The Church of St Mary seems to have been founded by a granddaughter of Owain Gwynedd, Gwerfil Goch (Gwerfil the Red) sometime in the 12th Century, possibly as a prayer house for pilgrims. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to identify any of the original building, and the present church is a 15th Century restoration, with a porch dated 1606. It was partially rebuilt in 1882, in the great Victorian refurbishment movement in England and Wales.
The single celled Church, entered through a doorway fashioned from three large slabs remains very interesting. There are some stunning medieval carved panels, dated 1492 which were once formed part of a rood screen. These are unique to Britain and were spared the destructions of the Puritan reformation probably due to the remoteness of the area, as was likely at nearby Derwen. Remarkably the St Mary panels were rediscovered beneath a pile of discarded rubbish in 1840 and restored. It seems they were either discarded intentionally, or perhaps removed to protect them and then forgotten. However they were originally lost, they have now been restored and returned to their rightful place. The panels are worn, or course, but the detail is still discernible. A cloaked crucified Christ is central to the scene, with the weeping figures of Mary and St John to his left and right. There is a Latin inscription, ‘Ecce Homo’ - ‘Behold the Man’ above the scene. The symbols of the crucifixion flank Mary and John, the crown of thorns, the club, hammer, nails, pincers and spear of destiny.
The present modern rood screen retains some fragments of the original carvings of beasts and flowers, and the medieval roof bears a carving of a maned lion above the pulpit and there are faint traces of medieval wall paintings in the chancel. Some of the internal furnishings are 17th possibly 18th century, most notably the spectacular and highly unusual chandelier, boasting turned wood and brass arms. The pulpit is Georgian in origin and there is a rather wonderful harmonium. The church has plenty of Welsh memorials and there is even a chest, probably used by the church wardens, which doubles as a settle.
*Please note that the Church is currently closed due to a population of bats.*