St Cybi’s Church, Holyhead

Link to French translation

holyhead_church_drawingChristian worship on this site has a very long history. St Cybi, who died in 554, founded a clas at this location, which was still protected by fort walls which the Romans had erected. The clas was an institution of the Celtic Church somewhere between a monastery and a college. Cybi reputedly founded churches in other regions of Wales, including at Llangybi in Monmouthshire.

Relics of St Cybi were kept in the church at Holyhead. Caergybi, the Welsh name for Holyhead, denotes the fort (caer) of Cybi.

Vikings looted the church in the 10th century. St Cybi’s relics were carried off in 1405 by the army of King Henry IV as it re-took parts of Wales which had been captured by rebels loyal to Owain Glyndŵr. The relics were taken to Dublin but later lost.

The current church building mainly dates from the late 15th century or early 16th. Some of the masonry in the chancel is from the 13th century. The tower was added in the 17th century. During that century, the church suffered further damage when it was used as a garrison for Parliamentarian soldiers. The building was restored in the 1870s under the supervision of Sir Gilbert Scott.

The upper picture (courtesy of the National Library of Wales) shows the church and Roman walls in the 18th century. It’s an illustration from Thomas Pennant’s books about his travels in Wales. The lower picture dates from the 1890s.

holyhead_st_cybis_churchIf you’ve just scanned the QR codes on the gatepost by the Wales Coast Path, notice the sundial on the wall of the south transept. To the right is the Stanley Chapel, designed by Scott and built in 1897 as a memorial to local MP William Owen Stanley. He had footed most of the bill for the rebuilding in the 1870s.

As you enter the building, pause in the south porch to admire the carvings above the door. They’re complemented by Scott’s ornate Tudor-style porch ceiling.

Inside (north aisle) is a memorial to William Morris (1705-1763), choirmaster at St Cybi’s while working as Holyhead’s customs collector. He was one of the remarkable Morris brothers, raised on a farm on Anglesey’s east coast.

The church organ was built in 1881 for Eaton Hall, the Duke of Westminster’s home in Cheshire, and moved to St Cybi’s Church in 1932. Near the organ is a section of a late 15th-century wall painting featuring the rose of the Tudor family, which had roots on Anglesey.

At the entrance to the churchyard is Eglwys y Bedd, remnant of a 14th-century chapel.

Postcode: LL65 1HG     View Location Map

Parish website – details of services and events

Friends of St Cybi website – detailed history and virtual tour

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