Ancient Stone of Strength is lifted by Welshman for the first time in living memory
An ancient stone, known as the Stone of Strength, has sat in front of the Neuadd Goffa Criccieth Memorial Hall in Wales ever since the hall was built. For centuries, it has been used as a ‘test of strength stone’ by young men setting out to prove their strength and manhood. Now the ‘Feat Stone’ has been lifted for the first time in living memory by a Welsh strongman.
Wales Online reports that Mark Jeanes, a laborer, has proved his renown as one of the strongest men in the world by lifting Y Maen Camp (The Feat Stone), which weighs a whopping 28 stone or 392 pounds (177.8 kg) in Criccieth.
The legendary Stone of Strength is mentioned in the book ‘The Mast of Merlin’ as one that inspired David Lloyd George, a famous Welsh statesman, to enter politics. It's the heaviest record stone in the British Isles. Jeanes lifted the stone at a competition called Criccieth’s Stone of Strength contest, which has been contested for four years.
Mark Jeanes lifts the famous stone shoulder high. (Wales Online photo)
Jeanes, writing to Ancient Origins on Twitter, said: “The stone was a lot harder than normal due to the irregular shape. One side was heavier than the other and as it was smooth … to grip made it a lot harder. We were allowed chalk, but that didn't help a great deal. I found it fairly comfy to get it to my knees and to my chest, but I needed to time it right with the camber of the stone to catch it on my chest to pop it up on my shoulder… I feel confident I can get it again and will I love the fact that I'm the first man to ever to do it and will be seeking a new challenge.”
Terry Todd, an organizer of the Arnold Strongman competition, has said: “This business of lifting weights doesn't just go back 15 or 20 years. It's an old, old activity.” In the YouTube video below, where strong men are shown lifting 500-plus-pound stones, Todd points out that stones from ancient Greece and Rome have inscriptions 2,000 years old saying who lifted them. “People understood strength back then and they knew they could manifest it then by lifting heavy stones,” Todd says. “… People now are lifting a round stone almost 600 pounds. Imagine that. 600 pounds is a big weight for someone to do a deadlift. So the level of performance is just extraordinary.”
Lifting of extremely heavy objects, including huge boulders, has been incorporated into modern strongman contests that are sometimes broadcast on television. In modern strongman contests, which are relatively new to the world of televised sports, contestants are lifting some stones that weigh nearly 600 pounds (272 kg). But the contestants lift almost perfectly spherical stones chest high over a bar.
Lifting stones (Photo by Senghai Podhuvan/Wikimedia Commons)
Jeanes lifted a stone that weighed “only” 392 pounds, but it's lopsided, and he raised it to his shoulder.
The tradition of lifting and/or throwing heavy stones goes back many centuries not just in the British Isles but in Iceland, Basque country, Pakistan and Japan and maybe everywhere in the world where men have wanted to display their might. Lifting of stones was practiced in ancient Greece and Rome, which we know from inscriptions on certain stones.
In Wales, stone lifting was used both as a rite of passage for young men, and as a way to develop strength in preparation for battle. According to the old Welsh text, Y Pedair Camp ar Hugainyn (‘24 Measures of a Man’), it was a common practice for young men to challenge themselves through stone lifting.
Throwing or putting of heavy stones was memorialized in a funny scene in the 1995 movie Braveheart, which was set in Scotland in the 13 th century AD. The scene recalls the Biblical story of David and Goliath.
On his Twitter page, Mark Jeanes says he is recognized as the eighth natural strongest man in the world. He said his heaviest stone lift is 210 kg (463 pounds).
Featured image: The Criccieth Stone of Strength. Credit: Alan Fryer, creative commons license
By Mark Miller