Skip to topic | Skip to bottom

The Carmarthenshire Historian


Start of topic | Skip to actions

Llandeilo Church's Lost Treasure

A collection of facsimile copies assembled by the Vicar of Llandeilo Fawr, the Rev. Desmond Price, has revived interest in the famous Lichfield Gospels, some of the finest medieval manuscripts extant. At one time they were deposited in the church at Llandeilo.

One of the pages in the collection bears an inscription which states: 'Gelhi bought the manuscript from Guyal for a best horse and gave it on behalf of his soul to the altar of St. Teilo in the Church of Llandeilo Fawr where St. Teilo the sixth century Welsh monk was buried'. This inscription is said to date from the ninth century. On another of the pages is an almost illegible inscription, which is thought to be the earliest surviving written Welsh.

Scholars hold the opinion that the Gospels were not created in Wales, but it is not known how they got to Lichfield, where they seem to have been in the possession of Wynsy, who was bishop there between 974 and 992, for his name is inscribed on the manuscript. Their stay at Llandeilo must have lasted under a hundred years.

The Lichfield Gospels comprise a series of beautifully decorated pages*. There are eight of these with portraits of the Evangelists and a remarkably beautiful 'carpet page'. Carpet pages were the highlights of illuminated manuscripts in the Middle Ages. They are pages of pure decoration, a distinctive feature being the fact that they are reversible; viewed from either side of the page, the pattern is the same. The technique employed had a Persian origin, familiar in carpet design, and was known in the Coptic Church. The Lichfield carpet page, of rare beauty, is contained in a page frame of exquisite interlacing lines. Geometrical patterns are woven around a central Latin cross and the page is freely decorated with dogs, birds and beasts, identifiable and otherwise. The script is one of the finest - insular majuscule, which illuminators reserved for their most precious work.

The Gospels, said to have been created about 730 AD, are still used when the Bishops of Lichfield swear allegiance to the Crown.

Eirwen Jones.
to top

You are here: Historian > HistorianVol20 > LlandeiloChurchsLostTreasure

to top