Monday, 20 February 2017

Pilgrimage in Wales: St Dyfnog's Church

One thing I brought back from St Dygnog's Church, Llanrhaeadr (as well  - of course! - as photos on my phone) is the Church guidebook 'A Little Help for Visitors' by a former clergyman at the Church,  Rev. Hywel Davies who was a scholar, graduate of St David's College, Lampeter and Oxford - as well as an outstanding athelete capped for Oxford and Wales for Association Football.

This booklet has sold at least 15,000 copies since its first publication in 1972 and I'm not surprised - it has such an elegant turn of phrase.

The church too is stunning (Jesse window and barrel ceiling) and am lucky enough to arrive at the end of the Sunday morning service.

I sit down for a second or two and the churchwarden asks me if I'd like to join them for coffee. Pale turquoise china mugs with a rose.

Talk to the vicar (without realising it) for some minutes and a delightful woman called Marion who helps me with the (incredibly difficult Welsh names). 'Where have you been?' Impossible to say - have to spell the words.

She is handsome, in her 80s, I would say, with beautiful eyes and so welcoming - as is the vicar, the second woman priest in two days who has gone out of her way to talk and explain.

'Have you come to see our Jesse window?"

 Marion says thank you so much to the vicar as she leaves and then behind us the organ starts to play and a group sings.

'It's the choir," says the vicar. "Marion lost her husband on Tuesday and they are practising a hymn for his funeral."

On Tuesday? She is so robust and brave.

"Well, he was 95 and he had been ill,. She was his second wife, they married seven years ago and he always said the greatest joy of his life was Marion.'

Such a love story!  Blink back the tears.

"He was a splendid man, there's lots for me to wax lyrical about,''" says the vicar.

The holy well outside is reached by a winding path up through woods and arched stone bridges behind the church.

The well itself is lined and paved and has steps down into it - the relics of 18th century building work when pilgrims flocked here to bathe and the place was busy.

Rev Davies' church guidebook quotes a visitor in 1773:
' "This fountain is enclosed in  an angular well, decorated with small human figures and before it is the well for the use of the pious bathers."
'There is little left of all that now, but the water rungs strongly and sweetly yet, and the bath is still there.'

Reading and watching

  • Foot by Foot to Santiago de Compostela/Judy Foot
  • The Testament of Mary with Fiona Shaw at the Barbican
  • The Testament of Mary/Colm Toibin
  • Schwanengesang/Schubert - Tony Spence
  • Journals/Robert Falcon Scott
  • Fugitive Pieces/Ann Michaels
  • Unless/Carol Shields
  • Faust/Royal Opera House
  • The Art of Travel/Alain de Botton
  • Mad Men Series 6
  • A Week at The Airport/Alain de Botton
  • The Railway Man/Eric Lomax
  • Bright Lights, Big City/Jay McInerney
  • Stones of Venice/John Ruskin
  • The Sea, the Sea/Iris Murdoch
  • Childe Harold/Lord Byron
  • All The Pretty Horses/Cormac McCarthy
  • Extreme Rambling/Mark Thomas
  • Story of my Life/Jay McInerney
  • Venice Observed/Mary McCarthy