The first church in Llansteffan was probably built around 650 by Saint Ystyffan. In Norman times, around 1112, it was probably rebuilt, because the invaders changed its call to St. Stephen. Next, around 1170, it was granted to the Order of Knights Chospitaller in Slebech by Geoffrey Marmion. The donation included a fishery and ferry across the river and was confirmed in 1231-1247, 1328. In the thirteenth century, a new nave was erected, in the fourteenth century enlarged by a transept, chancel and porch and in the fifteenth century a tower was built. After the dissolution of the order, the church passed into the hands of the Crown, and then under the private patronage. In 1700, the northern chapel of Lloyds of Lacques was added. In the second half of the 19th century and in the early 20th century, the church was renovated. Subsequent repairs were carried out in 1995-1997, when all roofs were replaced.
Built of erratic limestone, the church originally consisted of a large, thirteenth-century, rectangular nave with three bays and dimensions of 17.5 x 5.7 meters, enlarged in the fourteenth century by a rectangular, two-bay chancel of 9.3 x 5 , 7 meters, the northern and southern transepts (northern 5.8 x 4.5 meters, southern 4.8 x 4.9 meters), and the porch on the south side, adjacent to the southern arm of the transept and the nave.
At the end of the fifteenth or early sixteenth century, a slender, four-sided tower was erected on the west side of the nave, three floors high, not much less than 20 meters high. It was topped with a parapet on corbels and a battlement, and on the north-eastern side it received a protruding turret with a staircase. Its interior in the ground floor created a porch covered with a cross vault, opened to the nave with a raw, not moulded arcade.
The northern chapel with length equal to the chancel, was added the latest (dated at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries). Its stylistically referred to the rest of the building. On the presbytery it was opened with two pointed arcades, on the west side of which there was an squint opening for viewing the altar from the northern arm of the transept from the 14th century. The interior of the church was originally covered with wall polychromes and covered with an open roof truss and a flat ceiling in the northern chapel. The chancel was equipped with a piscina set in the southern wall.
The church belongs to a group of well-preserved sacral buildings from the area of South Wales, and what’s more, it is characterized by an extensive layout and a magnificent body for a village temple. Early modern transformations resulted in the arcade between the tower and the nave being narrowed to the form of the portal, the arcade between the northern chapel and the transept was modernized, the roofs were slightly lowered and the roof truss was replaced, and some of the windows were rebuilt or renewed, especially in the transept, the west wall of the tower, the northern wall of the nave and the northern chapel. Only small fragments remain of the wall polychromes.
Salter M., The old parish churches of South-West Wales, Malvern 2003.
The Royal Commission on The Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions in Wales and Monmouthshire. An Inventory of the Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales and Monmouthshire, V County of Carmarthen, London 1917.
Website coflein.gov.uk, St Stephen’s church, Llansteffan.