Sunday, 19 October 2008

Penally and its Early Christian Monument

(Click on photos to enlarge)

ECM's (Early Christian Monuments) were partly the topic of my University Dissertation, when I wrote about the equine iconography of the pre-Christian (Pictish) sculptures of Scotland. Needless to say, it is a continuing interest of mine.

When we were in Tenby on Thursday, we could see the village of Penally from the car park. My archaeological book (A Guide to Ancient and History Wales: Dyfed by Sian Reese) mentioned the early cross at Penally church, so we drove along the cost a mile or two and found the church, with its marvellous view across to the Gower peninsula and Rhosilli Bay and the outcrops of rock called the Worms Head.

The church site is connected with a very early 'clas' (much as our local church was in a recent post) or monastery and indeed there are the remains of the monastery beneath a more modern building, now a hotel. It is said that St Teilo was born at Penally.

The Celtic crosses at Penally have been brought inside the church and the slab-cross differs from other the wheelhead crosses of the Anglian type at Nevern and Carew in that it was constructed from a single piece of stone. The decoration includes a single vine scroll of the Northumbrian type with three-lobed leaves and four- and five-stemmed grape bunches and decorative knots. The date is around the 9th-10thC A.D.

The broken shaft (seen above) is decorated with a key pattern at the top, then below this are a pair of confronted animals, also in the Northumbrian style, with their legs and long tails interlacing. The animals are biting parts of other animals with their back-turned heads who, in turn, are devouring the ends of a vine tendril above them. Conventional vine-scroll forms the bottom design. On the sides and reverse are a plait design; a triskele of Irish type; and a ribbon-animal of Scandinavian form with a long inward-curving hed apparently biting the neck of a serpent, and an elaborate tail interlaced around the body. The sides of the shaft are decorated with vine-scroll and knotwork patterns on the right and two key patterns on the left. (Sian Reese) These designs show a wonderful blending of motifs from Ireland (interlacing, spirals, keypattern with that of the late Anglo-Saxon art of northern Britain with the twin beasts and the vine-scrolls and Scandinavian Jellinge style.* (*The latter designs found on stone monuments in Scandinavia)

Fragments from another early 10th C cross.

The tallest palm tree I've seen - as tall as the church roof.


LBP said...

What amazing relics! I have enjoyed my pictorial trip on your blog!



nita x said...

lovely jennie, i do enjoy reading the history surrounding your pictures, and wow on the palm tree, wonder how old it is ?
looks like another lovely day out.

Bovey Belle said...

I love taking the photos! When we finally downsize, I am going to get myself a really good camera, one that has better magnification and takes macro photographs too.

nita - there were several palm trees like that in the cemetary - all looking remarkably like a chimney sweeper's brush! They are probably 50+ years old I reckon.

lpb - glad you enjoyed the photos - certainly a bit different to your neck of the woods.

Mam said...

This was a really good post, as usual, Jennie. What I'm wondering though, is how do palm trees grow there? I've heard of palms in (I think) Cornwall - even kaffir lilies - and, even at that, I can't understand how the climate allows them.

Bovey Belle said...

The palm trees must have been deliberately planted Nancy - there were others in the graveyard and in the village. It is a sheltered spot, and the North Atlantic Drift goes right along the shore. There's even a sheltered place right up in Scotland which has a tropical gardens because of the NAD . . .