It had originally been our intention and hope that today would have seen a pilgrimage Liturgy in Llancarfan, but crossed-wires mean that was put on hold, and instead we made a rather less formal pilgrimage to Llanilltud Fawr (Llantwit Major), nearby, in the beautiful Vale of Glamorgan.
Father Luke – our very own historian-archeologist – spoke to our little band of pilgrims about St Illtud, the legacy of Romano-British Christianity, and the shear importance of Llanilltud Fawr as a great and celebrated seat of learning and education in Insular Britain, in its day.
Though Father Luke and some of our South Wales parishioners visited around six years ago, I hadn’t been for something like a dozen years, and I had forgotten the scale of the church that developed over the centuries on the original Celtic site.
Seeing the church from different angles and also beginning to understand the landscape and very close proximity to the coast and the sea-roads of the saints between different parts of insular Britain, Ireland and Brittany, helped to make sense of this site, and how it was so ideal as a place central to the propagation of the Faith and Christian learning in early Christian Britain.
We were interested in the material legacy of the many the layers of history, piety, Christian culture and life that succeeded the Orthodox centuries of Llanilltud Fawr, knowing that those commemorated by tombs and memorials have been part of the life of this remarkable place, whether during the Catholic or Protestant centuries.
Also, we were very happy to see such a loved, cherished and well tended place of Christian identity and heritage, with the Celtic memorial stones preserved in the restored Raglan Chapel at the west end, remnants of medieval wall painting, wonderful devotional-liturgical stonework features from the Middle-Ages – including a arched stone surround representing the Tree of Jesse, sprouting from the recumbent forefather of Christ – later wall paintings and furnishings from Tudor and Stuart times, and mercifully no obvious Victorian ‘improvement’ disfiguring the remarkable and large building.
After having time to explore the church and its surroundings, we chanted a moleben at the foot of the medieval cross in the churchyard, and then had a wonderful social time over lunch in one of the hostelries in the medieval heart of the village.
Many thanks to those who were able to be part of a rather ad hoc pilgrimage, and praise to god for the fellowship, friendship and warmth that always characterises these occasions.
Diolch yn fawr iawn pawb!
Troparion of St Illtyd tone 6: O wise Illtud, thou wast noble by birth and noble in mind * and didst train many saints in the way of holiness. * Pray to Christ our God to raise up saints in our days * to His glory and for our salvation.