is a lovely little church high above the Conwy Valley in north Wales.
It is claimed to be the oldest in Wales being the site where Rhychwyn
originally established his church in the 6th Century. Rhychwyn was the
son of Prince Helig ap Glannog, who lived at Llys Helig on the north Wales
coast before it was inundated by the sea, (so rising sea levels aren't
all down to global warming ..?). Helig had several sons who established
churches throughout north wales, including Celynin, who established the
old church at Llangelynin a few
miles down the valley. It seems that Helig's children took note of the
old adage that "the best example a father can make is a bad example"
as they all built their churches on the high lands. Try walking from Trefriw
to Llanrhychwyn, or from Rowen to Llangelynin
and you will understand what I mean.
The oldest part of the present church dates from the late 11th century,
and is known locally as Llewelyn’s Church after Prince
Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, (Llywelyn Fawr or Llywelyn the Great). Llywelyn
had a hunting lodge in Trefriw, and he and his his wife Siwan, or Joan,
the youngest daughter of King John of England would climb the steep hill
to Llanrhychwyn church. Joan understandably grew weary of the climb and
as a result, in about 1230, Llywelyn endowed another church on the valley
floor on the site where St Mary's Church of Trefriw now stands.
Llanrhychwyn Church is in a beautiful setting on the high pasture
lands with fantastic views of the Conwy Valley below.
ancient churchyard surrounding the church is typical of many old Welsh
churchyards with slate gravestones proudly punching out of the earth to
the heavens above. The incumbents competing among each other for the best
tombstone. They should all rest easy in their "tombs with a view"
as the combination of the landscape, the church, the massive slate slabs
dragged up the hill, combine to make a work of art better than anything
you will see in the art galleries of the 21st century.
The buildings are officially classed as primitive architecture, I class
them as nice.
Excitement grows with the first view of the lychgate. It may not be proven
to be the oldest lych gate but it is something special.
The swallows exit the hallowed grounds as you enter, their several nests
in the timbers of the lychgate witness to their true appreciation of this
isolated and beautiful location.
On the day I visited the site the church door was, to my surprise, unlocked.
I took a few pictures of the interior but you need to visit yourself to
appreciate the atmosphere of this ancient church. Although they say a
picture paints a thousand words I would say a presence paints a million.
I don't normally record items within the ancient buildings as in these
days it might prove tempting to thieves but the following information
is posted on wikipaedia and is already in the public domain.
" the church is a good example of primitive architecture. The Eastern
aisle was added in the 13th century, and the north aisle dates from the
16th century. It has a very old square font, as old as the church itself,
early example of stained glass in the east window. The roof beams, some
800 years old, are the earliest example in Wales. The ancient oak door
has wooden hinges, and the bell, which dates from the 13th century, possibly
came from Maenan Abbey. The altar rails date from 1616, and the pulpit
from 1691. The chalice is dated 1614 and is of an ornate design. Registers
date from 1594. These days, services are only held in Llanrhychwyn church
during the summer months, and on special occasions. If locked, the key
is available from Tu hwnt i'r Gors Farm, nearby."
I took my pictures, made a contribution to the collection box, and was
about to leave when I heard this strange humming / vibrating noise. I
was not scared. But,, considering I was in the middle of nowhere and the
church did not even have the benefit of electricity, it was a bit disconcerting
and it added to the atmosphere of the church.
I opened the old oak door, exited the church, and made my way back to
the crossroads in Llanrhychwyn village to meet up with my grand daughter
Ophelia and my brother's grand daughter Chloe.
On my arrival I was harangued by Ophelia for failing to explain the location
of the meeting up point.
complained that they had thought they were lost and, in a state of panic,
had telephoned a mobile phone that unbeknown to me had been planted in
my rucksack. Admittedly the mobile phone could not reproduce the sound
of the opening of an ancient oak door, but it was perfect at creating
the humming and vibrations you experience in ancient Welsh churches.......................
Ah, the wonders of modern technology!
Wasted on an old bugger like me!
On the high pasture lands above the village of Trefriw, Llanrwst, Conwy
LL27 - Wales, UK