Llanaber – St Mary and St Bodfan’s Church


   The church of St. Mary and St. Bodfan was built in the 13th century on the site of an earlier Celtic temple. The benefactor of the church was Hywel ap Meredydd ap Cynan, Lord of Ardudwy, a relative of the Welsh prince and leader Llywelyn the Great, and great-grandson of king Owain Gwynedd. The building has been thoroughly restored in the years 1858-1860. The works included a complete reconstruction of the west façade and the removal of the northern chapel. At that time, the sacristy was built on the place of the chapel and the porch was added.


   The church was situated on a slope gently descending towards the sea on the west side. It received an impressive form of a three-aisle basilica, rarely seen among Welsh parish churches, with a very long rectangular chancel on the eastern side. Due to the terrain form, the chancel was placed slightly asymmetrically and higher than the nave, so it had to be accessible with several steps. It was also separated from the central nave by a late-early Gothic arcade with a slightly outlined ogival arch and capitals decorated with floral decorations. In the 16th century, a small chapel was attached to the chancel from the north.
   The entrance to the nave was placed in the western part of the south wall in an early Gothic portal made of sandstone. It received a slightly pointed archivolt, profiled by nine shafts separated by concaves, based on relief capitals and semicircular columns set on a pedestal. The side columns were an extension of the archivolt shafts, while the concaves of archivolt corresponded to the recesses between the columns, thanks to which the whole obtained an elegant and symmetrical form.
Inside the nave, the space was characterized by a very wide central part compared to the much narrower aisles. Each of the aisles was separated from the central nave by five pointed, moulded, early Gothic arcades, based on rather massive, cylindrical columns with flat capitals, decorated with floral motifs. The lighting of the church was mostly provided by small lancet windows, which were slightly longer only in the presbytery part. The two-light south window in the chancel was an exception.

Current state

   The church in Llanaber is today considered the best-preserved 13th-century sacral building in North Wales. Early modern modifications were limited to transforming the northern chapel into a sacristy, adding a southern porch and two buttresses at the western facade. The wooden ceiling both in the nave and in the chancel comes from the 15th / 16th century. In the northwest corner of the church there is a pair of early medieval stones with inscriptions, possibly from the 5th or 6th century. Inside, you can also see the 14th-century baptismal font.

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Salter M., The old parish churches of North Wales, Malvern 1993.
The Royal Commission on The Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions in Wales and Monmouthshire. An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Wales and Monmouthshire. County of Merioneth, London 1921.

Wooding J., Yates N., A Guide to the churches and chapels of Wales, Cardiff 2011.
Website britishlistedbuildings.co.uk, Parish Church of Saint Mary and Saint Bodfan. A Grade I Listed Building in Barmouth (Bermo), Gwynedd.