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St Eilian's Church, Llanelian-Yn-Rhos

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Map ReferenceSH87NE
Grid ReferenceSH8636076430
Unitary (Local) AuthorityConwy
Old CountyDenbighshire
CommunityBetws yn Rhos
Type Of SiteCHURCH

St Eilian's Church, Llanelian-yn-Rhos, is a largely late medieval structure with an arched collar brace roof, a plain arcade of five bays with painted panels and a fifteenth century font with a seventeenth century cover.

There are a series of wall paintings in the church. The first group is the painted canopy above the altar with scenes of saints. On the eastern end wall, in the centre, is an IHS monogram and foliage with square 'folded' lettering of fifteenth to sixteenth century type. On the north wall is a small displayed angel and the annunciation, or, alternatively Mary and Elizabeth with fragmentary text over it that may read 'Ave gratia tecum'. On the south side is the Adoration of Magi with two kings crowned, and one with a hat, and the adoration of Shepherds, one of which has includes two yokes of oxen. There is also a depiction of the doom or a blessing with a figure with a halo surrounded by stars and two lozenges for the sun and moon. The idea of the painted ceiling is similar to Gyffin, but the execution is considerably superior. The ceiling has been cleaned and the scenes were totally misunderstood in the late nineteenth century in a History of St Asaph.

The second group of wallpaintings are those of saints on the rood-loft panels. The painted front to the rood-loft was still in position in 1770-80. Nine panels (3 groups of 3) have since been reframed and mounted, but the profile of the missing carved fretwork can be seen as a white shadow. In the centre is the Ascension showing a part-draped Christ with hand raised in blessing and rising above three figures pointing towards him. There are also cheerful-looking guards at the tomb flanked by angels. On the left is a depiction of the Weighing of Souls with a crowned Virgin (similar to that at Ruabon) holding down the scale-pan with souls, whilst on the right is a caricature of Satan with demon in the scale-pan. A bland archangel holds the scales. On the right is the legend of St Hubert, who stands on the left with a horse in a forest behind in the centre and a kneeling saint looking at stag on the right with a crucifix between its antlers. This is unlikely to be St Eilian and his tame stag or doe - see Henken, 'Traditions of the Welsh Saints' p.240ff. The style is not unlike Ruabon and the costumes depicted could be as late as approximately 1500.  Further wall paintings include a C18th benefaction board, and C19th Welsh texts on boards.

Tree-ring dating of Rood-beam reported in Vernacular Architecture 42 (2011):

x. LLANELIAN-YN-RHOS, Parish Church of St Elian or Hilary (SH 8636 7643) Felling date range: 1498-1528
Rood beam 1489(2). Site Master 1410-1489 llnlnrs1 (t = 9.8 PLASMAWR; 8.1 GWYDWN; 8.0 DENBY6).
A double-nave church which flourished as a late-medieval pilgrimage centre. Offerings from pilgrims probably paid for the enlargement and beautification of the church. The splendid rood- loft has been taken down although part of the screen and several painted panels survive. The stub of the bressummer beam was sampled and showed that the rood-loft was erected in the first quarter of the C16th. Description of the church in the Edward Hubbard, The Buildings of Wales: Clwyd (1986), pp. 202-3. Dating commissioned by RCAHMW. R.F. SUGGETT/RCAHMW/JULY 2011.

Sources include:
Tree-ring dating of Rood-beam reported in Vernacular Architecture 42 (2011)
Richard Suggett, Painted Temples: Wallpaintings and Rood-screens in Welsh Churches, 1200–1800, (RCAHMW 2021), pp. 57, 66, 114, 117–18, 125, 127, 146, 276.



application/pdfRCAHMW ExhibitionsBilingual exhibition panel entitled Dyddio Eglwysi Canoloesol yng Nghymru. Dating Medieval Churches in Wales, produced by RCAHMW for the Royal Welsh Show, 2011.