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Kenric's Stone and Llanelltyd Church

Christianised Site


A story about the circular churchyard. TP Ellis doesn't believe its druidic roots either.
The church stands in the middle of a circular graveyard, one of the most perfect specimens of the type left to us.. ..The reason why it is circular is this. In olden times, the altar in a church was a very holy place indeed; more holy than it is generally regarded now, for people believed that, on the altars of the Church, Christ was, in the strictest literal sense of the word, actually present. That being so, anyone who claimed the protection of the altar, no matter what he had done, could not be touched. He was at once protected by the altar and by God from the vengeance of man, and round the sacred altar a circle was drawn, within which a man, so long as he remained within that circle, could claim sanctuary for seven years and seven days.

The graveyard at Llanelltyd was a sanctuary circle of the church, and the limits of the circle were settled in this way: the ploughman stood at the foot of the altar,with his arm outstretched, and, in his outstretched hand, he held the yoke of his plough-team. A plough team consisted of eight oxen, yoked two abreast, and the yoke extended from the front of the first couple to the end of the plough. Holding the yoke in his hand, the ploughman, no doubt with assistance, swept it round in a circle, and all land within that circle, which was called the "erw," became holy ground. That is the origin of the phrase "God's acre," for "erw" means "acre." It was the immediate circle of God's protection, not of the dead, but of the living, however guilty.

People, I think rather fancifully, go a great deal further back than that in explaining the old Welsh circular graveyards. They associate them with the ancient stone-circles of the Druids, or whoever it was who made stone-circles.

Another object worthy of notice in the Llanelltyd church is an old stone, on the top of which there is incised a footprint, and underneath an inscription which reads in Latin, "The mark of Rhodri is on the top of this stone, which he placed there when he set out on a pilgrimage." Nothing is known about Rhodri, for that or Rhydderch appears to be the name..
From chapter 9 of The Story of Two Parishes Dolgelley and Llanelltyd, by TP Ellis (1928)

From the Merioneth Local History Website / Merionnydd Gwefan Hanes Lleol:

Seems like there's some confusion over the names.. Rhodri.. Kenric.. hmm.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
28th March 2007ce
Edited 30th March 2007ce

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