The Visual Culture of Wales

The Visual Culture of Wales: Medieval Vision by Peter Lord (Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru/University of Wales Press, 2003)

Introduced by Lesley Arrowsmith of Hay Cinema Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye

This is part of a series of books covering all of Welsh history, and I bought it when I was researching for the re-enactment group I belong to (we are 13th century Welsh mercenaries, by the name of Drudion).

Welsh history of the period is little known outside the obvious castles – and most of those were built by Edward I to keep the Welsh suppressed.  While at shows as a re-enactor, members of the public often say something like: “But the Welsh were primitive, weren’t they?  They didn’t have much.”

This book proves that opinion wrong.  The Welsh had beautiful buildings and artefacts the equal of anything in England.  Although much was lost (some of it deliberately destroyed by the likes of Edward I, who pinched the Welsh crown jewels among other things), some still survives to show what life must have been like in the medieval period.

There are good colour photos of artefacts from all over Wales, including carved stone grave covers, fonts and corbels on buildings, illuminated manuscripts written in Wales, the great wooden Jesse tree in Abergavenny (showing the family tree of Jesus, starting at the bottom with a huge sleeping man who represents Jesus’s first ancestor, Jesse).  The book includes pottery, and bronze tankards, and stained glass, crosses and embroidered copes, and the amazing wooden roof in St Collen’s church, Llangollen.

The books covers over the border as far as Hereford and even Tewkesbury, because medieval craftsmen didn’t keep within arbitrary borders, and locally it covers Brecon Cathedral and Christ College, Llantony Priory, the scrap of tenth century linen found on the crannog at Llangorse Lake, amongst others. 

All of it is put into context by clear and scholarly text. 

Highly recommended.

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