Sacred Places of Wales

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St. Brynach's Church, Nevern

On the journey to St. David's (Ty Ddewi: Tee Thewee), at the edge of the most westerly peninsular of Wales, through largely unspoiled and peaceful countryside, the traveller may discern, on the flanks of the Preseli hills a large quarry from where the famous inner circle of blue stones at Stonehenge were taken so many centuries ago.

St. Brynach Great Celtic CrossA short detour will bring us to St Brynach's Church at Nevern, (Nanhyfer), a little village tucked away in the valley of the River Nyfer. Brynach is also known as (Brynach Wyddel: Brunn ack Withel) "the Irishman," though he was a native of Pembrokeshire and spent many years in Britanny following a pilgrimage to Rome. On his feast day, 7 April, it is said that the first cuckoo arriving in Wales sings its very first song from the top of a 13-ft high elaborately patterned Great Celtic cross, dating from the 10th century, perhaps the finest in Wales.

The church was erected on one of the earliest Christian places of worship in the country. It was founded in the fifth century by St. Brynach after he is said to have spoken with angels on the summit of nearby Mynydd Carningli (Muneethe Carn Inglee),"The Mount of Angels." It became an important stopping place for pilgrims on the way from Holywell in the northeast, to St. David's in the southwest.

It is from this time that the Celtic word Llan (Thlan) appears, signifying a church settlement and usually followed by the name of a saint, as in Llandewi (Thlan Dewee) or Llangurig (Thlan Girrig), named after St. David and St. Curig; but sometimes by the name of a disciple of Christ, such as Llanbedr (Thlan Bedder), named after St. Peter, or even St. Mary (Llanfair: Thlan Vire).

The churchyard contains a magnificent line of ancient "bleeding yews" and cypress trees. One of the church's famous collection of Celtic memorial stones, to Maelgwyn (Mile Gwinn), and now found inside the building, is inscribed in both Latin and Ogham script. Near the church, in a little leafy, narrow lane, cut into a rock, is a wayside pilgrim's cross where travelers stopped to pray for a safe journey.

It is now time to visit the site considered to be the most sacred spot in Wales, the burial place of its beloved patron saint.

Next Stop: St. David's & St. Non's Well
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