St Garmon's Church

From hence I continued my journey to Llanarmon, a village whose church is dedicated to St. Germanus bishop of Auxerre; who, with St. Lupus, contributed to gain the famous Victoria Alleluiatica over the Picts and Saxons near Mold. He was a most popular patron, and has numbers of other churches in Wales under his protection. An image of an ecclesiastic, still to be seen in the church wall, is called his. In Leland’s days, there was a great resort of pilgrims, and large offerings at this place; and, probably, to this imaginary resemblance of him.

Thomas Pennant, 'A Tour in Wales' 1778

St Garmon’s dates originally from 1282, in a much older landscape, the churchyard clearly circular and thus suggesting a pre-Conquest foundation of a British site of Christianity.  Tradition states that the Church marks the spot of where an Easter festival was held, blessed by St Germanus (Garmon), in, as Elias Owen tells us, 'a church formed of the interwoven branches of trees and flowers of the forest'. The characteristic second nave was added in 1450.  Noted for its unusual 1736 restoration, and one of the reasons for its listing as a Grade I building, St Garmon’s contains some extremely curious features.

The chandelier is extraordinary, and certainly pre-Reformation.  With its three tiers of six branches, intricate foliage on curving stems, and a canopied figure of the Virgin Mary at its centre,  it remains a treasure.  It is believed that it was brought from Valle Crucis at the Dissolution, possibly correctly.  A similar, though less elaborate chandelier can be seen at St Tegla’s at Llandegla.  An alternate theory is that it is actually Flemish, and was brought over by members of the Bodidris family.

The church is also noted for its monuments.  In particular two stand out.  The early 14th century effigy of the Welsh knight, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn ab Ynyr is startling.  Dressed in a surcoat and with an unsheathed blade, the knight holds an intricately carved shield.  It is possible that the effigy was brought from Valle Crucis, since the Abbey is notable for its wealth of sepulchral carving and it remains likely that certain pieces were removed to nearby churches, Bryneglwys for example.  The second is of Captain Efan Llwyd who died in 1637 in Anglesey.  The coat of arms above the effigy enjoys much of its original colouring.  The armoured, bearded and moustached figure is seen reclining in a three-arched niche behind a rare Welsh inscription, which he does seem very pleased about.  The Lloyds prospered under the Tudors and Stuarts, and Efan Llwyd served in Ireland, as the inscription makes clear. There is a tradition that the third notable effigy is actually that of St Garmon himself, a man who enjoys a considerable amount of fame throughout North Wales. Elias Owen disagreed believing that it was actually of John Lloyd, Abbot of Vale Crucis. The effigy is battered and weather worn, but probably of the 14th century.  It is possible the weathering might well have come from the devotions of pilgrims that travelled to the Church.

It is possible that the Church is locked, but a trip to the nearby village shop will secure the key.  Just remember to return it.