Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The Gwydir Chapel and the Wynne Legacy

Llanrwst Church is not ancient. Throughout its history Llanrwst has been repeatedly sacked and rebuilt. At the start of the 15th century Llanrwst supported the uprising of Welsh hero Owain Glyndwr and was razed to the ground as a result. It was then sacked again by the Earl of Pembroke during the Wars of the Roses. However, the church was rebuilt in the 16th century, largely by the Wynne family who also build Gwydir Castle on the west bank of the River Conwy. They managed to reserve for themselves a large chapel on the south, into which they built their family tombs, and very impressive they are. I suspect that many of the memorials which came from the nearby abbey (sacked in the 1530s) were incorporated in order to associate the Wynne family (who claimed descent from the royal house of Cunedda) with the aristocracy of old.

On the south wall there is an ornate marble monument in honour to Maredudd ab Ifan who brought the family to this area and to Sir John Wynne and his wife Sidney.
The empty stone sarcophagus is said to be the one in which Prince Llewlyn Fawr was buried in, in 1240.

A stone effigy of Hywel Coetmor is very often mistaken for the lid of Prince Llewellyn’s sarcophagus.

This tomb bought to mind that famous poem by Philip Larkin, where he visits a similar tomb which contains "They would not think to lie so long..."

"They would not guess how early in
Their supine stationary voyage
Their air would change to soundless damage,
Turn the old tenantry away;
How soon succeeding eyes begin
To look, not read. Rigidly they

Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light
Each summer thronged the grass. A bright
Litter of birdcalls strewed the same
Bone-riddled ground. And up the paths
The endless altered people came,

Washing at their identity.
Now, helpless in the hollow of
An unarmorial age, a trough
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins
Above their scrap of history,
Only an attitude remains:"

St Crwst's Church.

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