Ystradgynlais & District

History and Heritage

The Dedication to Saint Cynog

The Llais newspaper of 30th December 1916 shows that by the fifty years since the rebuilding of 1861, the locals of Ystradgynlais were confused as to whom their parish church was dedicated to. It apparently came as something of a surprise to discover that the answer was Saint Cynog!


The question of the dedication of the Parish Church has been one of great, uncertainty in the district. Even keen antiquarians versed in local lore could shed no light on the problem. The guesses which found most favour were those which ascribed the dedication to St. Mary or to St. Cynlais. Speaking at the Parish Church on Sunday morning within the octave of the Dedication Festival, the Rev W H Harris, M.A., B.Litt., retailed several interesting items of local ecclesiastical history. The present edifice was consecrated on December 18th 1861, during the incumbency of the late Dr Walters, the redoubtable champion of Mother Church against her antagonists. It is said that the versatile Doctor acted as his own architect. The first church in Ystradgynlais was founded in the second half of the fifth century by St. Cynog, a son of Brychan Brycheiniog. He is also the patron saint of the churches of Devynock, Penderin, Llangynog, Boughrood and Merthyr Cynog, the last mentioned place, as the name implies, being the scene of martyrdom. Henceforth the erroneous designations of the Parish Church as St. Mary's or St. Cynlais' will have to be abandoned in favour of St. Cynog.

Why was the correct dedication so long unknown?

Thanks to Dewi Roberts, Rector of Ystradgynlais for the following information:-

In his book 'The History of the Building of the present Church' the former Rector of Ystradgynlais, The Reverend Hywel Hughes, writes as follows: 'The chronicler Ecton states that this old church (the original 5th/6th century church) was dedicated to St Mary. Theophilus Jones in his History of Breconshire disproves this but then goes on to claim with no apparent authority that the patron saint of the church was Gwnlen or Gunlais. In latter years as a result of research done by the late Professor WH Harris of Lampeter, a former curate of the parish, it has been established that the original dedication of the old church was to St Cynog. The confusion is explained thus:-It often happened in the Norman period that the original Welsh dedication was displaced and a church was rededicated to a saint whose name was found in the Roman Calendar. In this case the original dedication was superseded by St Mary, the Blessed Virgin. This in time was forgotten and only in comparatively recent years has the original dedication been brought back into common usage.'

Copies of this book are available for purchase from Saint Cynog's Church, Ystradgynlais.

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