(Conbelin Stone; The Sanctuary Stone)
Corpus Refs:Huebner/1876:72
Discovery:first mentioned, 1690 Lhuyd, E.
History:Westwood/1879, 27: `It is preserved within the ruins of the chapter-house at Margam'.

Ward/1894, 250, reports the making of casts of the Margam stones.

Rhys/1899, 140: `The great wheel-cross outside the Chapter-house is a remarkable monument, about which, owing to some accident, I took no notes in 1874, as Prof. Westwood afterwards reminded me'.

RCAHMW/1976, 46, 48: `Slab-cross and quadrangular socketed base (Plates 8, 9) first noted as standing outside Margam churchyard,[1] subsequently moved into the ruins of the abbey, and in 1932 re-set in Margam Stones Museum.

[1] In 1779, Archaeologia, VI, p. 25; R. Warner, A Second Walk through August and Sept., 1798 (Bath, 1799), p. 86, `leaning against the wall of a cottage''.

The commission also notes that there is an incomplete sketch of the stone dating to c. 1690 (Stowe MS. 1024, fo. 25) -- this manuscript was by, or for, Edward Lhwyd (RCAHMW/1976, 48).

Geology:RCAHMW/1976, 46: `local Pennant sandstone'.
Dimensions:1.49 x 1.07 x 0.18 (converted from Nash-Williams/1950)
Setting:in ground
Location:Margam Stones Museum (Cat: no. 7)
Knight/1999, shows that the stone is now held on the ground floor of the Margam Stones Museum, marked as number 7. RCAHMW/1976, 48: `in Margam Stones Museum'.
Form:circular wheeled cross
Westwood/1879, 27--28: `This is one of the most beautiful specimens of ancient native art remaining in this country...[It] stands upon a large quadrangular block of stone 42 inches wide, about 2 feet high and 2 feet thick...The base of the cross is 23 inches wide and 18 inches high, and the wheel itself is 39 inches in diameter and about 5 inches thick. It is remarkable that the outline of the stone should have been left irregular, inclining somewhat on one side, whilst the centre compartment is also unsymmetrical, with the high boss not in the centre, so that the ornamentation is necessarily irregular...The figures of this fine stone given by Strange in the Archaeologia (vol. vi. pl. 3, fig. 7) and by Donovan in his Tour in Wales, ii. p. 24 and pl. opposite, are very unsatisfactory'.

Following the making of casts of the Margam monument, Ward published an account and a further description of the form and decoration of the monument (Ward/1894, 250--253).

Macalister/1949, 158--159: `A wheel-cross...standing in a socket cut in the upper surface of a rectangular base, which measures 2' 3" x 3' 11" x 2' 0"...The cross itself now measures 4' 10" x 3' 6" (maximum breadth) x 0' 6 1/2", but it has been taller'.

Nash-Williams/1950, 148, 152: `Massive disk-headed slab-cross, with short straight shaft (partly fractured away at the bottom) mounted (by a rough tenon) in a quadrangular pedestal-block...Cross and pedestal are decorated with carved ornament in low relief; the cross is also inscribed. Cross. 58 1/2" (overall) h. x 22" w. (shaft)---42" (diam. of head) x 5--7" t....This monument is the largest and most elaborate of the Welsh disk-crosses and a characteristic product of the Glamorganshire (Margam--Merthyr Mawr--Llantwit Major) `school'. Like No. 206, it is distinguished by its ungainly proportions and a tendency towards coarseness and over-elaboration of ornament common to all the later S. Wales monuments'.

RCAHMW/1976, 46--47: `Both the cross and the base...have carved decoration in low relief, slightly weathered; the slab-cross, which also has an inscription on the head, has almost certainly been reversed in relation to the base.

The head and shaft are formed of one stone 185cm tall but lacking at least 18cm broken off the foot of the shaft.[2] The disc-head is 107cm in diameter and 25--28cm in thickness; the shaft, 13cm thick, is 57cm wide but tapers slightly towards the foot...The rectangular base, 76cm high (67cm exposed), 202cm wide and varying in thickness from 63cm on the N. to 58cm on the S., is decorated on all four sides and on the upper surface. The socket, 50cm by 13cm...This slab-cross, probably erected either to mark the bounds of the monastic enclosure or serve as a focus for public prayer,[7] is the most impressive of the monuments of this category in the county, if not in all Wales.

[2] Possibly with shaft originally as tall as head. The uncompleted sketch in Stowe MS. 1024, fo. 25, shows that this fracture had occurred before ca. 1690; according to R. Allen in Arch. Camb., 1899, pp. 15--16, the fractured end was re-fashioned to form a new tenon for the socketed base, which is unlikely to have been done after 1536.

