History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: 14th century and later wall paintings
No one quite knows how old Llangar church is, but we know the site was in use for thousands of years, for an ancient standing stone is incorporated into the south wall, just west of the entrance porch.
The Church of the White Stag
The original Welsh name of the church was 'Llan Garw Gwyn', which loosely translates as 'church of the white stag'. According to legend, when builders came to build the church, it was at a site down the valley. Every night the work they had done during the day was mysteriously destroyed. In despair, the builders turned to a local hermit, or holy man, who told them to hunt for a white stag, and build the church where they first found it. Then they would need to track and kill the deer, and mix its blood with the mortar used to build the church.
Whatever the origins of the church, the result is wonderful. A wall painting on the south wall of the church shows the stag, though, to be fair, the painting depicts it as a red deer, though that may be because it is painted on a whitewashed background!
The Wall Paintings
Ah, now we come to the wall paintings, which are one of the main reasons for visiting Llangar. Until Cadw took over restoration of Llangar the paintings were unknown, for like many churches, the interior walls had been whitewashed during the Reformation to remove idolatrous decoration. When Cadw's restorers began work they quickly uncovered a series of paintings that cover most of the interior.
These range from simple graffiti proclaiming the names of previous vicars, to wonderful designs on the south wall that appear to depict the Seven Deadly Sins. However, the most widely known painting is the one that faces you immediately upon entering the church; directly opposite the south door is a large skeleton, with two infants lying within its hip girdle. The skeleton carries a spear in one hand and a winged hourglass in the other, and beneath it are a spade and pickaxe.
At the west end of the church is a gallery, used by musicians and the choir. In the gallery is an unusual four-sided wooden music stand.
The overall effect of the interior is simply wonderful; Llangar is not a grand church, rather it is a simple rural church that retains some marvellous historic features. I can highly recommend a visit.
Mind you, getting to Llangar church is not straightforward. The church is poorly signposted for a start - there is an old sign on the B4401 Corwen to Cynwyd road, about a mile south of Corwen, but it is small and easy to miss. Look for a large layby on the east side of the road and park there. Cross the road and follow the track downhill (signed to Stamp House). Pass through two gates and the church will appear to the right (north).
Go through an ancient stone lych gate and up the uneven path. You can view the interior through the windows on the south wall of the church, but to really get the full effect you'll need to time your visit for one of Llangar's rather odd opening times.
When we visited, that entailed first visiting Rug Chapel, a mile away at junction of the A55 and A494. A ticket to Rug Chapel also gives you free entry to Llangar. The attendant at Rug told us when there would be someone at Llangar. Currently that is Wed-Sat between 12:30-14:00, but please don't rely on those times, for they may change. To be safe, contact Cadw at Rug Chapel first!
Visits are seasonal only and need to be specially arranged through the Cadw representative at Rug Chapel. See the Cadw website for current opening details.
About Llangar Church
Address: Llangar, Denbighshire, Wales, LL21 9BT
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: Off the B4401, 1 mile south west of Corwen
Website: Llangar Church
Phone: 01443 336000
OS: SJ 063 424
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Rug Chapel - 0.9 miles (Historic Church)
Corwen, St Mael & St Sulien Church - 1.2 miles (Historic Church)
Caer Drewyn Hill Fort - 2 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Tyfos Stone Circle (Ring of Tyfos) - 3.1 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Moel Ty Uchaf Stone Circle - 3.3 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Derwen Churchyard Cross - 5.2 miles (Historic Church)
Derwen, St Mary's Church - 5.2 miles (Historic Church)
Rhos Y Beddau Stone Rows - 7.6 miles (Prehistoric Site)
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