Ancient Monuments

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Llanfihangel Abercowin Old Parish Church & Norman Grave-Slabs

A Scheduled Monument in St. Clears (Sanclêr), Carmarthenshire (Sir Gaerfyrddin)

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Latitude: 51.7928 / 51°47'33"N

Longitude: -4.4627 / 4°27'45"W

OS Eastings: 230260

OS Northings: 213326

OS Grid: SN302133

Mapcode National: GBR D7.YCQ7

Mapcode Global: VH3LS.L6MH

Entry Name: Llanfihangel Abercowin Old Parish Church & Norman Grave-Slabs

Scheduled Date: 8 July 1951

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 2139

Cadw Legacy ID: CM144

Schedule Class: Religious, Ritual and Funerary

Category: Church

Period: Medieval

County: Carmarthenshire (Sir Gaerfyrddin)

Community: St. Clears (Sanclêr)

Traditional County: Carmarthenshire


The monument comprises the remains of a church, probably dating to the medieval period. The church of St Michael situated within a rectilinear churchyard is likely to have been founded by the lords of a 12th century motte-and-bailey castle located c 600m away to the west. The now roofless church consists of a nave, a narrow square-ended chancel and a western tower. The south and east walls still exist to roof height, and the north wall stands to a height of around 1m. Entrances are visible in the south and west walls. The nave is probably early 13th century, while the chancel was substantially remodelled in the 15th century when the tower was built or perhaps rebuilt. Stairs in a small projection in the north wall of the nave were for access to the rood screen separating the nave from the chancel. The remaining windows in the south nave wall are thought to be seventeenth century in date. Traces of wall paintings were visible in 1886. The church’s carved circular font dates to the twelfth century and has been removed to New St Michael's Church.

Six graves lie in the graveyard near the church, marked by decorated grave slabs and headstones and thought to be late 12th - or early 13th- century in date. Two of the slabs are of ‘hog-backed' form, and are decorated with a cross, the long arm of which runs along the ridge of the stone. The other four are flat slabs. Two of these show female figures, one of which is full-length, the other of which occupies only half of the stone, the remainder being decorated with a lattice pattern. This latter figure holds a rod in one hand, and there is an animal on either side of the head. The figure on the third slab is too broken to allow identification, but his knee-length tunic and the horseman with a lance in one hand, depicted on both head and foot stones, suggest that the occupant was perhaps a knight. The fourth figure is small, dressed in a long skirt, and appears to be standing at a barrier. Its small size suggests that it may mark the grave of a child. All the slabs save for the last; have short, round-headed stones at head and foot with crosses and cable decoration on them.

The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of medieval ecclesiastical organisation. The monument forms an important element within the wider medieval context and the structure itself may be expected to contain archaeological information in regard to chronology, building techniques and functional detail.

The scheduled area comprises the remains described and areas around them within which related evidence may be expected to survive.

Source: Cadw

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