[7] Cf. Henry, Irish Art, I, pp. 118, 134-6. There was a tradition naming this as The Sanctuary Stone (Stowe MS. 1024)'.

Condition:complete , some
CISP: The monument has suffered some damage and weathering. In particular, a large part of the back of the cross head has sheered away.
Decorations:animal; beading; boss; figural; geometric ribbon interlace; geometric zoomorphic interlace; geometric key pattern

Westwood/1879, 27--28: `its front [is] divided into compartments filled with ornamental interlaced ribbon patterns and the curious Chinese-like diagonal pattern, surrounded by a narrow raised cable; the top of the block has a long excavation in the middle for the reception of the base of the cross, the hole having a border of interlaced ribbon along its front and two sides...The cross is formed of a central square and four equal-sized square compartments at the ends of the limbs, which latter are united to the central square by smaller square spaces, and the circular wheel is completed by curved fillets between the outer square compartments, the lowest of which extends downwards through the base of the cross. All these compartments are filled in with elaborate interlaced raised ribbon-work of varied patterns, the spaces on each side of the stem or base of the cross having a figure of a man rudely sculptured, the one to the right wearing what looks like a cowl on his shoulders, and which in the other figure seems to cover the head. Above the head of each figure is the triquetra ornament. The open spaces between the arms of the cross have been left unornamented and flat (not being pierced through), and appear to have been inscribed with small letters'.

Following the making of casts of the Margam monument, during which the hunting scene on the back of the pedestal was discovered, Ward published an account and a further description of the form and decoration of the monument (Ward/1894, 250--253).

Macalister/1949, 158--159: `On its [the base] front are three panels of geometrical ornament, within a rope margin, and a guilloche. On the back, two men on horseback pursue three animals, represented one over the other (a perspective device, as they are really intended to be one behind the other). On the dexter end there is an interlacement within a rope margin: on the sinister end a fret, with a strange un-Celtic looking row of rosettes...One third of the key-pattern on the base at the back has been broken away. On the front of the slab there is an equilateral cross potent within a wheel: the surface of cross and wheel is covered with interlacements. The spaces between the arms of the cross and the wheel are recessed'.

Nash-Williams/1950, 148--152: `Front. The head is filled with a moulded quadrate wheel-cross (p. 140, n. 2), with central raised ring-and-boss and narrow wheel. The top left-hand interspace contains part of a Latin inscription...The arcs of the wheel are filled with plain knotwork patterns: (a) top l., and (b) bottom r., four-cord figure-of-eight knotwork (R.A. 568); (c) top r., and (d) bottom l., double band of Stafford-knots (R.A. 601). The decoration of the cross is disposed in nine panels: (a) centre, mixed plain two-cord and four-cord plaitwork surrounding the central boss; (b) top arm, plain eight-cord plait (R.A. 506); (c) top arm-end, twelve-cord double-beaded plait with vertical break; (d) l. arm, double beaded double Stafford-knot (cf. R.A. 601); (e) l. arm-end, eight-cord double-beaded plait, with irregular vertical and horizontal breaks and embodying the free-ring; (f) r. arm, six-cord double- beaded plait (R.A. 505); (g) r. arm-end, mixed eight-cord and ten-cord double-beaded plait with irregular vertical and horizontal breaks; (h) bottom arm, plain six-cord plait (R.A. 505); (i) bottom arm-end, regular ten-cord double-beaded plait, merging below into six-cord double-beaded horizontal figure-of-eight knotwork (R.A. 566) filling a narrow panel extending down the centre of the cross-shaft. Flanking the panel to l. and r. and occupying the remainder of the shaft are two standing draped figures (incomplete) of St. John and the Blessed Virgin, with plain triquetra-knots (R.A. 485a) in the field above.[1] St. John (l.), facing front, is shown with moustache, beard (?), and long hair (? or hood), and clad in a loose robe falling in long folds, with the skirts (? or sleeve) caught up over the r. arm.[2] He clasps either a book (the Gospel) or a book-satchel before him. The Blessed Virgin (r.) is turned slightly towards the cross, with hands apparently clasped in front. She has long hair coiled at the sides, and wears a long robe loosely gathered in front to a collar round the neck and falling in folds below. The whole group -- cross and flanking figures -- is clearly intended to symbolize the Crucifixion.[3] Back. The head is filled as before with a quadrate wheel-cross (top half defaced by flaking) containing carved decoration: (a) bottom left-hand arc of wheel, serpentine twist (R.A. 501) and/or square fret[4] (R.A. 886); (b) bottom right-hand arc, plain two-cord twist (R.A. 501); (c) bottom arm of cross, plain double Stafford-knot (cf. R.A. 601); (d) bottom arm-end, double-beaded diagonal key-pattern (cf. R.A. 832a). The decoration of the cross-shaft is in panels disposed vertically: (a) horizontal band of plain three-cord plait (R.A. 502) merging into plain four-cord figure-of-eight knotwork (R.A. 568) and terminating at both ends in animal-heads with biting jaws;[5] (b) four conjoined squares of diagonal swastika key-pattern (R.A. 1011). Sides. Plain. PEDESTAL. 30" h. x 44" w. x 24" t.. The decoration is in panels edged with single or multiple heavy cable-borders and beaded angle-mouldings. Top. Conjoined bands of plain four-cord figure-of-eight knotwork (R.A. 568) and six-cord broken plaitwork (R.A. 505) framing the central mortise. Front. Triple horizontal panel containing a large double-beaded double Stafford-knot (cf. R.A. 601) and two squares of diagonal swastika key-pattern (R.A. 1011), flanked on the r. by a narrow vertical panel of plain four-cord figure-of-eight knotwork (R.A. 568). Right. Plain sixteen-cord plaitwork surmounted by a row of eight seven- and eight-petalled rosettes, an exceptional motif. Back. Hunting-scene (Pl. LXXI, 1) comprising two horsemen, the one with head turned full face and carrying a circular or spiraliform shield, the other (head wanting) likewise carrying a circular shield (?) bearing a pair of plain interlinked oval rings (R.A. 766). Both horsemen are shown at full gallop, moving to l., preceded by dogs chasing a stag (?). The rendering is crude but vigorous. In the field above is a plain triquetra-knot (R.A. 485a), also a pair of plain inter-linked oval rings (R.A. 766). Left. Plain twelve/fourteen-cord plaitwork with central vertical break.

