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Gerald of Wales

places mentioned

Book II, Ch. 5: Merioneth

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Of the river Devi, and the land of the sons of Conan

Approaching to the river Devi,135 which divides North and South Wales, the bishop of St. David's, and Rhys the son of Gruffydd, who with a liberality peculiarly praiseworthy in so illustrious a prince, had accompanied us from the castle of Aberteivi, throughout all Cardiganshire, to this place, returned home. Having crossed the river in a boat, and quitted the diocese of St. David's, we entered the land of the sons of Conan, or Merionyth, the first province of Venedotia on that side of the country, and belonging to the bishopric of Bangor.136 We slept that night at Towyn. Early next morning, Gruffydd son of Conan137 came to meet us, humbly and devoutly asking pardon for having so long delayed his attention to the archbishop. On the same day, we ferried over the bifurcate river Maw,138 where Malgo, son of Rhys, who had attached himself to the archbishop, as a companion to the king's court, discovered a ford near the sea. That night we lay at Llanvair,139 that is the church of St. Mary, in the province of Ardudwy.140 This territory of Conan, and particularly Merionyth, is the rudest and roughest district of all Wales; the ridges of its mountains are very high and narrow, terminating in sharp peaks, and so irregularly jumbled together, that if the shepherds conversing or disputing with each other from their summits, should agree to meet, they could scarcely effect their purpose in the course of the whole day. The lances of this country are very long; for as South Wales excels in the use of the bow, so North Wales is distinguished for its skill in the lance; insomuch that an iron coat of mail will not resist the stroke of a lance thrown at a small distance. The next morning, the youngest son of Conan, named Meredyth, met us at the passage of a bridge, attended by his people, where many persons were signed with the cross; amongst whom was a fine young man of his suite, and one of his intimate friends; and Meredyth, observing that the cloak, on which the cross was to be sewed, appeared of too thin and of too common a texture, with a flood of tears, threw him down his own.


135 This river is now called Dovey.

136 From Llanbadarn our travellers directed their course towards the sea-coast, and ferrying over the river Dovey, which separates North from South Wales, proceeded to Towyn, in Merionethshire, where they passed the night. [Venedotia is the Latin name for Gwynedd.]

137 The province of Merionyth was at this period occupied by David, the son of Owen Gwynedd, who had seized it forcibly from its rightful inheritor. This Gruffydd - who must not be confused with his great-grandfather, the famous Gruffydd ap Conan, prince of Gwynedd - was son to Conan ap Owen Gwynedd; he died A.D. 1200, and was buried in a monk's cowl, in the abbey of Conway.

138 The epithet "bifurcus," ascribed by Giraldus to the river Maw, alludes to its two branches, which unite their streams a little way below Llaneltid bridge, and form an aestuary, which flows down to the sea at Barmouth or Aber Maw. The ford at this place, discovered by Malgo, no longer exists.

139 Llanfair is a small village, about a mile and a half from Harlech, with a very simple church, placed in a retired spot, backed by precipitous mountains. Here the archbishop and Giraldus slept, on their journey from Towyn to Nevyn.

140 Ardudwy was a comot of the cantref Dunodic, in Merionethshire, and according to Leland, "Streccith from half Trait Mawr to Abermaw on the shore XII myles." The bridge here alluded to, was probably over the river Artro, which forms a small aestuary near the village of Llanbedr.

Gerald of Wales, The Itinerary of Archbishop Baldwin through Wales (Oxford, Mississippi, 1997)

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