Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Church of Peterston Super Montem, Llambad

Why climb a mountain? Well, there are many reasons. Many of the hills of Wales have ancient trackways on top, and this particular mountain has a rather good one on it. But that was just the way to get me where I wanted to go.

This was the reason, there's a ruined church up there, namely the old Church of Peterston-Super-Montem, vulgarly known as Llambad, a corruption of the Welsh Llanbedr, St. Peter's Church. Originally built in the twelfth century, the ruins visible on the mountain today are of a simple two-cell building with a later porch. The plan of the church and the outline of the churchyard are still clearly visible.There are a number of gravestones on the site, all from the eighteenth century. Only one is still intact, and probably not in situ, as it is leaning against the north wall of the churchyard. Mary Robert, who died at the age of 29 in August 1775. The stones remind us that this was the spiritual centre of the district for centuries. There are probably hundreds buried in in this mountain graveyard.A typical Medieval church in plan, St Peter's is a two-cell structure with three doors, one at the West End of the building, one in the south wall of the nave, and a third, the priest's door, in the sputh wall of the chancel. Below is the view from the West door, looking east. The upright slab at the far wall has been inscribed with a cross by someone, marking where the altar was in the Middle Ages, and the Communion Table after the Reformation. Then we have the view from the east end to the west, looking out through the west doorway.
This is the view over the ruins from south east of the porch. You can't see how far up we are, but we can see that the church is quite isolated. The nearest other building is what appears to be a ruined barn.
Straight in the south porch. This is obviously an addition to the original building, as its walls are not keyed in to the south wall of the church (see above). There are benches of each side, and the porch appears to be a concession to the weather, giving people a place to chat after services out of the rain or snow. The benches have been used to display some of the old grave-slabs, all from the eighteenth century, and all damaged. The earliest appears to be from 1716.


This is the church from the south-east corner of the graveyard, you can see the gravestone of Mary Roberts leaning against the north wall of the graveyard. You can see why it's unlikely to be in its original position. The windfarm beyond tells you that we're on top of a mountain here!
This is just inside the south door. Could it be the remains of a Medieval holy water stoup?I'm pretty sure that this, at the south-east corner of the chancel, in the east wall. It's the remains of a cupboard for the elements for the Mass, and later the Lord's Supper.
This was on the ground beside one of the old windows. It is a piece of dressed stone from the window. Date? I have no idea. The building's probably full of archaeology, and I don't think it's ever been dug.
This is the view from one of the south windows of the church. It's spectacular! But it also explains why this isolated church was abandoned - it's hard getting up here, and as nonconformity spread in the parish, building chapels closer to where people live, people became less willing to trek up to the church on the mountain. On many Sundays the vicar made his way through rain and snow, only to find that there was no congregation.Finally he became fed up, and he petitioned the Bishop of Llandaff for permission to build a new church at Brynna, one of the villages at the foot of the mountain. The bishop gave permission, and in the 1830s the little church below was built. At once you can see that it is a smaller, simpler building than the old church on the mountain, but it had the great advantage of being where people lived. It even had its own graveyard, so the dead of Brynna no longer had to be taken up the mountain to be laid to rest in the old graveyard with Mary Roberts and the others. And the old church of St. Peter was left to fall into ruins, while the new St. Peter's took its place.

And the vicar found that people did come to the new church. But the ruins on the mountain, and Mary Roberts' gravestone, remain to speak of the old way of life.

More pictures of St. Peter's are here, on Tonyrefail.org, a reminder that the old church did not just serve Brynna, but many other settlements as well.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great photo's and write up. I am planning on walking up there very soon. I first noticed the ruins on a plan as they are planning on extending the wind farm. Hope access isn't limited to the church. I know it's an old blog but

7:27 am  

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