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Llanyre is vested in the Vicar himself, who thus, either directly or indirectly, provides for the religious instruction of the whole district. The Vicar, it is true, does not possess a share of the tithes of all the four parishes, but this right is still claimed and exercised by the Impropriator, who, as regards the original founder, must be considered as one and the same person with the Vicar: for it is agreed by ecclesiastical historians, that the subdivision of tithes into rectorial and vicarial was an arrangement posterior to the foundation, and first made to suit the convenience of the minister. Originally the Incumbent of every parish was a Rector, and under him the Vicar held a situation precisely analogous to that of Assistant Curate in modern times. When it was found that the Vicar could perform the whole of the duty for a part of the emolument, so much was given him by way of endowment, and the remainder was applied to the maintenance of a Monastery or the Cathedral of the Diocese. The Vicar would readily consent to this arrangement, as, instead of having a precarious stipend and being removable at pleasure, his place and salary were made permanent. The same fate befel the clergy who performed service in the remote chapels ; certain portions of the parish were assigned them for their separate ministry, out of which they received a certain small allowance as a fixed stipend, but, as an equivalent, their curacies were made Perpetual; while the far greater portion of the tithes of the entire district maintained some distant religious establishment, which thus continued to represent the original Rector. This arrangement was not without its evils. Jealousies broke out between the monastic and parochial clergy; and, at the Reformation, the tithes, which had been attached to Monasteries, passed from them, by an easy transition, into the hands of Lay-impropriators. Those tithes, however, which had been assigned for the support of Cathedrals and Collegiate Chapters were suffered to remain, and are still an illustration of the system here described. There are also instances of parishes appropriated to a monastic institution, where the parochial duties were left to be performed by a Perpetual Curate without the intervention of a Vicar; but such parishes are generally smaller than those now under consideration.
The expression “ mother church” can only mean that the edifice so designated is of older foundation than the several chapels dependent upon it, and this rule is very generally admitted. But if the view of ecclesiastical foundations, just described, be correct, the chapels mentioned as subordinate to Nantmel, must not only have been built after the mother church, but at a time when its endowment was fully recognized and established. If the chapels were of older date, it is not likely that the founder of Nantmel would have endowed his church with the tithes of an extensive district, to the prejudice of places of worship already existing in the country; but, the tithes being once disposed of, no provision would remain for the support of additional churches, except as dependent upon the Rector of the first establishment.*
The district of Llanbister, also in the county of Radnor, comprises the parishes of Llanbister, Llananno, LlanbadarnFynydd, Llanddewi Ystrad Enni, and Llanfihangel Rhydeithon; the last four are chapelries subject to the former ; they are also Perpetual Curacies in the patronage of the Chancellor of Brecon, or his Lessee, who represents the Rector, and who still claims and receives the whole tithes of the five parishes, except the vicarial tithes of Llanbister. The district of Llangynllo extends over the parishes of Llangynllo and Pilleth, and it probably included originally one or two small parishes adjoining, which are now separate benefices. As these districts are very extensive it may safely be concluded, that the places of worship to which they are appropriated were first built when churches were few. Leaving therefore the question of chapelries for a future consideration, it may be assumed, that Nantmel, Llanbister, Llangynllo, and other churches of a similar endowment, are churches of the first or oldest foundation.
*“ The Constitutions of Egbert, Archbishop of York, in the year 750, do take care that churches of ancient institution should not be deprived of tithes, or any other rights, by giving or allotting any part to new oratories.” (Vide Burn's Ecclesiastical Law, Vol. I. sub voce Chapel.)
If existing rights were so well defined in England as early as A. D. 750, it is not too much to expect that they were equally well defined about the same period in Wales, where Christianity had been longer and more permanently settled. In the Principality the integrity of benefices appears to have been first disturbed by foreigners, though it must be regretted that the new arrangement introduced by them was not adopted generally by the native princes.