[1] (Pl. LXIX, 9.) For a closely similar combination of wheel-cross, flanking figures, and triquetra-knots on a Scottish cross-slab see ECMS, iii, [Allen/Anderson/1903] p. 271 (St. Vigeans).

[2] A similar arrangement of the robes is seen on the figures in certain of the Irish manuscripts, e.g. Book of Kells and St. Gall Gospels ... Cf. also No. 111 (front).

[3] The Blessed Virgin and St. John are normally represented standing on opposite sides to those adopted here, but the arrangement was not invariable.

[4] The so-called `battlement pattern'.

[5] This is in origin an Irish feature, found also on the later Scottish and Northumbrian monuments.'

RCAHMW/1976, 46--48: `On the W. side (or front as re-set) a ringed cross potent almost fills the head symmetrically with the rim, which forms a plain edge-moulding continued down the angles of the shaft. The central square of the cross, the arms and the squared arm-ends, which project beyond the ring, are linked by a continuous edge-moulding, also continued down the shaft as a stem. The plaitwork or knotwork filling each panel is however quite discrete, consisting of successively down the vertical axis (i) plain twelve-cord plait with a single vertical break at the centre, (ii) plain eight-cord plait, (iii, central square) plain irregular knots and twists around a raised ring-and-boss slightly to the right of the centre of the panel and disc-head, (iv) plain six-cord plait, (v) ten-cord plait (possibly double-beaded but too weathered for certainty) becoming (vi) figure-of-eight knots placed horizontally in vertical row down the shaft; on the horizontal axis (from the N. or left-hand) (vii) eight-cord double-beaded plait with breaks vertically and horizontally forming one free ring, (viii) two linked Stafford-knots, double-beaded, then (iii) as before, (ix) double-beaded knotwork based on six-cord plait, and (x) ten-cord double-beaded plait with irregular vertical and horizontal breaks forming one angular loop. Each arc of the ring is framed by plain edge-moulding and is filled with plain knotwork, of figure-of-eight pattern in the upper left and lower right arcs, and of Stafford-knots in double row in the other two arcs. The sunk inter-arm spaces and the surrounds of the ring are plain except for traces of inscriptions (see below). On the shaft the panels beside the stem of the cross contain in each a standing figure facing front, the space around the head being filled with a plain triquetra knot. The bearded figure on the left, holding a book before him, presumably represents St. John while that on the right (in three-quarter width only because of the narrowness of the panel) represents the Blessed Virgin Mary. Both figures (incomplete by fracture of the lower part of the shaft) have draped robes, open-necked in the former but gathered round a collar in the latter. The treatment of the hair in both figures (St. John's long, on the shoulder; St. Mary's, coiled at the end) as well as that of the garments (particularly the draping of folds over one arm for St. John) could be modelled on such manuscript representations as are in the Book of Kells.[3]

