Church Monuments Society

gwyddelwern wynne2

Rev. Edward Wynne (D. 1745) and his wife Jane (D. 1730)

Month: January 2017
Type: Mixed  
Era: 18th Century

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An aweful warning for the New Year.

In the churchyard at Gwyddelwern in Denbighshire is this eighteenth-century chest tomb, commemorating the Rev. Edward Wynne (d. 1745) and his wife Jane (d. 1730).

The tomb has a lovely combination of cherubs and memento mori (the hour glass comes complete with cherub wings), and a chilling warning. The angel on the long side is the Angel of the Last Judgement, blowing a trumpet to wake the dead. The inscription reads

‘Codwch y meirw, Dowch i’r farn’ – ‘Awake, dead, come to the judgement’.

According to Bede, these words were written (in Latin) by St Jerome. They appear in the medieval painting of the Last Judgement at Penn (Bucks.) They may be the words coming from the angel’s trumpet in the Coventry Doom but there they are just below the margin of legibility. They also crop up in a mixture of Latin and English in the N-town play of the Last Judgement, which begins with the Archangel Michael’s call:

Surgite! All men aryse!
Venite ad judicium

The Dreamer’s vision of the Day of Judgement in the beginning of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress includes ‘a voice saying, “Arise, ye dead, and come to judgement”; and with that the rocks rent, the graves opened, and the dead that were therein came forth’. Probably as a result of this, the line appears on a number of eighteenth-century gravestones (there are examples at St Michael and All Angels, Elton, Notts.; Dunstaffnage, Argyll; St Columba’s, Kingussie; and in in Old Errigal Cemetery, County Monaghan, and in Dromin and Monasterboice, Co. Louth). Our Twitter friend ‘Stiffleaf’ recorded it on a stone over the door to the nave at Broxbourne, Herts, and suggested that this could have been a reused tombstone. The Gwyddelwern example is the only version on a Welsh tomb that I know of, though Hywel Harris used a slightly different translation, ‘Cyfodwch feirw, a dewch i’r Farn’, on the weathervane of his great religious centre at Trefeca (Brecs).

On the east end, around the winged hourglass, is another warning inscription in Welsh: ‘Mal yr awr, y mae’r Einioes’ – ‘Life is but an hour’ (thanks to David Hale and Gwen Awbery for help with the translation).

These are unusual inscriptions. The first, ‘Codwch y meirw, Dowch i’r farn’, is mentioned in Robin Gwyndaf’s survey of Welsh monumental inscriptions (in Welsh), but there are no other versions in the article and nothing about the second inscription. However, Edward Wynne was an important figure in Welsh literary circles and may have cast the net quite wide for his tomb design. He was the adjudicator at the Bala Eisteddfod in 1738. According to tradition, it was he who addressed the chaired bard (the highest honour at an eisteddfod) with the alliterative line ‘Goreu y gyd, gwr y gadair’ which has since been used as one of the Eisteddfod mottoes (though the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies at Aberystwyth suggests the infamous Iolo Morgannwg may have made this one up)

Author: Madeleine Gray


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