The present Grade 1 listed church dates from the 11th century. It is the same shape as it was originally and had a small spire. At that time the nave was about 4 metres (13 feet) longer than it is now.In the mid-12th century the church was compared with the cathedrals at Bangor and St. David's.
The central tower fell in 1692, badly damaging the south transept and the south wall of the chancel. This was patched up, leaving the church with no tower. In 1735-37 a tower was built within the west end of the church, shortening the nave.
In 1881-1884, under the Rev. Titus Lewis, the west tower was demolished and the nave truncated, a tall central tower was built on strengthened pillars and various walls in poor condition were replaced. The whole of the chancel, transepts and crossing were finished internally to match. The architect at that time (J. Prichard) said "he was not prepared to say that the building did not pre-date the 11th century".
The nave and side aisles were untouched in the rebuilding. Looking at them, you are still in the 11th or 12th century.
Nave and Side Aisles
The stubby unadorned cylindrical pillars with their small lips and simple round arches, together with the tiny arched clerestory windows with deeply splayed embrasures are witness to the age of the church. When the church was re-slated in 1988 the roof beams were said to be 13th/ 14th century "and second hand when they were put up”, although Pevsner dates the roof to the late 15th century. Some tie-beams have very crude roses carved in the centre of the underside. Behind the most south-westerly pillar the remains of an arch can be seen (above the light switches). This is the sole remainder of the final bay of the church which was replaced by the west tower in the 1730s.
Looking along the line of the north aisle pillars, they can be seen to lean outwards. It is likely that the heavy buttresses which support the roof of the north aisle were installed to help support the wall arid pillars. In comparison the roof of the south aisle is supported by wooden beams. At the west end of the south aisle is the baptistry with its monolithic 13th century font (raised
on a step 1881-4).
Immediately opposite the door of the church are two pillar stones.
The Cadfan Stone. (9th century)
This is the one on the right and has the earliest known Welsh writing. The most recent translations are "Tegrumui wedded wife of Adgan (lies) near to But Marciau"; The mortal remains of three", "Cin woman of Celyn, a mortal wound remains"; "The mortal remains of four".
The Prayer Sundial (8/9th century).
This would have stood in the churchyard. There would have been a peg in the hole at the top and when the shadow fell on a line marking it would have been a time for prayer. In the 18th century (possibly when a clock was installed in the west tower) it was moved to Ynysymaengwyn and used as a milepost. Between them is a wooden book with the words of John 3:16, carved by a member of the congregation.
Following the centre aisle to the east up the first ramp leads to the crossing (under the tower). The pillars were all renewed or strengthened during the 1881-1884 work and these together with the new arches are all in an early Gothic style. The figures on the pillars between the crossing and the transepts represent the four evangelists. In the 12th century the church had altars dedicated to St Mary and St Peter and St Cadfan. The first two are represented between chancel and crossing while St Cadfan and St David are between crossing and nave.
The wooden cockerel (referring to Peter's betrayal), Noah's dove and also the stations of the cross (in the chancel) were all carved by a congregation member in the 1990s.
The South Transept
As may be seen from the outside, most of this transept was rebuilt in 1881-4.
In 1897 an organ had been installed between the crossing and the north transept. This was rebuilt and greatly enlarged in 1911 and because of its size it was moved to the south transept. The casing was to echo the rood screen at Llanegryn Church while the lower panels have phrases from Psalms 6, 134
The carvings on a plaque on the west wall of this transept were once on the font of the daughter church of St Matthew, Bryncrug. They were brought here, together with the altar currently used as a prayer table, when that church
The North Transept
The walls of the north transept date to the 12th century, although it was finished internally to match the rebuilt south transept. The window in the east wall dates from the 14th century. There was also a large 14th century window in the north wall but this was replaced in 1881-4 by the current one.
The Glass Room was installed in 2011 and at the same time a doorway was cut through to the old boiler room which was converted to a toilet.
The south wall of the chancel and most of the east wall were rebuilt in 1881-4, but the north wall is mainly 12th century with a 14th century window.
The two niches probably date back to the 14th century when the effigies of the "Crying Knight" (Gruffydd ap Adda of Dolgoch & Ynysymaengwyn) and the "Unnamed Priest" were installed in them. It would seem that Gruffydd provided a suitable surface for men · to sharpen their blades over many years!
The Rev. Titus Lewis requested that the parishioners should give a new altar
to the church (1905/6) rather than give him a retirement present.
The reredos was installed in 1908 and the side panelling over a number of years (1909-1920).
West Window. St Matthew, St David and St Cadfan. Studio: Samuel Evans. 1883.
The Boy Christ. Artist: Geoffrey Webb. 1943.
South wall, west. Virgin and Child. Artist: Geoffrey Webb. c 1943.
South wall, east. Christ with Martha and Mary. Artist unknown, c 1954.
The Boy Christ. Studio: J. Wippell & Co. Ltd. 1941.
The Virgin Mary with St Peter and St Cadfan. Studio: Herbert Bryans. 1909.
Scenes from the Early Life of Christ. Artist unknown, c 1900.
East Window. Scenes from the Passion and Resurrection of Christ.
Artist: W. F.'Dixon. 1884.
South wall. The Adoration of the Magi. Artist: Geoffrey Webb.
(There are two of Geoffrey Webb's windows in Llandaff Cathedral.)