A few years ago I accompanied a Cambrian Archaeological Association on a visit to the churchyard of St Michael’s, Trelawynd (Flintshire). This enabled the group to enjoy views of the Gop Cairn, but also to explore the 17th-century canopied tombs in the churchyard (as discussed elsewhere for Dyserth). I also appreciated the arrangement of 19th-century gravestones – laid horizontally and framing the pathway to the church in a fashion I’ve seen elsewhere (including Corwen).
Yet, the principal medieval feature of interest for the Cambrians, however, was the churchyard cross: one of a surviving group from NE Wales, together with prominent intact monuments at Flint, Halkyn, Hanmer, Tremeirchion, and Derwen (Silvester 2013: fig. 2).
The Trelawnyd cross is earlier and simpler than the Derwen cross, and most likely dates to the last quarter of the 14th century. Yet it shares in being intact and scheduled. The base stone is grass-covered, and topped by a small cemented stone cairn. The socket stone is chamfered, its sides bottoming on pyramid stops.
The shaft is undecorated, wide and flat chamfered, with a capital with inverted stops carrying ball-flower-like decoration.
The cross is extremely weathered and bears canopied niches: trefoil-headed recesses on opposite sides with cinque-foiled empty recesses on the narrow sides (Silvester and Hankinson 2010: 27).
The carved figures in the east and west recesses contrast with the others in the group, in that they seem to both presence crucifixion scenes (Silvester 2013: 323). They are, however, different. The eastern one shows Jesus’s head drooping to the right and a female figure (Mary Magdalene?) is situated in prayer to the bottom-left. In contrast, the western figure’s arms are outstretched but the head is upright and there are no accompanying figures. So they clearly represent different dimensions of the crucifixion, perhaps associated with sunrise and sunset.
A further point of note relates to the experience of visiting a churchyard with a large group of archaeologists. It is perhaps a rare instance where one might gain a sense of the character of a medieval gathering or ceremony, with the group clustered around the cross, and the cross as the focus of interest and activity.
Silvester, R. 2013. Welsh medieval freestanding crosses, Archaeologia Cambrensis 162: 309-37.
Silvester, R. J. and Hankinson, R. 2010. Medieval Crosses and Crossheads. Scheduling Enhancement. Report for Cadw. CPAT Report No. 1036.