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The west approach to Rug Chapel

Archaeodeath went 17th century today and also considered 20th-century mortuary commemoration at heritage sites. The latter is more common than you might think.

Rug Chapel near Corwen was built in 1637 by Colonel William Salusbury, subsequently a fierce royalist who defended Denbigh Castle for the crown in the English Civil War. The chapel was restored 1854-55 by Sir Robert Vaughan. With a small belfry, it is a single colourful space with fabulous 17th-century woodcarving. It is a wondrous place of worship that has inspired many architects (including Lutyens) and enjoys many visitors, especially now it is under Cadw guardianship.

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Rug Chapel

Rug Chapel is now set within beautifully landscaped grounds of herbs and heathers containing a cross of possible medieval data purported to have been brought from Denbigh when the chapel was constructed.

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The cross

The interior contains a wide range of fittings including wood-carved angels decorating the roof trusses. I also like the animal decorations on the aisle-ends of the benches and the candelabra.

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View of the chapel’s interior
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Wonderful candelabra
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An eagle and her chicks?
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Squirrel and smaller beast

My favourite element from an archaeodeath perspective, set on the north wall, is a painting incorporating Latin phrase and Welsh literary quotes, and depicting a skeleton and skull, as well as candlesticks, sundial and hourglass, reflecting on death and time. According to W. Nigel Yates’ Cadw guidebook, the Latin between the sundial and the hourglass reads: AS WITH THE HOUR SO WITH LIFE (UT HORA SIC VITA).

IMG_20150811_112520The guide book fails to mention the 20th-century memorials within and without, since the chapel is clearly still a place of Vaughan and Wynn aristocratic commemoration. Inside are a pair of ‘typical’ 20th-century mural plaques.

Outside, Wynn tombs sit within a circular fence within the landscape gardens surrounding the chapel. The landscape design denies recognition of the space as a former burial ground, making these memorials, father and mother set either side of a 16-year-old daughter who died before them, all the more incongruous and yet poignant.

In terms of design; is this a lighthouse depicted on a gravestone? If so, it might be my first gravestone I’ve seen to have this rendered this form of architecture in three dimensions in a mortuary context! Associated with the untimely death of a 16-year-old girl, with a horseshoe beneath, this is clearly a very personal memorial statement obscure to those uninitiated.

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Intramural memorials

To sum up, Rug Chapel is a well-preserved early 17th-century private chapel with a re-located ?medieval cross within its grounds. It is also a fascinating example of a Cadw guardianship site with a vivid 17th-century memento mori and rather odd aristocratic 20th-century memorials within and without.

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Wynn tombs
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