St Bueno’s Church

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April, 2015

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St Bueuno’s Church is a splendid perpendicular church which dominates the small settlement of Clynnog Fawr on the north coast of the Llyn Peninsula. It was built at a strategic point at the north end of a pass through the mountains to the south coast of the peninsula.

Bueno was one of the most important of the early saints and descended from the Princes of Powys. He founded a monastery here in the C7th which became an important centre of learning with the Abbot entitled to a seat in the court of the Princes of Gwynedd.

Legends associate him with miraculous healing powers. He is credited with restoring “St Winefride”: to life after she had her head cut off by a jealous suitor. When he died, he was buried under what is now St Beuno’s Chapel.

The church was burnt by the Vikings in the C10th and again by the Normans. The present building is C15/16th and is a fine example of Perpendicular architecture and is described as one of the finest Tudor churches in Wales. It became an important stopping point for pilgrims on the way to Bardsey Island.

At the west end is a solid square tower with battlements. The nave, chancel and transepts are battlemented with crocketted pinnacles at the ends. Joined to the tower by a short passageway is St Bueno’s Chapel

In the churchyard outside St Bueno’s Chapel is a stone sundial dating from the late C10 to early C12th which marks the times of the canonical hours.

A sturdy, studded door with huge hinges leads into the church. Inside it is a large church which swamps the chairs in the nave. It feels cold and a bit unloved and there are problems with damp and green patches on the whitewashed walls. Light from the large plain glass windows also makes the church feel cold. The wooden candlesticks on the walls were made by a local turner and are typical of the lighting used in churches 150 years ago.

The simple hammer beam wood ceiling in the nave has carved bosses. The transept ceiling is more elaborate with carved cross beams.

A wooden screen shuts off the base of the tower from the nave. The door was locked when we visited so there was no access to the vaulted stone passageway which gives access to St Bueno’s Chapel.

The north transept contains a worthy but rather turgid exhibition about Pilgrimage in North Wales. St Bueno’s Chest, the ancient wooden chest hollowed out of an ash trunk is here. This was used for collecting alms given by pilgrims. It is now riddled with old woodworm holes.

The south transept contains the organ which was blown by hand until electricity arrived in the area. The bellows are still there. On the wall is a pair of dog tongs dating from 1815. Parishioners often arrived with their dogs and there were used to remove unruly dogs.

The rood screen beneath the chancel arch dates from 1531 and has been much restored. Traces of the original black and red paint can still be seen on it. The rood loft is accessed by a door at the north end.
The panelled octagonal pulpit in front of the screen dates from about 1700.

The massive wood choir stalls in the chancel date from around 1500 and have carved ends, carved heads on the arms and misericords.

The altar is a wooden table with bottle green hangings behind it. The perpendicular east window has small stained glass roundels with a pelican plucking her breast. Agnus Dei, symbols of the Passion, crown of thorns and alpha and omega. On the north wall of the chancel is a three seater sedilia with a small piscina next to it.

From the outside this is a splendid church, the largest and most impressive of the pilgrim churches of the Llyn Peninsula. The inside is almost disappointing in comparison. It is a huge church, too big for the parish now and unlike the other churches, feels cold, unloved. I has an unused feel in spite of the exhibition in the north transept. The rood screen and choir stalls are splendid making this a worthwhile visit. Unfortunately St Bueno’s Chapel was locked and there was no access to it.

The church is unlocked and there is on street parking in the village. The post code is LL54 5NH and the grid reference is SH414 497.

There are more pictures “here.”:


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