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Site 38

Dyserth

Church of St. Bridget and St. Cwyfan

‘Dyserth’ means ‘ a deserted place, a hermitage’ - perhaps originally of the Denbighshire saint Cwyfan, to whom the church is dedicated along with St. Bridget of Kildare in Ireland, most highly honoured of Celtic female saints. Doubtless the first church here developed from this hermit’s cell: it is recorded in Domesday Book of 1087, and the nearly complete Celtic churchyard cross (now inside the building) is probably not much later in date. One of a pair of such crosses - only the base of the second remains - it is intricately carved with spirals and interlaced patterns.

Prettily sited against the slope of Moel Hiraddug, a short step from the spectacular Dyserth waterfall, the present church was extensively rebuilt by the distinguished Victorian architect Gilbert Scott in 1873 - 5. Its roof is partly Elizabethan (the date 1579 is carved on a beam) and a 15th century monument to two Welsh knightly brothers also survives. But the great medieval treasure of Dyserth is the glowing stained-glass east window, of two dates. The upper ‘tracery’ portion (of about 1450) depicts the twelve apostles, each holding the attribute (or ‘trademark’) by which illiterate viewers could identify him. In the uppermost right-hand light, for example, is St. John the Evangelist with his palm branch and chalice.

The main section of the window meanwhile displays a ‘Jesse Tree’, or family tree of Christ. This was given in the 1530s, making it the exact contemporary of the Jesse Tree at Llanrhaeadr (Site 30) - though the style is noticeably different. The figures of Christ’s kingly ancestors throng crowned, sceptred and robed among a forest of the Virgin and Christ-child preside over all, emerging from a lily into a blaze of sunrays. Sadly however, the sleeping figure of Jesse is missing from the window’s lowest panels. The churchyard is also worth exploring, especially for the pair of 17th century ‘hooded’ table tombs - a distinctive local fashion - by the big tree behind the church. A helpful guidebook for church and village is available.

On the hilltop half a mile north-east stood Dyserth Castle, built by the English in 1241 to replace or reinforce their ‘Twthill’ fortress at Rhuddlan (Site 36). Soon afterwards wrecked by Llywelyn the Last of Gwynedd, very little of it now survives.

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Stained glass east window, Dyserth

Stained glass east window, Dyserth

Dyserth Waterfall

Dyserth Waterfall

Church of St. Bridget and St. Cwyfan, Dyserth

Church of St. Bridget and St. Cwyfan, Dyserth