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Site 20

The Pillar of Eliseg

Near Llangollen

Standing on its low burial mound in a field beside Valle Crucis Abbey, Eliseg’s pillar is easy to miss. Yet this is a monument of great importance, a rare link with a shadowy but crucial period of early Welsh history. It once stood some twenty feet high, surmounted by a cross which gave its name - ‘Valle Crucis’, ‘the vale of the cross’ - to this whole valley.

An inscription (now almost worn away but copied down three centuries ago) records that it was raised in the early 800s by Cyngen, last independent King of Powys, in memory of his great-grandfather King Eliseg ‘who recovered the land of Powys from the English with fire and sword’. This Eliseg, the inscription claims, was the direct descendent of Vortigern (Gwrtheyrn) ‘whom St. Germanus blessed’, and of the Emperor Magnus Maximus, one of he last Roman rulers of Britain in the late 4th century. Vortigern, Germanus and Maximus figure in legend alongside Merlin and Arthur, Hengist the Saxon and Helen of the Hosts: Eliseg’s Pillar proclaims a proud link with these founding heroes of Wales.

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Pillar of Eliseg