The medieval church of St. Peter Ad Vincula lies in the beautiful village of Pennal in western Wales. The church was founded in the 6th century by Celtic missionaries from Brittany. It is the only church in Wales dedicated to Saint Peter in Chains (ad Vincula), whose story can be found in the Acts of the Apostles XII. Although its history spans some 1500 years, the church is most famous for its association with Owain Glyndwr, who came to Pennal in 1406. Here Glyndwr composed his famous "Penal Letter," discussed below, a copy of which is found in the church. The church also features a large oil painting depicting Glyndwr's visit to Pennal.
Lying close by is the medieval , which today consists of a worn, tree-covered motte overlooking a ploughed-under bailey resting peacefully in a farmer's field. Local legend says that when Glyndwr visited Pennal in 1406 he also visited and issued orders from the castle. My wife and I visited Pennal in April of 2004, and the information found below is taken from several brochures found inside the church.
Jeffrey L. Thomas
Founded in the sixth century AD by St Tannwg and St Eithrias, Celtic missionaries from Armorica (Brittany), Pennal Church spans the history of a national church which struggled hard to preserve its identity for over 1500 years. Its history reflects its encounter with the Latin and English churches in addition to the Protestant Reformation. It regained its independence in 1920 and in recent years some of its members have begun to look again at its roots within the Orthodox tradition. The Oval Churchyard wall surrounding the church is one of the most perfect specimens remaining in the country and suggests that the site may have been a pre-Christian shrine. The south side was totally rebuilt in 1991 when the road was widened. The church has won many awards for its heritage and conservation work.
The Church was rededicated towards the end of the eleventh century by the Norman Conquerors. In spite of its sixteenth century characteristics, today's church is a typical example of a Victorian restoration.
The church also commemorates the Great Court of Princes held in the village at the beginning of the fifteenth century, and Aneurin Jones's painting of this event, the last Assembly of an independent Wales, is a worthy addition to Prince Owain Glyndwr's 'Chapel Royal' of 1406.
Built to the Glory of God, the church is full of artifacts, carvings and paintings which reflect the skill and dedication of craftsmen and women. It is open daily for prayer and worship, meditation and relaxation, and is part of Pennal's Heritage Centre. Enjoy your visit.
The church features many items of historical interest, including:
Following the example of his illustrious ancestor, Prince Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (Llywelyn the Great), who summoned his Council of Chiefs to the mouth of the River Dovey in 1216, it was the Merionethshire village of Pennal, during Lent 1406, that Prince Owain Glyndwr presided over the last Assembly of an independent Wales. Inheritor of the mantle of King Arthur, Owain was the last Welsh Pendragon, was crowned "Prince of Wales by the Grace of God" in 1404. Supported by his outlawed clerics and the nobles and princes of his race, Owain drew up a policy for the Welsh nation and its Church. Known for posterity as The Pennal Policy, it was a radical programme, breathtaking in its breadth of vision, which to this day continues to capture and fire the imagination.Below: Aneurin Jones' painting "The Welsh Assembly of 1406". Additional photographs of the church.
at the Castles of Wales web site