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Posted on 02/05/2018 by David

There are some wonderful churches in North Wales, each with a fascinating story to tell. Many are quite hidden or withhold their charms behind plain walls.

In part seven of our mini blog series, we share with you two more churches, off the beaten track but well worth exploring.

St Tanwg's Church, Llandanwg near Harlech

While Anglesey has a church in the sea, Harlech has a church in the sand dunes!

St Tanwg's 1

Just south of the tiny coastal village of Llandanwg (with the cutest railway station you'll ever see), St Tanwg's is a few steps away from the beach car park at the end of the road.

True, the car park is a bit close for comfort, but at least it means you don't have to tramp through the soft sand too much to reach it.

Medieval St Tanwg's is just 20 metres from the high water mark and surrounded by sand and marram grass. It retains its original roof structure and houses three inscribed stones and two stones marked with crosses that are centuries old. Most of the graveyard is buried with sand.

Beneath the external east window is the grave of renowned Welsh poet and minstrel, Sion Phillips, who drowned crossing from Pwllheli to Llandanwg in 1620.

This tiny, rather sparse church may warrant a brief visit, but as part of a trip to the beach - just north of renowned (and more popular) Shell Island - makes it a fascinating place of worship well worth a look.

St Tanwg's 2

St Dyfnog's Church and well, Llanrhaeadr near Denbigh

Modern-day pilgrims tend to speed past in their cars on the A525 between Denbigh and Ruthin while admiring the Clwydian Range's rollercoaster hills to the east. Yet less than 100 yards from the road in the pretty village of Llanrhaeadr is the pretty church of St Dyfnog.

St Dyfnog's 1

Set in a sheltered woodland setting, this place of worship features a wonderful Jesse window. A Jesse window is a stained glass window depicting the family tree of Jesus Christ - and St Dyfnog's is one of the most spectacular.

The Jesse Tree is featured in many stained glass windows, illuminated manuscripts, wall paintings, carvings, floor tiles and embroidery.

Sadly, the artist who created the Llanrhaeadr Jesse window is unknown. Completed in 1533, the figures in St Dyfnog's Jesse window resemble 'court' playing cards. Some of the images don't quite add up, though.

Why? It is thought that the window was removed for safety in 1645, at the time of the Civil War. However, when it was put back in 1661, two of the figures - Achaz and Ezekias (second and third up from the bottom, in the left-hand light) - seem to have been swapped: the branches don’t “grow” properly from the adjacent panels. Also, the symmetry of the figures has not been preserved.

Matthan's stance at the top of the second light mirrors that of Ozias at the top of the fourth light. Elsewhere, Achaz, third from the bottom of the first light, pairs with Salathiel, second from bottom of the fifth light. In all, the Llanrhaeadr Jesse window features 23 identifiable human figures.

Hidden in woodland near St. Dyfnog’s, with access via a gate in the churchyard, is the well of Saint Dyfnog.

This beautiful spot is actually on private land but you can visit via a lovely 200-yard-long path through the trees. The well is a rectangular stone bath, just over one foot deep, fed by a number of springs. It is thought that Saint Dyfnog lived here during the 6th century and did penance by standing in the well.

St Dyfnog's 2

The church is usually open during daylight hours but if you're travelling some distance or a large group, call the churchwarden June Hughes on 07454 466528. 

Images courtesy: St Tanwg's Church By Thozza via Wikimedia Commons. St Dyfnog's Well, By Llywelyn2000 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons