LLANGADWALADR CHURCH

The First Celtic Cross?



ST CADWALADR'S CHURCH


You’ll find Llangadwaladr Church just on the periphery of Anglesey’s Aberffraw Sahara. The architecture is originally 12th Century and built of gray stone.

It’s an intriguing place to visit because the juxtaposition of the architecture of different ages lends it a sense of angular imperfection.

Yet, it’s only a mere sense of imperfection lent by wealthy family contributions of times long past. Enforced maybe, but perfect and deeply interesting.




Llangadwaladr Church, Bodorgan, Anglesey



CONTENTS

ST CADWALADR'S CHURCH

INSIDE ST CADWALADR'S CHURCH

THE MEYRICK CHAPEL

THE BODOWEN CHAPEL

THE CADFAN STONE

THE OLD NORMAN DOORWAY

THANK YOU

GETTING HERE




Llangadwaladr Church, Bodorgan, Anglesey




LLANGADWALADR CHURCH


As you will have read on my other pages on Anglesey Churches, you will be aware that most of the Celtic churches were initially built between the 5th and 7th Centuries.

St Cadwaladr’s Church is no exception and it is believed that it is one of the later built churches. The Cadfan Stone seems to corroborate the date.

It has been proposed that this church would have been appropriately placed in Llangadwaladr to serve the spiritual needs of the Court of the Gwynedd Princes, which was located nearby at Aberffraw.




Llangadwaladr Church, Bodorgan, Anglesey




Intriguingly, though - and this is mere speculation on my part – there is also a church reaching back to the early 7th Century at Aberffraw.

It is known as ’St Cwyfan's Church in the Sea’, and balanced on a small island (Cribiniau) now isolated by the high tide.

I have walked around the headland of Aberffraw in foul weather. So I can sincerely appreciate why the Princes of Gwynedd (if concurrent with St Cwyfan’s Church) preferred the country church of Llangadwaladr a mile or so from Aberffraw's storm thrashed island church.

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Llangadwaladr Church, Bodorgan, Anglesey



INSIDE LLANGADWALADR CHURCH


Entering through the comparatively modern south door the atmosphere inside Llangadwaladr Church invites you to slow your pace.

It is difficult to rush into the church because it has established its right to reverence from your first approach beneath the yews. This feeling of reverence is enhanced by the richness of very appropriate and formalised benches and benches.

To your left is a plain and purely functional area of the church and lacks the beautiful decoration of the nave.

The Chancel beyond the Nave holds the Altar and two chapels built later by wealthy local families.

It feels ppropriate possibly to tarry a moment at the door and adjust your mind fitting to where you are.




The arch separates the recent 14th Century Chancel from the original 12th Century Nave. The walls of the Nave are plain and whitewashed with the occasional memorial. A comfortable sense of peace and timelessness draws you to the Altar and the beautiful stained glass window behind and above.

This East Window, a glass triptych I believe, reveals three ‘lights’, important religious iconic images. Central is the striking representation of the Crucifixion with five angels in attendance. The left light shows St Mary and the right, St John.

St Cadwaladr sits beneath the crucified Christ. To is left is Meuric ap Llywelyn and his wife Marged (Margaret) and his right is Owain ap Meuric, son of Meuric, and his wife Elen.

The inscription in Latin is a request for all to pray for the Meuric Family who commissioned the window.

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Llangadwaladr Church, Bodorgan, Anglesey



THE MEYRICK CHAPEL


Today, the Meuric Family are still substantial landowners and continue to hold sway as Lord and Lady Meyrick of the Bodorgan Estate nearby.

As is the wont of the gentry of those early days (maybe even today?) there was a belief that a grand physical manifestation of their faith would help them gain a place in Heaven.

So facing the altar of Llangadwaladr Church and having paid respects appropriate to your beliefs you may choose to glance to your left and view the Meyrick Chapel, which dates back to 1640.

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Llangadwaladr Church, Bodorgan, Anglesey



THE BODOWEN CHAPEL


Opposite the Meyrick Chapel is the Gothic style chapel instigated by Colonel Hugh Owen before his death in 1659. His wife Ann built the chapel in his memory.

