Just finished – the first of four commissions of or featuring hares. Three more to go.
This is a garden sculpture I’ve just completed of St. Melangell’s hare. St. Melangell is the patron saint of hares and you can read her story below. This sculpture was hand-carved out of Clashach sandstone, is nearly 4 feet tall and is going to a new home in the Cotswolds.
Saint Melangell, virgin c641 – feast day in Wales May 27th
Saint Melangell is an early British abbess and Celtic virgin from the heart of North Wales whose cult is even now on the increase. At the reformation, her shrine was dismantled and the stones retained and reused within the churchyard. During the recusant years, through the assistance of the Catholic Marquess of Powys, relics of the saint were venerated at the English Jesuit College at St. Omer in France where Father Lewis Sabran, the Rector, had a great devotion to St. Melangell. Her Latin name (not used these days but much used in times past) is Monacella. In recent years much archaeology and a great deal of historical research has made possible the restoration of the shrine (mostly with the original stones) in its original location in the chancel of the ancient parish church; to the great satisfaction of the local community.
Saint Melangell was an Irish princess who left her native land over 1,400 years ago and came, no doubt with her companions and servants, to Britain and to the Tanat valley, seeking and finding a place to live her life in quiet prayer and devotion to God.
Her legend (translated from a 17th Century manuscript by Professor Oliver Davies of Saint David’s College, Lampeter) tells of the illustrious Prince Brychwel Ysgithrog of Pengwern Powys who in AD 604 whilst hunting in a place called Pennant started a hare and with his hounds gave chase. They came to a thicket of brambles and thorns wherein he found a beautiful maiden, given up to divine contemplation, with the hare lying boldly under the hem of her garments.
Moved by her piety and her serenity the prince endowed Melangell, daughter of King Jowchel of Ireland, with land and built for her a place of sanctuary for the service of God that it may be a ‘perpetual asylum, refuge and defence’, saying unto her: “O most worthy Melangell, I perceive that thou art the handmaiden of the true God. Because it hath pleased Him for thy merits to give protection to this little wild hare from the attack and pursuit of the ravening hounds, I give and present to thee with willing mind these my lands for the service of God, to be a perpetual asylum and refuge. If any men or women flee hither to seek thy protection, provided they do not pollute thy sanctuary, let no prince or chieftain be so rash towards God as to attempt to drag them forth.”
Melangell passed the rest of her days in this lonely place, sleeping on bare rock. Many were the miracles which she wrought for those who sought refuge in her sanctuary with pure hearts.
To this day, in honour of Saint Melangell, the hares are respected by the local hunters of Cwm Pennant and are never ever shot!
The following delightful pun on her name was ancient even when it was recorded (in Welsh) in the registers of her little church in 1723:
Mil engyl a Melangell
Trechant lu fyddin y fall.
Melangell with a thousand angels
Triumphs over all the powers of evil.