Penmon Priory

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The Priory Church of St Seriol at the south eastern tip of Anglesey was once part of a larger priory, described in a separate review.

It stands above the road and is reached up a flight of steps. It is a cruciform church with small central square tower with pyramid roof and small double Norman windows. There is a lovely Norman window on the south transept. The grassy area to the south of the church would have been the cloisters. Attached to the south side of the church is the prior’s lodgings, now a private house. Entry into the church is through a small wooden porch.

Entering the church, first impressions are disappointing. The original chancel was restored in the C19th and now serves as the church. It is very plain with a hammer beam roof with small gold flowers on the beams. Steps lead up to the sanctuary with altar and panelled reredos across the east end. This has a small Agnes Dei and a pelican on the panels.

Don’t miss the small C13th Limoges enamel on the wall near the pulpit. The original is on the left, a modern reproduction on the right. This was found buried near the altar during the C19th restoration. It shows the figure of Christ with his right hand raised in blessing and holding a book in the other hand. The original may have been attached to the binding of a book, or on a shrine or processional cross.

By it is a lovely stained glass window dated 1969 “Peace, be Still” with Jesus in a fishing boat, calming the storm. At the bottom are the images of two monks and Penmon Priory.

Above the crossing arch is a small royal coat of arms.

The best bit of the church is through the chancel arch and into the original Norman nave. The round crossing arches are pure Norman with chevron and chequerboard carvings and are some of the best Norman carving in North Wales. The south transept has blind Norman arcading round two walls with pillars with carved capitals and bases. Mounted on the west wall are two C12th carvings. One is a shiela-na-gig and the other of a man carrying an axe. Standing in the middle of the transept is a C10th cross. The Norman window has an mage of St Christopher with the Christ Child. On the wall is a small slate memorial to Thomas Wilsford d1645 with a shield with three lions and a skull in the bottom right hand corner – a reminder of man’s mortality.

The North transept is screened by a curtain and is used as a dumping ground.

The old nave is now empty apart from a square font at the west end. This dates from around 1000 and has a carved geometric design. It may have been the base of a cross. Next to it is a small piscina made from an old pillar. Standing against the north wall is another cross dating from about 1000AD. It would originally have stood in the open. The cross has been broken and mended. The top is very eroded and may have come from another cross. The carving on the base shows a strong Scandinavian influence with plait and fretwork carvings.

It is worth going out through the south door to look at the outside with its tympanum of a carved dragon with its head twisted back, standing on a cross hatched pattern.

This is a delightful site, still very unspoilt and usually fairly quiet. The church is open every day. It is a pity that the site is inaccessible for those in wheelchairs and with all the steps, there may be problems for those with reduced mobility.

There is parking by the priory. This is private and there is a charge of £2.50 which also includes the toll to drive down to Black Point at the tip of the peninsula with views across to Puffin Island and the North Wales Coast.

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