• Gower Churches

Llangennith Church

Llangennith Church is the largest of the Gower churches and dominates the village of Llangennith. It has a huge saddle-backed tower containing four bells, one of which is cracked and cannot be rung. Given its location, the church is predictably dedicated to St. Cennydd, who is celebrated on the plaques contained on the lynch gate (the only church lynch gate on the peninsula) and again with further memorials within the church itself.

The story of St. Cennydd, is a strange and fascinating one and mixes historical fact and fictional legend to a degree where it is now difficult to draw an accurate dividing line between them. Cennydd was born of an incestuous relationship between Dihocus, Prince of Brittany and his beautiful daughter. With a hugely deformed leg, a legacy of his parents' unnatural and sinful union, the child was taken to the court of Loughor, where King Arthur had been called to decide upon the fate of the crippled infant. With King Arthur's ruling that the boy's destiny should be decided by God, Cennydd was cast afloat in a wicker cradle upon the waters of the Burry Estuary. It was Christmas Day and the waters were icy and unkind, yet the little child suffered no hardship as the cradle carried him deeper out into the estuary and towards the raging Atlantic Ocean.

Amongst the torrents of the winter's storm, the cradle finally came to rest at Worm's Head, Rhossili where a thousand seagulls snatched Cennydd from his cradle to take him safely to the shore. With a nest of feathers to comfort and shield him from the elements, the boy was then nursed by the wild birds. With the aid of a magical bell, the fabled 'titty bell', delivered to the tended baby by a protecting Angel, that gave the child nourishment, Cennydd grew strong and wise. For 18 years Cennydd lived on Worm's Head, living on the wild plants and herbs that grew there until God told the young man to head inland to the place now known as Llangennith (a corruption from the saint's name Cennydd). There, Cennydd founded the Priory that, destroyed by the Danes in 986 AD, was later rebuilt in 1140 as Llangennith Church by Henry de Beaumont (also known as de Newburgh), Norman Lord of Gower.

Within the church today there lies a large slab of stone carved with an intricate design of Celtic Knotwork. This was unearthed during restoration work on the church and was, at the time, believed to be the grave cover of St. Cennydd, whose remains are said to be buried beneath the floor of the medieval church (for some time up until the second half of the 15th Century, the saint's skull was used for the swearing of official oaths in the village). Although the stone was later identified as a portion of a 9th Century Celtic wheel cross, locals still know it affectionately as "Cenny's Stone".

Unfortunately, despite its history, Llangennith Church is not the prettiest of the Gower Churches, but it does possess a certain atmosphere found nowhere else on the peninsula. Whether that atmosphere is conjured from the church's location, open to the rough salt winds from the Atlantic Ocean , its defensive, castle-like architecture or the supernatural legends ascribed to its saintly founder, one can only speculate.

Another interesting item that can be found in the church is a carved effigy of a 13 th Century knight. Nicknamed the "Dolly Mare", the stone is believed to represent a member of the De la Mare family.

Of interest in Llangennith Churchyard is the grave of Phil Tanner - "The Gower Nightingale." Widely thought of as Britain's finest ever folk singer, his funeral was attended by the Mayor of Swansea, numerous local councillors as employers and friends of the BBC. Despite this mass attendance his gravestone is dedicated solely to his wife Ruth Tanner.

A key to the church is available from the nearby P.J.'s Surf Shop.

  • Llangennith Church
    Llangennith Church

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