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New book reveals treasury of images of nation’s saints in churches

A new book published on St David’s Day presents a stunning array of images of saints from churches across Wales.

The early saints of Wales have become an integral part of the story of the nation. The patron saint, David, or Dewi Sant, remains bound up with modern Welsh identity, and others such as Teilo, Illtud, Cadfan, Melangell, Beuno and Winefride or Gwenfrewy hold a special place in the traditions of different regions across Wales.

Author Martin Crampin says: “Stories of the men and women known as the saints of Wales make it clear that they were once widely revered as the patrons and protectors of churches and holy wells across Wales in the Middle Ages. Their names and legends have subsequently become embedded in place-names and folklore.”

This is the first study of the portrayal of the nation’s saints and reveals a glowing treasury of images in stained glass, sculpture and other media, hardly any of which has been seen in print before. Over 500 beautiful photographs from around 250 churches across Wales tell a story of the place of the saints in Welsh religious culture and as national figures.

Martin Crampin says: “Most of the rich medieval visual culture of Welsh saints has been lost but a wealth of imagery since the mid-nineteenth century can be found in Welsh churches. I’ve travelled the length and breadth of Wales collecting images and hope that this book will show what amazing works of art are on display in churches across the country.”

This stunning hardback, illustrated in colour throughout, takes a journey around cathedrals and churches large and small in city centres, quiet suburbs, towns, villages and lonely fields, some of which are now closed. The book offers fresh perspectives on the art in our churches, comparing the imagery of saints by contrasting the approach taken by different artists and studios, and demonstrates how our perceptions of Welsh saints have changed over the years.

At a time when communities are working hard to ensure that their churches remain open for worship and for visitors, the book is a timely reminder of the artistic treasures that can be found in places of worship. 

Welsh Saints from Welsh Churches by Martin Crampin (£35, Y Lolfa).


Martin Crampin is an artist, photographer and designer based in Aberystwyth, working at the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies. He has been researching ecclesiastical art, the visual culture of Medievalism and the Celtic Revival in Wales for around 20 years, and has contributed to a series of research projects including ‘Visual Culture of Wales’, ‘Imaging the Bible in Wales’ and ‘Cult of Saints in Wales’. He published his acclaimed Stained Glass from Welsh Churches in 2014 and also produces books on the stained glass of individual churches. His book Depicting St David (2020) augments this book with further images of the patron saint of Wales.