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Faith Tourism

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Faith Tourism

Religious tourism is on the increase with a growing number of people visiting our historic and sacred sites.

 

As well as the information below, you can find more details here.

 

South Wales & The Valleys

 

 
  • Newport Cathedral has been a site of worship since the 6th century. The essentials of the modern church date back to the Norman period, including the arched entrance and nave constructed 1140-1160.The present building consists of a 12th century Norman church enclosed within a later mediaeval structure, restored in Victorian times and with a recent east end extension. In 1921 the diocese of Monmouth was created and the church was designated a cathedral, which necessitated the enlargement of the east end in 1960. 
  • The Norwegian Church is a poignant reminder of when Cardiff was one of the greatest sea ports in the World. Norwegian ships transported Scandinavian timber to South Wales for use as ‘pit props’ in the coal mines, and would then export coal back to Norway. The Norwegian Church was founded in 1868 by Herman Lunde of Oslo. The Church was originally located at the entrance of Bute West Dock on land donated by the Marquis of Bute. The Church acted as a Seaman’s mission with Scandinavian newspapers, magazines and facilities for writing letters home.  
  • Llandaff Cathedral stands on one of the oldest Christian sites in Britain. In the sixth century St Dyfrig founded a community close to the ford where the Roman road crossed the river Taff. He was succeeded by St Teilo and then Teilo's nephew, St Euddogwy. These three Celtic Saints remain patron saints of the present Cathedral. Nothing remains of the original church but a Celtic Cross that stood nearby can still be seen near the door of the Chapter House. The Cathedral also serves as a Parish Church, the Dean also being the Vicar of the Parish of Llandaff.
  • Moved stone by stone to the museum by heritage experts over twenty years and a distance of fifty miles, St Teilo's Church in St Fagans is an impressive project. The building was originally situated outside Pontarddulais, near Swansea, and built in stages, from around 1100 to 1520. It was opened on October 14th, 2007 by the Most Reverend Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
  • Pen-rhiw Unitarian Chapel originally situated in Dre-fach Felindre, Carmarthenshire relocated to St Fagans is its only Chapel building. Probably first built as a barn during the mid-eighteenth century, the building was acquired in 1777 by the Unitarians for use as a meeting house or chapel. The original loft was removed or altered in the 19th century to create the present gallery, greatly increasing the seating capacity. Unitarians have always valued learning and the chapel housed both elementary and grammar schools during its history; ink bottles, quill pens and a 'Welsh Not' were found under the floor when it was dismantled.
  • Tintern Abbey, now in the care of Cadw, was only the second Cistercian foundation in Britain, and the first in Wales. The present-day remains are a mixture of building works covering a 400-year period between 1131 and 1536, Despite the shell of this grand structure being open to the skies, it remains the best-preserved medieval abbey in Wales.
  • Ewenny Priory was founded for Benedictine monks of Gloucester Abbey by Maurice de Londres in 1141. The presbytery and transepts are in Cadw's care and are open to the public. The Priory itself is a private house. 
  • St Illtud established a monastic school of over one thousand pupils, including, according to tradition, St David of Wales and St Patrick of Ireland. At the western end of St Illtud’s Church in Llantwit Major stands the Galilee Chapel. Originally a two-storey building, built in the 13th century, it became a roofless ruin after years of neglect. Over the last two years, the Galilee Chapel Project has successfully raised funds to reconstruct the Chapel and bring it back into use as a visitor’s centre for exploring the origins of Celtic Christianity. At the heart of the project is the provision for an appropriate exhibition space for one of the most important collections of Celtic Christian Stones in the UK.
  • The Churchyard in the parish of Llangynwyd with Maesteg, is reputed to be the largest private graveyard in the whole of Europe. It covers two areas - the old yard encircling the church of St Cynwyd, the new yard across the road, the main path of which rises gradually and from the top the views of the surrounding countryside are stunning. The Mari Lwyd still visits the village on a New Years Eve.
  • The current St Teilo's Church in Merthyr Mawr replaced a ruinous ancient church. In the churchyard on the north side of the church, is housed a collection of stones dating from the 5th century. They are an important collection of Early Christian monuments dating from between the withdrawal of Roman troops from Britain, and the arrival of the Normans.
  • This is the only church exclusively dedicated to the Welsh Saint Tyfodwg. Foundations date from the C13–14th.
 
