St Mary

Abergavenny parish church was founded in the late 11th century as the church of a Benedictine priory. It is the only part to survive, apart from the later tithe barn.

About this church

The church went through several reorderings, restorations and rebuildings in the 19th century, partly to reflect changing religious practise, and in 1882 another restoration began, resulting in the nave and north aisle being virtually rebuilt in an endeavour to return to the original layout.

In 1896 more was done to bring back into use the whole of the east end, including the chancel, parts of which had been used as a school.

Despite all these changes, the church contains a remarkable number of monuments, many of them medieval. The oldest is to Eva da Braose, of the Norman Marcher Lord family. She died in the mid 1200s. Her effigy holds a shield marked with her husband's crest of a fleurs de lis.

The largest collection of monuments is in the Herbert Chapel. Here, ranks of effigies on their decorated table tombs fill the space and the walls. They range in date from the 15th to the 17th century and show the changes in faces, fashions and taste through that time.

There are two outstanding wooden carvings in the church. The earliest is the effigy of Sir John de Hastings, of about 1325. He is shown praying and in repose, his feet on a lion. The figure is beautifully made and beautifully preserved.

Even more remarkable is the wooden figure of Jesse, made in the 15th century. He is literally larger than life sized, and wonderfully carved, with flowing robes and a luxuriant beard. From his stomach protrudes the stump of what would once have been the Tree of Jesse, an enormous sculpture showing how Jesus was descended from Jesse, with all of the principal biblical persons depicted in between. The figure is a unique work of art, unlike anything else in Britain.

The church is the hub of a thriving church community, with the 16th century tithe barn housing an education centre and the newly built Priory Centre.

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Magnificent memorials
  • Glorious furnishings
  • Social heritage stories
  • National heritage here

Visitors information

  • Bus stop within 100m
  • Train station within 250m
  • Level access to the main areas
  • Car park at church
  • Parking within 250m
  • Accessible toilets in church
  • Café within 500m
  • Walkers & cyclists welcome
  • Space to secure your bike
  • Wifi
  • Church shop or souvenirs

Other nearby churches

Our Lady & St Michael Priory

The church is unusual in its long history in that it has been served by members of two religious orders: the Franciscans (1687-1857) and the Benedictines (1857-present).

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St Peter

Situated just inside the Brecon Beacons National Park, it enjoys views across the Usk valley and is on a well used walking route.

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