St. Mary's Church, Trefriw - Sarah Woodbury

St. Mary’s Church, Trefriw

Today we are talking about St Mary’s Church in Trefriw.

Llanrhychwyn was also patronized and supported by Llywelyn Fawr. Why did he build another one?

That’s the story we’re telling today, and it’s pretty simple, really. This area already had Llanrhychwyn, one of the oldest churches in all Wales, founded by St. Rhychwyn in the 6th century. We talked about it earlier in this season of videos. Llywelyn Fawr, who was the Prince of Wales, had many homes but came sometimes to his hunting lodge near Trefriw and in the early days always worshipped at the church at Llanrhychwyn. But, as anyone who has visited can’t help but notice, it’s quite a hike. Joan found the uphill walk to the church, followed by a steep descent, tiring. To please her, Llywelyn had St. Mary’s built at the bottom of the valley.

Visiting today, you can see that Llanrhychwyn is an extremely small hamlet. In Llywelyn’s time, however, and up to the early 19th century, it was larger than Trefriw itself, which consisted of “a few houses here and there”. Morris Jones writes in Welsh that Llywelyn “built a church for [his wife’s] use, and for the use of the inhabitants, for their kindness towards him, and that he donated a number of farms from the parish of Llanrhychwyn, naming them as the parish of Tref Rhiw Las. It got this name from the slope on which it stood”.

Most of the original structure was rebuilt in the 15th and 16th centuries, and restored in the 19th. Still, it is a good example of medieval Welsh architecture, because the shape is much the same. The ornately carved pulpit dates from 1633 and the font possibly from the previous century.

Llywelyn and Joan are depicted in stained glass in the church, in a pair of windows created in the 1930s. A Geneva Breeches Bible, printed in 1589, was displayed in a glass case inside the church until it was stolen in 2013.

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