Pilgrim Churches of the Llyn Peninsula

St Beuno’s Church, Pistyll


A tiny unspoilt pilgrim church, preserving the spirit of Celtic Christianity


There has been a church on this site since the 6thC when St Beuno, a Celtic saint, retreated here for peace and quiet, away from the bustle of the Collegiate Church of Clynnog Fawr. All that remains of the early church is a large corner stone at the south east corner. The present building is thought to be 12thC and lies in a grassy hollow beside a stream and close to the sea.

Built of the local dark stone with a slate roof, it is a very simple building with a single small bell cote. Originally it would have been built with no windows in the nave as the congreagation were illiterate and didn’t need to see.

Pistyll Church

Inside are rough stone cast walls and a very old wooden beam ceiling. The walls used to be covered with plaster. On the north wall, in a surround of yew branches, is the remains of the medieval plaster with a crude red ochre wall painting, thought to be St Christopher, the patron saint of travellers. The floor is strewn with rushes, hiding the modern concrete floor.

Pistyll Church

At the back of the church is a round stone font thought to be 12thC. It has a Celtic swirl pattern round the bowl.

Pistyll Church

The oak pews are a recent addition. Originally the congregation would have stood. The altar rail is modern and there is a simple altar covered with a cloth and two tall modern candlesticks on either side. Above is a square window with a board above with the inscription GLODFORWCH YR ARGLWYDD CANYS DA YW (Thanks unto the Lord for he is good).

There is a leper's squint in the north wall by the altar. Lepers visited the church in the Middle Ages and were housed in a hospice at Cae Hosbis Pennia, well away from the main body of pilgrims. During mass they stood outside the north west corner of the church and viewed mass through the squint. Many medicinal plants still grow wild in the surrounding valley.

The remains of the mill pond above the church is thought originally have been the site of a fish pond.

This is a delightful small church, untouched by time and still preserving the spirit of the old Celtic Christianity. When we first visited thirty years ago, the church used to be decorated with huge branches of laurel, gorse and yew. At Easter there were moss, flowers and eggs on the window ledges, round the font and on the altar. It had an almost pagan feel to it, as can be seen in this picture taken at Easter 1985.

St Bueno's Church, Pistyll
 
Now the decoration is limited to yew branches on either side of the altar and round the medieval wall painting, rushes on the floor and the remains of moss on the window ledges.

The church is signed off the B4417 road just to the east of Pistyll. An unclassified road drops down to the church and there is a small car park at the top of the road. The church is always open. always open and there is a small car park at the top of the road.

The nearest Postal code is LL53 6LR and the grid reference is SH328423

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