Morfa Nefyn church with Jonah Jones artwork at risk of demolition

Morfa Nefyn church with Jonah Jones artwork at risk of demolition

The Church of the Resurrection of Our Saviour at Morfa Nefyn on the Llŷn Peninsula, which contains important artwork by Jonah Jones, has been included on a list of churches to be closed by the Catholic Diocese of Wrexham.

Faced with falling congregations and the difficulty of recruiting new priests to replace those retiring, the Bishop of Wrexham, Peter Brignall, announced in a pastoral letter issued on 31 March that the 62 Catholic churches in the diocese (which covers all of North Wales) would be reduced to around 40 by 2020. Some of them, including Morfa Nefyn and the Church of the Holy Spirit in Cricieth, where there is a beautiful small Madonna figure and an external relief of the Holy Ghost carved by Jonah, were to close “immediately, i.e. within weeks”, the Bishop wrote.

The parish of the Church of Our Lady and the Welsh Martyrs in Overton – which includes a carved wooden figure by Jonah of St Richard Gwyn – is to be merged immediately with the parish of St Anne’s in Wrexham.

The church at Morfa Nefyn houses 12 dalle de verre windows and a mosaic of the Resurrected Christ, created by Jonah in 1967 or 1968. David Jones, Jonah’s eldest son, describes the windows as “a demonstration of him using glass in a very modernistic, emotional and abstract way to flood an enclosed environment with intense colour”; “one is surrounded on all sides by these long rectangular slices of blazing light, and the spirit is immediately lifted and the heart moved”.

Morfa Nefyn glass

Composite view of four of the twelve windows

Mosaic of the Resurrected Christ

Detail: mosaic of the Resurrected Christ, Morfa Nefyn

These churches all stand on prime building land, and there is a very real possibility that they could be demolished to bring in much needed revenue for the diocese. Unless the Jonah Jones artwork can be retrieved before this happened, we could see a repeat of events at the Church of the English Martyrs in Rugby, where four large windows by Jonah were dismantled and the glasswork lost for ever [click here].

Scene & Word Ltd is grateful to Noel Hulmston, a parishioner in Morfa Nefyn, for drawing attention to the Bishop of Wrexham’s plans. Scene & Word will now examine ways of saving the Jonah Jones artwork for the future and try to ensure that it is not lost.

Relevant online articles:

From “Stained glass in Wales”:  http://stainedglass.llgc.org.uk/site/400
From “Imaging the Bible”: http://imagingthebible.llgc.org.uk/site/400
From the Cambrian News: http://www.cambrian-news.co.uk/article.cfm?id=104918&headline=Churches%20set%20to%20close%20as%20part%20of%20%E2%80%98radical%E2%80%99%20changes&sectionIs=news&searchyear=2016