Usk, St Mary's Priory Church
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: 15th century chancel screen
During the 15th century Usk Priory became a gathering place for pilgrims, drawn by the shrine of St Radagund. Radagund was a 6th century Frankish princess who had founded a monastery at Poitiers in France.
The pride of St Mary's is the beautifully carved 15th century screen separating the nave from the chancel. This exquisite piece of craftsmanship is one of the finest screens in Wales, and though it has been restored and colourfully painted, the quality of the medieval craftsmanship shines through.
On the east face of the wooden screen is set a rectangular brass plaque commemorating Adam of Usk, a priest and chronicler, who died in 1420. The inscription is in ancient Welsh, and is one of the oldest in the country. On the other side of the screen is the pulpit, which is Jacobean, and all that remains of an original triple-decker pulpit. Beneath it is a worn oak chest dating to 1520, used for storing important parish documents.
Over the chancel arch is a small window with fragments of medieval glass.
One of the most interesting historic features of St Mary's is not all that old; the massive pipe organ was built in 1861 for Llandaff Cathedral. In 1900 it was purchased from the cathedral fore the sum of ï¿½300 and brought here. It is considered the most complete cathedral organ in Britain.
Not all the interest is inside the church, however! Just outside the porch is the grave of St David Lewis, one of the '40 Martyrs of England and Wales' who was canonised as a Roman Catholic saint in 1970. In 1679 Lewis was executed for not renouncing his faith, near the current Catholic church on Porthycarne Street.
Also in the churchyard is the grave of Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt, a prominent Victorian architect who worked with Isambard Kingdom Brunel in designing Paddington Station in London, and also on the Rothschild Mausoleum in hr Jewish Cemetery in West Ham.
Immediately outside the churchyard gates in Church Street is the abbey gatehouse, one of the last vestiges of the original medieval monastic buildings.
When you stand outside the churchyard and look back at the church, it is hard not to think that the tower looks more like it belongs on a castle than a church. It is unlike almost any church tower I have ever seen. If it had crenellations it could be mistaken for part of Usk Castle!
About Usk, St Mary's Priory Church
Address: Church Street, Usk, Monmouthshire, Wales
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: At the corner of Priory Street and Church Street, off the A472 (Castle Parade). On street parking and free town parking area nearby. The church was open when we visited.
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Usk Priory - 0.1 miles (Abbey)
Usk Roman Fortress - 0.1 miles (Roman Site)
Usk Castle - 0.1 miles (Castle)
Goetre, St Peter's Church - 4.3 miles (Historic Church)
Raglan Castle - 4.9 miles (Castle)
Gaer Llwyd Chambered Tomb - 5 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Llanover, St Bartholomew's Church - 5.8 miles (Historic Church)
Pontypool Museum - 5.9 miles (Museum)
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