Pilgrim’s Journey: The Church in the Sea


Funny thing, memory, throws up the oddest of morsels when least expected. My mind keeps drawing back to a particular site on the west coast of Anglesey, near to Aberffraw. To a beautiful little church called St Cwyfan’s, the Church in the Sea (in Welsh – eglwys bach y mor). It’s situated on a tiny island called Cribinau; accessible on foot via a worn causeway when the tide is out. St Cwyfan’s was originally sited at the end of a peninsula between two bays. The elements eventually shaped the landscape to leave the church isolated on the island. There’s an air of peace on the island and one can see why the decision was taken to site the building on the peninsula. The church was thought to have been founded in the 7 century CE and dedicated to the Irish saint, Chaoimhin (Kevin) who established the monastery at Glendalough, Wicklow. The present building dates from 12/13 century CE. There isn’t much left of the 12 century structure except for a small portion of its south wall, with much of the building being restored over the subsequent centuries. An interesting man by all accounts. St Chaoimhin came to Glendalough as a result of his dreams, to find God through prayer and solitude. The hermit made his home in an artificial cave, originally a Bronze Age tomb and lived there for seven years. A significant number. Apparently foremost of his qualities was a deep love of nature. Over time monastic communities took root in the area, resulting in the establishment of the monastery in the 6-century CE. The saint’s experiences are used as an illustration of the voyage from a state of solitude to one of community. Quite apt for many who are travelling the spiritual path. Finding deity through prayer and solitude isn’t restricted to the Celtic church. It is evident throughout many different paths and belief systems, both ancient and modern.


We revisited the area in September 2015; the day was cloudy and cold. An air of sadness hung over the landscape, perhaps only my perception. The sun’s rays occasionally broke through the steel grey clouds and clothed the wind tossed sea with silver. Finding deity through prayer and solitude. This was most certainly one place where you can do that. My spirit moves to and is attuned to the civilisation that flourished in the Nile valley. That will never change, but there is also a part of me that resonates strongly with the mystical path. I can empathise with those who choose to walk the solitary path in the quest for meaning. Yet, I am also quite aware of the strong and unbroken links to my own ‘tribe’. I mean this in a very positive sense and not the chaotic and frightening face of tribal behaviour that is being seen on our TV screens and communities across the world. Those of my tribe are not related to me by blood but by deep and strong threads stretching back into time. They walk different spiritual paths but all seek the same, the quest for growth, transformation and gnosis. My tribe aren’t grouped together in communities, for our work is in the world now. A very different world to the one known and experienced by seekers of the past. Technologically our civilisations have advanced beyond belief; alas the same cannot be said of human nature and all our social ills. Needs working on.


Regarding the relationship with nature, it’s an important and profound relationship that has shaped who we are and continues to do so. We are beings of fire, earth, water, air and spirit. Being a microcosm of that is which is the macrocosm. I’m surprised at myself for being coherent at this time; been revising for an impending exam, suffering information overload and physical pain (chronic it has to be said). The osteopath is dealing with the physical aspect, which can only improve the mental attitude. As for the rest, preparation and understanding are vital. Just as this sentence is being written I can see a buzzard high in the sky above the house. A timely reminder to take an overview of my life. See things from a different perspective, look at the bigger picture. Buzzard also brings purification and rebirth with it. The vision of such birds is acute and can see things, which remain hidden to us when we are too near to the issue. My, what a journey from St Cwyfan’s Church to this place of bird totems and messengers. Peel away the layers of ‘civilisation’ and you will reach a place of great power and insight. A place in which time is fluid and not what it appears to be. I’ve felt a need for solitude and prayer for some time now. Perhaps this is an indication the road is leading to another doorway…


2 comments on “Pilgrim’s Journey: The Church in the Sea

  1. stevetanham says:

    We were near this place on our prep tour of some of the ancient places of Anglesey last week. Best wishes for healing of your pain and for the exams! x Steve


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