The E. side (or back as now set) has lost much of the upper part of the disc-head by flaking, but retains the lower vertical member and lower arcs of a ringed cross potent similar in form to that on the opposite face. The panelled vertical arm is filled with two linked Stafford-knots, and the squared arm-end with diagonal key-pattern. The incomplete left-hand arc of the ring contains S-shaped frets terminating in square frets, while the other arc contains a plain two-cord twist. At the neck of the shaft is a horizontal band of plain figure-of-eight knotwork with one vertical break, each extreme end forming a stylised animal- or bird-head[4] with a prominent eye. Below, in a framed panel filling the width of the shaft, are pairs of linked squares of diagonal swastika key-pattern, two squares complete and part only of a lower pair. The narrow sides of the head and shaft are undecorated.

The rectangular decorated on all four sides and on the upper surface. The socket...and the panel around it have rectangular frames of single cable-twist, the panel itself being filled with plain four-cord figure-of-eight knotwork (with a complete break on the N.), merging on the wider E. side into plain six-cord plaitwork with irregular breaks. The vertical angle-mouldings are formed of beading and cable-twist (weathered and also partly fractured away at the N.E.) carried over the top of the shorter faces, and the longer faces are both framed by a cable-twist also continued over the shorter faces to produce triple mouldings. The panel on the E. side (originally the front) presents a hunting scene with two horses and riders (right and centre) following three animals (on the left). The horses (one partly obscured by damage to the surface) are bridled and the riders are presented full-face, one of them having a buckler slung from his mount. The largest of the other three animals probably represents a stag, between two hounds. The space behind the head of the first rider is filled with a triquetra-knot, and that behind the other with a knot of two inter-twined oval loops. On the S. side of the base a square panel of double-beaded (but weathered) eight-cord plaitwork is framed by a cable-twist and separated from the upper mouldings by a row of seven (originally eight) floral devices, each formed of a prominent bead surrounded by a ring of smaller beads. The W. side has a horizontal panel framed by cable-twist containing two linked double-beaded Stafford-knots in one third of it and two linked squares of plain diagonal swastika key-pattern in the remainder. A separate narrow vertical panel at the S. end is formed of plain figure-of-eight knotwork. The panel on the N. face, framed by a rectangle of cable-twist, contains a pattern of double-beaded (but weathered) six-cord plaitwork with doubled vertical break in the middle and other breaks.

[3] Henry, Irish Art, II, Plate D; cf. also Plates A and B.

[4] With a beak rather than `biting jaws'.



MARG2/3/1     Pictures


Westwood, J.O. (1879):CON | BELIN | FUIT | [--] | [--] || [--]
Rhys, J. (1899):CON | GELIN[..] | SUIT[.] | ANC[.] | RU || CEM | [....] | NIMAMU | [--] | [--]
Cynfelyn (PN) set up this cross for the soul of his wife.
Rhys/1899 140--141 reading only
Rhys/1905 28 reading only
Macalister/1949 159, Plate LVII reading only
Nash-Williams, V.E. (1950):CON | BELIN | SUIT | A[--] | [--] || [--]
Conbelin (PN) placed (? this cross)...
Nash-Williams/1950 148 reading only
RCAHMW (1976):CON | BELINP[.] | SUIT[.] | AC[.] | RU || CEM | {P}[.] | NIMARI[.] | [--] | [--]
Conbelin (PN) erected this cross for the soul of Ric... (PN).
RCAHMW/1976 48 reading only


Orientation:vertical down
Position:W ; head ; within quadrants ; quadrant
Westwood/1879, 28: `The open spaces between the arms of the cross have been left unornamented and flat (not being pierced through), and appear to have been inscribed with small letters'.

Rhys/1899, 140: `The writing occupies the two left-hand spaces left above and below the arm of the cross, while the two opposite spaces on the right-hand side are now blank. I am inclined to think that they never were inscribed. The writing in the former two spaces reads downwards, parallel to the Shaft of the cross'.

Macalister/1949, 159: `The spaces between the arms of the cross and the wheel are recessed: in the two panels this formed on the dexter side there is an inscription in vertical lines, reading downward.

Nash-Williams/1950, 148: `The top left-hand interspace [of the cross] contains part of a Latin inscription (Fig. 164) in four (?) lines reading vertically downwards...There are also indecipherable traces of lettering in the bottom left-hand interspace'.

RCAHMW/1976, 48: `A partly-eroded inscription (i, Fig. 12) fills the upper and lower left-hand inter-arm spaces of the W. side, incised in five and at least four lines respectively, reading downwards'.

