As a child , it was the shady avenue of ancient Yew trees, one of which intriguingly bled thick dark red sap, that would make my visits to Nevern’s St Brynach’s Church special.
Now, my treat awaits at the end of the shadows, where this beautiful high cross has stood for a thousand years. The cross and its decoration, carved from hard volcanic rock, have survived amazingly well. The mortice and tenon joint that fixes the upper wheel head to the base is intact and the detail of the designs is still clear. It’s the patterns that I find so delightful – on all four sides.
There is a Latin inscription on the front: H/AN/.EH for which I have found no explanation – could it be the name of the sculptor or the person who commissioned the work? On the back are the letters DNS which are assumed to be short-hand for Dominus.
While I was in Istria a few weeks ago (a region that changed nationality three times while my mother was living in that part of the world and has changed again since) I was dazzled by the mosaics in the basilica at Poreč/Parenzo. Of course the 6th century Byzantine wall mosaics are stunningly beautiful but the floors, made by local craftsmen, also held my attention and I loved being able to make links to the Nevern cross.
There were many other similarities between this coastal area and our part of North Pembrokeshire: the drystone walls, the wild flowers, the small abandoned churches, the maritime culture and history of fishing and boat building. The Istrian sheep, however, wore bells and looked different.