Church of St. Garmon
The capital of the upland region called Yale or Iâl – which means ‘the hill-country’ – Llanarmon possesses one of Denbighshire’s most notable churches. It stands in a big churchyard like a village green, the site of a ‘clas’ or Celtic religious community dedicated to St. Garmon, the Welsh name for St. Germanus of Auxerre in Burgundy. This 5th-century warrior bishop (c.378 -448) was very much an historical figure. Sent to Britain to combat heresy soon after the end of Roman rule, he found himself commanding the nervous local forces against an invading army of pagan Picts and Saxons. Setting an ambush in a narrow pass, he told his men to cry out ‘Alleluia’ as he raised the standard: their sudden shout echoed around the pass, whereupon (reported Bede) the enemy fled in panic, ‘thinking the very rocks and sky were falling on them’. This bloodless ‘Alleluia Victory’ (probably in AD 429) may have taken place at Maes Garmon near Mold, or in the Horseshoe Pass – near which Germanus’ name appears on the Pillar of Eliseg (Site 20).
Pilgrims continued to flock to Garmon’s shrine at Llanarmon until Tudor times, probably helping to finance the building of the big ‘double-naved’ church. It was extensively restored during the 1730s, giving it a Georgian character unusual in these parts. To this period belong the big round-topped windows, the Classical-style porch, the elegant Georgian font and the timber pillars separating the two halves of the church.
Yet many outstanding medieval features remain, including the fine timber roofs. Near the altar hangs Llanarmon’s greatest treasure, an 18-branched brass chandelier made in Bruges (Flanders) in about 1500. Even finer than its counterpart at Llandegla, its triple tier of leafy arms enclose a canopied statue of the Virgin: it may have come from Valle Crucis Abbey, or from the nearby mansion of Bodidris. Certainly two lords of Bodidris lie in the south aisle, the earlier the Welsh knight Gruffydd ap Llywelyn ap Ynyr. His well-preserved effigy of c.1320 wears a padded surcoat over chain mail, with his sword in hand and his name inscribed around his shield. On the wall nearby is the magnificent and most unusual monument of his descendent Captain Efan Llwyd, who died in 1639. Retaining much original coloring, it shows his bearded and armored figure reclining in a triple-arched niche, behind an inscription remarkable for its early use of Welsh to record his offices and services to ‘Brenin Siarls yn Ywerddon’ (King Charles I in Ireland).
The third monument here, of a 14th century priest battered from its long sojourn in the churchyard, may perhaps represent St. Garmon himself: a later image of the saint stands just within the entrance door. Then there are two fine old parish chests; a gilded coffer given by the owner of Gwrych Castle; and a vestry screen made from old box pews. More than enough, indeed, to encourage anyone to visit this fascinating church.
A guide pamphlet is available, and a comprehensive history of the village (including Site 27) can be bought in the nearby Post Office.
Church usually open daylight hours.
Monument to captain Efan Llwyd, Llanarmon-yn-Ial
Church of St. Garmon, Llanarmon-yn-Ial