Site: Llantwit Major

Name:Llantwit Major (Llanilltud Fawr) CISP No:LTWIT
Place:Llantwit Major (Llanilltud Fawr) Grid Ref:SS 6990 9580 (GB)   Map
Parish:Llantwit Major (Llanilltud Fawr) Stones:3
County:Glamorgan (Morgannwg) , Wales Saint(s):Illtud
Site Type:ecclesiastical

Site Notes

Allen/1889, 118: `In a district so richly endowed with ancient remains of this class, there is no group of relics of the British Church in Wales of such transcendent interest as the one now before you, whether looked at from the point of view of the historian, the archaeologist, or the artist. Similar collections of crosses are, indeed, to be seen in the neighbourhood at Margam, at Merthyr Mawr, and at Coychurch, but none of these places have the associations which still cling to the lichen-stained memorials of the past at Llantwit. If modern research forbids us assigning these monuments to the far back age of St Iltyd, of Samson of Dol, of Cadoc of Llancarvan, or of Gildas, the father of Welsh history, their inscriptions bear witness to the advance in learning, and their decorative features to the art-culture, which in the fullness of time were the fruit borne by the labours of the first teachers of Christianity in Glamorganshire'.

Halliday/1900 provides an extensive description of the present church.

Halliday/1903 provides an account of the moving of the Illtud stone [LTWIT/2] and the archaeological remains associated with it including a cist grave.

Anon/1913, 89--90: `Llantwit Major is remarkable for a striking series of buildings, which, lying in a deep valley below the town, presents a miniature representation of the grand group of St. David's. The strange elongated pile of the church (itself a remarkable accumulation of distinct buildings) is flanked towards the south by the remains of the thirteenth century Gate-house, and a wall a few feet high forms a boundary fence. The great tithe-barn of the same period, mentioned in earlier accounts, was pulled down some years ago.

The architectural peculiarities of the church, characterised by its extraordinary length with a singularly short nave, for a long time puzzled archaeologists, including Freeman, J. H. Parker &c., a special puzzle being the long extent of the building west of the present nave, and particularly the erection at the extreme west end. Was it domestic or ecclesiastical?

The following briefly represents the interpretation now generally accepted, to which the restoration in 1900 under Mr. G. E. Halliday's able direction has materially contributed. The visitors were fortunate in having Mr. G. E. Halliday and the Vicar, Rev. H. Morris as guides:---

The present church consists of three distinct parts: (1) a chancel, a nave, north and south aisles, and a tower inserted in the west end; (2) a Western church, known locally as the `Old Church', with an unusually large south porch and parvise; and (3) further west, but now ruinous, the Ragland chantry, with a sacristan's lodging attached on the north side.

Before this restoration of 1900 it was maintained on architectural grounds against local tradition that the Eastern church was the earliest portion, and that the Western church was wrongly called the `Old Church'. Halliday, on the ground of discoveries made in 1900, proves that the tradition was not entirely erroneous.

1. The inner door of the south porch of the Western church is the oldest part of the present building, being, in fact, the south door of a pre-Norman nave, and the lower tiers of the masonry of this part being probably portions of the pre-Norman church, built on a cruciform plan with transepts.

A similar description to the above was published in the report of the 82nd Annual Meeting of the Cambrian Archaeological Association in 1928 (Anon/1928, 403--405).

Nash-Williams/1950, 140--142: `The occurrence of this [LTWIT/1] and the other sculptured monuments (Nos. 221-6) at Llantwit Major suggests that from the late 9th century onwards the place was the centre of a flourishing school of sculpture, probably attached to a monastery (cf. No. 223).[1] The terms of the inscription on the present cross, as also of those on Nos. 222 and 223, show that Llantwit Major was also used in this period as the burial-place of the local kings.

[1] With a reference in its inscription to Samsoni apati (i.e. `the Abbot')'.