touching place St Bridget, Llansantffraed, Powys

You have long left behind the Welsh mining valleys, such as remains of them, as you head north-west up the A40 along the Usk valley beyond Crickhowell, but you might easily give this small village a miss. Opposite the turn to Talybont-on-Usk the church is there to the right, up above the road. You have seen churches like this before; it has got a prominent pepper-pot bell-turret against the junction of the nave and south chapel and all looks very Victorian.

Your unspoken question is answered by the inscription on the very large tomb monument in the churchyard, for the church was indeed was rebuilt in 1884 by the Rhyader architect Stephen Williams.

Walk on up to the top of the churchyard to the railed-off grave under an ash tree. Its inscription reads ‘Servus inutilis | Peccator maximus | Hic jaceo | Gloria Miserere’; ‘An unprofitable servant, the chief of sinners, I lie here. Glory be to God! Lord have mercy upon me!’ You stand at the grave of Henry Vaughan, the Swan of Usk, the great metaphysical poet.

I saw eternity the other night
Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
All calm as it was bright,
And round beneath it time in hours, days, years,
Driven by the spheres,
Like a vast shadow moved in which the world
And all her train were hurled.

Reflect upon Vaughan’s saying, ‘moriendo, revixi’ (‘by dying, I gain new life’). For it is only by dying to self that we progress, and by passing through the Gate of Death that we can enter eternal life.

Map reference: SO 122 234

Simon Cotton

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