Why was ST Teilo’s church built in the 12th Century

The role of the church in medieval society was very important. Religion was a very important part of every person’s life. Every person in the surrounding area around the church would visit the church every Sunday for a sermon, given in Latin by a priest. All sermons were spoken in Latin, and very few people understood what the priest was saying. Almost every person who went to these sermons was illiterate, so to help them understand what the priest was teaching them about heaven and hell, the church walls would be covered in Doom paintings, these Doom paintings showed what Heaven and Hell were like, In medieval society most of the population was poor and lived hard, wretched lives, and the only thing that showed them that there was abetter life was the church. The church also gave the peasant’s hope of a better life in heaven.

The parish church of ST. Teilo, Bishopston occupies the site of one of the earliest Christian settlements in Wales. The church at Bishopston has a long history and dates back to about A.D., 480 or 490. Before the Normans came to Wales and Gower, the Welsh villagers who lived in Bishopston and the surrounding villages were Christian. Monks played an important part in forming and strengthening the faith of the early Christian communities in Gower. By the beginning of the 7th Century the people of Gower were, at face value at least Christian.

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Before the Norman Conquest the centres of Christian worship in Gower may have simply been any convenient place such as an open site rather than a building. Over time some sites became semi-permanent bases. For example, when important Christians from the community died they would be buried on the site and their graves marked by a stone with a cross or inscription. Eventually the site would be surrounded by a stone built enclosure to set it apart as a place of worship.

Although the Normans had conquered most of England by 1070 it took a lot longer to conquer Wales. Immediately after winning the battle of Hastings in 1066 William the Conqueror’s main aim was to conquer the rest of England. William set about invading Wales. He gave some of his most trusted allies land near the Welsh borders. These men were known as March lords, they built castles there and slowly began to take over the flatter land of south Wales for themselves.

In 1106 Gower was taken over by the March lord Henry De Beaumont, Earl of Warwick. The church in Wales was brought under the religious control of the Roman Catholic Church led by the Pope. After the arrival of the Normans in Gower, Gower was divided into two sections called Gower Anglican (English Gower), compromising most of the peninsula, and Gower Wallicana (Welsh Gower). As far as the parish of bishopston was concerned, the English settlers were confined to the low-lying limestone plateau of south bishopston. The welsh on the other hand were confined to the higher part of the plateau in North Bishopston. The Anglo Normans living in Bishopston were all Catholics and these people wanted a place of worship and somewhere to be safe against attacks from the Welsh.

The church is situated on the sloping side of a valley centred in the middle of Bishopston. The church is surrounded by a deep forest of trees, which makes the church hidden and hard to see from Bishopston, this placing of the church allows it to be hidden from attack’s by the welsh and also by pirates from the coast down the valley. About 12 ft from the church wall there is a small river, this small river would be useful for the material that was needed to build the church could be transported by boat from down the valley or from quarry’s. The church is situated in the centre of Bishopston, this placement of the church would have been very useful for the people of Bishopston, and it would be a safe haven for the people of Bishopston from attacks from the Welsh.

The church would have been mainly built from local materials that were close to the church; these materials would have mainly been wood and limestone. The main task force of builders and masons would be made up of Stonemasons, to cut the limestone from the quarries and also to cut the stone into the correct shapes, There would also be Blacksmiths who would make the correct tools for the work and building of the church, Carpenters would cut wood for the inside structure and the roof rafts, they would also make the thatch roofing. The Limestone would be used to build the walls and also the English castle style tower.

The church consists of a Chancel, Nave, embattled western tower and a south porch. The present look of the church would seem to be either late 12th century or early 13th century. The chancel arch is pointed (as is common in Gower churches) is asymmetrical, the arch being nearer to the north side, the chancel is lit by three other windows, a single early English lancet on the north wall and two early English windows on the south wall. The nave is long and narrow and with out aisles. The window of most architectural interest is the one at the west end of the nave almost adjoining the tower.

The tower at Bishopton is massive and can be described as of the English type embattled with a small pyramid roof rising with the battlement, and has a welsh pattern running around it. It has little lancet slots where the people would have been able to fight back invaders.

In conclusion the church of ST. Teilos has been around for century’s it has lasted for many years and will keep on lasting, it still is a place of worship. The church has also seen may changes, it has seen a new roof to its tower and also a new clock face has been put on the tower, the church of ST. Teilo’s is a historical monument in the middle of Gower.