  • The origins of Hen dy Cwrdd extend back to the Dissenting Meeting Houses at Cwmyglo and Blaencanaid Farm on the mountainside between Aberdare and Merthyr Tydfil. The Meeting House at Aberdare was built in 1751 and the congregation at that time was described as an agricultural community. It was the first Nonconformist Place of worship in the valley and its theology slowly developed from Arminianism to Arianism and Unitarianism.
  • Bethania in Maesteg was built in 1908 on the site of an earlier chapel, and is a prime example of the new-found enthusiasm for chapel building following Evan Roberts’ famous religious revival of 1904–05. It is a large, urban, architecturally important Baptist chapel, the work of the well-known Welsh architect William Beddoe Rees, and is listed at Grade II*. A HLF application has been submitted to gain funds for its restoration.
  • The Vale of Glamorgan was an important centre of Christianity in Britain. There was a monastery based on the current site of St Cadoc's Church from at least 650 AD, founded by St. Cadoc or Cadog. By the 9th century Llancarfan was a flourishing centre of learning, with the main monastic buildings just south of today's church, in Culvery Fields. Despite destruction by the Danes, Llancarfan monastery proved 'the most powerful ecclesiastical community in Glamorgan'. It did not, however, survive the Norman invasion, and after this early dissolution, responsibility passed to the Abbey of St. Peter's, Gloucester. St. Cadoc retained his presence in the parish church, where the simple chancel arch suggests a foundation of about 1200.
  • After a family tragedy the local preacher William Wroth received the order in a dream to go and preach the gospel and vowed to do so without any edicts of the church interfering with his Christian conviction. Soon after his conversion, William Wroth attracted large congregations to the Tabernacle United Reformed Church in Llanvaches; they were so large that the services were held in the graveyard. People came from all parts of South and mid Wales, from Herefordshire, Somerset and Bristol. By 1639 such was the strength of the gathering that it was decided to form an official recognised gathering to be known as the “Llanvaches Gathering” based on the words of Jesus Christ, “Where two or three are gathered in my name , there am I in the midst of them”, a truly independent Church. The service of formation and recognition of the “Llanvaches Gathering” was held in November 1639. In 1689 the first chapel was was built in Carrow Hill but it took until 1802 before the the present Tabernacle was erected in Llanvaches.
  • Inspired by Hywel Harris of Trefecca, Groeswen was the location for the very first place of worship to be built in Wales in 1742 by the Methodists but, ten years later following a schism over doctrinal issues the chapel became the centre of non conformity in the area. It's first minister, ordained in 1752, was William Edwards known as the builder for both worlds because not only did he tend his flock for 40 years but, during that period he also designed and built bridges, the most famous being the Pontypridd old bridge across the Taf - the largest single plan bridge, then in existence. Groeswen has always been used for Eisteddfodau, lectures and concerts, as well as for religious worships, and it is this mix of uses, for the benefit of the community and visitors, which will be encouraged by its Trustees upon completion of all restoration.
  • Mathern is a village that was originally known as Merthyr-Tewdrig, after the martyrdom of St. Tewdrig, king of Gwent. King Tewdrig was a 6th century King of Gwent. He handed his kingdom over to his son Meurig and retired to live as a hermit at Tintern. When the Saxons invaded, Meurig begged him to return and lead the army. Tewdrig agreed to help, but the night before the battle he dreamed of an Angel who told him that he would be victorious but would die from a wound three days after the battle. As he travelled towards his chosen burial ground, wherever he stopped pure water springs sprang up. The last site was in a meadow near the Severn at a place now called Tewdrig’s Well. He died soon after and a chapel was erected on the site which is now the place where Mathern Church stands The existing parish church dates mostly from the 15th Century and St Tewdric is said to be interred under a slab in the church and a new interpretation panel in the church tells his story.
  • This small church of St Mary Magdalene dates back to around 1424, when Goldcliff priory was destroyed by a flood, it is possible that some of the limestone blocks used to build this Church, came from the remains of the priory. The Western tower seems to date from the 18th century, or even as late as the early 19th century and may be contemporary with the vaulted ceiling of the nave and chancel. The Chancel arch is a Victorian insertion, the building having originally been a single cell. The tower contains one bell, recast by tailors of Loughborough in 1969. The font is medieval and has an 18th century cover. A brass on the north wall of the nave records the great flood of 1606/07 and the loss of property and life.
  • Pontypridd Museum occupies Tabernacl Chapel, at the north end of the town. The chapel was built in 1861, and still has its pipe-organ and unusually decorative interior, which has recently been restored. It was purchased by Pontypridd Town Council in 1983 and re-opened as the town’s museum in 1986.
 

