St Non’s Recreated – Modern Mnemonic Citations to Early Medieval Monuments
In a previous post I reviewed the commemoration of birth and death in the contemporary display of St Non’s chapel – a Cadw stewarded medieval chapel near St David’s, Pembrokeshire.
The site’s connection to St Non’s, St David’s mother, and purported to be the site of St David’s birth. While ruined the site has been restored from the early 20th century.
The chapel dates back to the 11th century AD if not earlier. Inside the ruined chapel is an early medieval inscribed stone dated to the 7th or 8th centuries AD. Nearby is the holy well linked to the miracle of St David’s birth. Both the holy well and ruined chapel are connected foci for tourists and pilgrims alike. Memorial painted stones are kept at the cross’s base.
Upslope from the holy well is St Non’s Retreat and the Roman Catholic chapel of Our Lady and St Non’s. This is a Grade II Roman Catholic chapel, built in 1934 by David Thomas of St David’s for Morgan Giffiths following the completion of the adjacent Saint Non’s House in 1929.
The first thing about this building is that it is built not only in a medieval style to emulate the foundations of the nearby St Non’s chapel, it is built out of reused medieval building stone acquired from the St David’s area. The openings are flushed ashlar moulded frames in Forest of Dean stone.
The stained glass windows depict key saints, including St. Non signed ‘William Morris, Westminster’. The interior also contain numerous reused medieval carved stone fragments from Whitwell Priory south-west of St David’s. There is also a piscina from Caerforiog Farm near Solva and a small font from a chapel at Gwrhyd north-east of St David’s. One stone in the altar is from St Patrick’s Chapel, Whitesand Bay.
Yet there is a further aspect to the furnishings of the chapel that deserves mention, namely the repeated citation in a variety of media to the early medieval inscribed stone located within the ruins of St Non’s Chapel! As such, beyond the architecture, the saint’s dedication, and variation other visual and material references to St Non and St David, it is via the repeated use of the Latin ring-cross within the chapel that the neo-medievalism is manifest. This is an example of mnemonic citations to early medieval crosses in the modern era. This structure thus articulates the Roman Catholic relationship to St Non’s revived cult and the birth of St David as twin aspects of pilgrimage to the site by citing the early medieval cross.