The Celtic Crosses
The West Church currently provides a temporary home for one of the finest collections of Celtic stones in Wales. Dating from the 9th and 10th centuries, some were previously located within the main church, some in the churchyard, and some even in private gardens in the town. They were brought inside for protection during the restoration at the end of the 19th century.
The Houelt Cross is a superb example of a Celtic wheel cross. It has beautiful interlaced decoration, typical of the later pre-Norman period. It is a memorial to Houelt ap Rhys (Hywel ap Rhys), ruler of Glywysing (Glamorgan) in the 9th century.
The Samon Cross, without the wheel cross, is inscribed in Latin, “Samson erected this cross for his soul”. There was a Samson who succeeded Illtud as abbot here, but the inscription is much later. The reverse is inscribed “ILTU—-”, possibly Iltutus, a Latin form of Illtud.
The tall Samson Pillar has a long inscription, now badly eroded, referring to Samson the Abbot (identity unknown), Artmail (another abbot) and Ithel, a 9th century king of Gwent.
The Vale of Glamorgan is rich in Celtic remains, and the similarity in the patterns of decoration suggest that there existed a flourishing and artistic school of masons in the Llantwit Major Celtic monastry.