Monument of the Month

December 2014
 
Heaven under our feet: the Laleston triple cross
 
  Cross slabs are the unsung heroes of the medieval monument industry. Lawrence Butler and Colin Gresham taught us to look at them, and more recently Peter Ryder and Aleksandra McClain have done sterling work in elucidating them, but there is still much more to learn.

Part of the problem is that they are usually set in the church floor, and very vulnerable to damage and erosion. This triple cross slab at Laleston, just west of Bridgend in the western Vale of Glamorgan, is so worn as to be almost indecipherable, and partly hidden by the twentieth-century choir stalls. Generations of worshippers have walked over it without realising its meaning. Even the incumbents who have stood on it were not aware of it.
Fortunately, it was drawn by the antiquarian T. H. Thomas and the church architect John Rodger in the early years of the twentieth century, and it is really from their drawings that we can appreciate its significance.
 
  The slab has a very distinctive design with a plain central cross flanked by two others, all branching out from a stepped calvary plinth. Thomas and Rodger also drew a very similar slab at Llangynwyd, a few miles north of Laleston, and a triple cross slab with a slightly different design in the ruins of Margam Abbey, a little way to the west. There are plenty of incised slabs with miniature  crosses as part of the decoration, but the subsidiary crosses on these three slabs are clearly intended as full-size crosses. They are as far as I know unique
(an impression confirmed by Sally Badham, Peter Ryder, Philip Lankester and Lawrence Butler, all of whom kindly looked at Rodger’s drawings for me). It looks as though these crosses are intended to show the actual scene of the Crucifixion, with the two thieves as well as Christ.
 
What could link these crosses? They are almost certainly medieval, judging from the style of the crosses, the location of the Margam one and the absence of inscriptions (the lettering on the Laleston cross is almost certainly a later addition). The one thing which links these three sites in the Middle Ages is the pilgrimage to the Holy Rood of Llangynwyd. The church at Llangynwyd belonged to the monks of Margam, and Laleston sits on one of the major pilgrimage routes to the shrine, the Ffordd y Gyfraith.
       
This raises the intriguing possibility that the Laleston slab and the other two triple cross slabs reflect the design of the Llangynwyd rood. Depiction of the thieves is unusual in the Welsh visual tradition. However, the thieves do appear in the Welsh mystery play of the Crucifixion. More to the point, several Welsh poets wrote in praise of the Holy Rood of Llangynwyd. Christine James of Swansea University (the current Archdruid of Wales) has made a detailed study of these poems and points out that two of them make reference to the thieves.
 
There are other reasons why depiction of the thieves would be appropriate for a tomb. Late medieval spirituality had a strong focus on the need to prepare for a good death. Books on preparation for death were among the earliest best-sellers. Among other things, they advised on dealing with the temptations that might assail the dying person. One of these was the temptation to despair, illustrated by woodcuts showing demons reminding the dying of their sins and failings. Against this the dying were promised the help of saints who had themselves fallen and been saved. Among these, as well as St Peter, St Mary Magdalen and St Paul, was the Good Thief. (Some of these woodcuts can be found online at http://www.bdnancy.fr/ars/ars.htm .) The thief had not even had time for repentance and confession: but he had recognised Jesus and said ‘Remember me when you come to your kingdom’: and he had been promised ‘This day you will be with me in Paradise’. These were comforting words to be remembered in a tomb carving.

We also need to think about the decorations above the cross. As well as the three full-size crosses, there are two small crosses potent in the angles above the main cross. Many medieval cross slabs feature small circular decorations above and to either side of the  cross – either minature crosses or small stylized flowers. These may be purely decorative. Similar designs appear on seals, and as diapering in wall paintings. However, the placing of some of the miniature crosses and circular designs is reminiscent of the depiction of the sun and moon in so many representations of the Crucifixion.  This is of course a literal reference to the narrative with its eclipse. However, there is also a wider symbolic significance. The sun and moon are witnesses of cosmic salvation: their presence  in the Crucifixion scene symbolises the relationship between Christ the sun of justice and the moon as the church which reflects his light. Further, according to St Augustine the moon represents the Old Testament which can shine only by the light of the New.

 
So much cosmic significance from one cross slab, so battered and worn that no-one in the parish knew it was there. Now that it has been identified, though, it will feature in a new heritage trail designed to link some earlier carved stones at Merthyr Mawr  on the Welsh Coast Path and the deserted village site of Llangewydd, just north of Laleston. The trail will use part of the pilgrimage route to Llangynwyd, and reconstruction drawings of the crosses have been commissioned. The church at Laleston has also commissioned a local photographer, Nigel Nicholas, to photograph the stone under raking light. His photograph, shown above, will be the centrepiece of an interpretative panel. The church is always open and has plenty else of interest, including a medieval altar stone and some endearingly naive eighteenth-century memorials.
 
