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St Canna's Stone

Natural Rock Feature


This relic is a rude stone, forming a kind of chair, lying in a field adjoining the churchyard, and about thirty or forty yards from it. When it was removed to its present position is unknown. There was also a well below the church called Ffynnon Canna; and there is still a small brook available, if required, for following the rules prescribed to those who wish to avail themselves of the curative powers of the saint's chair. It appears that the principal maladies which are thus supposed to be cured are ague and intestinal complaints. The prescribed practice was as follows.

The patient first threw some pins into the well, a common practice in many other parts of Wales, where wells are still thought to be invested with certain powers. Then he drank a fixed quantity of the water, and sometimes bathed in the well, for the bath was not always resorted to. The third step was to sit down in the chair for a certain length of time; and if the patient could manage to sleep under these circumstances, the curative effects of the operation were considerably increased. This process was continued for some days, even for a fortnight or longer. A man aged seventy-eight, still living near the spot, remembers the well and hundreds of pins in it, as well as patients undergoing the treatment; but, about thirty or thirty-five years ago, the tenant carried off the soil between the well and the watercourse, so as to make the spring level with the well, which soon after partly disappeared, and from that time the medical reputation of the saint and her chair has gradually faded away, and will, in the course of a generation or two, be altogether forgotten.

There can be little doubt that the present church occupies the site of the old and original building of Canna, although there is, in the middle of the parish, a field called Parc y Fonwent, or the churchyard field, where, according to local tradition, the church was to have been originally built, but the stones brought to the spot during the day, were removed by invisible hands to the spot where the present church now stands, accompanied by a voice clearly pronouncing this sentence: "Llangan, dyma'r fan," or, "Llangan, here is the spot." Such miraculous removals of stones are reported and believed in many other parts of Wales; and in the present instance the story seems to have arisen from the circumstance of the field in question having been formerly church property.
More (on the inscription) here in Archaeologia Cambrensis (1875) and here.

Coflein puts the stone at SN17701874 and says before 1925 it used to be here SN17751875. But how big is it? You'd think it was too big to move. And (my ultimate excuse for including this stone) surely it was around here near the spring and the special insisted-upon spot before the church turned up. (Perhaps it's smaller than I hope, as the RCAHMW puts it at 28 by 26 inches).

I can't find a photo (and I think Ocifant's tried to find the place in person without luck?) but the drawing in 'Lives of the British Saints' shows the slightly ambiguous lettering and the hollow "produced by the multitude and frequency of the devotees".
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
13th April 2012ce
Edited 25th May 2015ce

Comments (5)

Hi Rhiannon, the following in my Welsh Book of Saints written by Breverton published 2000) more or less confirms the history, he says*..." In Llangan is a stone shaped like a seat called St. Canna's Chair, with Canna inscribed on it. It is near Ffynnon Ganna, which cured the ague and stomach illness. the patient had to throw pins into the well, then drink its water or bathe in it, then sit in the chair. If he fell asleep in the chair a cure was more certain. The treatment had to be kept up for fourteen days the treatment was more certain. The well disappeared around 1840, but the unique megalith is still there"
She is a 6th century saint, twice married, and is the mother of St.Crallo
Llangan church in Glamorgan.

*Though if you are a sceptic we all repeat what we have read and not seen and that is how myths come into being I suppose....
moss Posted by moss
14th April 2012ce
It's always 'chinese whispers' with these tales is it not!

I noticed that in the Archaeologia Cambrensis article they mention the information all comes from the local schoolteacher and writer/poet, Benjamin Williams, who called himself 'Gwynionydd' and he won a prize at an eisteddfod for an essay about Cardiganshire traditions
So either you could say he'd be interested in finding out about such things, or else (like Baring-Gould) he'd be in a good position for a bit of romantic elaboration :)

Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
14th April 2012ce
I visited this site recently. St Canna's church is easy enough to find, but what I first took to be the stone, turned out to be a tyre. On asking at the farm across from the church, I found the stone in the corner of the field to the left of the church as you approach it. It doesn't look much like a chair but you can clearly see 'CAN...' and some other markings etched into it. Posted by aledcaled
19th September 2013ce
Well how interesting to see your photo! You'd have to have more imagination than seeing a tyre as a stone, to imagine that into a chair. It really is rather mystifyingly unchairlike isn't it. And as for falling asleep in it (whilst having ague and a stomach upset), that seems pretty unlikely also. But nevertheless I think it's rather cool. And thank you for sharing the photo. I think it's the first of it on the internet! or at least I can't see another. Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
19th September 2013ce
Looks like it has been broken since the days of the old drawing.
St. Kevin over here had a chair the 2nd shot in. Don't know if it's got any folklore or cure attached, though standing up from it you do get over 'cold arse' syndrome fairly quickly.
ryaner Posted by ryaner
20th September 2013ce
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