St. Margaret Marloes

St Oudoceus’ Church at Llandawke, (near Laugharne, Carmarthenshire) was founded by Lady Margaret Marloes, and is one of the oldest surviving churches in West Wales. A foundation stone within the church was inscribed during the 6th Century, although the current building originates from the 13th or 14th Century and was thought to have been rebuilt as a chapel specifically for Lady Margaret, by her uncle.

 Lady Margaret Marloes is believed to have been the daughter of Sir Robert Marloes and his wife (the sister of Sir Guy de Brienne, Lord Marcher of Laugharne) and although she was not a nun, she is known to have dedicated herself to a religious life. Her effigy, carved from local stone, appears inside the church at Llandawke, but is rumoured to have originally been outside in the churchyard. Interestingly, the sculpture appears in three pieces which has sparked speculation that it may have been vandalised by robbers, destroyed by Cromwells’s troops or even deliberately created in three parts to symbolise her suspected murder at the hands of the aforementioned robbers.

Lady Margaret’s religious dedication and rumoured violent death is one theory for her canonisation. More specifically, she appears to have formed a beguinage at Llandawke which may have led to her ‘canonisation by acclamation’: a testament to her good work and standing within the locality. A beguinage was a largely autonomous community of women who lived and worshipped together without withdrawing from wider society. Their central chapel was often surrounded by houses and other facilities (such as a bakery, brewery and hospital) and women from all areas of society were welcomed. In the 14th Century, St Oudoceus’ rector, Philip Marloes, would have acted as chaplain to the community and is thought to have been Lady Margaret’s brother.

St Margaret Marloes is depicted in her effigy wearing a flowing robe and with her hands either in prayer, or clasped in the pose of a heart burial, which gives special reverence to the courage and humility symbolised her heart, buried separately from her body at an unknown location.

With thanks to Friends of Friendless Churches

Categories: Mythology | Religion | Revolutionaries

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