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St Tanwg Church, Llandanwg, Llanbedr




Little is known about St. Tanwg, other than he was a 'cousin' i.e. A relative, of St. Cadfan. He may have founded or inherited the church on this site. 


Cadfan. more popularly Catemanus, was a common name in Roman Britain. There were two Cadfans associated with Merioneth. The best known is the 6th Century saint who founded the seminary at Tywyn and the monastery on Bardsey Island in 515 AD and 520 AD respectively. He was a contemporary of St David, St. Gildas, St Samson and St Pol, and may also have been a product of St Illtud's seminary at Llantwit major. Glams. He was still flourishing in 550AD. 


Less well known in Britain is the 5th Century St Cadfan of Briec, Brittany, who was driven out of his lands about 462 AD and took refuge with the King of Merioneth. The two Kings may have been related. This Cadfan is depicted in a sculpture in Briec Church dressed as a soldier. It is now agreed that the 12th Century. Norman chroniclers amalgamated the two Cadfans into one person. They gave him a 6th Century date and made him the Patron Saint of Soldiers. 


Dr. Kirby of the University of Wales states that Tanwg belongs to the 5th Century date for the founding of Tanwg's Church is the massive grave stone lying by the altar. This stone originated at Kilkenny, ireland, or in Anglesey and because of its weight (3/4 ton) was carried to Llandanwg in a substantial ship. Such ships plied British waters in the 5th Century. The stone is officially listed as 5th/early 6th Century and is dedicated to a Briton called Ingenuus. Experience elsewhere shows that the monumental stones were erected some years after the burial e.g. Samson stone at Llantwit Major. It is therefore certain that Ingenuus was active in the middle of the 5th Century. 


Because this stone was recovered from the grave yard and could only have reached Llandanwg by ship, and that there are no other grave yards in the vicinity. It is clear that the grave yard and its original church are 5th Century. 


Two other points are worth noting. The famous seminary founded at Tywyn by the later St Cadfan is recorded by the chroniclers as "the mother church of South Merioneth". South Merioneth is the area lying South of the river Mawddach. It must follow that there was a "mother church of North Merioneth" and by inference, it was already in existence when St. Cadfan founded his church at Tywyn in 515AD. 


The second point is that Llandanwg is linked to Clochaenog, near Ruthin, by a chain of 5th early 6th Century gravestones. These are at Trawsfynnyd. Tomen y Mur, Ffestiniog. Penmachno, Pentrefoelas and Clochaennog. East of Clochaenog the gravestones are 6th Century. Also in the chain, which follows the ancient road from Llandanwg to Chester is the church of Mary Magdalene at Cerrigydrurion. This church was founded by Evanus. disciple of St. Patrick in 440AD. 


The chronological distribution of early Christian gravestones in North, Mid and South Wales is identical. The are in the West and the youngest are in the East, proving beyond doubt that there was a • ,rigelisation coming from Ireland in the 5th Century. It entered South Wales at Fishguard and North \A ales at Llandanwg. The purpose of the christian community at the port of Llandanwg is now obvious and chronology suggests an earlier date than 440AD. Llandanwg was probably the "Mother church of North Merioneth" and North Wales. 


Readers will he aware that St Patrick sailed from Britain to Ireland in 432 to convert the North Irish. He landed at Wicklow. His writings show that within a very few years he was sending monks from Ireland to Britain. The route from Llandanwg to Chester bypassed the Snowdon Massif and was the safest and quickest route 


Note: From the end of the 4th Century, Britons had been emigrating from North Britain to Devon, Cornwall and Brittany. At about the same time a tribe from the Edinburgh area moved into North and Mid Wales to drive out Irish settlers and pirates. They occupied the land Throughout the 5th and 6th Centuries there was a constant flow of persons between Wales and Brittany. Many of the ruling families were related by marriage


North Wales
St Tanwg, Llandanwg Llanbedr LL45 2HP