Miracle of hanged man
IN December 1284, King Edward I (Longshanks in the film Braveheart) stayed for two nights at Oystermouth Castle. Three years later it was attacked and burned by Welsh rebels, two of whom were later arrested, imprisoned in Swansea castle, and sentenced to be hanged by William de Breos, Lord of Glamorgan. In medieval times such executions were often public events, which in Swansea took place on Gibbet Hill, now more tastefully named North Hill.
One of these alleged rebels was William ap Rhys, a Welsh speaker from Llanrhidian also known as William Crach. The gallows — two uprights and a cross beam — was visible from Swansea castle, where events were watched by William de Breos and Lady Mary de Breos, who had unsuccessfully pleaded for clemency for William Crach.
Though the gallows initially collapsed under the men's weight, the hanging took place. Both men were verified dead by people well familiar with seeing corpses, and Crach's body was taken to a house near present-day St Matthew's church in the High Street.
Amazingly some hours later there were signs of life from Crach, and in a fortnight this hanged man had recovered. In spite of superstitions and limited knowledge of the world in those times, those people were no more gullible than us, and this apparent miracle (involving a criminal rather than a particularly deserving person) was thoroughly investigated.
Crach's deliverance was attributed to Lady Mary de Breos having prayed to a deceased Bishop of Hereford, so some years later Vatican representatives examined and cross-examined Crach and witnesses to gauge the authenticity of this resurrection. They endorsed the claim for the deceased bishop to be canonised!
Crach was aged about 45 at the time of the Vatican inquiry, but we do not know for how much longer he lived – this hanged man had already exceeded a man's average life expectancy in those turbulent days.