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The Pilgrimage to St Michael's Mount: Catholic Continuity in Wales Michael R Lewis Some three miles north-east of Abergavenny, Skirrid Fawr or Ysgryd rises to a height of 1596 feet. The upper part of the mountain was donated to the National Trust by Major J A Herbert in 1939 and it is now a popular destination for walkers, with spectacular views over the surrounding Black Mountains and beyond. For many centuries, the Skirrid was known as the Holy Mountain because, according to pious legend, the deep fissure and precipice in the north end of its upper ridge had been formed by an earthquake at the time of the crucifixion. The custom was formerly prevalent of gathering soil from the ridge and placing it in the coffins of the deceased. It was still not unknown in the first half of the present century for farmers to scatter earth from the Holy Mountain on their fields in order to promote fertility. As with Glastonbury Tor and so many hilltop sites, a small chapel dedicated to St Michael was erected on the summit. It became a natural centre for pilgrims. Scarcely anything now remains of the chapel. The foundations form a low bank, covering an area of about eight metres by six metres, and two upright stones are believed to be the remains of the chapel doorway jambs. The chapel was medieval and the long established practice of pilgrimages to it survived the Reformation. In 1603, mass was still being said weekly at the chapel by two priests. It might seem at first that devotion to the Holy Mountain was little more than a sign of rural conservatism and superstition. In 1721, in A View of the State of Religion in the Diocese of St David's, Erasmus Saunders lamented that "the Roman superstitions practised in the later ages, such as many times in their ejaculations to invocate not only the Deity but the Holy Virgin and other saints as if they had hardly forgotten the use of praying to them." Outside of Breconshire, Catholic recusancy as such was not a significant factor in the diocese of St Davids but the long lingering survival of Catholic practices was indicative 1 A View of the State of Religion in the Diocese of St David's, 1721, (reprinted Cardiff 1949). 241.