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Sunday, 19 February 2006

St Mary at Capel-y-Ffin

This is the church of St Mary the Virgin at Capel-y-Ffin, near Hay-on-Wye in Wales.  The yew tree in the foreground is older than the church itself.

Wikipedia advises that this tree

is often found in churchyards; some of these trees are exceptionally large (over 3 m diameter) and likely to be over 3,000 years old, long predating the churches they are beside. It is likely that yew trees had a pre-Christian association with old pagan holy sites and many believe that the enormous sacred evergreen at the pagan Temple at Uppsala was a yew. The Christian church commonly found it expedient to take over these existing sacred sites for churches. It is sometimes suggested that these were planted as a symbol of long life or trees of death. Another explanation is that the yews were planted to discourage farmers and drovers from letting their animals wander into the burial grounds, with the poisonous foliage being the disincentive.

Yew is also associated with Wales because of the longbow, an early weapon of war, developed in Wales. Yew is the wood of choice for longbow making and they are constructed so the heartwood of yew is on the inside of the bow while the sapwood is on the outside. This takes advantage of the natural properties of yew wood since the heartwood is able to withstand compression while the sapwood is elastic and allows the bow to stretch. Both tend to return to their original straightness when the arrow is released.

St Mary’s at Capel-y-Ffin is actually a chapel and one of the smallest in the country, measuring only 8 metres by 4 metres inside. The church is open during daylight hours, however the nearby monastery (founded by a non-conformist minister who invented the Gill Sans typeface) is not open to the public.

I am now back from Wales, and my internet connection seems to be working again, so normal blogging and email service will be resumed shortly.

Posted by bigblue on 19/02/2006 at 11:38 PM
Filed under: EuropeUnited KingdomWales • (0) CommentsPermalinkBookmark or Share

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