St David’s Church, Llanddew

St David’s Church, Llanddew

The history of worship here dates back to the founding of an early Christian clas. According to legend, Eluned, one of 24 reputed daughters of Brychan Brycheiniog, took refuge in the church here c.500AD.

Brychan is thought to have been king of the area later known as Brycheiniog (“land of Brychan”). Early medieval records say he was son of the Irish king Anlac and maternal grandson of the Welsh king Tewdrig, who lived in Garthmadryn. Historians once thought this was an earlier name for Brycheiniog or another name for Talgarth, but it is now thought to have been an unidentified place near the town of Brecon.

Llanddew church is now dedicated to Dewi Sant (St David) but the name Llanddew is unconnected to Dewi. It means "church of God" (Duw is "God" in modern Welsh). The church is alternatively dedicated to the Holy Trinity which replaced similar dedications to God in several other places in Wales. Early written forms of Llanddew include Lando (before 1162) and Landu Ecclesia Dei (c.1191).

Gerald of Wales explained this place-name in the journal of his tour through Wales in 1188, when he accompanied the Archbishop of Canterbury to preach and recruit for the third crusade. They preached at Llanddew on 8 March and spent the night here. Gerald had a house of his own in Llanddew because he was Archdeacon of Brecon.

Llanddew also had a bishop’s palace, established by the Bishop of St David’s in the 12th century (the diocese of Brecon was not created until the 20th century). The palace was in ruins by the 17th century. You can see remnants of it just across the road from the churchyard.

Parts of the church date from the 13th, 15th and 16th centuries. The structure was rebuilt in the 17th and 19th centuries. Surviving medieval fittings include the font and two stoups – small stone basins which held holy water for people to make the sign of the cross as they entered.

There are also squints in the walls. These small, angled window apertures may have been for people with diseases such as leprosy to watch the priest at the altar without entering the church.

With thanks to Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust, and to Richard Morgan, of the Welsh Place-Name Society, for place-name information

Postcode: LD3 9SS    View Location Map

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