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Dol y Felin

Standing Stone / Menhir


Some background (what little there is) on the saint after whom the stone is named. And it's a big stone, it needs a name. From the second edition (1956) of Butler's Lives of the Saints.
In the churchyard of Llanfan Fawr (i.e. Great Avanchurch), in the hills a few miles north-west of Builth Wells in the county of Brecknock, is an ancient tombstone bearing the inscription Hic Iacet Sanctus Avanus Episcopus: "Here lies Saint Avan the Bishop." The existence of this stone, which naturally arouses the interest of the visitor or reader, is the sole reason for mentioning St Afan here, since nothing whatever is known about his life. The lettering is said to be not older than the end of the thirteenth century, but St Afan certainly lived long before that: by some he has been identified with a holy Afan, of the house of Cunedda and a kinsman of St David, who lived during the early part of the sixth century and was the leading holy man of his district, being known as Afan Buellt, i.e. of Builth. According to the local legend he was put to death by Irish raiders.

The following is related by Gerald the Welshman in the first chapter of the first book of his Itinarary through Wales: "In the reign of King Henry I, the lord of the castle of Radnor, the territory adjoining Builth, went into the church of St Afan (called Llanafan in the British tongue) and rashly and irreverently spent the night there with his hounds. When he got up early the next morning (as hunting men do) he found his hounds mad and himself blind. After living for years in darkness and misery he was taken on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, for he took care that his inward sight should not similarly be put out. And there, being armed and led to the field on horseback, he spurred upon the enemies of the faith, was mortally wounded, and so ended his life with honour."
An anecdote which tells us something about the religious ideas of the twelfth century, but unfortunately nothing about St Afan.
I beg to differ: it tells us that not unreasonably he didn't like dogs in his church. And maybe he didn't like hunting either. Anyone who is prepared to go blind into battle can't be very sensible anyway.

The Rev. Baring Gould (Lives of the British Saints) says Afan traditionally said to have been murdered by Irish pirates - by Danes, according to another account - on the banks of the Chwefri, and that the tomb here marks the site of his martyrdom. In the neighbourhood are a brook called Nant yr Esgob*, a dingle called Cwm Esgob, and a small holding called Derwen Afan (his Oak).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
14th June 2013ce
Edited 14th June 2013ce

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