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Llanelieu
Powys
LD3 0EB

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SO 184 341

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Remotely situated in the hills of the Brecon Beacon National Park.

Nearby is Llanelieu Court, an enigmatic medieval house which the church originally served.

The sandstone rubble church has clung to the side of the mountain for more than 800 years.

Inside, an oxblood-painted rood screen and loft have survived against the odds.

About St Ellyw's, Llanelieu (Llaneleu)

This church is remotely situated, deep in the Black Mountains (Brecon Beacons National Park) in a large and ancient churchyard. Of 13th century origin, it’s renowned for its huge 14th century rood screen and loft painted red with ox’s blood and peppered with stencilled white roses. In the centre, a cross is picked out in bare wood. It’s the ghostly reminder of the rood – crucifix – that was lost. The panels above have small quatrefoil openings to allow a view from the loft to the high altar to the east.

St Ellyw was a princess martyr of the 5th century. According to legend, she was murdered (by a rejected suiter who refused to accept her vow of chastity) close to Llanelieu. The church dedicated to Ellyw sits in the Cwm Rhyd-Ellywe within an oval, walled churchyard indicative of pre- or early Christian origins … in the churchyard are pillar stones inscribed with simple Celtic-type crosses that could date to Ellyw’s time.

Llanelieu’s loft features in ‘For Valour’ (2015) by best-selling author Andy McNab; his hero Nick Stone writes: “I parked not far from the church at Llanelieu. I’d first spotted it when Trev and I had found our way out [of our hideaway on the western edge of the Black Mountains] and gone back later when I’d started getting excited by medieval history. God no longer paid St Ellyw’s formal visits, even on Sundays … and I wanted to see if the loft was still painted blood red.” It is!

St Ellyw's church, Llanelieu
St Ellyw's church, Llanelieu

Highlights

  • Breathtaking 14th century oxblood rood screen and rood loft
  • Wall paintings and stencilling from the 13th century to the late 17th century, including Adam and Eve and the Tree of Life with the serpent’s head; 14th-century stencilled rosettes; panels of 17th-century text; golden rampant lion
  • Simple evocative monuments in slate and marble
  • 17th century oak altar rail
  • Early medieval gravestones

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