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Leper Stone, Llanrhidian

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Map ReferenceSS49SE
Grid ReferenceSS4968292256
Unitary (Local) AuthoritySwansea
Old CountyGlamorgan
CommunityLlanrhidian Lower
PeriodEarly Medieval
The stone, likely dating from the ninth or tenth century, was discovered in the 1880s just in front of the western doorway of the tower of Sts Illtyd's and Rhidian's Church, Llanrhidian (301495) after which it was moved to its present location in the Church porch. Contemporary with its discovery, it was supposed to either have been the remains of a stone coffin or the base of a cross, although both interpretations are now doubted. It was suggested in the RCAHMW's Inventory of Glamorgan (1976), that it may have been `a lintel over a doorway or some other architectural feature? (p. 62). Its initial use as an architectural feature, perhaps a frieze, remains a likely suggestion given its worked nature, uniform thickness, straight edges and ornamental appearance. Its pre-Norman dating therefore suggests that the church which preceded the current structure (the site was possibly first established in the sixth-century, while the present building was likely begun in the thirteenth century, see NPRN 301495) was substantial and highly decorated. Later traditionally known as the `Leper? Stone, rubbing the stone was thought to cure leprosy while sitting on it was a cure for headaches. A hollow in the top of the stone may also have once held holy water in order to provide further cures.

The stone is highly decorated in low relief on one broad side. The left end is cleanly bevelled at the bottom and broken at the top, while the right end is twice as thick as the rest of the stone and bears an unfinished lion head carved in the round. In the centre of the stone are two stylised human figures with inverted egg-shaped heads and simple facial features, with stylised garments. The dress of the left figure is decorated with an irregular pattern topped at the shoulders with blank spaces with curved bottoms, possibly representing arms, disc brooches or breasts. The garment of the figure on the right is decorated with opposed diagonal frets (resembling an hourglass), the outer lines of which continue downwards and then spiral inwards, perhaps representing legs. Between the two figures are two faint inscribed designs, a faint cross with lines bisecting the angels to left and a square with opposed diagonal frets resembling the garment of the right-hand figure to right. To the left of the left-hand figure is an animal-like figure facing away from the figures. To the right of the right-hand figure is another animal-like figure.

(Sources: J. Romilly Allen, `Pre-Norman Sculptured Stone and Thirteenth Century Sepulchral Slab at Llanrhidian, Gower, Glamorgan?, Archaeologia Cambrensis, Fifth Series, 5: 18 (April 1888) 173?76; RCAHMW, An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Glamorgan (Cardiff: Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1976), vol. 1, pt 3, pp. 62?63; Mark Redknap & John Lewis, A Corpus of Early Medieval Inscribed Stones and Stone Sculpture in Wales (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2007), vol. 1, pp. 363?66; Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust, HER, PRN 00092w)
A.N. Coward, RCAHMW, 14.01.2018