St David’s Cathedral, St David’s
You can find St David’s at the furthermost westerly part of Pembrokeshire, if not Wales. Literally, the next stop is Ireland. St David’s is a quiet little town, except for the summer when you can see it packed with sightseers and tourists. In fact, one of the best things about St David’s Cathedral is the size of the cathedral, whilst it’s a normal-sized cathedral when you compare it to the rest of the buildings in the town, it is huge and sat in a big dip surrounded by a huge grass-covered embankment.
The Cathedral standing today was begun by Norman Bishop Peter de Leia in 1181. The central tower collapsed twice over the next century. In the fourteenth century, Welsh Bishop Henry Gower had it repaired, extended and remodeled. This ornately carved Gothic screen is located in the nave and houses his tomb effigy.
Bishop Gower was a remarkable character and a rare example of a Welshman as bishop in the Norman period. He became Bishop of St Davids in 1328 after a lengthy education at Oxford University and serving as the University’s Chancellor.
A great medieval builder, he also commissioned the impressive Bishop’s Palace, home to the Bishop of St Davids until the Reformation of the sixteenth century. He strengthened the fortifications of the wall surrounding the Close. Porth-y-Tŵr (The Gate of the Tower) built up against the Cathedral’s octagonal bell tower is the only surviving gateway from this fortification.
St Davids is a stunning cathedral, just the sheer size when you stand inside the entrance, and always seems to be a very busy little community inside. It’s always been busy inside and out whenever I’ve attended.
St Julian’s Chapel, Tenby
Now I must admit that I do prefer smaller churches, I always like the more intimate family atmosphere they support. St Julian’s Anglican Church is just one of those churches with a small family-like congregation where the church is more about its community rather than anything else. The other good part about this church is that it is literally on the edge of the beach in Tenby, just walk out the door and you can step out onto the sand.
St Dogmaels Abbey, St Dogmaels
St Dogmael’s Abbey is an abbey in St Dogmaels in Pembrokeshire, Wales, on the banks of the River Teifi and close to Cardigan and Poppit Sands. It is named after Dogmael, a 6th-century saint said to have been the son of Ithel ap Ceredig ap Cunedda Wledig, and also reputedly the cousin of Saint David.
The abbey was built on or very close to the site of the pre-Norman conquest clas church of Llandudoch. It was founded between 1113 and 1115 for a prior and twelve monks of the Tironensian Order. The founders were Robert fitz Martin and his wife, Maud Peverel. In 1120 Abbot William of Tiron consented to fitz Martin’s request that the priory become an abbey. Abbot Fulchard was installed by Bishop Bernard of St David’s. It remained a daughter house of Tiron, probably until its dissolution. However, in 1138, the village and abbey of St Dogmaels were sacked by Gruffudd ap Cynan’s sons, Owain Gwynedd and Cadwaladr, acting with princes Anaraud and Cadell. In 1188, Gerald of Wales stayed at the abbey with Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, whilst they gathered support for the Third Crusade on their preaching tour of Wales.
The earliest surviving remains date from the first half of the twelfth century. It seems that sufficient of the church was built to satisfy the immediate requirements of the monastery, but that the western part for the use of the laity, was not finished. The nave was completed in the thirteenth century, although without the intended aisles. Unusually the church lacks a west doorway, possibly because of the slope of the ground becomes steeper. The square-ended sanctuary was built over a vaulted crypt, possibly a repository for relics of St Dogmael.
Burnett’s Hill Chapel, Nr Narbeth
My absolute favourite church, Burnett’s Hill Chapel is small like a tiny bungalow. Very small and intimate where the church is all about Sunday service designed for a small working community.
Burnett’s Hill Calvinistic Methodist Chapel is a rare and important survival of early Pembrokeshire chapel architecture. Built in cottage style in 1812 to serve the coal-mining community of Landshipping and Martletwy, it has been altered very little over the years and has a timeless charm all of its own.
Like so many Welsh chapels, Burnett’s Hill was forced to close in the 1980s for want of a congregation, and it might have become a complete ruin but for the intervention of a group of local people who formed themselves into the Friends of Burnett’s Hill Chapel and set about saving the building.
Thanks to the help of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and the Heritage Lottery Fund, this was achieved and the beautifully restored chapel re-opened in 2001.