The Church of St Michael

Garway

A short history

The Templars arrived at Garway during the reign of Henry II, possibly around 1180. Once there they built one of their round churches on the site of a previous Saxon church and a commandary nearby at the site that is now Church Farm. The gift of land originally given by Henry was later confirmed on the 16th July 1119 by King John, and at this time was stated to comprise all the land of Llangarewi (Garway).

Today none of the round church is visible apart from a section of footings on the North side of the "new" church. To the south, and forming part of the main church is what is known as the Templar Chapel, this dates back to 1210 or so and is said to be where the Templars performed their initiations. This chapel was partially rebuilt by the Tudors. To the West end of the church, offset at a perculiar angle, and connected by a passageway is a 33 feet square and 70 feet high tower. Its uses were said to include protection from the invading Welsh and also a prison.

The nave has a splendid barrel ceiling decorated with 24, 6 pointed stars. Between the nave and the chancel is a dramatic Norman arch described as being very Saracenic in appearance. The Chancel roof dates to approximately 1400.

Away from the church, in what is now the farm yard, is supposed to be a very fine Columbarium or Dovecote. Originally believed to be built by the Templars it was rebuilt by the Hospitallers during their tenancy at the site. Interestingly there are 666 pigeon holes, a strange number to choose!?

The information above was taken from two excellent leaflets available at the church. One is by Kathleen A. Whittaker, B.A., the other Joan Fleming-Yates. Should you feel the urge to visit the church, buy the leaflets and pay handsomely as the money goes to the upkeep of the buildings, and they deserve to be preserved.

Pictures

To see the pictures click on the links below.

Views

The church is set in a beautiful border valley, very tranquil, unspoilt and not that easy to locate. These two pictures are taken from the North, slightly higher up the valley side. It is possible to see how the tower was built separately and at an angle to the main body of the church. However it must be remembered that this tower was built at the time of the round church, so how it connected cannot be known for sure.

Star Ceiling

The nave ceiling is both beautiful and unusual. The barrel shaped dark wood is starkly contrasted with the white 6 pointed stars. All 24 of them. Unfortunately it was quite dark and difficult to get a good picture with my digital camera. I'm sure you'll get the idea though.

Piscina

In the Templar Chapel is a very interesting piscina. It is set into the South wall in a recess which is distinctively shaped like a human head and torso. The guide notes describe it as trefoil design, but it sure looks human outline to me. What makes it more humanesque is the crown that has been engraved on the "head". It is difficult to make out the engraving, so I made a sketch which you can get to further down this page.

Graffito

There are several stones in the outside walls that have carvings made in them. The three pictures on this page show a Templar / Maltese cross, most unusually a Swastika, and a KT sort of symbol. The Swastika appears to be well weathered and I have no reason to believe that it is not from a similar date to the other carvings. It is possibly what leads Joan Fleming-Yates to suggest an Oriental influence.

Head decorations

These two heads decorating the East window of the Templar chapel are described as being, one a dead mans face, the other the head of the Grand Master of the order wearing a mitre.

The Font

The font is 600 years old. The decoration of upright and upturned triangles around the rim, and the cross with what appears to be a snake wrapped round it, is said to be modern although a date is not given.

Also on this page is a picture of the Agnes Dei carving, high on the East exterior wall of the Templar chapel.

Footings

This picture shows the only visible remains of the round church. These footings were uncovered during excavations in 1927. They are approximately 6 foot wide!

Sketches

Two sketches. Please be warned I am not an artist!

The first is the crown fish and snake engraved on the Piscina. The crown appears to comprise two horns, a bowl/plate with a heap of something on it that reaches up to a circle with a cross in it, and what appears to be a square drawn to be behind the other items. You will see if compared to the photograph, I drew the crown a bit too big relative to the opening. oops.

The second is the engraving above the West door of the Templar chapel. relative sizes of these objects are approximately right.

Simon Brighton's Garway pictures

This is a large collection of fantastic quality pictures of Garway, taken by Simon Brighton. They put my snaps to shame, and pick out a great deal of detail that I missed on my visit. Well worth taking the time to browse through and download.

If there are any better pictures on my 35mm camera when I get the film developed I will add them to the page.

Back to Templars in Britain

E-mail