There was a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Pwllheli in the 15th century which was destroyed at the time of the reformation. In 2016 a new shrine was created with a reliquary installed from 2018 – 2020. August 2019 saw the arrival of a specially commissioned wooden statue, based on a traditional portrayal of Mary, carved by Simon O’Rourke in Wales.
The shrine is open everyday for visitors and pilgrims, who are welcome to reflect, pray and light candles in devotion.
Devotion to Mary and dedication of churches in Wales, strongly associated with the tradition of pilgrimage, goes back to medieval times.
The 12th century Augustinian Abbey on Bardsey Island and the large chapel at the farthest point of the peninsula were both dedicated to St Mary. There is also St Mary’s Well, a fresh water, natural rock pool, in a steep gully close to the site of the chapel, where all that remains is the imprint of the foundations in the land.
The evidence for the shrine at Pwllheli is contained in the poetry of Hywel Rheinallt 1471 –1494 who lived in Llannor close to Pwllheli. He compared the local pilgrims to those visiting the famous shrine on the promontory of St Dwynwen on Anglesey.
Llu a eilw ym Mhwllheli
I gael help ar ei gŵyl hi.
Gwŷr o wlad ragorol wen,
Gwŷr o fôr i gaer fawrwen,
Gwŷr Llŷn ac eraill unair.
Craig euraid, cwyr ac arian,
Can llaw’n dwyn canhwyllau’n dân.
Dinas fel penrhyn Dwynwen,
Daear i Fair yw’r dre’ wen.
A literal English translation
Crowds call at Pwllheli
to receive help on her feast day.
Men from excellent holy region,
Men from the sea to the holy fortress,
Men from Llŷn and others of like persuasion.
Golden rock, wax and money,
A hundred hands carrying lit candles.
A citadel like Dwynwen’s promontory,
This holy town is Mary’s ground.
Father Huw Bryant who was inspired to create the shrine in 2016 has published a booklet of reflections,
“Our Lady of Pen Llŷn: The Vision of her Seven Sorrows”.
Available in St Peter’s and St Hywyn’s Church, it can also be downloaded here.
Groups of visitors and pilgrims are welcome, by special arrangement with the Ministry Area Leader.