dsc08437Previously I’ve posted about the ‘discovery’ by Llangollen Museum of a new fragment of a medieval recumbent effigial slab that we have informally called ‘The Smiling Abbot’. This isn’t really a technical term, it is because he is an abbot (according to the inscription around the edge) and he seems to be quite content with his memorial lot. See previous posts about him here and here.

Today, I sent off the article about the ‘Smiling Abbot’ for publication, submitting it as a research article to a national journal. I’m very excited about it because it is an article about a new (re-)discovery, written in collaboration with the excellent Llangollen Museum and their Gillian Smith and Dave Crane. Over the last month I’ve been researching and writing, as well as seeking sage advice from some of the country’s leading experts in medieval church monuments, who have been generous with their ideas and criticisms of our early drafts. Here is the provision title and abstract. Now is the process (not moment) of truth: will it be published?

Smiling Abbot Hywel:

The Unique Effigial Slab of a Cistercian Abbot


The article reports on a newly re-discovered fragment of a recumbent effigial slab, commemorating Abbot Hywel (Howel), most likely of the Cistercian house of Valle Crucis, near Llangollen (Denbighs.). The slab was probably carved sometime in the first third of the fourteenth century, and could have covered the abbot’s burial place in the abbey church or chapter house. The stone was subsequently dislocated and fragmented at an unknown point in the abbey’s history, most likely during the nineteenth-century clearance of the ruins.

If indeed from Valle Crucis, the stone is the first-known effigial slab to a Cistercian abbot from Wales, and a rare example from Britain. Given that no similar Cistercian abbatial monuments have been identified from elsewhere, the ‘Smiling Abbot’, although only a fragment, is a significant addition to the known corpus of later medieval mortuary monuments. The article discusses the provenance, dating, identification and significance of the monument, including the abbot’s distinctive smile, within the context of mortuary and commemorative practice at Valle Crucis.

So this is a new blogging development, commenting on a submission rather than a publication. In doing so, I guess I undermine the anonymity of my submission, but it is quite obvious regarding the circumstances of who is writing that this is difficult to conceal in any case.

I have no idea if and when the ‘Smiling Abbot’ will find his way to publication. Of course I hope he does! He is an exciting memorial and the submitted article attempts to put his little smilie face in context.

Still, peer-review is the joy and the curse of academia: every article gets carefully scrutinised by an editor and anywhere between 2 and 4 peer-reviewers who appraise the originality and significance of the research. This helps to winnow out bad articles, and also winnow out bad sections of good articles. Peer-review doesn’t stop my rubbish getting published in itself, but it does help my rubbish to conform to current trends on academic-speak! I jest of course (but seriously). Most referees do more than this though, and do try hard to help get the best out of the article.

They might recommend that the new discovery is not really that interesting, or that my research is flawed. Conversely, they might judge the article an important one that should be published. Who knows? Only time will tell!

Hopefully I will hear back in 1 or 2 months what the verdict is. Will the article be declined? Will it be accepted but subject to either major or minor revisions. The most unlikely scenario is that it will be accepted in its current form: this rarely happens, at least from my experience. See my views on peer-review here.

The stone can still be seen at Llangollen Museum and my University are hoping to conduct a press release about it early next month. In the meantime, the stone’s academic fate awaits us…