St Cystennin’s Church, Mochdre

Link to French translationSt Cystennin's Church, Llangystennin, Mochdre

Photo of St Cystennin's church in Mochdre

The church was built in 1843 at a cost of £780 on the site of what was known as North Wales’ oldest and smallest church. It is generally believed that the original church dates from 338 AD, and legend has it that the foundation stone was laid by a Welsh princess who married a member of Rome’s powerful Constantine family.

Some historians say the church is dedicated to Constantine the Great, the first Roman emperor to embrace Christianity. Others say the dedication is to Cystennin, son of the Breton king Cynvor. Another theory is that the dedication is to Cystennin Fendigaid, chieftain of the Britons.

Portions of the stained glass in the existing church date from the 14th century. Five sections were discovered in sacking beneath a pulpit and moved to Llandudno Museum while funds were raised for restoration. They returned to St Cystennin’s in 2017.

The east window was produced by Herbert Bryans (1856-1925), a specialist in ecclesiastical stained glass. His rebus (signature mark) is a running greyhound, visible in the east window’s bottom right corner.

Near the church door is gravestone bearing a skull and crossbones. This is unlikely to denote the grave of a pirate, however. The emblem was commonly shown on tombs in the 18th century.

Members of the congregation and local volunteers are conserving the churchyard as a wildlife habitat, encouraging wildflowers. Local schools have made bird nesting boxes and bat boxes for the churchyard. The largest yew in the churchyard has a circumference of c.7 metres, suggesting it could be 700 years old.

Llangystennin, once a parish in its own right, is now one of seven churches in the benefice of Rhos-Cystennin, which takes its name from two of Wales’ oldest parishes (Llanrhos and Llangystennin). Anglican services are held in the church each Sunday morning.

According to the ancient Mabinogi legends, Mochdre got its name after Gwydion stopped here for a night with the pigs he had stolen from Pryderi, a South Wales nobleman. Mochdre means "town of pigs" or "farm of pigs". Pryderi, who had received the animals from the king of Annwn (the other world), set off with an army in pursuit. Gwydion’s men fled to Snowdonia with the pigs after their stay in Mochdre.

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