llanrwst, conwy, north wales

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History of Llanrwst

Saint Grwst the Confessor

Many Celtic saints of the period may well be nothing more than mythology, created by ardent bishops keen to express the extent to which Wales had embraced the early Christian church and its ideology, long before its neighbours. It is therefore fortunate for us that Grwst’s signature has been preserved alongside those of Saint Deiniol (founder of Bangor) and Saint Trillo (founder of Llandrillo-Yn-Rhos), on a Royal Charter granted to Saint Kentigern (the founder of the Cathedral at St. Asaph) by the ageing King Maelgwn Gwynedd.

Gildas, a British sixth-century cleric records that Maelgwn was once little better than a tyrant. Late in his life, Maelgwn began to open up the frontiers of his Kingdom and granted charters for Christian missionaries, like Grwst, Kentigern and Trillo to set up their individual cells across ancient Gwynedd. As a result of this connection with Maelgwn we can therefore date Grwst’s arrival to around 540AD, shortly before the death of Maelgwn sometime in that decade.

What do we know of Grwst himself? His mother Euronwy daughter of Clydno Eiddyn ab Cynwyd Cynwydion ab Cynfelyn and was of 'good status', his father Gwaith Hengaer was descended from the native King Coel Hen Godebog, ruler in the fifth century of a kingdom stretching from the Pennines to Hadrian’s Wall.

With such illustrious forebears, we can conclude that Grwst must have had significant influence with local tribal leaders, members of the King’s Court and his fellow missionaries. When we consider who were Grwst’s kinsmen included Urien, Gwallog, Rhydderch, Nidon and St Cynderyn it shows us the obvious status he would have had in the area, and this is why many local leaders and noblemen travelled to his cell for guidance, religious instruction etc. Grwst was an equal, essentially one of their own. Through his unique position, he earned the honoured title of Grwst yr Cyfaddefiadwr (Grwst the Confessor).

The land now occupied by Seion Methodist Chapel was the site of Grwst’s cell or Llan, with the adjoining housing estate of Cae Llan the location of the first church dedicated to our saint. During the sixteenth-century an annual fair was held on this field, to celebrate the saint’s feast day of December 1st. Most importantly of all the settlement has a name, Gwgrwstw.

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