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  • Writer's pictureGraham Watkins

The Hallelujah Obelisk - 'Praise the Lord' but it also means, 'Fools.'

Updated: Apr 10, 2021

Graham watkins author, welsh follies, the welsh folly book

In 1736, landowner Nehemiah Griffiths, who lived near Mold built an obelisk in one of his fields. The stone monument he erected included a Latin inscription and was built to commemorate one of the strangest battles having been recorded as taking place in Wales. But why did a farmer, with nothing to gain, suddenly decide to erect a rather sad and forlorn looking structure in the corner of one of his fields? To understand this we need to go back nearly thirteen hundred years. For centuries there had been stories that a battle had been fought in the area. The venerable Bede, an ancient chronicler, had told of a great battle. There were reports of a ghostly giant warrior wearing a golden cloak being seen on a nearby mound known as Goblin Hill. The spectre would beckon onlookers to come closer and locals, fearful of the apparition, learned to avoid the area.

Who was the ghostly warrior buried with such a fine garment? One possible explanation is that he was killed during a battle that took place nearby. According to Leigh’s Guide to Wales and Monmouthshire, published in 1835, a ferocious battle, known as ‘Victoria Alleluiatica’, had been fought between a Christian Welsh force and an invading army of heathen Picts and Saxons. Different versions of the story date the battle between 429 and 448AD. By then, the Romans had withdrawn from Britain leaving the country undefended and vulnerable to invasion. Hordes of Picts from Scotland and Saxons from Northern Europe drove the Celtic population west as they advanced across the land.

Mold golden cape

A small Christian army led by Bishop Germanus chose to stand and fight near what is now the town of Mold in Flintshire. The Welsh defenders were heavily outnumbered and defeat looked inevitable. As the bishop marshalled his men in preparation for the coming fight, he tried to think of a way to inspire them. He needed a battle cry to embolden his army and strike fear into the hearts of the approaching heathens.
By now, the invading soldiers were close at hand. Suddenly, an ancient Hebrew word sprang to mind and Bishop Germanus ordered his men to shout it as loudly as they could. “Hallel-ujah,” screamed the men and again they cried, “Hallel-ujah.” Three times in all they shouted “Hallel-ujah,” which means, “Praise Jehovah” or “Praise the Lord,” (the normal Christian interpretation of the words). Hearing the strange battle cry, the pagan invaders were confused. Some turned and ran north, only to be driven into the River Alyn where they drowned. Others were struck down by the swords of the triumphant Welshmen. It was a great victory which secured the land of Wales for the Celtic race.
The Welsh Folly Book
The identity of the warrior with the golden cloak, or which side he was on, have never been established and will probably remain a mystery. Indeed, there is no evidence to prove he was even on the battlefield that day. Considering that the golden cloak, he was buried with, would have been 2000 years old at the time of the battle his presence is rather unlikely and his burial nearby probably nothing more than a coincidence.
Sensibly, Bishop Germanus never told his army the other Hebrew meaning of ‘Hallel’. The word also describes someone that acts madly or foolishly. It would have been a truthful description of his outnumbered army’s position. If he had, the outcome of the battle, known as ‘Victoria Alleluiatica’, and the future of the Celtic Nation that is Wales might have been rather different.

In 1833, nearly 100 years after the obelisk was built, Goblin Hill was excavated and revealed to be a burial cairn. Within the cairn, a skeleton was discovered wearing a magnificent golden cape. The cape had been made from a single ingot of gold weighing more than ½ kg (1.1lb) which had been hammered until it was a thin sheet of gold foil and then embossed with intricate patterns to make it look like a beautiful folded cloth. Because the cape was so delicate, it broke up as it was removed from the grave. Workmen plundered pieces of the cape before what remained was sent to the British Museum. The museum identified the garment as having been made during the Bronze Age, over 1600 years before Christ was born and stated, “that it was one of the finest examples of prehistoric sheet-gold working and unique in form and design.”

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