St. Mary's Church in Swansea's centre was founded in the twelfth century. However, the current building is the result of extensive rebuilding, restoration and war-time destruction throughout its long history. It is reported that the building's aging nave roof collapsed one Sunday morning in 1739 without warning, just before the congregation entered.
"the roof of the Middle Isle ... unexpectedly fell in on Sunday the 20th of May, 1739, just before Divine Service began, by which particular instance of Divine guidance the lives of many people were saved, and only one person wounded."
- St. Mary's vestry book
Seemingly, the minister, Charles Davies, was delayed on this occasion due to waiting for his morning wet shave by his unpunctual barber. The nave roof fell whilst the parishioners waited patiently outside.
A comparative 'barn-like' structure was built cheaply and crudely for the congregation and was considered quite ghastly. Sir Stephen Glynne, a noted describer of churches, declared that the style of the church was "ugly - psuedo-Italian" and that the "interior with its pues [sic], galleries and cumbrous pulpit has more the appearance of a conventicle than a church."
A larger, more impressive Gothic structure replaced the eye-sore between 1895-1899. Unfortunately, most of this was burned to the ground less than 50 years later from German incendiary bombs during the 'Three Nights Blitz' of 1941.
Some may say that the church's fate during the Second World War may have been influenced by a devilish curse put upon the building. A smited Victorian architect turned his back upon the church when his designs for the 1890's rebuilding were rejected in favour of his rival, Sir Arthur Blomfield. As revenge, he carved a wooden effigy of the devil to keep its evil eye upon St. Mary's. The night of 21st February 1941, that witnessed the destruction of St. Mary's church and the surrounding area, left the bizarre devil statue unscathed. The post-war St. Mary's was eventually rebuilt by L.T. Moore and Sir Percy Thomas, following Blomfield's original Gothic-influenced design, from 1954 to 1959.
The people of Swansea dearly wanted St. Mary's to receive cathedral status but the newly formed diocese of Swansea and Brecon in 1923 ruled that Brecon would be their headquarters.
Set within the city centre, surrounded by a well-planted churchyard, the church doors are frequently opened, a welcome invite to the community, visitors and tourists alike. The church interior is decorated with both old and modern stained-glass windows and artwork.