The Cambrian Archaeological Association Easter Conference on ‘Church Monuments in Wales’ visited Corwen on Saturday afternoon, and got to see two early medieval stones in the churchyard. These are both catalogued by Professor Nancy Edwards in her A Corpus of Early Medieval Inscribed Stones and Stone Sculpture in Wales Volume III North Wales and these comments derived from her research. But first, let’s discuss a weird stone in the church porch wall…

Corwen cross-shaft with Corwen College behind
MR 3

In the exterior west-wall of the south porch of the church is an intriguing shard of stone, that might just possibly be a reused prehistoric standing stone or early medieval monument.

Intriguing stone in porch wall

MR 3 is built into the exterior south side of the chancel where it has been positioned since the Victorian restoration. Before then it was above the church door. Made of local stone (Silurian Siltstone) it is a rectangular pillar with a linear Latin cross. The folklore is that this was the imprint of Owain Glyndwr’s dagger or sword. It is thought to be 7th to 9th century in date. This monument was difficult to view through the grill protecting the church’s heating system; not conducive to a group visit, but the Cambrians all got a look.

MR 7 is a cross shaft and base that bears some similarities to the Pillar of Eliseg. The base is circular, the shaft is quadrangular in section and tapers towards a projecting collar at the top, scalloped on the lower edge. The collar has interlace and plait decoration. The shaft is bear but for a cross on side C and some possible lightly incised runes on side D that might read ‘ITHFUS’ but it is not clear if this is a personal name or not. Edwards is convinced by the runic inscription and suggests that the earliest phase of the monument dates to the tenth or eleventh century.

This amazing monument was the focus of much musing and much cynicism by the amassed Cambrians. Some were not convinced by the runic inscription, and the complex subsequent treatment as a churchyard cross in the later medieval period, and the addition of a new bizarre post-medieval inexplicable feature (no longer present) also was the focus of musings. Below are some photos of various Cambrians interacting with the stone.

The west side of the Corwen cross-shaft
The cross on the Corwen cross-shaft
David Longley and the Corwen cross-shaft
Maddy Grey and the Corwen cross-shaft
Bob Silvester and Frances Lynch contemplate the possible runic-inscription.