St Brynach church was founded in the 6th century by St Brynach who came from Ireland because he had married a Breconshire chieftain’s daughter. It was the main church of several that he founded. The present church building’s architecture, except for the Norman tower, is late perpendicular. It is cruciform in plan. The church was built in 1425-1525 with restorations in 1864. In 1952 the tower was repaired and the church was redecorated. There is an entrance gate into the grounds, and a yew tree avenue leads from the church.
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In the nave are two transeptal chapels. The southern one is named the Trewern-Henllys chapel after families buried in the vault beneath it. The roof has stone vaulting, unique in Pembrokeshire. In the chapel is the Maglocunus stone, thought to date from the 5th century. There is an Ogham inscription on the stone. Another stone to look for is the Cross stone, 62 inches long and 12 wide. It gets its name from the cross inscribed on it. The cross is considered unusual in that it has ribbons and cords and a knot put together in a different way from what is usually found on Celtic crosses. From this chapel a turreted staircase leads to a room above with a circular quatrefoil window. It was probably used for meetings or as living quarters for the priest. The second chapel, the Glasdir chapel is on the north. It has two piscinas in the wall.
The church chancel is lighted by two narrow pointed windows. A recess is home for an organ. There is a piscina here as well. A stone is missing from the north side floor that was there before the restoration.
The tower occupies the full width of the church. Sixty turreted steps lead up to a battlemented roof. The six church bells in the tower were cast by Thomas Rudhall of Gloucester and given to the church in 1763 by the vicar and others.
Outside and east of the porch is the Vitalianus stone, thought to be 5th century. The church is famous for its Great Cross, a scheduled ancient monument. It is 13 feet high and 24.5 inches in diameter. It is thought to date from either the 10th or 11th centuries. On all sides are compartments with interlacing ribbons. The east and west sides have early British writing. Another stone of note is found east of the church porch. Its possible date is 5th century and the inscriptions are bilingual.
St Brynach church is in the village of Nevern on the B4582, south-west of Cardigan. The village is just off the A487 and is in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
Photos © by Barbara Ballard and courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
Chris Gunn: Celtic cross slab
Dylan Moore: Ogham stone