St Beuno’s Church, Clynnog Fawr


St Beuno’s Church, Clynnog Fawr

St Beuno lived in the 6th or 7th century and founded at Clynnog Fawr a clas, an institution of the Celtic Church which was somewhere between a monastery and a college. After his death, his shrine and well became a gathering point for pilgrims heading to the sacred island of Bardsey (Ynys Enlli).
To hear how to pronounce Beuno, press play: Or, download mp3 (13KB)

clynnog_fawr_church_old_drawingBeuno was ordained in Bangor. Cadvan, king of Gwynedd, became his benefactor for his missionary work. Beuno became embroiled in a land dispute with Cadwallon, the king’s son, which ended with Cadwallon’s cousin granting Beuno and God the land for the clas at Clynnog Fawr.

Beuno’s remains were buried in a tomb at Clynnog Fawr, and later moved to the present church. The oldest part of the church is believed to be the eastern crossing, dating from the 1480s. The nave was extended westwards c.1500, when the choir stalls in the chancel were also provided. The western tower and two-storey vestry are from the early 16th century. The building was restored in the mid-19th century, but the work done was less intrusive to the medieval fabric than at many other churches rebuilt by the Victorians.

Thomas Pennant described the church as “the most magnificent structure of its kind in North Wales”. The pictures shown here (courtesy of Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru – The National Library of Wales) are from his books about his travels in Wales in the 1770s and were drawn by Moses Griffiths, the artist he employed.

clynnog_fawr_old_drawingPennant wrote that St Beuno’s tomb, in a chapel adjoining the church, would be covered with rushes for sick children to sleep on for a night, after washing in water from the nearby holy well. Pennant had once seen a feather bed on the tomb, where a “poor paralytic” from Meirionnydd had lain the whole night.

Pennant observed it was still a tradition that lambs or calves born with a natural earmark known as Nôd Beuno (“Beuno’s mark”) were brought to the church on the saint’s anniversary for the churchwardens to sell. The proceeds were used for poor relief or church repairs, and were kept in Cyff St Beuno, a chest made from one piece of oak and secured with triple locks.

The interior is notable for its ancient woodwork, including misericords – informal perch seats to ease the burden on the legs when people stood for long services. The rood screen dates from 1531, and the octagonal pulpit from c.1700. Also on display is a pair of dog tongs, once used to eject disruptive dogs.

The church bells date from 1623, 1624 and 1924. One bell was described in 1821 as lying on the ground, cracked. A new bell frame was installed in 1924 with space for three bells, like its 18th-century predecessor.

In the churchyard is a sundial dating from the 10th to early 12th century, and the grave of Eben Fardd. He was a renowned Welsh bard who ran a school at the church until 1849.

Postcode: LL54 5PB    View Location Map

Parish website

View Thomas Pennant’s A Tour in Wales – National Library of Wales website

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