Despite being built in the Gothic style, this chapel is lighter than its sombre partner chapel across the altar.

This is the intriguing mixture of the then contemporary architectural styles that I speak of. It is one sense inappropriate yet time has rendered it acceptable but odd on the eye.

The Bodowen Chapel is constructed in the style common in Europe at the time. Thankfully, it lacks oppressive atmosphere generally associated with the style.




Llangadwaladr Church, Bodorgan, Anglesey




The main window is unadorned and more light is brought into this little chapel though the two sister windows and one on the east wall. There is another door entrance here for private entry for the Bodowen family.

It is believed that this smaller window is known as the Leper’s Window so that the afflicted could watch the services being conducted within. Colonel Owen was regarded as possessing a compassionate nature and this may be the reason for the construction of the ‘Leper’s Window’.

Evidence gleaned from local place names suggest quite strongly that there may have been a hospital in the vicinity for those suffering from skin diseases.

A farm now called Clafdy but Clafrdu in the 17th Century supports this theory. (Clafrdu then meant ‘diseases of the skin’)

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Llangadwaladr Church, Bodorgan, Anglesey



THE CADFAN STONE


Embedded in the inside wall of the Church you’ll find a rude stone etched with a Latin epitaph eulogising the life and significance of an individual called Cadfan.

Cadfan died about AD 625, so it is thought, and the writing is difficult rather to read unless you are an academic. So here’s a heads-up for you:


Catamus / rex sapientisi / mus optinatisim / us omnium/ um King Cadfan, the wisest and most renowned of all Kings



Llangadwaladr Church, Bodorgan, Anglesey



What is truly fascinating is that this tombstone found locally may well have been the first to bear the Celtic Cross. The Celtic Cross offers a clear indication that the princes of Gwynedd were Christian.

The son of Cadfan was a heartless and belligerent character called Cadwallon. The only redeeming feature of Cadwallon’s entire life - if his reputation is correct – is that he begat Cadwaldar.

The actual location of the first church established by Cadwaladr for the Court of Aberffraw is unknown as is his burial place. However, he was the Lord of the Princes and of a spiritual nature in direct contrast to his father.

Cadwallon died about AD 664 and was canonised in AD689 . He is remembered as, ‘St Cadwaladr the blessed, King and Sovereign of Britain’.

Thus, the family’s reputation was redeemed.

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THE OLD NORMAN DOORWAY


Llangadwaladr Church, Bodorgan, AngleseyWander around Llanadwaladr Church to the opposite side to the main entrance and you'll discover a blocked-off entrance.

This is the original 12th Century Norman doorway. Now blocked, this simple entrance seems a purely functional architectural feature compared to the ornate south door.

There are two possible reasons for this type of entrance. First, times were hard and famine and malnutrition common.

The physical stature would therefore be much slighter and smaller.



An easy comparison is the small stature of those we see on television in regularly famine struck areas of the world.

Secondly, it would oblige those who enter Llangadwaladr Church to have their head bowed and in humble obeisance.

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Llangadwaladr Church, Bodorgan, Anglesey



THANK YOU


May I first of all extend my warmest thanks to Morfudd Jones for her fascinating little booklet on the history of Llangadwaladr Church.

It’s for sale inside the church and only costs about £3.00, so it’s affordable and excellent reading.

The information on this page is drawn from that useful booklet inside Llangadwaladr Church and from conversations with some knowledgeable local people.

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Llangadwaladr Church, Bodorgan, Anglesey



GETTING HERE


Llangadwaladr Church lies just off Anglesey’s southern coastal road near Aberffraw.

Follow the notes I have put on my Aberffraw Beach page to get you to the village of Aberffraw.


From here it is very straightforward.

  • Take the road across the large sand dune area from Aberffraw until you arrive after a mile or so in the village of Llangadwaladr.

  • Drive up through this village and past the Llangefni Turning on your left.

  • Now SLOW DOWN. Llangadwaladr Church is out of sight on your left about 100m after the Llangefni Turning.

  • More or less on the opposite side of the road to the Church road/track is a large white house.

  • Turn in here and follow the road up and to your left to park beside the church graveyard.

    You may be locky and find the church door open for your inevstigation and spiritual reflection.


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