Nash-Williams/1950, 148: `rather coarsely picked.'
Date:850 - 950 (RCAHMW/1976)
RCAHMW/1976, 48: `It may be ascribed on stylistic grounds to the early 10th century or late in the preceding century'.
966 - 1099 (Nash-Williams/1950)
Language:Latin (rbook)
Ling. Notes:none
Palaeography:Westwood/1879, 28: `Those [letters] on the upper left-hand space have been clearly inscribed obliquely, as though the sculptor had carved them standing on the top of the base and had to stoop towards the space to be inscribed. The letters are minuscules...The letters on the other compartments are so small and slightly carved as not to be decipherable, in fact they escaped my sight on several visits, and it is only from my rubbings that their presence has been detected. Careful casts held in various lights would, I doubt not, confirm my conjecture as to their existence, and would facilitate the reading of them.

The letters in the upper left space have been indicated, but incorrectly, in Gough's Camden, ii. pl. 18, fig. 2. Mr. Rhys having missed the inscription on his inspection of the stone, has suggested to Dr. Hübner that it does not exist and that I have confounded the great wheelcross of Margam with the great cross of Merthyr Mawr'.

Rhys/1899, 140--141: `That is to say, probably, Conbelin posuit hanc crucem pro anima mulieris eius (or perhaps suae). Westwood, p. 28, has only given Con belin suit, but we thought the above to be fairly accurate. The mu I take to be the beginning of mulieris, but it may be mo, which suggests a form molieris: I cannot make out any letters for certain after this syllable mu, or mo, but there seems to have been two lines, which lieris eius would fill.

All the lettering, however, is very small, and the surface of the panels partly gone; so there is plenty of room for the exercise of further scrutiny and revision; possibly a good squeeze would help more than anything else'.

Macalister/1949, 159: `At first sight there appears to be a faint suggestion of a continuation of the inscription in horizontal lines in the lower sinister canton, but closer examination shows this to be illusory'.

Nash-Williams/1950, 148: `Round half-uncials'.

RCAHMW/1976, 48: `The lettering in rounded half-uncials has as manuscript features `{P}' for pro (cf No. 908) and, probably, a suprascript `O' of posuit following the N of the first line; this `O' is very faint, but is more likely to be explained thus than as part of the proper name Conbelin which occurs in that form in near-contemporary manuscripts (e.g. Vita S. Cadoci, chap. 66)'.

Nash-Williams describes the second part of this inscription as `indecipherable traces' (Nash-Williams/1950, 148). The Royal Commission made more of them (RCAHMW/1976, 48). Macalister states it is `much worn' but gives a full reading (Macalister/1949, 159).
Carving errors:0



MARG2/3/2     Pictures


Macalister, R.A.S. (1949):+ROD | NA: | XCRUCEM | FEC |IT
Macalister/1949 159 reading only
Nash-Williams, V.E. (1950):[--]
Nash-Williams/1950 148 reading only
RCAHMW (1976):[--] | [--]
RCAHMW/1976 48 reading only


Position:W ; head ; above cross ; undivided
Macalister/1949, 159: `Outside the wheel in the upper dexter canton there is another inscription'.

Nash-Williams/1950, 148: `There are also indecipherable traces of lettering...around the outer rim (top l.) of the wheel (preceded by a small raised cross)'.

RCAHMW/1976, 48: `Another inscription (ii) fills the space between the arc of the ring and the outer edge in the same upper quadrant of the head, but is much eroded'.

Macalister/1949, 159: `in relief'.
RCAHMW/1976, 48: `incised'.
Date:850 - 950 (RCAHMW/1976)
RCAHMW/1976, 48: `It may be ascribed on stylistic grounds to the early 10th century or late in the preceding century'.
966 - 1099 (Nash-Williams/1950)
Language:Latin (rbook)
Ling. Notes:none
Palaeography:Ward/1894, 252: `The cast has brought to light traces of another inscription between the ring and the edge of the slab on the same (left side)'.

Macalister/1949, 159: `The letters are fantastic and require close study to decipher. It begins and ends with a small cross pattée, and reads thus...Rodna (at first sight Rodnat, but the t is merely a flourish at the bottom of the following X) Christi crucem fecit'.

RCAHMW/1976, 48: `The surviving traces, reproduced in Fig. 12 from a rubbing, are not clear enough for a reading, but are sufficient to establish that the inscription is... in half-uncials in two lines read from the outer edge downwards from the head; it is probably in Latin and roughly contemporary with the other inscription. A small cross in relief at the head of the panel is countersunk in relation to this and may have obliterated some letters'.

Nash-Williams/1950, 148: `indecipherable'.
Carving errors:0