St Teilo's Church

The origins of St Teilo's Church

Early History

The first reference to a building on the mouth of the Llwchwr estuary is found around 1100. A small, stone church is described – much smaller than the church that would be moved, stone by stone, to St Fagans from that very site, almost nine hundred years later.

A carved stone found inside the church walls has been dated by experts to be between from 600-800 C.E., suggesting that Christian worship had been taking place there for a very long time.

Over the years, as the population grew in the area – which meant more worshippers - and funds – the church was rebuilt, and extended, and the interior redecorated.

The Middle Ages

Some historians believe that pilgrims, on their way to the cathedral at St Davids, may have stopped at St Teilo’s to pray and take shelter before crossing the Llwchwr river. There is no physical evidence of this, but the name of the parish 'Llandeilo Tal-y-bont', translates literally as ‘The Church dedicated to Teilo at the crossing point of the river’. Could this be a clue to the church’s past?

The first stone-built church lasted until the late 1300s, when two side chapels, or transepts, were added to the chancel. If you imagine the building from above, it would be shaped like a cross.

By the late 1400s, the church was extended again – this time the south transept was extended to form a large aisle on the south side to accommodate more worshippers. They would stand during services, and so around 250-300 people could fit into the building at one time. A heavy row of arches was formed down the centre of the building between the nave and the new aisle.

The Museum's Role

Every part of the building has been shaped by the people who used it over the centuries.

Our responsibility was to reflect that use, and delve into the silent history of the church. Documents telling us why the church was built where it was, and how it was used, would be a luxury: instead we have depended on the expertise of our Historic Buildings Unit, in conjunction with museum experts, artists and academics from across Europe. They have worked tirelessly for over twenty years to bring the building back to life: we hope that you enjoy it!