Today Llanerfyl Yew is a group of four separate tree trunks in a circle, with a total circumference of 10.67 m. But, according to legends, this is not just a tree – this is Cyrwen – a legendary peacemaking staff left by St. Padern in the late 6th or early 7th century.
Map of the site
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For some time there was a discussion about whether this ancient tree is a group of several trees or a single tree that divided into several trunks after the central part of the old trunk died away. DNA analysis (3.) though shows that these trunks belong to a single organism.
Today Llanerfyl Yew is a group of four closely located, large trunks, three trunks are female, and one – male. In the amazing world of yews, this is possible: the tree could be in the process of changing its sex. In 1872 the tree had three trunks and they formed something more like a single trunk than today. Nowadays (1998) the circumference of all these trunks is 10.67 m.
St Erfyl’s church
The St Erfyl’s church is an early medieval church that was rebuilt in 1870 and includes some parts of a 15th-century church. Nevertheless, in this site a church existed before this: the first one could have been built in the late 6th or early 7th century AD. Under the yew tree was an even earlier gravestone from the 5th – 6th century with an inscription that testifies that there was buried a 13 years old girl, daughter of Padern. In 1915 the stone was brought inside the church and can be seen there now.
Legend about the yew
This gravestone is not just another old stone: it is an existing link to a local legend!
One of the founders of Celtic Christianity in the 6th century was Saint Padarn who went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. There he received valuable gifts (including the ability to convey speeches so that these were understood in every other language) as well as Cyrwen – a peacemaking staff.
According to this legend, Saint Padarn planted Cyrwen at the grave of his beloved daughter. And… the gravestone really has a Latin inscription that can be translated as “In the grave here lies *Rhostege daughter of Padarn, 13 years, in peace.”
Thus, legend meets reality! Also, Llanerfyl Yew is not just a large, beautiful tree, it is a living part of early medieval history and… a kind of miraculous artifact.
It is highly likely that the age of Llanerfyl Yew corresponds to the legend and it was really planted some 1400 years ago.
The natural and cultural wonders of England are very diverse and here are found some of the world’s most impressive landmarks in several categories, such as churches and museums.
The category includes some of the most impressive and interesting separate trees in the world. The total number of tree species in the world still is a wild guess – maybe 10,000 and maybe 100,000 but most likely somewhere in between. Every month there are reported new tree species from the whole world, including Western Europe.
Throughout many centuries the United Kingdom has enjoyed relative political stability and wealth. As a result, humans have created here countless amazing and well-preserved values of art and history.
The God Tree is a great read and will make people think again and again about Yews’ – David Bellamy, the Naturalist. This is the first book to take up the quest for the Golden Bough since JG Frazer’s classic study in 1915 with the discovery of the bough growing once more, as the rare adornment of a small number of ancient Yews.
The gnarled, immutable yew tree is one of the most evocative sights in the British and Irish language, an evergreen impression of immortality, the tree that provides a living botanical link between our own landscapes and those of the distant past. This book tells the extraordinary story of the yew’s role in the landscape through the millennia, and makes a convincing case for the origins of many of the oldest trees, as markers of the holy places founded by Celtic saints in the early medieval ‘Dark Ages’.