 

 

North and Mid Wales

 

 
  • In the care of CADW, Valle Crucis Abbey was founded in 1201 by Madog ap Gruffydd Maelor who is buried there and it thrived until dissolution in 1537. Although time has taken its toll, the remains are remarkably preserved.
  • Rug Chapel is a rare example of a little altered private 17th century chapel. It's founder, 'Old Blue Stockings' Colonel William Salusbury, collaborated with Bishop William Morgan, first translator of the Bible into Welsh. The chapel's plain exterior gives little hint of the riches within, an interior which reflects the Colonel's 'High Church' religious views and make a striking contrast to the puritanical fashion of the time.
  • Llangar Old Parish Church, is a few centuries older in construction than Rug Chapel. Inside, the 15th-century wall paintings still survive, thanks in part to the church making way for a new place of worship in Cynwyd in the 1850s.
  • The imposing ruins of Basingwerk Abbey, founded in 1132, was for 400 years home and workplace to the monks of the Cistercian Order until they were driven out by Henry VIII’s Dissolution Act in 1536. During the middle ages, a thriving economic and artistic community developed around the abbey and it became the home of many Welsh poets. The monks were the first to harness the power of the Holywell Stream, using its power to grind corn and treat the wool from their flocks of sheep.
  • St Winifrides is a holy well and chapel dating to the early sixteenth century, though the site was a place of pilgrimage from at least 1115. A spring rises in the lower open crypt which flows out into a large exterior bathing pool still used by pilgrims today. The present shrine building is a glorious 2-storey Late Perpendicular Gothic building erected in the first years of the 16th century, and is unique in the world. It is a Grade I Listed Building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The Well precinct also houses an Interpretive Exhibition setting forth the story of the saint and her shrine in detail; and the Victorian former custodians' house has been converted to house a museum of the pilgrimage.
  • Gwydir Uchaf Chapel, in the woods above Gwydir Castle, was built in 1673 by Sir Richard Wynn as a family memorial chapel for the Wynns of Gwydir.
  • The remains of the Penmon Priory date from the thirteenth century, when the house became part of the Augustinian order. The origins of the site are traditionally associated with St Seiriol in the sixth century. It is located on the eastern most tip of Anglesey where the Menai Strait joins the Irish sea close to St Seiriol's Church, the Dovecote, and the ancient Holy Well of St Seiriol. 
  • Church Island is situated in the Menai Strait, joined to Anglesey by a narrow causeway. A church is thought to have been established here in the 6th century by Saint Tysilio, although the present church dates from the 15th century. Church Island, as it’s known locally, is still a big favourite for weddings and one of the best places on Anglesey to view the Menai Strait. The churchyard contains the graves of some of the workmen who died building Telford’s Menai Suspension Bridge and Stephenson’s Britannia Bridge.
  • Wrexham’s greatest landmark, The Parish Church of Saint Giles, was built during the 15th and 16th centuries and is widely regarded as one of the best examples of Christian architecture in Wales. The tower is famous as one of the ‘Seven Wonders of Wales’, and the churchyard is famous, too – as the last resting place of Elihu Yale, founder of the American University, while inside you’ll find lots of fine examples of masonry, woodcarvings and stained glass. Still very much at the heart of the community, St Giles also houses the Royal Welch Fusiliers very own chapel.
  • The Cathedral at Bangor was founded in around 525 AD – more than 70 years before Canterbury Cathedral, when Deiniol, a Celtic missionary built a fenced enclosure known as a bangor (hence the name), with a church inside. It’s one of the earliest monastic settlements in the whole of Britain, and is thought to be one of the only Cathedrals in Britain continuously in use since it was built.
  • Worshippers have been worshipping at the church of Saint Tudno on Llandudno’s blustery Great Orme for more than 1400 years. The present church was built in the 12th century on a 6th century holy site dedicated to Saint Tudno, and has been restored many times over the years (there was quite a bit of work to be done when the roof blew off in 1839). Inside, there’s a rare medieval carved wooden roof boss depicting the ‘stigmata’, and a 12th century font. While outside, they hold regular outdoor services during the summer. Weather permitting, of course.
  • St. Asaph Cathedral is reputed to be the smallest ancient cathedral in the whole of Britain. Originally built in 560 AD by Saint Kentigern, who was replaced as abbot-bishop by Saint Asaph. The Cathedral was rebuilt in the 13th century, only to be damaged during Owain Glyndwr’s rebellion of 1402. The building we see today is mostly from the 14th century with some Victorian alterations. St. Asaph Cathedral is the final resting place of Bishop William Morgan, Bishop of St. Asaph from 1601 to 1604, who first translated the Bible into Welsh (an original copy of the Morgan Bible is kept in the Cathedral). These days the Cathedral continues to serve as a major centre of community life, as well as hosting North Wales International Music Festival every September.
  • St Cwyfans Church has stood on this spot since the 7th century although it has been restored and upgraded several times including in the late 19th century when money was raised to put a roof back on the structure. It only became an Island in the 17th century when when erosion wore away the link to the mainland leaving it only accessible at low tide
 
