St. Fagan’s National Museum

Time to begin exploring the history and culture of Wales! And where better to do that than the free, open-air, 40 acre walk though the Welsh past that is St. Fagan’s national history museum?

Dragon at St. Fagan's

It’s lush, it is! It is in a beautiful park and woodland nature paths between the buildings, which have been meticulously restored by archeologists and historians to their former glory and filled with period furniture and relics (when applicable). Plus, there are farm animals! We saw sheep! In Wales!

Sheep at St. Fagans

We got there in the early afternoon, unaware that the park closed at 5:00 PM (we thought it had late summer hours, like the zoos in the US), so we only saw about 1/3 of the buildings. One of those was the Garreg Fawr Farmhouse which was built in 1544 — when Henry VIII was King of England, and Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I were all alive. Just … WOW.In Welsh the words Garreg Fawr mean ‘the great rock’, and the house was named that because of a large outcrop of rock behind it on its original site, not because it was made from stone.

St. Fagan's 3

St. Fagan's 2

We were also impressed with the Abernodwydd Farmhouse, which was built in 1678. We’re suckers for a thatched roof and timber frames.

St. Fagans 1

But enough of this modern stuff that is a mere century or two older than the United States. Let’s talk about something venerable instead! Such as St. Telio’s Church, which was constructed around sometime between 1100 and 1300 and gussied up over the years as needed.

St Telio's exterior

When the building was being reconstructed, archeologists found that whitewash on the walls covered medieval murals depicting scenes from the Bible. For the first 400 years of the church the congregation would have been illiterate, so the biblical tales were painted on the walls for the edification of the parishioners. Archeologists carefully excised the original murals and carted them to another museum for study, and then forthwith began to repaint duplicate murals from scratch using period materials to make St. Telio’s look much as it did in the 1530s.

St. Telio's entry and baptismal font

 

St Telio's Nave

In the left hand wall of the picture bellow you can see an mural of the Holy Trinity on the wall … or at least the Father and Son part of it, being as it is hard to draw the Holy Spirit in corporeal form. Do you notice anything familiar about the God/King?

St. Telio's nave close-up

“The head of the king is believed to be modelled on King Henry VIII of England, a theory supported by a representation on the opposite wall of Henry’s seal.” Gee, I wonder why Henry thought he could represent God here on earth as head of the church?

All these gorgeous murals in churches throughout the land were painted over during the Reformation and Puritan takeover. The stick-in-the-mud reformers considered the bright depictions to be unholy and distracting from properly worshipful thoughts when in church. I consider this crushing of art and visual esthetic as part of the effort to make worship as austere and ugly as possible – thus reflecting their ideology of God as a being as judgemental and joyless as the Puritians themselves.

With the exception of my fruitless and irrational ire with past puritanical crimes against art, we had a wonderful day there are intend to head back there ASAP.

       

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