Church of St. Michael – Rudbaxton, Wales - Atlas Obscura
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Rudbaxton, Wales

Church of St. Michael

Eerily lifelike effigies stare at everyone who enters this sanctuary. 

Above the altar on the east wall of the Rudbaxton church is a row of effigies from the 17th century, strikingly made in such a lifelike way that they tread into the uncanny valley. Their lifeless eyes watch over everyone who enters the church.

The eerie figures are part of a monument belonging to the Howards (or Haywards) of Fletherhill. Their enormous, Renaissance-style tomb takes up the entirety of the Lady Chapel in the south part of the church.

The effigies are half-sized people with deeply detailed faces. Their lifelike appearances and their setting high up on the wall, tucked into in their own niches, really gives an unsettling vibe. This is not helped by the fact that many of them are holding skulls in their hands, a reminder of our mortality in this world.

On the left of the tomb is George Howard (died 1665), standing alone. In the center is James (died 1668) dressed as a clergyman, and Joanna Howard, dressed in mourning clothes and holding a black orb in her hand. Joanna isn’t holding a skull because she paid for the memorial in her lifetime.

To the right are Thomas and Mary Howard (died 1682 and 1685, respectively). There’s an unusual bloodstain on Thomas’ chest, which symbolizes how he was defeated in a duel. Historical sources do not specify whether this duel was by sword or by pistol, nor the reason for it.

Know Before You Go

Rudbaxton is signed on the A40 from Haverfordwest to Fishguard. There are basic toilet facilities on-site.

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