The Archaeological Background of the Pillar of Eliseg
Edward Lhuyd noted that the monument was ‘erected on a small mount’(Gunther 1945: 307) and Pennant records that the base was still lying on the top of this (Pennant 1778-83). It is there...fore likely that this was its original location. The height of the mound, a barrow, would have given additional prominence to the monument in the landscape. This may be compared with the cross Llanfynydd 1 (Carmarthenshire), which originally stood on a cairn of stones (Edwards 2007, no CM24). Fifth- to early-seventh-century inscribed stones in Wales were also sometimes erected on top of, or beside, prehistoric barrows or cairns (Edwards 2007, no. CD28; Redknap and Lewis 2007, nos B46–47, G7, G27, G77; Knight 2001, 14). The monument is not associated with any known early medieval ecclesiastical site, though the alternative Welsh name associated with the abbey, Llanegwestl, hints at the existence of an earlier foundation (Evans 2008, 3). It should be noted, however, that at least some Cistercian houses in Wales, notably Margam (Bridgend) and its granges, were on the sites of early medieval ecclesiastical foundations indicated by the presence of early medieval sculpture (Redknap and Lewis 2007, 576–7; see also Strata Florida and Llanllŷr, Ceredigion, Edwards 2007a, nos CD1, CD20). Even if there was no earlier ecclesiastical site, the presence of the monument may well have been influential in the choice of location for the later Cistercian abbey of Valle Crucis.