The church in Merthyr Cynog was built in the twelfth or thirteenth century, and in the fourteenth century was enlarged by a chancel. According to tradition, it was the burial place of Saint Cynog, son of Brychan, who founded a settlement here about 500 AD. In the taxatio list of 1291, it was called the “Ecclesia de Merthir” with a total income of as much as 30 pounds, which made it a unique temple. In the years 1860-1862, a thorough renovation of the building was carried out.
The church received a very long, rectangular nave, without a presbytery separated from the outside. The priestly part was separated only inside, by the rood screen partition. On the west side, there is a massive, four-sided tower, the appearance of which, including very thick walls, suggests a defensive function. It was probably built at the beginning of the building’s functioning, but its top in the form of a parapet and battlement set on corbels, was rebuilt in the 15th or 16th century. From the north-east side, it received an projection housing a staircase. The southern entrance to the nave was preceded by a medieval porch, protecting a wide, pointed portal. The second portal for the parish priest was on the eastern side of the southern wall. The oryginal windows of the nave were narrow, single or grouped in pairs, probably topped with trefoils. The tower openings were even smaller, four-sided, mostly slit.
The church impresses with its simple but picturesque silhouette devoid of major early modern transformations. In the 19th century, most of the window jambs were renovated, but they probably imitate the original appearance. The portal in the presbytery part of the church was also replaced, while the portal inside the porch is original, dating from the fourteenth century. Inside the church, a valuable oak rood screen from the 14th century has been preserved, separating the nave from the chancel, and an open roof truss from the 16th century.
Salter M., The old parish churches of Mid-Wales, Wolverhampton 1997.
Website cpat.demon.co.uk, Church of St Cynog, Merthyr Cynog.