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The Pillar of Eliseg

The Pillar of Eliseg, originally a freestanding cross, stands on a probable barrow near the Cistercian Abbey of Valle Crucis outside Llangollen. It was carved with a lengthy inscription, now illegible, which was transcribed in 1696 by Edward Lhuyd. The inscription shows that the cross was erected by Concenn, ruler of Powys (d. 854) to honour his great grandfather Eliseg who had expelled the Anglo-Saxons from this part of Powys. The inscription also links the rulers of Powys with the Roman usurper Magnus Maximus and the sub-Roman ruler Guarthigirn. It is one of the very few early medieval stone monuments in Wales which is datable, to around the second quarter of the ninth century. The cross had fallen and was already fragmentary when Lhuyd recorded it. In the 1770s Thomas Lloyd, the local landowner, ‘excavated’ the barrow, finding a skeleton in a cist, and re-erected the Pillar.

Until recently there had been little research on the monument for a century. However, Edwards (2009) has published a re-assessment of its significance demonstrating the inscription was an important piece of propaganda justifying Concenn’s rule. She has argued that the Pillar, probably erected on a Bronze Age barrow, is a classic example of the later manipulation of the prehistoric past and that the valley where it stands may have been an assembly and inauguration site of the rulers of Powys. To date such a site would be unique in Wales but, if correct, it would be comparable with such sites elsewhere in Britain and Ireland e.g. Forteviot, Scotland (SERF); it would therefore be a site of international significance.