Touching Place

ST ANNO, LLANANNO, POWYS


H
ead north from the spa town of Llandrindod Wells along the Newtown road, up the Ithon valley. Keep going into deserted mid-Wales past Llanbister, with its fortress-like church above you on the hillside, and pretty soon you will come across Llananno, tucked away in its little churchyard.

Small and simple, this single-cell building is a reconstruction of 1877 using old stones. Open the south door, and you are faced by a churchwarden's pew bearing the name of David Lewis and the date 1681. Turn your head, ignoring the font and the simple benches, for the building is dominated by perhaps the finest screen and loft of the Marches.

The tops of the openings in the screen are filled with intricate lacy traceries, and the rails across the bottom of the loft are covered with complex carvings of pomegranates and vine leaves, the work of some unknown virtuoso craftsman c.1500. The canopied niches in the front of the loft, emptied soon after they were made, were given new figures of Christ, the Apostles, Patriarchs and Prophets in 1880.

How such a humble and isolated church should have been granted this splendid furnishing is a source of wonder, and a parable in itself. Enjoy this church? Of course you did. So did the cleric-poet R.S. Thomas. He wrote a poem about it, and it hangs on the wall near the back: T keep my eyes open and am not dazzled.'

Reflect: twenty-first-century makeovers concentrate on showy k externals; the 1877 makeover I at Llananno protected the most I important part. What sort of makeover do you need? Map ref: SO 096743

Simon Cotton

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