
Well as it is St.David's Day I shall quote Jan Morris on that part of the landscape I have meandered over for many years...
The holiest place is Dewisland, Pebidog, a stormy protrusion from the coast of Dyfed which was once a spiritual hub of the whole Celtic world. Not only does the countryside there seem holy by its nature, so ascetic, but so exciting, all bare rock and heather headland falling to the wild Atlantic sea, but its associations too are intensely sanctified. Here the Celtic missionaries came and went on their journeys through the western seas, and here the itinerant Irish preachers landed on their way to evangelize a pagan Europe. Everywhere there are the remains of shrines and chapels..... and in the middle of it stands the most venerated structure of it all, the cathedral of Dewi Sant, not only the mother-church of Welsh Christianity, but the vortex of all that is holy in Wales.
Its wild rocks and bleak atmosphere hold the kernels of truth for me, a place to contemplate and meditate on the very essence of nature. The ruined chapel at St.Nons enclosed by a stone circle, (if it indeed be one) marks that spot where Celtic paganism met its final end with the Christian church, it is there written in the landscape, old and new religions playing out there battles. So happy that he returns to St.David, that aesthete who lived on water and leeks if the legend is to be believed (he is known as Dyfrwyr, the Water Man). Barefoot, clad in skins, holding a stick he has cut from the woods and a bell of miraculous power he has wandered into history this legendary saint.
But on reading through Morris's book I came upon another, rather wonderful story, about a prehistoric stone built into the wall of a church in Corwen, Gwynedd. It is a large crooked stone, known as Carreg y Big yn y Fach Rewlyd - The Pointed Stone in the Icy Nook. Now there is a name to conjecture with and it has a few stories on its tail....
But the reason there is this alliance with old pagan stones and churches is that some churches were built on pagan sites and that the early Christian builders included these stones into their churches in a kind of symbiosis, if they did not goodness knows what fate might befall them.
© Copyright Eirian Evans and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence