St Melangell's Church, Pennant Melangell, Montgomeryshire
Photography: Howard Evans
Date: 7 August 2009
Camera: Canon EOS 50D digital
Dedication: St Melangell
Built: 11th century
Note 1. The circular churchyard of this remote church in the steep-sided Tanat Valley below the Berwyn mountains is entered through a lychgate dated 1632. The church itself is a much-altered twelfth century Norman structure, with a porch dated 1737 and a seventeenth century W tower with timber bell-stage and pyramidal roof added at the 1877 restoration. The outstanding feature is the 1958-59 reconstruction of the shrine of St Monacella, incorporating fragments of the original, the only one of its kind in Britain, dating from the second half of the twelfth century and now housed in the seventeenth century mortuary chapel at the east end of the chancel. St Monacella, the patron saint of hares, founded a nunnery here in the eighth century and the legend of her protecting one from Brochwel, Prince of Powys, is illustrated in a carving in the frieze of the fifteenth century screen now forming part of the W gallery [see description on Wikipedia website]. Recumbent effigies of Madog ap Iorwerth (c.1315) and a woman (St Monacella?), late fourteenth century. Wooden candelabrum dated 1733, eighteenth century Royal Arms and benefaction board; Norman tub font and Regency altar rails.
[Source: Soden, R. W. (1984) A Guide to Welsh Parish Churches Gomer Press, Llandysul; ISBN 0-86383-082-X].
Note 2. St Melangell's church is a simple single-chamber structure with an eastern apse and western tower at the head of the Tanat Valley where, according to legend a nunnery was possibly founded in the late 8thC. The body of the church is medieval, with a 19thC tower and 18thC porch. It contains many objects of interest including a 12thC font, a 15thC rood screen with carvings of the legend of St Melangell, and the restored shrine to St Melangell, which is reputedly the earliest surviving Romanesque shrine in Northern Europe. It is without doubt the most thoroughly studied church in Montgomeryshire, and much further information can be gleaned from Montgomeryshire Collections for 1994.
[Source: Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust (CPAT) website, where further details are provided]
Above: West gallery (left) with 15th century screen. Shrine to St Monacella (right).
Note 3. The church lies at the end of a remote valley. St Monacella founded a late 8th century monastery here and an 11th century shrine to this saint is located in the present chancel, formerly the nave. The south doorway and a fragment of the north wall are the only remaining parts of the Norman century church above the foundations. The church has undergone many alterations and restorations over the years.
[Source: The Old Parish Churches of Gwent, Glamorgan & Gower, by Mike Salter, Folly Publications, Malvern, 1991; ISBN 1-871731-08-9]
Above: Detail of screen at entrance to shrine to St Monacella.
Below: Fragment of medieval painting on wall of shrine to St Monacella.
Further details of St Melangell's Church are available on the St Melangell's Church and St Melangell Centre website.