 
  • St Cybi's Well is situated in an enchanting valley just below and to the north of Llangybi Church. The well is one of the most elaborate structures of its kind in this area of north Wales, consisting of two well chambers, a cottage for a custodian and a small detached latrine building. The well was a place of pilgrimage and the waters were reputed to cure warts, lameness, blindness, scrofula, scurvy and rheumatism. The well continued in use, in one form or another, after the Reformation and there was still a box Cyff Gybi, for offerings in the church as late as the 18th century.
  • All Saints' Church, Gresford is perched above the vale of the Alyn; still on a pillar of coal; its tower with most notable peal of bells has dominated the skyline for centuries. Its architecture is internally warmed with wood and lit by medieval stained glass. The memorials include one to the lost 266 miners who died in a wall of fire underground in September 1934.
  • Named after Deiniol, one of the major Welsh saints,there has been a church on this elevated site since the sixth century. St. Deiniol’s Church sits in the centre of the historic village of Hawarden. The congregation is proud of the church’s association with the family of Victorian Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone. The Great Fire’ on 29th October 1857 destroyed much of the building, but it was restored to the building we see now and features many stained glass windows by eminent artist Edward Burne-Jones. The reredos depicting the Last Supper is attributed to Gilbert Scott.
  • A deconsecrated church and cared for by a volunteer group. The church is dedicated to St Julitta who was mutilated and then martyred along with her son Cyricus in 4th century Turkey in the most horrible way for her Christian beliefs. The church itself was originally early 16th century. In 1837, the chapel was extensively renovated by George Hay Dawkins-Pennant of Penrhyn Castle. Rectangular casement windows gave more light to the interior and a barrel-vaulted ceiling was installed below the medieval roof beams. The layout was typical of a small Evangelical Anglican church of this period, packed with box pews facing a prominent pulpit with a reading desk below it
  • St Collen’s Church was founded by St Collen from whom the town derives it's name. St Collen was a monk who lived somethime in the late 6th Century, records are unclear as to the exact dates and much of what has been written about him is based on legend. Additions and improvements have continued throughout the centuries.The carved oak ceiling dates from the 15th Century. It is supported with large carved angel brackets and finely carved supports. It is very likely that some of the timbers came from the Valle Crucis Abbey.
  • Originally art of a large priory complex built in 1093, Brecon Cathedral includes the regimental chapel of the SWB, whose regimental museum is also in Brecon. Also on the site is the cathedral heritage centre in a converted tithe barn.
  • The Plough Chapel dates back to the 17th century and takes its name from an old public house which used to stand on the site. The present building was constructed in 1840 but what you see today is largely the result of the building’s enlargment and re-ordering in the 1880s. It is a Grade II* listed building. Externally there is nothing very startling about it. Inside, however, it definitely has the “wow” factor! Classic, non conformist, galleried layout, with ornate woodwork and spectacular ceiling. Its wonderful accoustic makes it a popular concert venue too. The chapel has recently undergone substantial repairs and restoration work. A few years ago we also rebuilt the fine pipe organ and restored the decoration on the front pipes which had been painted out in the early 1960's.
  • About 10 miles from Llandrindod Wells. Cwmhir Abbey was a Cistercian abbey built there in 1143. It was the largest Abbey in Wales but was never completed. Its fourteen bay nave was longer than Canterbury and Salisbury Cathedral naves and twice as long as that at St. Davids. It was constructed at the behest of three sons of Madog, the then Prince of southern Powys. The first community failed because of the intervention of Hugh de Mortimer, Earl of Hereford but in 1176 the Rhys ap Gruffydd of Deheubarth re-established the Abbey on land given by Cadwallon ap Madog. Llewelyn ap Gruffydd is buried near the altar in the nave. The abbey was burned by the forces of Owain Glynd┼Ár in 1401. The Abbey was slighted in 1644, during the English Civil War, although some ruins still remain. There is a memorial stone to Llywelyn the Last, Llewelyn ap Gruffydd.
  • Pendref Chapel is thought to be one of the two oldest Welsh Independent Congregational chapels in the county and has a radical crusading past. A handsome chapel it also has associations with the famous Welsh hymn writer, Ann Griffiths. First built on the present site in 1708, but destroyed by a mob in the aftermath of the 1715 Jacobite rebellion. Rebuilt in 1717, the only part of this structure which survived the rebuilding in 1829 is the memorial stone. It was in this chapel at Easter 1796 that Ann Griffiths first embraced nonconformity.
  • St Wddyn’s Church has a unique history as it was built to replace the church flooded when Lake Vyrnwy was created in 1888. The new style, to the design of the architect F W Holme. A unique feature of the churchyard is the number of graves relocated from the graveyard of the old church before it was flooded.
  • St Idloes' Church is assumed to be of early medieval origin and is set within the later planned town of Llanidloes. It is a medieval structure with a typical Marches tower and two-stage timber belfry, probably of 14thC origin. The body of the church was constructed around the same date but there was considerable rebuilding in the 16thC when both architectural features including the arcade and the south door and also a fine hammer beam roof were imported from the former Cistercian monastery at Cwmhir. The magnificent fourteen bay hammer-beam roof is richly decorated. Carved angels bearing shields are attached to each of the hammer beams. In the nave, one angel has a shield inscribed with the calendar year A. D. 1542. The north side of the roof rests on an elaborate stone arcade of c.1190-1215, brought from Abbey Cwm Hir after its suppression in 1536 
     
