The Pillar of Eliseg - Sarah Woodbury

The Pillar of Eliseg

Engraving taken from chapter about the pillar on pages 349-53 of Hone's Table-book

The Pillar of Eliseg is a 9th century tribute to Eliseg, a king of Powys.  “The first mentioning is an indirect one: the Brut y Tywysogion mentions that the Abbey of Valle Crucis was founded in A.D. 1200 ‘near the old cross in Yale‘.

This so-called fragmentary free-standing pillar-cross stands in a field overlooking the ruined Valle Crucis Abbey (SJ 2142), a few miles from Llangollen in Clywd (former Denbighshire), en route to Horse-Shoe Pass. … The Pillar inspired the name Valle Crucis (Valley of the Cross). It was once erected by Cyngen, Prince of Powys for his great-grandfather Elise or Eliseg. The cross was defaced, thrown down and broken by Cromwell’s troops in the 17th century, hence the ‘pillar-shape’ now. This pillar stands on a large artificial mound where it was re-erected in 1779. At that time the mound was re-opened. Inside was a skeleton, buried inside a blue stone cist, along with a silver coin. Could it have been Cyngen or Eliseg? The skull was guilded and re-buried (as it was done in those days!). The shaft bears an elaborate Latin inscription, which has weathered away and is now illegible to an unpractised eye. On the opposing face is a later inscription, also in Latin, recording the restoration of the monument in 1779.”

From Wikipedia:  “The Latin inscription not only mentions several individuals described in the Historia Britonum but also complements the information presented in that text. A generally accepted translation of this inscription, one of the longest surviving inscriptions from pre-Viking Wales, is as follows:

† Concenn son of Cattell, Cattell son of Brochmail, Brochmail son of Eliseg, Eliseg son of Guoillauc.
† And that Concenn, great-grandson of Eliseg, erected this stone for his great-grandfather Eliseg.
† The same Eliseg, who joined together the inheritance of Powys . . . throughout nine (years?) out of the power of the Angles with his sword and with fire.
† Whosoever shall read this hand-inscribed stone, let him give a blessing on the soul of Eliseg.
† This is that Concenn who captured with his hand eleven hundred acres [4.5 km²] which used to belong to his kingdom of Powys . . . and which . . . . . . the mountain

[the column is broken here. One line, possibly more, lost]

. . . the monarchy . . . Maximus . . . of Britain . . . Concenn, Pascent, Maun, Annan.
† Britu son of Vortigern, whom Germanus blessed, and whom Sevira bore to him, daughter of Maximus the king, who killed the king of the Romans.
† Conmarch painted this writing at the request of king Concenn.
† The blessing of the Lord be upon Concenn and upon his entire household, and upon the entire region of Powys until the Day of Judgement.”

More recently, an archaeological excavation has been going on at the mound by university staff and students from Bangor and Chester.  “Upon excavation, it appeared that the top of the monument had been subject to considerable disturbance, and we identified post-medieval pottery and other finds quite deep within the cairn material. However, conclusive evidence of an antiquarian excavation was elusive. Below this upper-layer, we encountered primary cairn material including spreads of charcoal and at least two cist-graves. One small cist was identified in plan, the other was a large cist revealed in the section of our trench and therefore just outside our area of excavation … we were unable to find a single prehistoric or early historic artefact in the primary cairn material.”

The group is planning a 2012 field season in hopes that they might uncover ancient remains, though if they don’t, they’ll learn something from that too 🙂

Read the Archaeology News – then buy the Trowel at Past Horizons Tools.”

8 Replies to “The Pillar of Eliseg”

  1. I have evidence that I am a descendant of Eliseg, as I have a family tree created by Somerset House. I am related through the Owen family. I have done further research into Eliseg’s forebears and have reached back to 32 BCE.

  2. Ongoing discovered genealogy reveals that the people mentioned on the Pillar are my ancestors. Thank you so very much for adding to the accuracy of my line. I have no decedents, but am forever blessed with the knowledge you have provided, for all your hard work you are blessed.

  3. Hi, I’ve only just read your article. I live a few miles from this valley and so is very easy for me to visit ! 🙂

  4. Very informative page. Are you linked with the excavations at all? I have a couple of articles on Valle Crucis abbey available for download from my website if that’s of any interest.

    1. I am not linked with the excavations, though that would be cool. Feel free to leave the links to your articles in your comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *