‘Sacred Wales’ – ‘Cymru Sanctaidd’: The search for Wales’ favourite Church or Chapel

With over 4,500 churches and chapels, Wales has some of the most beautiful and historic religious buildings in the world.

Including ancient churches, medieval cathedrals, and hilltop chapels – Wales has got the lot!

To celebrate and raise awareness of Wales’ religious heritage, the National Churches Trust, the UK’s church building support charity, has launched ‘Sacred Wales’ –  ‘Cymru Sanctaidd’ giving people a chance to choose Wales’ favourite church or chapel.

From a list nominated by churches and chapels and religious and heritage organisations, you can choose from fifty from all over Wales.

They include St David’s Cathedral; Capel Als, the first Nonconformist place of worship in Llanelli; and St Winefried, Holywell, a shrine marking the spot where where Caradog cut off Winefride’s head in the 7th century and one the oldest continual pilgrimage sites in Britain.

People can vote online at www.sacredwales.org.uk until 31 August 2017.

The winning church or chapel will be announced on 28 September 2017 and will receive a ‘SacredWales’ – ‘Cymru Sanctaidd’ trophy, together with a cheque for £500.

(A video about Sacred Wales can be downloaded at   https://vimeo.com/225285577  (English with Welsh subtitles) and at https://vimeo.com/224670880 (English only).

The religious heritage of Wales belongs to all of us.

‘SacredWales’ – ‘Cymru Sanctaidd’  was launched on Thursday 13 July 2017 at  the Cornerstone, Cardiff at an event hosted by the Most Reverend George Stack, Archbishop of Cardiff.

Speaking at the launch, Huw Edwards, broadcaster and journalist, said:

“The churches and chapels of Wales are some of the most beautiful religious buildings anywhere in the world.”  

“Now, ‘Cymru Sanctaidd’ – ‘Sacred Wales’, is giving you the opportunity to choose your favourite.”

“We should all care about the heritage of churches and chapels which help tell the story of Wales. So let’s work together to keep them alive.”

“If you’re looking for a venue to hold an event of a concert or community activity, why not pick one of your local churches or chapels.”

“If you’re any good at DIY, why not volunteer with some repair work.” 

“Or if you’re simply looking for a day out in another part of Wales, why not pop into a church or chapel and discover the fascinating history.”  

“The religious heritage of Wales belongs to all of us.”

“So let’s celebrate it.”

Roman Catholic churches

 Four Roman Catholic churches feature in ‘Cymru Sanctaidd’ – ‘Sacred Wales’.

Our Lady Star of the Sea, Amlwch    Anglesey         LL68 9ED        Grade II*         Roman Catholic          The Twentieth Century Society called this 1930s church ‘a rare and unique church’; it is listed for its ‘highly unusual and experimental design’. Italian architect Giuseppe Rinvolucri used reinforced concrete to create the shape of an upturned boat, reflecting Amlwch’s maritime heritage.

St Winefride, Holywell Flintshire          CH8 7PN        Grade I            Roman Catholic          According to legend, a well sprang up in the seventh century at the spot where Caradog cut off Winefride’s head – she came back to life and lived as a nun for two decades. Her well is said to be the oldest continual pilgrimage site in Britain. The shrine building is a sixteenth century Perpendicular Gothic building, a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The Catholic parish of St Winefride cares for the shrine, relics, and holy well.

St David, Maesglas     Newport          NP20  3AQ     Unlisted           Roman Catholic          St David’s is a modern church, built in 1963 by P D Hepworth. It replaced a one story building on land gifted by Viscount Tredegar to the parish in 1934. Each brick behind the altar has the name of a pupil at St David’s school who paid for it. Its clean modern lines include walls of jewel-like windows.

St David, Pantasaph   Flintshire          CH8 8PE         Grade II*         Roman Catholic          This Victorian neo-Gothic church was originally built as the parish church for the village, and was donated to the Catholic church by Viscount Fielding and his wife in 1850 when they converted to Catholicism. It was modified by Pugin who designed the high altar, font, Lady Chapel reredos and a statue of the Madonna. Of particular note is the Victorian stained glass.

The future of Wales’ churches and chapels

‘Sacred Wales’  – ‘Cymru Sanctaidd’ celebrates Wales’ churches and chapels.

It is also designed to start a debate about their future.

Once the centre of Welsh society, many churches and chapels are still vital for community life.  However, the job of looking after religious buildings is becoming harder as congregations decline.

The Supporting Places of Worship in Wales Survey 2017 a new report produced by the National Churches Trust, published in July 2017, highlights some of the problems being faced by many Welsh churches and chapels.

  1. A severe shortage of volunteers to look after church and chapel buildings.

Keeping churches and chapels open and in good repair is often up to volunteers.  However, 50% of churches and chapels say that they are not attracting new volunteers due to dwindling congregations and a lack of young people.

  1. A lack of skills needed to raise funds for repairs.

60% of churches and chapels need funding from external sources to pay for repair and maintenance projects to keep their building in good condition.  But fundraising skills are in short supply. 28% of churches and chapels have no experience at all of making funding applications and 54% little experience.

  1. Churches and chapels want funding to help carry our regular maintenance.

One of the best ways of preventing the need for expensive repairs is to carry our regular maintenance.  But almost half of churches and chapels surveyed (44%) do not have a maintenance plan. And over three quarters of churches and chapels (78%) said they wanted help with funding to carry out maintenance.

The survey was organised by the National Churches Trust on behalf of the Welsh Places of Worship Forum. A total of 219 places of worship responded between May and July 2017. A full report of the survey is attached.

Claire Walker, CEO of the National Churches Trust said:

“There are around 4,500 churches and chapels in Wales. Around 45% of these are listed due to their historical and architectural significance.”

“However, with declining congregations, their future is not guaranteed.”

“That’s why there needs to be a national debate about their future. Key questions that need answers include:

  • How can they best be funded?
  • How can they attract more visitors?
  • How can more of them be turned into community hubs, hosting post offices, farmers markets and helping people in need?”

“As the UK’s church support charity, in the last five years the National Churches Trust has made 37 awards worth over £450,000 to churches and chapels in Wales to help pay for urgent repairs and the installation of community facilities.”

“In the near future, we hope to extend our new ‘MaintenanceBooker’ (www.maintenancebooker.org.uk) service to Wales, which makes it easier for churches and chapels to carry out essential tasks such as drain and gutter clearances and lightning rod inspections.”

“Churches and chapels are historic buildings. With the help of government, heritage bodies such as CADW and the Heritage Lottery Fund and local people, they can be part of our future, too. “

[content_timeline id=”2″]