Church of St Peter ad Vincula, Pennal

Church of St Peter ad Vincula, Pennal

It’s thought that Christian worship here was started in the 6th century by two Breton missionaries, Saints Tannwg and Eithrias. The first stone church here was probably erected in the 12th century.

The current church largely dates from the 18th century. It incorporates stones from a nearby Roman fort and roof timbers from the early 16th century. It’s the only church in Wales dedicated to St Peter ad Vincula (St Peter in Chains – referring to the story of an angel freeing him from captivity).

The church was the last place declared a “chapel royal” by Owain Glyndŵr, regarded by his followers as the true Prince of Wales. In March 1406 he held a parliament and general synod here. The result was the Pennal Letter, sent to France to seek support for Glyndŵr’s fading rebellion against English rule. He pledged allegiance to France’s king and pope (a rival to the pope in Rome) and outlined his plans for a separate Welsh church (not achieved until 1920!) and two Welsh universities. You can see a copy of the Latin letter and an English translation inside the church.

The church’s east window, of 1873, depicts the Ascension. It’s thought to be unique in featuring the Green Man, a pre-Christian symbol of fertility often depicted in church carvings rather than on glass, as here.

Among the many memorials in the church is one commemorating the Lascelles family of Penmaendyfi. Captain Arthur Lascelles was awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest honour for bravery, for his actions in the First World War on 3 December 1917. Despite being wounded, he returned to battle and was killed in November 1918. His wife Mary died in 1917.

A tablet in the church commemorates the children of Richard Matthews. One of them, Oliver, drowned locally in 1831. Another, Vernon, died in 1849 while trying to make his fortune in the Californian “gold rush”.

In 1871 a local worshipper suggested, in a letter in the Cambrian News, that spittoons be provided in the church, because some of the congregation habitually chewed tobacco and spat “all over the floor” during services!

Postcode: SY20 9DH    View Location Map

Church website