St Mary’s Church, Conwy
St Mary’s Church, Conwy
This building was originally the church of Aberconwy Abbey, which transferred to this site c.1186. It’s thought that monks here wrote Llyfr Aneirin (The Book of Aneirin), one of the oldest surviving Welsh books, in the second half of the 12th century. You can view the book on the National Library of Wales’ website here.
When King Edward I seized the land for his walled town and castle, the abbey was moved to Maenan, in the Conwy Valley. The abbey church in Conwy became the parish church of St Mary and All Saints c.1283. Gyffin parish church, outside the walled town, was enlarged in the following centuries.
St Mary’s Church was modified, mainly in the 13th century, but some of its original structure remains in the east and west walls. The original roof line was just above the three narrow windows in the west wall. Here the tower rises above what had been the abbey church’s end bay.
Many notable people have been buried here over the centuries. Llywelyn Fawr, the first Prince of Wales, was buried at Aberconwy Abbey in 1240 but his remains were later removed. His sarcophagus is reputedly now in Llanrwst church. Various members of the Holland and Wynn families, major landowners in the area, were buried here in Tudor times and later. They include Robert Wynn (1520-1598), builder of the Plas Mawr town house in Conwy. Written on wood panelling in the church are the names of local men who died in service in the First World War. You can also read their names here.
Also in the church is a memorial to John Gibson (1790-1866), one of the greatest sculptors of his age – see Footnotes.
The church is the main venue for the Conwy Classical Music Festival, each July.
With thanks to the Rev Peter Jones.
Postcode: LL32 8LD View Location Map
Footnotes: John Gibson
John Gibson was born in Conwy. His father William was a gardener. The family, which moved to Liverpool when he was nine, couldn’t afford to pay for his artistic education. While he was apprenticed to a marble works in the city, his talents were spotted by William Roscoe, a banker, lawyer, art lover and historian who began to commission sculptures from Gibson.
In 1817 Gibson moved to Rome, where he spent the rest of his life apart from interludes in Britain when he was commissioned to sculpt prominent people including, several times, Queen Victoria. William Roscoe’s grand-daughter – Margaret Sandbach of Hafodunos Hall, Llangernyw – met him while visiting Rome and became a patron and close friend. After her early death from breast cancer, he carved a memorial to her. She is also commemorated in a church window at Llangernyw.
Gibson exhibited 33 sculptures at the Royal Academy, where he was made an academician in 1835.