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Saint Mary’s (and Saint Bodfan’s) Church, Llanaber

Almost two miles north of Barmouth on the A496 is the parish of Llanaber, and the not to be missed, Llanaber church. It dates from the early 13th Century, and is dedicated to St. Bodfan with a later dedication to the Virgin Mary. The church is certainly the finest example of a 13th Century church in Gwynedd, and has been described as “one of the greatest triumphs, for its size, of architectural genius and judgement”, and as “the most beautiful church in Merionethshire”. It is a Grade I listed building, and was carefully restored in 1969. From the exterior it is quite plain, (except for the exceptional southern doorway) but the interior is of interest. The east window consists of a single lancet (a very rare feature) and the ceiling of the nave and chancel are finely decorated, with the carvings highlighted in gilt and colours. The parish register dates back to 1750.

The church was constructed by Hywel ap Gruffudd ap Cynan who was a great grandson of Owain Gwynedd (an overlord of this part of Meirionnydd at the turn of the 13th Century).

There are several interesting relics inside the church:

An antique warden’s chest carved out of a single log of wood, usually near the south entrance.

Two wooden collection boxes with interesting designs and handles dated 1756 and 1774, usually kept locked away.

The two Llanaber stones – These are early Christian inscribed stones found within a mile of the church, and they appear to belong to the second half of the 5th Century. They are in the North West corner of the church. One reads CAELESTI/MONEDO/RIGI and the other AETERN(I)/ET/AETERN(E). It is thought that they are memorial stones. The Caelesti stone was placed in the church in the 19th Century, after it was previously used as a foot bridge on a local farm.

There is a lay by at the side of the road for parking when visiting the church.

Simon Topham

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