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Home | The Church of Llanaber and St. Bodfan
Barmouth, Gwynedd, North Wales, United Kingdom.

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St Bodfan's Church is the finest 13th-century church in Gwynedd. It was built by Hywel ap Gruffudd ap Cynan, a great grandson of Owain Gwynedd who became overlord of this part of Meirionnydd in 1202 but was dead by 1216.The church houses the Llanaber stones dating from the late 5th-early 6th century AD.
The first church on this site was probably built by Bodfan, a Celtic Saint in the 6th century. This Bodfan may have been the son of Helig ap Glannog whose territory was destroyed by the great inundation that formed the Lavan Sands which lie between the Great Orme's Head and the Menai Straits off the north coast of Gwynedd.
After the disaster both Helig and his sons embraced a religious life. The church at Aber, in Gwynedd, is dedicated to St. Bodfan and he may be the same Saint associated with Llanaber. One of Bodfan's brothers was Celynin, who likewise has a Church dedicated to him at Llangelynin in the Conwy Valley and at Llangelynin near Llwyngwril, a few miles south of Llanaber. Other brothers were Brothen, who founded the Church at Llanfrothen, and Boda and Gwynin who founded the church at Dwygyfylchi, near Penmaenmawr.
Bodfan, no doubt, built his Church of wood and wattle but of that building no trace remains. With the coming of the Normans the art of building in stone was introduced and, following their custom, many Welsh dedications were either changed to, or coupled with , the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Apostles. Ancient maps refer to the Church as St. Bodfan's and an association with the Saint is preserved in the name of the nearby Bodfan farm, but the Church is today more popularly known as St. Mary's.
The present church dates from the early 13th century. One of its great benefactors was Hywel ap Meredydd ap Cynan, the Lord of Ardudwy, the commot which has given its name to the Rural Deanery of Ardudwy in which the parish of Llanaber is situated. This Hywel was a near relative of Llewelyn the Great.
The plan of the church consists of a Nave, with north and south aisles, and a long and narrow chancel. Entering the church by the south
Porch, rebuilt in the nineteenth century, the visitor notices the very fine south doorway, reputed to be one of the finest examples of Early English architecture in the country.
This doorway, built of a yellow sandstone, is deeply recessed and is composed of six shafts on either side. The north door opposite is much narrower and of simple design.

The nave is divided on either side into five arcades. The Nave is a wonderful example of transition from Norman architecture to Early English style. The piers are Norman in character with foliated capitals from which spring pointed arches.

The four Clerestory windows on either side of the the Nave are delightful examples of Early English Lancets, whilst the two long Lancets of the west wall are part of the nineteenth century restoration.The Chancel, which is separated from the Nave by an Early English arch, is approached by a flight of steps, necessitated by the sloping nature of the site on which the Church is built. The East window is a perfect example of a single Early English Lancet with very wide splays and shafts in the inner arch.

The main roof timbers ,both in the Nave and Chancel, date from the sixteenth century, whilst the ceiling above the sanctuary is panelled and its bosses and carvings picked out in gilt and colour.

In 1860 extensive work of restoration was carried out. The Bell turret was rebuilt as well as most of the west wall with it's heavy buttresses. The small vestry adjoining the north side of the Chancel was also constructed at the same time on the site of a previous building.

The Glass in the windows dates from the nineteenth century and is on the whole good with the design in the Clerestory windows depicting angels with musical instruments.

 

Directions: [  Map of St Bodfan's Church location  ]                         Map opens in a new window
The Church is on the seaward side of the A496, 1.9mile north of the harbour at Barmouth. Parking is in the layby outside the Church,which is usually open.

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