St Mary’s Church, Brecon

Link to French translationSt Mary’s Church, Brecon

This church sits at the centre of Brecon. It originated as a 12th century chapel of ease (a satellite facility) for St John’s Priory, run by Benedictine monks. The priory church is now Brecon Cathedral, a short walk north from the town centre.

A Celtic church may have previously occupied the site of St Mary’s Church.

A document from 1200 records that the town council granted 12 pence to the church for the lighting of a taper to burn, during Mass, for the soul of the church’s benefactor.

Most of the building we see today dates from the early 14th century to the late 15th. Parts of the structure were modified during Victorian renovation. Architect WD Caroe created other features in the 1920s, including the reredos (screen behind the altar), choir stalls and Nativity window in the south aisle. St Mary’s became the parish church in 1923.

The sole surviving Norman column is on the north side of the nave. The great tower was built for military purposes c.1520 at a cost of £2,000 by Edward Stafford, who was Duke of Buckingham and Marcher Lord of Brecknock. It has survived largely unalterated. The church retains its medieval ‘ting tang’ bells, which once summoned the priest to say Mass. ‘Ting tang’ bells sound only two notes, the higher alternating with the lower.

A floral cross in the south porch commemorates a local knight who died in the crusades. In 1188 the Archbishop of Canterbury and Gerald of Wales visited Brecon during their tour of Wales to recruit for the third crusade. In his journal, Gerald described Brecon as the district’s main town and castle.

The south porch features a dog door. Dogs were commonly admitted to churches but any rowdy ones at St Mary’s Church were seized with purpose-built tongs and ejected through the dog door. This avoided having to open the full door.

The church also contains two marble tablets from 1691, inscribed and painted with liturgical texts. They are signed Stanton of London.

Brecon war memorial stands in the grounds of the church. The church’s Tower Café draws on the church’s Benedictine heritage to provide hospitality to visitors.

Postcode: LD3 7DJ    View Location Map

Church website

More details of St Mary’s Church from Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust

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