St John's Church, Ysbyty Ifan

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St John’s Church, Ysbyty Ifan

A hostel was founded here c.1190 by the Knights Hospitallers, or Knights of St John. They were soldier monks whose mission was to protect pilgrims. Ysbyty Ifan was a resting point on the pilgrimage route from Holywell, in Flintshire, to Barsey Island, off the far north-western tip of Wales. The hostel was open to anyone, and sometimes sheltered outlaws such as Gwylliaid Cochion Mawddwy (“the Red Bandits of Mawddwy”). Some legends assert that these red-haired ruffians were the product of unions between men and fairies.

The hostel was abolished in 1540, as monasteries across Wales were torn down, but the associated church remained, to serve as the parish church. It was replaced c.1860 by the present church, in the Victorians’ “early English” style.

The church contains memorials from the earlier church, many of them from the 14th to 16th centuries. Some underline the connections between Ysbyty Ifan and the Tudor power base. One effigy is said to depict local landowner Rhys ap Maredudd, who recruited soldiers for Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Rhys carried the Red Dragon standard on the battlefield after the first standard-bearer, Sir William Brandon, was killed in the fighting. Rhys ap Maredudd was credited afterwards with slaying King Richard III in the battle, but so too were other men.

Another effigy is said to be that of Rhys’ son Robert, chaplain to Cardinal Wolsey, one of King Henry VIII’s most influential ministers until 1529. Also inside the church are fragments of a 14th-century slab, decorated with carved vine leaves, commemorating Rhys’ great grandmother, Marared.

Postcode: LL24 0NR    View Location Map