St Idloes Church, Llanidloes
St Idloes Church, Llanidloes

St Idloes is a beautiful 14th century church dedicated to a little-known Celtic saint. The church interior is worth seeing for its Early English nave arcade and its outstanding late medieval hammerbeam roof.

History

Very little is known about St Idloes save that he lived in the 7th century and was the son of a red-haired knight named Gwyddnabi ab Llawfrodedd. The church in Llanidloes is the only church in the world dedicated to Idloes and stands on the site of an earlier building. Curiously, Idloes was never canonised as a saint, he was merely a religious leader, which makes the dedication even more unusual.

An old manuscript records his only known saying, 'The best quality is that of maintaining morals'. St Idloes feast day is celebrated on 6 September.

The church at Llanidloes was originally a daughter church of Llandinam, and home to a Celtic 'clas' or monastery. The monastery survived until at least the late 13th century but there is no obvious trace of it today.

The oldest part of the current building is the squat west tower, dating to the 14th century and topped with a pyramidal roof. The tower may date as early as 1350 and might have served as a fortified tower for the town.

The striking hammerbeam roof was brought here in 1542 from Cwmhir Abbey after the abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII. The roof is made up of 19 bays and is carried on stone corbel heads. The timber trusses are beautifully moulded and the hammer beams are decorated with gilded figures of angels. The angels bear shields confirming the date of construction as 'ARH-8-33-MF-2', which translates as 'the second day of the month of February in the 33rd year of the reign of King Henry VIII', which is to say 2 February 1542.

The roof spandrels are carved with grotesque figures, much earlier in style than the angels. One shows a bird picking out a man's eyes, another shows an archer drawing his bow.

The nave arcade of five arches was also brought from the abbey church at Cwmhir and dates to around 1200. The arcade is considered one of the finest examples of the Early English style in Wales. It was probably created by a team of craftsmen from Worcester who were also known to have worked art Llandaff and St David's. The ornately carved foliage designs decorating the capitals are simply stunning.

The south doorway is also thought to have been rebuilt using carved stones from the abbey.

The octagonal font dates to the first half of the 14th century, though it stands on a modern base.

The church was restored in the early 18th century and completely rebuilt in 1882 by the ubiquitous GE Street.

High on the wall at the end of the north aisle, half lost in the gloom at the rear of the church, is an early 16th century knight's helmet. It probably belonged to a member of the Lloyd family of Berthloyd. It was originally suspended over the knight's tomb in the chancel but was removed during the Victorian restoration.

Beyond the nave arcade and the beautiful roof, other historic features include the 16th century helmet of a knight high on the wall, a 14th century font and a reredos design by the Victorian firm of Clayton & Bell.

The church is usually open daylight hours and was open when we visited.