Thursday, 2 July 2009

St Fagan's - Museum of Rural life

The amazingly colourful cover of the font at St Teilo's church, now reconstructed at St Fagan's. The Star of David and the Tudor rose is incorporated in the design.

We had to pick up Middle Daughter (G) from Cardiff Airport this morning, so we made a detour and visited St Fagan's, as K and I wanted to see St Teilo's Church, which was taken down stone by stone from its old situation in Pontardulais, and re-erected in the grounds of this wonderful museum, amongst many other saved and re-erected buildings - from early Medieval houses to prefabs, and everything in between, including an excellent Iron Age Village. G had "breakfast" with us, then decided she had seen it too many times before (favourite destination of end-of-year school trips, and indeed, the place was packed with them today too!) so went back to snooze in the car.

Below, St Teilo's from the rear.

St Teilo's was built between 1100 and 1520, gradually being enlarged and altered. Around 1850 the church began to be used less frequently, probably due to its position on the edge of the marshes beyond Pontarddulais and the building of a modern church to cater for the increasing number of worshippers in Pontarddulais.

The wonderful wall-paintings which have been faithfully re-created from remains of the originals, date from the 16th century, but overall the murals began around 1350 and several layers and repaintings show they were improved or altered up until 1790.Pigments sourced from natural minerals and mixed with limewash, were used to create the colours. Black pigment was created from soot or charcoal. More expensive pigments included lapis lazuli which gave a rich blue, and a red from cinnabar. Gold and silver leaf were also employed. Egg yolk or linseed oil or buttermilk were used to bind the colour to the paint and the wall. Most churches were this colourful until the Civil War, after which the Puritans destroyed what they considered to be idolatorous and sinful and pagan imagery - in other words, the beautiful and colourful interiors of virtually every church in the land.

St Christopher, in his traditional position opposite the door.

The wonderful chequerboard patterning inside the archways.

The story of Teilo's life is shown here on the Rood Screen, but my arms were too short (and the camera too shaky at arm's length!) to take close-ups, so please go here for the story to unfold, with decent close-up pictures. Using Welsh oak, these carvings took a skilled carpenter over three months to design and carve.

This looks gloomy as the batteries were failing on my camera and sadly I couldn't use the flash, but you get the general idea.

For explanations of the carvings and symbols, visit here. We were hurrying and also talking to someone we met outside the church, so I missed several of them. Part of the church was roped off so we couldn't get near the altar, sadly. I even missed a Green Man on the ceiling!

St Fagan's first became interested in the church in 1982, although the procedures became stepped up in 1984 after the roof slates were stolen and the murals put at real risk from the weather. The church had very early origins - a carved stone inside its walls has been dated to around the 7th-9th century - but the first written mention of the church was in 1100. It's original name - "Llanteilo tal-y-bont" - means the church dedicated to St Teilo at the crossing place of the river (River Loughor). St Teilo was born in Pembrokeshire around 480 AD, and a contemporary of Dewi Sant (St David) and St Padarn.


Donna Childree Gotlib said...

Oh my goodness. This is beautiful.
How have you been?

Morning's Minion said...

I'm delighted that you were able to post this--you are such a good tour guide. I am particularly fascinated with the repetition of checkerboard motifs in the church artwork. As you likely know this is a very familiar theme in both original and reproduction Americana "primitives." [Check the folk art of Warren Kimble--who retired and opened a gallery in Vermont!]
Internet connection if-y here this evening--more thunderstorms. I'd best head over to my own post--this quickly becomes addictive.

Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

Wow! Great photos and very interesting story on this church. I remember when Mike and I were in England touring Cornwall and visited a church (somewhere) that was being restored and I never knew how much color used to be used in churches. It reminded me of carnivals or painted caravans.

Arlene Grimm said...

Just beautiful armchair traveling with you.

Goosey said...

I love St Fagans, I went there early in January while visiting my husbands Aunt and Uncle who are fiercely Welsh and took us to see it. I love the little cottages and the churches. Glad you had a good day.