The Maglocunus & Vortipor Stones – Nevern, Wales, UK

Nevern is a small village in the valley of Nevern, east of Newport in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

During August this year we stayed in Nevern with some friends on their plot of land. We stayed for 2 weeks, we had so much fun in on the beach, visting waterfalls, (see the 2 links below)

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But this time, I want to discuss some history of Nevern, and that starts with its church:

Nevern’s Church – St Brynach Church

This church is named after St Brynach of Pembrokeshire, who founded this place of worship here in the 5th century.

The Church (Source)

Inside the church, lays one of the finest Celtic language examples in Britain, dating to the 1st century AD:

The Maglocunus Stone

This is an ancient stone featuring Celtic Ogham script. What is Ogham? Well it is sometimes known as the ‘Celtic tree alphabet’. Monumental Ireland on the post lined to this picture, they say:

“It was designed to write ‘Old Irish’ and can be seen on stone monuments throughout the Country (Ireland), particularly in counties Cork & Kerry. (…) Some scholars believe it dates back to the 1st Century AD – as the language used shows pre-4th Century elements such as the letters q and z which do not appear in Modern Irish.

While all surviving Ogham inscriptions are on stone, it was probably more commonly inscribed on sticks, stakes and trees.

The origins of Ogham are uncertain: according to Irish mythology, it was invented by Ogma, the Irish god of speech, language, eloquence and learning. (…) .

Monumental Ireland.
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(Source: Monumental Ireland)

The ancient stone is embedded into the window sill of the south wall of the nave of St Brynach Church.

What is quite interesting is that normally, Inscriptions are mostly peoples’ names and were used to mark ownership, territories and graves. This stone in particular we are talking about is on stone and was originally vertical. It was only turned horizontal so it could be set into the window.

What does it say?

It is inscribed in Latin “MAGLOCUNI FILI CLUTORI” and in Ogham “maglicunas maqi clutari“, translated as (the stone) of Maglicu, son of Clutarias.

Who are these people? I will be writing another post on this as it gets very interesting. Keep a lookout!

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In my research, I kept getting directed back to this book: KING ARTHUR: MAN OR MYTH, written by Tony Sullivan. It is “an investigation of the evidence for King Arthur based on the earliest written sources rather than later myths and legends.”

In this book, Tony writes about the stone in connection to Gildas and then Vortipor, the King of Demetia or modern day Dyfed/Southern Wales who lived approximately AD475-540.

Funnily enough, in Carmarthen, this is a stone dedicated to this king and on this stone are 2 inscriptions, almost identical to the Maglocunnus Stone, in that there is are Latin and Ogham inscriptions.

But why Latin & Ogham? The Romans brought Irish mercenaries across in the late 4th Century for protection from attacks by other Hibernians, (native of Ireland).

After the Romans left, the Irish Deisi (or Déssi) tribe of the County Waterford area ruled the region, hence the Ogham inscription as well as Latin. 

Territory Marker

Remember how I said that these stones were used as markers for territory? Well when this Vortipor Stone was found, it was originally one of a pair of boundary markers for an old track replaced by a new roman road. The Stone was moved and then stood near as stile on the southside of Castell Dwran Churchyard until 1879. There was a meadow next to where it stood and this meadow had evidence of hut-circles. This stone was only 200 meters off the line of the roman road, being used as a marker.

This may have been a continuation of roman customs such as the roadside burial, but also a tradition hinting to the Ogham origins for the inscriptions to be used as a marker for territories. Funny how things go full circle isn’t it?

Sadly, the assumption that the inscriptions on the stone, Voteporigis in the Latin and Votegorigas in ogham, refer to Vortipor, is refuted by modern linguistic analysis, which notes that the missing ‘r’ that is in the name ‘Vortipor’ and not in either of ‘Voteporigis’/’Votegorigas’ is significant, and so the stone must be dedicated to a different person.

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As you can see, I love history and language. I love the way both are intertwined and have an influence on each other. This is only part 1 of this mini series and next time I will be talking about who those 2 people are that were inscribed on the 1st stone I mentioned.

Did you enjoy reading? Please comment if you did!

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Talitha's Travels

I am an 20 year old blogger who loves to travel and learn!

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