St Mary's is the mother church of Swansea, the city having grown around its church and castle, market and port over many centuries. The present building is the fifth, or possibly sixth to be built on the site. On February 21st, 1941 the church which then stood there, and which had been designed in 1898 by Sir Arthur Blomfield was destroyed by fire in the air raids that caused the destruction of much of the town centre. After the war the Church was rebuilt with the Queen Mother being present at its re-consecration and re-opening on 28th May 1959.
Whilst little of the ancient church remains, the floor of the sanctuary does contain a mediaeval brass which is a memorial to Sir Hugh Johnys, knighted in Jerusalem in 1441, Knight Marshal of France, Knight Marshall of England, who died at Lanimore, Gower. His wife, Lady Maud is also buried with him.
The Church tower houses a fine peal of eight bells that are rung regularly before services and some maintain that the old Welsh folk song, Clychau Aberdyfi, The Bells of Aberdovey was originally Clychau Abertawe, The Bells of Abertawe, as there were bells at Swansea, but not at Aberdovey when the song was first written. The first recorded mention of bells at St Marys was in the inventory of 1549. In the middle ages, St Marys was associated with the Hospital of St David, on the site of the Cross Keys public house, across Princess Way. Two windows of the mediaeval hospital can still be found near the north door of the pub.
St Marys has a long tradition of church music, the choir singing at both the Eucharist and Evensong on Sundays, with sung services on major weekday festivals. It is a regular venue for concerts and organ recitals.
The present building contains some fine examples of traditional and modern church art. The altar cross, candlesticks and communion vessels (as used on Sundays) were made by Robert Welch and the frontals by Miss Margaret Kaye. The stained glass windows in Holy Trinity Chapel were designed by John Piper and the more recent windows in the nave by several Swansea stained glass artists. A millennium window in the four lights of the west wall designed by Martin Donlin and made at the Swansea Institute School of Stained Glass will be dedicated in early AD 2001. The window is inspired by the words of Revelation 22:5 – And there will be no more night they will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever.
The church also contains a striking modern painting by Ceri Richards of The Deposition, the body of Jesus taken down from the cross, and examples of work by other Swansea artists.
St Marys has always served as a central place of worship for the City on great national, civic and religious occasions. Over the years the church has maintained a close relationship with the civic authorities and the Lord Mayor appoints two churchwardens annually in addition to the two appointed by the Rector. As well as at the times of services the Church is usually open for prayer and visitors on most days of the week.