  • Parish Church of Talgarth famous for memorial to Howell Harris, located approximately 100m SE of the S porch of the parish church, close to the path to the SE corner gate. Howell Harris was the father of Howel Harris the preacher and reformer. It is claimed that the latter stood on this family tomb to deliver his famous oration which converted William Williams, Pantycelyn, amongst others to the reforming movement. Howel Harris is buried in the church near the altar rails.
  • Llanthony Priory was one of the earliest houses of Augustinian canons to be founded in Britain, and is one of only a handful in Wales. It is chiefly famous today for its wild and beautiful setting, far up the Vale of Ewyas in the Black Mountains. It was the priory's remoteness in the Welsh hills that made it vulnerable to attack. Giraldus Cambrensis described it, in the late 12th century, as being 'fixed amongst a barbarous people'. William de Lacy, a knight in the service of Hugh de Lacy, is said to have chosen the spot while out hunting, when he sheltered in a chapel there dedicated to St David. Very quickly a church was established, dedicated to John the Baptist, and it was reorganized as a priory in about 1118. Hugh de Lacy, who had assumed the patronage, endowed it with land, and it soon became famous, enjoyed royal patronage and received many visitors.
  • Strata Florida Abbey is probably the best known medieval building in the Cambrian Mountains. Its evocative name means – Vale of ‘Fflur’ or flowers. It was founded as a Cistercian Abbey in 1164. The Cistercians were enterprising hard workers who introduced the large flocks of sheep for which they became famous and producing much of the income for running the abbey. For 200 years the Abbey was a major centre and the quiet valley became a centre of cultural influence and Welsh scholarship. It is thought that the most important primary source for early Welsh history, the Brut y Tywysogion was compiled here. Llewelyn the Great held a council here in 1238, where he made the other Welsh princes acknowledge his son Dafydd as his rightful successor and many of the princes of the Deuheubarth were buried here. Traditionally it is also thought to be the final resting place of the great medieval Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym.
 

