St Cybi's Church, Llangybi, Usk
This medieval church contains 15th-century wall paintings. It’s one of two churches in Monmouthshire said to have been founded by 6th-century St Cybi, as you can read on our page about his well nearby. He was born in Cornwall, educated in Gaul, and sailed to Rome, Jerusalem, Ireland and the Aran Isles before coming to Wales and finally settling on Holy Island (Ynys Gybi), Anglesey. His cult extended across Wales and Cornwall.
The church you see here today is largely late medieval, altered internally in the 17th and 18th centuries to conform with an austerely Protestant Anglicanism. Only the twin spiral staircases survive from what was an ornate rood screen. In its place the Protestants installed a square, dark pulpit. They painted over the wall paintings with black-letter creed and commandments.
Fortunately, later building works (including adding a vestry and boiler room) left the medieval walls largely untouched. Otherwise, the wall paintings on the north walls of nave and chancel might have been lost for ever, rather than being rediscovered in the 20th century. The ‘Christ of the Trades' mural has been copied in the reconstructed medieval church at St Fagans National Museum of History, near Cardiff.
In the allegorical mural on the nave’s north wall, the Virgin Mary’s rosary beads outweigh the sins of the souls of the dead in balance scales held by the Archangel Michael, demonstrating the power of prayer by the saints.
Patronage of the church, sometimes known by its alternative Welsh name of Tregrûg, passed from the Earls of March to the English Crown in the 14th century, which perhaps accounts the wall paintings’ opulence.
The waggon roof of the nave, typical of so many Welsh churches, was restored 2015-2018 with financial support from Cadw and the Heritage Lottery Fund. This included installing a Victorian organ.
Until the 1960s, Llangybi village belonged to the Llangibby Castle Estate, owned by the Addams-Williams family. For several generations, the 'Squires of Llangibby' appointed their own brothers or cousins as Rectors, installing them in their grand Victorian Rectory up Park Road. You can see some of the family’s memorials in the chancel and in the northern half of the churchyard.
Sir Trevor Williams of Llangibby was a firebrand Protestant and may have influenced the interior’s austerity. His memorial is a simple and now crumbling slate slab in the floor – he died in disgrace and poverty in 1692 after libelling the Duke of Beaufort for secretly being a Roman Catholic.
With thanks to Peter Foden
Postcode: NP15 1NP View Location Map