About this church
Early stones, one with a Romano-British inscription, point to an earlier tribal occupancy. These stones now form an alignment at the back of the church, though it is possible, as suggested by early documents, that they too may have once sat on the burial mound, marking a much earlier ancestral grave.
The ancient yews, perhaps 2500-3000 years old, are typical of a former sacred gathering place, and are some of the best examples in North Wales.
The legends hold that Gwenfrewi (pronounced Gwen-VRE-wy and anglicised as St Winifred) came to Gwytherin to live alongside her cousin Eleri who had set up an early Christian clas or collegium with his Mother Theonia. Gwenfrewi eventually became abbess over this early community and it was here that she is said to have died and was buried in an enclosure now known as Penbryn Chapel.
It was here, 500 years after her death, that Prior Robert and seven monks are reported to have travelled to take away the bones of Gwenfrewi to Shrewsbury in the 1130s so as to attract pilgrims to their newly founded abbey.
There was a reliquary box at Gwytherin called the Arch Gwenfrewi, drawn at the chapel site by Edward Lhuyd in 1668. The Arch (‘chest’ in Welsh), a rare link to the past, was all but destroyed by a priest selling off parts of it as relics, with only a few pieces surviving. The stones that now reside in the church form some of the few remaining links to the chapel site and Gwenfrewi’s Chapel. The gravestone now in the wall by the altar was at one time recorded as having been placed over Gwenfrewi’s grave at a much earlier period.
The feeling inside I hope will echo something of the beauty felt outside and all around this sacred site.