Stained Glass in Welsh Churches

Many readers of this blog will already be familiar with the Stained Glass in Wales web site ( Searchable by date, artist, subject and location, it lists about 1,800 windows with over 5,000 photographs from about 350 sites across Wales.  It is a truly wonderful resource. What it has always lacked, though, is analysis. How were those subjects chosen, and what was their significance, for patrons and viewers? Where did the medieval stained glass artists come from, and where did they work? What is the role of stained glass in the modern church (and elsewhere)?

Now, for those of us who like our answers in hard copy (no worries about mobile reception and what will replace QR codes), we have Martin Crampin’s new book Stained Glass from Welsh Churches, published by Y Lolfa (ISBN 978 184771 825 9). At £29.95 for a substantial hardback it is worth it for the illustrations alone: literally thousands of gloriously detailed photographs, all in glowing colour. It is only a pity that there is no list of them, though they are of course in the index. But there is much more in this book. For the novice, it describes the development of the craft of staining, painting and otherwise decorating glass, from medieval grisaille to modern dalle de verre and sandblasting.  This is followed by detailed overviews of medieval stained glass, the impact of Reformation iconoclasm, the importing of Continental stained glass, the Victorian revival, the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites, and the modern period. Full weight is given to the stained glass traditions of Nonconformist chapels (much of it influenced by the desire for war memorials) and Catholic churches.  With commemoration of World War I in full swing the sections on war memorials will be particularly useful.

The book does not of course replace the web site, which has room for much more information on individual churches (why not link to it from your church web site – and if your church is not on the web site, why not do some homework and add it – just email and ask for a link to upload your material). What the book gives us is more background, more analysis and an easier format for cross-checking and comparisons. Now what we need to do is to make sure that there are access arrangements for all the churches mentioned and illustrated in the book. The photographs are wonderful, but people are going to want to see the originals as well.

Madeleine Gray

Professor of Ecclesiastical History

University of South Wales



Pilgrimage cont

More developments on the Pilgrimage font with the idea of resurrrecting the Llanilltud Fawr (LLantwit Major) to Llandaff route. 

Peaceful Places-Llefydd Llonydd- Llandre, Ceredigion

Under the sound leadership of Roger Hagger and superbly administered by Anne Poole, twelve churches and chapels in Ceredigion have received European Funding via Cadw to enhance the visitor experience to the area by adding these sacred sites to the tourism product. Much of the territory covered in BBC Wales' Hinterland is within this projects area.

Between spring 2013 and winter 2014, the project will:

  • Work with communities to explore the heritage of each church or chapel
  • Produce high quality displays, publications and a website
  • Promote the trail with the involvement of local businesses

The project is being advised by consultants Countryscape and Creu-ad.

More details can be found at

Maesyronnen Chapel:

Now in the hands of the URC, this former congregational chapel is one of the oldest in Wales and is about 1 mile (north of the village of Glasbury in Powys. It is designated by Cadw as a Grade 1 listed building.  

Largely unchanged from its beginnings in the late seventeenth century it was one of a number of chapels that benefited from the 1689 act of toleration. 

On Friday 31 Janury 2014, HRH the Prince of Wales made a visit to Maesyronnen and to the Landmark Trust property adjacent to the chapel. The Prince spent the best part of an hour in the chapel and seemed genuinely interested in both its history and its current importance within the local and national faith context.

Accessible at the moment only by prior arrangement, there seems to be some interest in how the building could be opened to enable more visitors to have and enjoyable and educative visit to a place of beauty within a magnificent landscape.

HRH's visit will no doubt encourage others to follow his lead.

Always Welcome

The Church of England used the magnificent venue of St Martin in the Fields for a day conference on the ways in which churches can welcome visitors. John Winton was invited as a guest of Ecclesiastical,  the sponsors of this event,. There were some notable contributions from: - Andrew Duff who spoke on the Lindisfarne Gospel project and Wendy Coomby on the Herefordshire churches project. Both emphasised the need to engage with local communities from the start of the project rather than impose it from above.

My favourite quote of the day was " should we be very concerned about having a few items stolen from the church or about the community having their church stolen from them?”

Bernard Donaghue from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions made the point that in these days of homogeneity of high streets it is often the church buildings that offer something unique to the place.

Bernard encouraged the churches to tell the visitor

  • What happened here
  • What is place used for now
  • Who is buried here
  • What stories does the building tell

The Bishop of Manchester was the key note speaker and was keen to extol the virtue of events in places of worship. Citing an exciting rock concert in Manchester Cathedral he argued that such events consecrate the building rather than desecrate it. Bishop Walker guarded against the “clubhouse” mentality in our places of worship where a position is held that “my use of this place is enhanced by excluding you”   

Pope Francis was quoted “The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door.”

Church and Community.

Using the church or chapel building to tell the story of the community can be an effective means to engage the worship community with people in the wider locality. Often the stories from within the community that are of interest to the local and visitor alike remain untold. The church or chapel can be the ideal place where this story can sit alongside the faith story in the building and be made accessible to all who enter.

St Mary’s Bonvilston have received HLF and RDP money to do just that. In a small rural church on the main A48 from Bridgend to Cardiff, the church is now open at least 5 days a week and there is a well presented and interesting exhibition telling the various stories of this ancient village.  Paul Fisher has been leading on this and speaking today he said “I have been encouraged by the interest shown in this project from both tourism organisations and individuals. ”

Well worth a visit to the church – a web site is the next element of this project to be completed –its embryonic form can be found at

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