OS Grid Reference: SS 43889 93439. In the 12th century church of St Madoc at Llanmadoc – at the far northwestern side of the Gower Peninsula, West Glamorgan, Wales, there is an early 6th century pillar-stone with a Latin inscription in memory of Advenctus. This was probably a grave-cover. There are two more ancient stones in the church – one with a carved cross. The font is Norman. The first church here at Llanmadoc was founded way back in the 6th century AD by St Madoc (Maedoc or Maodhoge), who had come from Ireland to Wales for his education – firstly under St David at Glyn Rhosyn and then under St Cenydd at Cor Llangennith; St Cenydd may have been his cousin? He is probably one and the same as St Aedan (Aidan), bishop of Fearns in Co. Wexford, Ireland, who died in 626. St Madoc was apparently co-founder, with St Cenydd, of the monastic college at Llangennith, a few miles to the southwest of Llanmadoc. To reach Llanmadoc it is best to come off the M4 motorway at Exit 47, then south onto the A483 and west on the A484 through the villages of Gowerton, Pen Clawdd, Crofty, Llanrhidian and Weobley Castle.
On a windowsill in the nave of Llanmadoc church there is a 27′ long graveslab with a crack at the top left-hand corner, and carved into this are Latin/Roman letters commemorating: Advenctus, Avectus or Vectus; the stone is said to date from 500 AD or thereabouts. In Latin the inscription reads: ADVECTI FILIUS GVAN HIC IACIT, which when translated is: ‘Advenctus, the son of Guanus, he lies here’. The inscribed stone was discovered built into the wall of the rectory in 1861, but was brought into the churchyard and then the church. But who was Advenctus? or Vectus? And who was Guanus? These questions ‘we’ don’t know with any certainty; they are names that are now lost in the mists of time. John Kinross (2007), speculates that Guanus was in fact St Govan, and he refers to Advenctus as Advestus! But could Advenctus have been the brother of St Padarn – as his mother was called Guean? It’s all purely speculation, but worth considering. And built into the west wall is a pillar-stone with two carved crosses that is thought to date from the 7th-9th century AD, and close to that a medieval stone pillar that may have been a boundary marker. Kinross also adds that a Celtic-style hand-bell was found in a field near the church; this is now at Penrice Castle!
The Gower Society (1989), say with regard to the church, that: “The church of St Madoc is reputed to have been founded in the 6th century……and the present building is probably 13th century…..and is the smallest in Gower and the correspondingly small tower has the familiar combination of saddle-back roof and parapets. An extensive renovation in 1865, when the nave and chancel were considerably altered and the tower lowered, has left little of the original building. At that time the graveyard had risen as much as four feet above the floor of the nave, and even the chancel arch had to be reconstructed to level things up. The interior of the church is very dark, and must have been even darker when the east window was a single trefoil light; here are preserved a Norman font and a Roman-Celtic tombstone which was discovered in 1861 built into the wall of the Old Rectory. It is one of the few churches in Gower where traces of the paintings which originally decorated the walls were found when the church was restored. The Rev. J. D. Davies, the 19th century historian of West Gower, was Rector of Llanmadog and Cheriton for over fifty years.”
St Madoc (Maedoc) is a somewhat shadowy figure who was probably born in the North, the son of King Sawyl, in the early 6th century. Sawyl Benisel, father of St Asaph, was buried on Allt Cynadda, west Glamorgan, after he was killed in an attack on his camp, according to Chris Barber. St Madoc spent his early years in Connacht and Leinster in Ireland, but then came to Wales to study scripture under St David at Glyn Rhosyn in Menevia, and later under St Cenydd at the monastic college of Llangennith, which he may have co-founded. Some historians think he was related to St Gildas and St Cenydd (maybe a cousin), but that is questionable. Legend has it that St David died in the arms of St Madoc and, after St David’s passing, Madoc became abbot of Glyn Rhosyn, before returning to Ireland.
St Madoc, also known as Aedan, founded many churches in Wales including those at Bryngwyn, Clytha, Llanmadoc, Llanbadoc, Llanidan, Llawhaden and Great Rudbaxton (where there is holy well named after him). Many historians consider him to be one and the same as St Aidan (Aedan), who became bishop of Ferns, Co. Wexford. In Ireland [as St Aidan] he founded monasteries at Drumlane, Co. Cavan, Rossinver, Co. Leitrim, and Clonmore, Co. Carlow, as well as Ferns. He died aged over 100 at Ferns in 626 or 632 AD. His feast day is 31st January. He was apparently known for his kindness to the poor and was known to have given away his and others’ clothing to the needy, and lived on bread and water for many years, though it seems he was none the worse for this! Some of his relics lie in Armagh Cathedral and The National Museum, Dublin.
Sources and related websites:-
Barber, Chris, More Mysterious Wales, Paladin, London, 1987.
Kinross, John, Discovering The Smallest Churches In Wales, Tempus Publishing Limited, Brimscombe Port, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2007.
Spencer, Ray, A Guide to the Saints Of Wales and the West Country, Llanerch Enterprises, Felinfach, Lampeter, Dyfed, 1991.
The Gower Society, A Guide To Gower, (Evan Evans, Bernard Morris, T. R. Owen & J. Mansel Thomas Edts), Gower Society, 1989.
Geograph photo no. 2684530 by Richard Law. http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/
© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.