St Athan - St Tathan
An impressive building in the centre of the village of St Athan, its dedication to St Tathan shows that its origins go back centuries before the present 14th century church. Tathan was a fifth or sixth century saint who founded a monastic school at Caerwent, Gwent. He or one of his followers could have established a church here at St Athan. However, in medieval charters, the church is frequently called ‘Ecclesia de Sancta Tathana’ referring to a female saint. Tathana is said to have been a nun who lived in a mud hut on the banks of the river Thaw.
St Tathan’s Church is cruciform in shape, with south porch, nave, chancel, north and south transepts and central tower complete with battlements. The church was restored in 1888-1890, with new windows, flooring, seating and roof. The oldest item in the church is the 12th century font.
The south transept is the burial place of members of the de Berkerolles family, lords of the manor of Bassaleg, near Newport, but who in the 14th century held land at St Athan with their castle at East Orchard. The tomb of Sir William Berkerolles, who is credited with building the church and who died in 1327, and his wife, Phelice de Vere, lies opposite the west wall of the transept though was only moved here in 1934. The finer tomb of Sir Roger Berkerolles (died 1351) and his wife Katherine Turberville is in its original position under a canopied recess on the south side of the transept. Both the tombs have effigies lying on them, the knights in armour and their ladies dressed in wimple, veil and bodice, and were recoloured in 1932. It is difficult to say how much of the original medieval paint remains. Around the tombs are weepers or mourners – soldiers, civic dignitaries and priests – and around Sir Roger’s tomb, shields with the coats of arms of the Berkerolles. That the transept was a chantry chapel is shown by the piscina, the drain for washing the Eucharist vessels, in the south wall.
The south and north transepts are entered through modern glass doors. The north transept is now used as a vestry.
St Tathan’s Church is listed Grade I ‘as a fine medieval church which has exceptional medieval monuments in the south transept’.
Ordnance Survey Grid Reference: ST 01705 67991
Post-code (for Sat Nav): CF62 4PD
Times of services: 9.00a.m. Sundays; 11.00a.m. Wednesdays