As Christianity became more general, the want of places of worship in districts unappropriated would come next to be considered. The necessity of multiplying churches would now be felt, and the tithes to be attached to them would necessarily extend over tracts of country varying much in extent according to the nature of the ground before unoccupied. These parishes cannot be formed into a separate class from the preceding, for their extent alone will not determine the order of their foundation; and, though the largest endowments are necessarily ancient, there is nothing to prevent a small endowment from being of equal antiquity. But when parishes of very unequal limits are intermingled together, their arrangement must be attributed to the natural obligation of circumstances.
So far the endowments of churches proceed systematically, without any prejudice to existing rights. There are, however, districts of the Principality where the system is broken up, and the country is studded with numerous churches, all of them small rectories, as if the chapelries which before existed had been converted into separate benefices. A slight acquaintance with the history of these localities will show that this new arrangement is the result of foreign conquest. These churches are principally found in the southern part of Pembrokeshire,* in the Vale of Glamorgan,t and on the borders of England; while the system of subordinate chapelries is most perfect in those parts of the country where the independence of the natives was of longest continuance. The Welsh Princes, notwithstanding their endless dissensions, respected the vested rights of their churches ; but the Normans and Flemings, asserting the claims of conquest,
* Occupied by a colony of Flemings about A. D. 1100.
This is not only proved from the existing state of churches in Wales, but Giraldus Cambrensis, who wrote his “ Cambriæ Descriptio” in the reign of King John, mentions this particular as if it were a national characteristic. The following passage is extracted from that work as translated by Sir Richard Colt Hoare.
“ We observe that they show a greater respect than other nations to churches and ecclesiastical persons, to the relics of saints, bells, holy books, and the cross, which they devoutly revere; and hence their churches enjoy more than common tranquillity. For peace is not only preserved towards all animals feeding in churchyards, but at a great distance beyond them, where certain boundaries and ditches have been appointed by the Bishops in order to maintain the security of the sanctuary. But the principal churches, to which antiquity has annexed the greater reverence, extend their protection to the herds as far as they can go to feed in the morning and return at night." (Book I. Chap. 18.)
This passage is further remarkable as it shows that there existed in the time of the writer a class of churches distinguished for their antiquity; and if such churches were the most extensively endowed, it will readily appear why they are called “the principal.” So tenacious were the Welsh of the integrity of their benefices, that, even when they were inconvenient from their great extent, rather than subdivide then, they appointed several clergymen to the same living. Giraldus says,
“Their churches have almost as many parsons and parties as there are principal families in the parish; the sons, after the death of their fathers, succeed to the ecclesiastical benefices, not by election, but by hereditary right possessing and polluting the sanctuary of God. And if a prelate should by chance presume to appoint or institute any other person, the people would certainly revenge the injury upon the institutor and instituted.” (Description of Wales, Book II. Chap. 6.)
Giraldus Cambrensis was Archdeacon of Brecknock, and in one of his Visitations, he speaks of a church in Radnorshire as having six or seven clergymen. (“Clerici sex vel septem, more Walensium, participes Ecclesiæ illius.”) The custom of dividing a benefice between several portionists, without compromising its integrity, continued in some of parts of the Diocese of St. Asaph until after the subjugation of Wales; several instances may be found in the Taxation of Pope Nicholas, A. D. 1291, but the following extract, relating to the church of Corwen, Merionethshire, will suffice.
would establish churches where they thought expedient. All churches of this description may be considered as of the last foundation, leaving those which are intermediate in uncertainty for the present.
may be objected by some, that the extent of benefices depends not so much upon their subjection to Welsh Princes, or Norman Lords, as upon the barrenness, or fertility of the country in which they are situate. A glance at the map of Wales will be sufficient to show, that though parishes may be large or small for the reason specified, the objection does not apply to endowments. The fertile vale of Towy, in the county of Carmarthen, is filled with endowments of the first class, which are subdivided into parishes, of greater or less extent, to suit the nature of the country; and on the other hand, places of worship are sometimes numerous in districts the most barren. The recesses of the mountains appear to have been more populous formerly than at present, for the inhabitants of Wales chose to live in such situations as were most secure from foreign aggression; and thus the county of Carnarvon contains more churches than the larger and more fertile county of Montgomery,
Though churches, strictly so called, were few, it was not on account of the scantiness of population, for chapels of every description were scattered over the Principality, which would
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