Cross: OS Grid Reference – SJ 20267 44522
Also Known as:
- Eliseg’s Pillar
From Llangollen, take the A542 north for about three miles up along the famous Vale of Llangollen. At the ruined abbey of Valley Crucis continue along the same road for another ½-mile whence, at the side of the road in a field and upon a small mound, stands the ancient monument: the Pillar of Eliseg.
Archaeology & History
The sandstone pillar or pillar-shaft stands upon a large square-shaped base stone which sits atop a tumulus — a Bronze Age burial mound (cairn) inside which were found, during excavations in 1803, the remains of a body, perhaps that of a Romano-British or Dark-Ages chieftain (possibly Eliseg?), with what were described as “blue stones” both beneath and on top; the cremated body lying within a stone-slab chamber along with a silver coin. But the ancient pillar monument itself is much later in date — probably mid-9th century AD, though there has been speculation by some historians that the pillar was actually a tall cross, alas without its head, dating from a couple of centuries earlier, with the inscription being carved onto it sometime between 840-845 AD. It was erected by Prince Cyngen fab Cadell (Concenn) about the year 844 in memory of his great-grandfather Eliseg or Elise. Cyngen died in Rome in 854 AD.
Over the centuries the pillar has suffered from the ravages of time. Its long Latin inscription was originally 31 lines divided into readable paragraphs running horizontally but now only 7 or 8 of these lines are visible. But fortunately the writer and historian Edward Lhuyd made a drawing of the monument and its inscription back in 1696. The inscription when translated reads as follows:
1. Concenn son of Cadell, Cadell son of Brochmail, Brochmail son of Eliseg, Eliseg son of Guoillauc
2. Concenn therefore being great-grandfather of Eliseg erected this stone to his great-grandfather Eliseg
3. It is Eliseg who annexed the inheritance of Powys…throughout nine (years) from the power of the English which he made into a sword-land by fire
4. Whosoever shall read this hand-inscribed inscription stone, let him give a blessing on the soul of Eliseg
5. It is Concenn Who…with his hand…to his own kingdom of Powys…and which…the mountain…the monarchy Maximus…of Britain…Concenn, Pascent…Maun, Annan.
6. Britu, moreover, (was) the son of Guorthigirn (Vortigern) Whom (St) Germanus blessed and whom Severa bore to him, the daughter of Maximus the king who slew the king of the Romans and
7. Convarch painted this writing at the command of his king Concenn
8. The blessing of the Lord (be) upon Concenn and all members of his family and upon all the land of Powys Until the day of judgement or doom. Amen.
The upper section of the pillar, which is broken at the top, was re-erected on top of the burial mound in 1779 which probably means that the monument is not in its original place. The lower section was sadly broken away from the shaft during the English Civil war and has long since disappeared. However, this monument is still quite an impressive site and can be seen from a great distance around.
- Bartrum, P.C., Early Welsh Genealogical Tracts, Cardiff: UWP, 1966.
- Barber, Chris, More Mysterious Wales, Paladin 1987.
- Houlder, Christopher, Wales: An Archaeological Guide – the prehistoric, Roman and early medieval field monuments, Faber and Faber, London 1974.
- Tyack, George S., The Cross in Ritual, Architecture and Art, William Andrews: London 1900.
- Westwood, J.O., Lapidarium Walliæ – The Early Incised and Sculptured Stones of Wales, Oxford University Press 1879.
Copyright © Ray Spencer 2011