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St Michael's Church Betws-y-Coed

Description

A haven of tranquility in this bustling village, St Michael's was built around the 14th century and is the oldest building in Betws-y-Coed. in Betws-y-Coed became a popular tourist destination in the 19th century, and the population of the village soared during this time. St. Michael's was soon found to be too small for the growing congregation, despite having been enlarged in 1843. A new, larger church (St. Mary's) was built on the main ad AS Holyhead Road, and this lovely old church was for many years then used only for weddings, funerals and occasional ?lu'r other services. The church is now in the care of The St. Michael's Betws-y-Coed Trust, a registered charity formed to conserve the building. 

 

When you enter the church you will find a number of interesting features, including the 13th century font, and and the rather grand pulpit which was probably made out of the panelling from Gwydir Castle. Perhaps the most famous feature can be found in the arch near the altar - the effigy of the knight Gruffydd ap Dafydd Goch. Legend has it that he was the great great grandson of Llywelyn Fawr, Prince of Gwynedd. You can find out more about him and his life inside the church. 

 

Our churchyard is interesting too. The spectacular yew trees are about 1000 years old and cast the most picturesque shadows across the old graves. Take some time to browse our collection of tombstones. You will find a number of artists buried here, and some of the tombstones date back to the 1600's - see if you can find the oldest one! 

 

In the Church lies the effigy of Gruffydd ap Dafydd Goch. Gruffydd is thought to have lived at Fedw Deg, two miles south of St. Michael's, and held lands in Penmachno and several other places in North Wales. Gruffydd's father, Dafydd Goch 

is often described as the illegitimate son of Dafydd ap Gruffydd, grandson of Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd between 1200 and 1240. This ancestry is, however, far from certain. 

 

The effigy would once have rested on a chest tomb. It is unlikely to be in its original position as close inspection shows that the stone has been trimmed to fit the present recess. The effigy may once have been colourfully painted, but now has a coating of stone coloured wash. The Latin inscription along the edge of the stone reads: 

Here Lies Gruffydd son of Dafydd The Red. Lamb of God have mercy on me. 

 

The effigy, carved in limestone, is a particularly fine example. it is life size and shows Gruffydd wearing the armour of a knight typical of the 14th century. His head rests on a helmet topped with the head of a bird holding an oak leaf in its beak. His feet rest on a lion, indicating that he died in battle. His coat of arms, a chevron with two oak leaves in chief, is seen on both his tunic and shield shaped belt buckle. 

Gruffydd probably died in about 1380. He was clearly a man of means and influence. He was foreman of a jury that met at Trefriw in the 1350's, and he fought at the battle of Poitiers in 1356 under the Black Prince, son of King Edward III. 

The Friends of St Michael's are committed to preserving this special place for the future and ensuring access for all to the building. We are indebted to all our supporters, funders, craftsmen, and visitors for the success of the project. 

 

In addition to securing the long term survival of St Michael's, restoration work has allowed us to reveal new information about the building.Traces of painted decoration applied to earlier layers of plaster work was recorded around the west window. The flue for an old heating system, we assume a free standing stove, was discovered above the recess where Gruffydd lies, confirming reports that there was once a chimney on this side of the building.

Subsequent work has included the re-leading of some of the windows, the development of the vestry area for storage, and further works to both problematic areas of plasterwork and the roof. 

In addition to securing the long term survival of St Michael's, restoration work has allowed us to reveal new information about the building.Traces of painted decoration applied to earlier layers of plasterwork was recorded around the west window. The flue for an old heating system, we assume a free standing stove, was discovered above the recess where Gruffydd lies, confirming reports that there was once a chimney on this side of the building. 

The new railway line brought increasing numbers of visitors and further pressure on St Michael's. The vicar at the time, Rev. J. W. Griffiths, was apparently very dynamic and under his leadership the parish built the new Church of St Mary's in a more central position. 

St Mary's opened in 1873, after which time St Michael's was used for special services, funerals and some weddings and was only minimally maintained. As a result the building was never modernised and the simple early Victorian interior which makes it so special survived intact. 

With the subsequent 20th century decline in the church population the Parish struggled to maintain the two churches. Over the years St Michael's began to deteriorate. By 1990, just two services were being held a year and for much of the time the building was kept locked up, and was cold, damp and uninviting. 

 

 

Location

North Wales
Betws-y-Coed

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