St David’s Church, Llanthony

button_lang_frenchSt David’s Church, Llanthony

This medieval building was originally part of Wales’ first Augustinian priory, consecrated in 1108. It may originally have been the priory’s infirmary. It was retained as a parish church after the priory was dissolved in 1538. The spectacular remains of other priory buildings still stand to the north.

There was an earlier Christian site in the vicinity, reputedly where Dewi Sant (St David) once stayed. Llanthony’s Welsh name is Llanddewi Nant Hodni, reflecting the site's dedication to Dewi. Nant means valley or stream, and Hodni is a variant of Hoddni, the name of the river in this valley. The Welsh name was compressed (e.g. Llanthonddye c.1536). An even shorter version, Lanthoni, was written as early as 1125-27.

Gerald of Wales and the Archbishop of Canterbury bypassed Llanthony on their tour of Wales to recruit for the third crusade in 1188. They followed a narrow track through Grwyne Wood, passing west of the priory, when travelling from Llanddew to Abergavenny. Gerald noted that Llanthony had founded a daughter house in Gloucester (in 1136) and started acquiring great wealth, the begetter of vice. He thought the monks of Llanthony, enclosed by mountains, should live more like hermits, in contemplation and moderation.

The present church was dedicated to St David on 1 March (St David’s Day) 1890. Parts of the church, including some of the exterior walls, were altered during the building’s restoration in the 1890s. Many earlier structural features are visible. Unusually, there’s a fireplace inside (there were two). Fires would have been needed to keep patients warm, if the building was once an infirmary.

The font is medieval. The bell, clearly visible from outside, dates from 1792.

In the early 20th century there were reports of frequent sightings of a “phantom monk” at the church, sometimes carrying an old lamp and always with his hood drawn close over his head. An apparition of the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared in the priory area in 1880.

With thanks to Richard Morgan, of the Welsh Place-Name Society, for place-name information

Postcode: NP7 7NN    View Location Map

Parish website

Other HAUNTED HiPoints in this region:
Skirrid Mountain Inn, Llanfihangel Crucorney - said to be haunted by convicts hanged there

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