St Digain’s Church, Llangernyw
This church is dedicated to the fifth-century saint Digain, son of St Cystennin Gorneu. "Gorneu" is a variant of "Cernyw", meaning Cornwall, and the village’s name denotes an enclosed area (“llan”) dedicated to Cernyw.
St Digain is said to have founded a church in the area, but the oldest part of the existing church – the nave – is thought to be late medieval or Tudor. Rebuilding in later centuries, especially the 19th, eradicated much of the earlier fabric, including the windows. The layout of the church, in the form of a cross, is unusual for this region, and probably follows the shape of the medieval building.
South of the church is a pair of standing stones, one of which has an incised cross, probably made in the 7th to 9th century. Another stone has a cross which is thought to date from the 9th to 11th century.
Also in the churchyard is a tomb flanked by boulders. Some believe the boulders are remnants of pre-Christian ritual use of the site. The ancient yew tree, about 4,000 years old, in the churchyard could have been a focus of those rituals.
Butchers may have sharpened their knives on the Tudor font in the church when a market was held in the churchyard. Vicar John Kenrick regarded the market as “so contrary to canon and common decency” that in 1749 he nailed up the churchyard gate on market day and stationed “the clerk and other stout fellows” at the other entrances. They stood firm despite “bitter and sharp reproaches” from people who argued that markets were held in many other churchyards. The market was soon relocated.
Poet Margaret Sandbach, of Hafodunos, is commemorated by a window in the church. You can read a related poem in the Footnotes.
Postcode: LL22 8PQ
Footnotes: On the death of a Roman Countess, by Margaret Sandbach