Dr Madelaine Gray PhD
 
        Monument of the Month - Contributions Wanted!
This page is designed for the general reader and is intended to feature monuments of all types and all ages: those to the famous and to the unknown, those by famous sculptors and those by unknown local craftsmen, the artistically spendid and the simple but beautiful or curious. So far mostly members of the Council have contributed but contibutions are welcome from everybody - members or non-members of the Society. We would welcome a photograph or two and a short text telling us why the monument interests you: it may be of an ancestor, of someone you admire, something you have discovered or just something you just like or find interesting.
Please send the text as a word document and the photographs as separate jpg files ; please do not send the photographs embedded in the text as I cannot then edit the document. However, it is always useful - but not essential - if an embedded version could be sent as well, as then I can lay out the document as you intended. Please send contributions to churchmonuments@aol.com . We will feature the monument for a month and it will then be archived.

Some tips on the photographs:
1. It is always polite to ask the vicar or rector of the church for permission to take photographs, stressing they are not for profit or commercial purpose. It is important to confirm when the church is normally open. Don't forget to enclose a stamped addressed envelope for your reply.
2. Cathedrals and some other large churches have a visitors' desk and permission may often be obtained there on the day; sometimes there is a modest cost. Some of these churches do not normally allow photography although permission may be obtained if one writes before hand. To date the only place that I have been refused  is Durham Cathedral. Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral also do not allow photography.
3. Try to carefully remove items that block the view of the monument if you are able. Especially don't leave your camera case in the way as I have on occasions! Or alter the angle of the photograph to minimise this problem.
4. Try to avoid excessive contrast in taking the photographs - dark shadows and bright sunlight. In other words, try to see what the camera sees, not your eyes! Flash can be difficult to use as it creates harsh shadows and burned out highlights; this is especially difficult when a photograph is taken of a subject of some depth when the foreground becomes too bright and the background too dark, because of the rapid falling off of the brightness of the flash with distance.
5. Please send photographs as jpg or gif attachments; do not embed them in the text where they cannot be edited and require a lot of memory space. If you wish I can scan printed photographs if they are sent to me; they will always be returned.
Click on the link below to see earlier Monuments of the Month
January 2010 Thomas Moore (d. 1586) & his widow Marie at Adderbury (Oxfordshire) Sally Badham FSA
February 2010 The so-called ‘Stanley boy’ monument at Elford (Staffordshire) Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA
March 2010 William Shakespeare’s monument, HolyTrinity, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire Dr Adam White PhD
April 2010 The Lovell Tomb at Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire Dr Ellie Pridgeon PhD
May 2010 The chantry of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester 1391-1447 at the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban Jane Kelsall
June 2010 Thomas Babington of Dethick (d. 1518) and his wife Edith at Ashover (Derbyshire) Dr Kelcey Wilson-Lee PhD
July 2010 Baptist Noel, Third Viscount Campden (c. 1612-1683) at Exton, Rutland C B Newham
August 2010 Isabelle of Angoulême at Fontevraud Abbey J K Bromilow MInstP
September 2010 The Monument to Thomas Strode at Beaminster, Dorset Dr Clive J Easter PhD
October 2010 The cadaver monument of Guillaume de Harcigny (d. 1393) at  Laon (France) Dr Sophie Oosterwijk FSA
November 2010 The John Donne Monument (d. 1631) by Nicholas Stone in St Paul's Cathedral, London Dr Philip Cottrell
December 2010 Walter Helyon (d. c. 1357) at Much Marcle (Herefordshire) Sally Badham FSA
January 2011 Hungerford, Berkshire Dr Ellie Pridgeon PhD
February 2011 The Schaw Monument Dumfermline Abbey Church Dr Jenny Alexander
March 2011 Two wooden Epitaphien from Königsberg Jerome Bertram
April 2011  Abbot Adam of Carmarthen, Neath Abbey South Wales Dr Rhianydd Biebrach Ph D
May 2011 Sir John Newdigate, 1610, Harefield, Middlesex Jon Bayliss
June 2011  The joint tomb of João I of Portugal (d.1433) and his queen, Philippa of Lancaster (d. 1415) Founder’s Chapel, monastery of Our Lady of Victory, in Batalha, Portugal  Joana Ramôa
Photographs by  José Custódio Vieira da Silva