 

West Wales

 

 

 
  • St Davids Cathedral in Pembrokeshire receives over 250,000 visitors a year. It is the most visited Christian heritage site in Wales. Founded by the patron saint of Wales, David in the 6th century, there has been daily worship on this site for over 1500 years. St Davids is still a major site for pilgrimage and has much to offer visitors.
  • St Govan’s tiny chapel was built in the fissure in the cliff in the 14th century in what is now known as St Govan’s Head To enter this picturesque little building it is necessary to descend a long flight of steps, which, legend asserts, cannot be accurately counted by a mortal being. Outside the Chapel there is a large rock boulder known as the Bell Rock. The legend is that St Govan was given a silver bell which was stolen by pirates from its bell tower. St Govan prayed for its return, and angels retrieved it and placed it inside a rock where it would be safe, and St Govan used to tap the rock which gave a note a thousand times stronger than the note of the original bell.
  • St Dogmaels Abbey was formally founded by Robert fitz Martin and his wife, Maud Peverel, on 10 September 1120, and built on, or very near to, the site of the ancient pre-Norman-conquest church of Llandudoch. The church, which stands alongside the abbey today, is of much later Victorian origins. Links with the medieval past remain amongst the ruins of the old abbey church where original 15th-century floor tiles can still be seen in large areas along the length of the nave.
  • A site of great spiritual importance in Wales, is the remains of the chapel of Blessed Non, the mother of St David. It is located close to St Non's retreat, Holy Well and modern chapel.
  • Mwnt Church is the oldest church in the County of Ceredigion, a place where prayer and praise has been offered to God down through the centuries. The church with its location overlooking Cardigan Bay is stunning. Many people find the church to be a special place – a ‘thin place’ – were the presence of God is very real.
  • Caldey Island has been inhabited since the Stone Age, and has been home to various orders of monks since Celtic times. It is now owned by monks of the Cistercian Order, whose picturesque monastery overlooks the Village Green. . Visitors can also see the Old Priory, St David’s Church and the order also has a retreat house there.
  • A chapel built at the end of the 19th century in Loughor that became famous as the chapel from which the great 1904 revivial was initiated by the great preacher Evan Roberts. Roberts is also buried at the chapel and a memorial to him is located there. 
 
  • St Brynach's Church is located in the beautiful Afon Nevern Valley near to the north coast. The original chapel in Nevern was built by St Brynach as early as 540 AD. Little remains of the original chapel, apart from numerous carved and engraved stones both inside and outside the church - including Vitialanus' stone which can be found near the porch and Maglocunus' stone which is set into the window sill in the nave. Both stones have bilingual inscriptions in Latin and 5th century Irish Ogham script. In the churchyard is the great cross, which is one of the finest examples of its kind in Wales. Almost 13 feet high, it was carved in the 10th Century with intricate knotwork. Every year a, the villagers of Nevern would wait for their 'harbinger of spring'. On the 7th April (St Brynach's feast day) they would gather near the cross to await the first cuckoo of the year to arrive from Africa, land on the cross and sing to announce that spring had arrived. One of the twisted old trees has a dark red resin that drips from an old wound on the trunk. It looks very much like blood, and the tree is known as the bleeding yew
 

 

Pilgrimage and Faith Trails

 

 
 
 

 

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