Priest effigy, Tremeirchion church

 
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Priest effigy, Tremeirchion church

In the chancel of Corpus Christi Church, Tremeirchion, is a stone effigy of a priest. It lies on a richly ornamented altar tomb. The figure rests his head on a cushion and his feet on a lion which bares its teeth. He has a fringe and tonsure (shaved patch on top of the head).

Photo of head of priest effigyThe inscription clearly records the name of Dafydd ap Hywel ap Madog. Historians have speculated on the identity of this Dafydd for centuries. He was probably Dafydd Ddu Hiraddug, who was vicar of Tremeirchion and canon of St Asaph in the mid-14th century. He was also a poet, grammarian, scientist, teacher and philosopher. Many of his writings survive. Some of his poems feature in Welsh hymn books, and are sometimes sung in this church.

He edited, and made additions to, the manuscript of one of the first Welsh grammar books, the original version of which was compiled c.1325 by Einion Offeiriad. Adapted from the Latin grammars of the era, it describes Welsh poetic metres and emphasises that God, Christ and the saints should take precedence over the monarchy and nobility in any verses of praise.

His knowledge was so extensive that some regarded him as a magician. According to one legend, he was called on to deal with a witch called Gwen Goch (“Red Gwen”) who was terrorising Rhuddlan, even stealing children. She stopped after Dafydd Ddu spoke sternly to her, but part of the bargain was that he would give his body after death to the devil, whether he was buried in a church or in a churchyard. He knew how thick the walls were at Corpus Christi, and gave orders that his coffin should be placed in a hole in the wall – thus outwitting the devil by ensuring that he was neither in the church nor the churchyard.
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