Full Report for Listed Buildings

Summary Description of a Listed Buildings

Reference Number
Building Number
Date of Designation
Date of Amendment
Name of Property
Church of St Melangell  


Unitary Authority
Cwm Pennant  
Street Side
In the upper part of Cwm Pennant, close to the confluence of Cwm Nant-ewyn. Preaching cross shaft in churchyard, reused as sundial pillar. Stone churchyard wall with lychgate and stile.  


Broad Class
Religious, Ritual and Funerary  

In a legend of high importance in Welsh tradition, the origins of St Melangell''''''''s church are traced to the C7/C8, when St Melangell (Latinised as Monacella), was thought to have saved a hare hunted by Brochwel, a Prince of Powys. The legend is represented in the frieze from the C15 screen. The Celtic dedication of the church, the rounded form of the churchyard and the location all point to pre-mediaeval origins. The legend also tells that St Melangell founded a nunnery here, but it did not survive to the start of mediaeval records. Graves have been revealed underlying the north side and the apse of the present building. The present structure starts as a stone-built church probably built by Rhirid Flaidd, d.1189, perhaps including the shrine. The ''''''''ecclesia de Pennant'''''''' is first recorded in 1254. By this time it probably consisted of nave and long chancel possibly as one cell plus an apse which covered a prominent grave. (These latter important features have been revealed by excavation.) Pilgrimage to the shrine of St Melangell, a fine Norman monument dated architecturally to 1160-70, was well established by the C15; the shrine may have been in the chancel or in the apse; it was probably broken up in the Reformation. The font is also late C12 Norman, much worn. The church has been much altered. A tower and belfry were probably added in the C17. Reconstruction of most of the north wall (and probably the west and much of the south) is recorded by a stone of 1635(?) with the initials TV.WP. The porch is dated 1737. A stone dated 1738(?) dates the south wall of the chancel. The former cell-y-bedd (grave chamber) against the east wall, replacing an earlier apse, was constructed in 1751. It had no communication with the church, but was entered directly from the churchyard; it was used as a vestry until the 1830s and as a schoolroom until superseded by the village school in Llangynog shortly after 1870. Inside, the nave roof is of the C15, and the rood screen and loft and its carving of the legend are probably of the same date, though relocated (the rood-loft was removed in the 1720s.) A window was inserted in the wall west of the porch to light the west gallery in 1721, but neither the window nor the gallery now survive. Glynne, visiting in 1848, found a mean exterior but some points of interest, noting especially ex-situ Norman architectural features built into the south wall. Inside he noted the carvings representing the legend of St Melangell, also the surviving rood screen with four compartments each side. The church was restored in 1876-7 by Benjamin Lay of Welshpool, including the complete rebuilding of the tower. New windows were inserted in the south wall (east and west of the porch) and in the north wall. Wall paintings revealed during this work were not preserved, but the wood carvings representing the legend of St Melangell were removed to the front of the west gallery. During further restorations in 1951 the cell-y-bedd or grave chamber was refloored and the foundations of the earlier apse discovered. The shrine was reconstructed from fragments remaining in the walls of the church and the lychgate. Following threats of demolition the church underwent a major programme of research and restoration in 1989-92, at a cost of £130,000, including the removal of the cell-y-bedd and its replacement by a small apse representing the Norman apse. The church was reordered by R B Heaton. The screen was moved about 2½ m west and placed on a stone plinth, and the beam and traceried loft formerly on the west gallery were restored in front of it. The space above was boarded, providing a surface upon which to display a bronze Corpus Christi on the nave side, by the artist Katherine Fuller. On the other (chancel) side are the Creed, Commandments and Lord''''''''s Prayer taken from the plaster of the east wall; a C19 replica is in the church tower. These texts are now only now visible within the chancel when looking west. The Norman font was removed to the south door. The most important change was the rebuilding of St. Melangell''''''''s shrine in the centre of the chancel, reusing all available original stone carvings. The C18 altar rails were moved and altered to make access to the shrine easier. The programme included touristic objectives and the fitting of the tower base as a shop and its upper storey as a gallery for local history and similar displays.  

A small church in quasi-coursed local slate masonry of many periods with slate roof and tile ridges. Original Norman masonry survives around the south door and in the west part of the north wall of the nave. The church consists of nave and chancel hardly differentiated externally, a west tower, south porch, and a recently reconstructed eastern apse. The chancel roof has a small stone eastern cross of Celtic form. Plain verges to chancel and porch roofs. The tower has a truncated pyramid roof with metal hips and a timber belfry opening; above this a second pyramid roof with an iron weathervane. Half-conical roof to the apse. In the south side are one reset C15 three-light and three C19 two-light windows with trefoil heads, and in the north side a similar C19 window of two lights. Small Norman light in north side. Two small tower lights. Three small round-headed lights to apse. The porch has a semicircular outer arch with slight label course above; above the doorway is a stone with the date 1737, and the date 1763 appears on the gates. The inner doorway is Norman, tall and narrow, with oak doors dated 1737 on the lock.  

Entered by the south porch, the interior is long and narrow and conspicuously divided by the restored rood screen with dominant solid boarding above. Nave with four bays of roofing, with arch-braced collar beam trusses and V struts, the panels above the collar beam cusped. Red and black quarry tile floor. Two banks of plain pews. Panelled pulpit at left, on restored base. Fine rood screen with wide centre panel and four panels each side; filigree carving in the panel heads; rood loft with carved beam and cornice, the front in eleven panels also with filigree carved heads. Benefaction board displayed beside the south door; Royal Arms on the west wall. Wooden candelabrum of 1733. Small step up to chancel. Flagged floor; three-bay barrel ceiling; simple altar rails, relocated and altered; C14 effigies at left and right; memorial at left of John Thomas [1729] and others of Llechwedd-y-garth in figured marble with broken pediment. On the east side of the partition above the restored rood is displayed the plaster painting of the Creed, Ten Commandments and Lord''''''''s Prayer in Welsh in a nowy-headed panel including two cherubs, one winged and carrying a cloth with the words ''''''''ofnwch Dduw'''''''', the other with a huge round shield inscribed ''''''''a chedwch ei orchymynni''''''''. Painting at the head of the panel has deteriorated but may contain a Hebrew inscription. The panel is dated 1791 by vestry minutes. To the east of the chancel there is a re-opened doorway to the apse. The apse has a half-domed ceiling and a cobbled floor. The chancel is dominated by the reconstructed shrine, about 3 m tall, standing on six short Romanesque columns carrying little arches on their abaci. The upper stage is reconstructed as rectangular relic chest, clad in silk cloth between projecting bands, and the roof part is under a similar drape. Two tall opposed gables each with six tiers of dove-wing or leaf crockets. In the reconstruction care has been taken to differentiate between original masonry and restoration. The altar stands against the west side of the shrine, and similar cloth is used as its frontal.  

Reason for designation
Listed at grade I as a church of early mediaeval origins, extensively restored, but retaining in reconstructed form a Norman grave monument regarded as the earliest surviving Romanesque shrine in northern Europe.  

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