St. Cenydd's Church
Being the largest church in Gower, St. Cenydd's Church dominates the small village of Llangennith. Parts of the present church were originally built in the 12th century, but the site has been used as a religious retreat since the 6th century when St. Cennydd founded a hallowed place here. There is speculation that the Vikings pillaged the shrine and adjoining college in 986, but these were later restored by the holy man Caradoc of Rhos between 1066 and the early 1100's.
During the Norman invasion of Gower, Henry de Beaumont (Norman Lord of Gower) gave control over the sanctuary to the Benedictine Abbey of St. Taurin in France. The monks of St. Taurin established a small priory here to serve both monks and parishioners and to oversee the running of the estate.
The oldest part of the present day church is the blocked up Norman arch on the east wall of the tower, which is speculated to be the only remaining portion of the original church built in 1140. The rest of the church appears to have been built around 1300 adjoined to the original church. Once the larger church was completed the smaller building was demolished except for the arch which was used to construct one of the tower walls. It seems likely that the arch was planned as an entrance to a further extension of a side chapel to the north of the chancel - which would also explain why there are no windows on the north wall of the chancel. However, the arch was blocked up instead, maybe due to financial reasons or political unrest.
It wasn't until Henry V seized all 'alien priories' in 1414 that monastic life in Llangennith was suppressed and in 1441, St. Cennydd's Church was granted to the Warden and Fellows of All Souls' College, Oxford. By 1838 the church was granted to Thomas Penrice of Kilvrough Manor and by this time needed extensive restoration work. During the restoration, a memorial slab carved with intricate Celtic knotwork designs was dug up and removed, and later fixed to the west wall. It was thought at the time to be the gravestone of St. Cennydd but has since been identified as a portion of a 9th century Celtic wheel cross. Nevertheless, the slab is still affectionately nicknamed 'Cenny's Stone' by locals. St. Cennydd is also celebrated on a plaque on the lynch gate (the only church lynch gate on the peninsula).
The huge saddle-backed tower contains four bells, one of which is cracked and cannot be rung. During restoration work on the tower in 1888, some holes in the wall were preserved. These holes are from the 'Mabsant' or Saint Day tradition, whereby parishioners attached a decorated cock to the tower for a 3 day celebration of St. Cennydd - these holes are still visible today.
Inside the church is a carved effigy of a 13th century knight, presumed to one of the local De la Mare family and is nicknamed 'Dolly Mare'.
A key to the church is available from the nearby P.J.'s Surf Shop.