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Llanarth Church


Llanarth church is associated with a legend of the Devil; unusually the Devil creeps into the church and tries to steal one of the church bells. (It is more common for him to steal the whole church). In the process of his theft he wakes the vicar who challenges him with the name of Christ. Eventually the Devil concedes, and jumps off the church tower.

He is said to have left the marks of his hooves on a stone in the graveyard when he landed.

Directions: On the A4857


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Ian Topham
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Re: Llanarth Church

Previously dedicated to either St Fylltyg (or Byllteg), St David’s Church is a Grade II listed building with a Devil legend associated with it. The following account of the legend was published in ‘Haunted Churches’ (1939) by Elliott O'Donnell (27 February 1872 - 8 May 1965). ‘A tradition of haunting by the Devil is associated with the churchyard of Llanarth, near Aberaeron. One night, many centuries ago, when the rain was descending in cataracts and the wind blowing furiously, someone, battling their way past the church, noticed a dull, glimmering light in what appeared to be the belfry.

Wondering what it could be, he halted under a big tree and watched it.

Suddenly, instead of the mere glimmer, there was a flash, followed by a succession of flashes of startling magnitude, which illuminated the church and the surrounding objects with a lurid, ghostly light of leadenish blue. In between the flashes the objects seemed to recede into a darkness and gloom that was hellish in its intensity.

The loneliness and silence of the place added to the terror of the spectator, who wanted to run away but found himself utterly unable to move. Compelled to remain where he was, he presently heard the most unearthly cries and groans coming from the churchyard. They did not cease till the dawn broke and the cocks in the vicinity began to crow. It was then, and not till then, that the villager, who was nearly dead with fright and chilled to the bone, recovered the use of his limbs and was able to make for his home. He related what had happened to his friends, they told others, and in a very short time the whole village was discussing the dreadful nocturnal goings-on up at the parish church. That night, though the weather was again wild, a crowd, large for the size of the village, assembled outside the church, in expectation of seeing the lights and hearing the ghostly sounds. Nor were they disappointed, for, about midnight, lurid flashes again came from the belfry, to be followed by blood-curdling, unearthly noises. Some of the villagers were so frightened they took to their heels, others would have liked to have followed their example but found themselves glued to the spot. One went to the vicarage and begged the parson to come at once to the church. Grumbling very much at being disturbed the parson got into his clothes and, armed with bell, book and candle, the usual implements for laying ghosts, shuffled along to the church.

To give him due credit, all his apathy vanished directly he arrived there and saw and heard the phenomena. Screwing up his courage, and uttering prayer after prayer, he entered the church and, lighted candle in hand, ascended the spiral staircase leading to the belfry.

Some say it was the Devil himself that confronted him, others declare it was one of the Devil's demons, but whichever or whatever it was, it presented such a frightful appearance that it took all the parson's will-power to stand his ground.

He did, however, face the horrible thing, and directly he began to repeat the Lord's Prayer it turned and climbing on to the roof of the tower, jumped down into the churchyard and vanished.

Examining the ground under the belfry the following day the vicar found a stone with four circular, newly-made holes in it. It was just where the evil spirit had alighted, therefore, the vicar argued, the holes could only have been made by its hellish hoofs. All who saw the stone and knew about the strange happenings at the church agreed with him, and the stone subsequently became known as " the stone with the Devil's hoof marks."

It is said to be still in the churchyard, but the inscription explaining the origin of the holes is nearby effaced, worn away by the hand of Time.

Up to the time of the ghostly disturbances Llanarth church is rumoured to have had four bells, but after the disturbances one is said to have disappeared very mysteriously, and it was believed that it had been carried off by the Devil to the then cathedral of Llanbadarn Fawr, which suddenly became the possessor of three bells, whereas previously it had only had two. On his way to Llanbadarn Fawr with the purloined bell the Devil is supposed to have rested for a while in a hollow called Rhiw Cyrff, which henceforth was so cursed that no one visiting it could ever hear the bells of Llanarth, although Llanarth church is only a short distance away. ‘



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