July 2011 Today and not tomorrow’ Doctor James Vaulx and his two wives Editha and Philip   St Mary’s Church, Meysey Hampton Joan and Robert Tucker
August 2011 The Bourchier Monuments in St Andrew’s Church, Halstead (Essex) Mark Duffy
September 2011 Two Monuments in Bedfordshire Cameron Newham
October 2011 Floor slab of Joost Corneliszoon van Lodensteyn, burgomaster of Delft (d. 31 April 1660), his wife Maria van Voorburch, and their descendants, Oude Kerk (Old Church), Delft (Netherlands), Belgian hardstone, 223 x 136 cm. Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA
November 2011  Berengaria of Nevarre, Queen of Richard the Lionheart in L'Épau Abbey J K Bromilow MInstP
December 2011  The Watton Monument at Addington, Kent Dr Clive Easter
January 2012  The monument of Lady Margaret  Grey (d. 1330) at Cogges  Oxfordshire Sally Badham
February 2012 The Effigy of Walter Stewart, Earl of Menteith, at Inchmaholme Priory, Scotland Mark Downing FSA
March 2012  Thomas Walwyn (d. 1415) and his Wife  at Much Marcle (Herefordshire)   Sally Badham 
April 2012  Lady Barbara de Mauley, St Nicholas, Hatherop   Joan and Robert Tucker  
May 2012 The tomb of John Marshall in Llandaff Cathedral Dr Madeleine Gray PhD FRHistS
June 2012 The double tomb monument to Reinoud III van Brederode (d. 1556) and Philippote van der Marck (d. 1537) in Vianen (Netherlands) Trudi Brink
July 2012 Lowsley Family Tomb, Hampstead
Norris, Berkshire
Dr Andrew Sargent
August 2012 Oliver Cromwell's Coffin Plate J K Bromilow MInstP
September 2012 A Monument in Holy Trinity Church Hull Sally Badham FSA
October 2012 East Worldham (Hampshire) Sally Badham FSA
November 2012 Floor slab of Cornelis Pietersze (d. 1532) and his wife Jozijne van Domburch (d. 1557), Sint-Maartenskerk, Sint Maartensdijk (province of Zeeland, Netherlands), Belgian hardstone, 254 x 141 cm. Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA and Kees Knulst BA
December 2012 An exercise in white marble and whitewashing: Cenotaph of Lieutenant-Admiral Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam (d. 13 June 1665), by Bartholomeus Eggers, situated in the choir of the Jacobskerk, The Hague (Netherlands), white, red and black marble and wood. Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA
January 2013 Martin Kistenmaker and his Parents
Heiligenkreuz, Rostock
Jerome Bertram
February 2013 The monument to Archbishop James Sharp (d.1679) in Holy Trinity Church, St Andrews (Fife) Phoebe Armstrong
March 2013 The Monument at Sheriff Hutton (Yorkshire).
Is this the tomb of Richard III’s son?
Dr Jane Crease
April 2013 Zacharias Johannes Szolc, 1682, and Stanisław Bużenski, 1697 Frombork Cathedral, Poland Jerome Bertram
May 2013 The monument to Dr Thomas Turner, died 1714. Stowe-Nine-Churches, Northamptonshire  Dr Clive J Easter FSA  
June 2013 'Left for dead' Major Thomas Price Robert Tucker
July 2013 An unusual saint: Floor slab of Jacopmine Huyghendochter, wife of Foert Christiaenszoon (d. 1553), Sint-Maartenskerk, Wemeldinge (province of Zeeland, Netherlands), Belgian hardstone, 185 x 114 cm Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA
August 2013 Thomas and Mary Acton, erected 1581, Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire Jon Bayliss
September 2013 Cholmondeley Monument, St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London  Dr George Roberts
October 2013 Revd Theophilus Pickering (d. 1710) and John Dryden, Poet Laureate (d. 1700), Titchmarsh (Northamptonshire) Sally Badham FSA
November 2013 Thomas Manners, 1st Earl of Rutland, 12th Baron de Ros of Helmsley (c.1492 – 1543) Bottesford, St Mary (Leicestershire)   Edward Higgins MA BSc (Hons)
December 2013 Maria Rebekka Schlegel, 1736, Stadtmuseum, Meissen, Germany Jon Bayliss
January 2014
Lady Elizabeth Clinton (d. 11 September 1423) Haversham (Buckinghamshire)
 Sally Badham
February 2014 LUGENS MŒRENSQUE Moira Ackers
March 2014 A son’s delayed memorial to his dead mother: The tomb of Catharine of Bourbon, Duchess of Guelders (d. 1469), Stevenskerk, Nijmegen (Netherlands). Sophie Oosterwijk and Trudi Brink
April 2014 Robert Crane (d. 1500), Chilton (Suffolk) Sally Badham
May 2014 A monument with a story
Double monument said to commemorate Lady Constantia and her son John, St Leonard’s church, Scarcliffe (Derbyshire).
Sophie Oosterwijk and Sally Badham
June 2014 A military effigy
St James's Church, Iddesleigh, Devon
John K Bromilow MInstP
July 2014 Brecon Cathedral: a post-Reformation cross slab Dr Maddy Gray PhD
August 2014 The monument to Lady Wolryche, 1678: the Lady with the Lute Dr Clive J Easter FSA  
September 2014 Row On Row (1) Robert Tucker
October 2014 A Fool’s Monument?
The Tomb Slab of Hans Has at Wertheim, Germany
Dr Martin Spies
November 2014 A Ledgerstone at Aldenham, Hertfordshire Dr Jean Wilson
 


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