St Cewydd’s Altar

One the oldest, and perhaps most interesting features of the church is this medieval altar stone. Let the words of the vicar, Colin David, who discovered it buried in the wall during the major restoration of 1958 tell his own tale.
“Whilst examining the floor area I discovered a small section of stone marked with a pattern underneath the north wall of the chancel area. On 3rd April 1958 an inspiration led to the removal of earth and stone from underneath and eager hands soon found that an incised cross was near the corner. We knew that we had discovered a pre-reformation Mensa or altar stone. On 17th April the stone was carefully brought from its hiding place and now forms the side altar of St Cewydd. On top of the Mensa can be seen three consecration crosses and the pattern visible on the front is repeated on the right hand side, but not on the left. This stone was cut and trimmed before the Reformation; it could not have been done since that time and it is too carefully cut and too cunningly hidden to be the work of destroyers at the Reformation. The High Altar Mensa of Laleston would have remained untouched until the Reformation and so we are left with the conclusion that this Mensa was cut to fit the space it now occupies as a side Altar beneath the Rood Screen. It is possible that this is part of the old High Altar of Llangewydd Church; the method of hiding it suggests that it was much valued by the parishioners. The High Altar stone of Laleston must still await discovery. It is likely that it is beneath the chancel or sanctuary floor.”

St Cewydd (6th Cent) is the son of Caw and founded Aberedw and Dyserth in Radnorshire. There was also a church (now disappeared) dedicated to him at Llangewydd. There is also a woodland walk from Monknash to Traeth Mawr known as Cwm Cewydd. Cewydd was known in Wales as Hen Gewydd y Gwlaw (Old Cewyd of the Rain) and this tradition was transferred to St Swithun by the Saxons. In the 19th century 15 July was known in South Wales at Dygwyl Gewydd with the similar belief to St Swithun’s Day that 40 days of rain would follow rainfall. This echoes some pre-Christian beliefs, whist in Dyfed there was a tradition that Noah’s deluge started on 15 July. The tradition of St Swithun dates from 971 when his relics were transferred to Winchester cathedral on a day of heavy rain. So it seems likely that the Cewydd tradition of 500 years earlier was picked up