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A lost chapel dedicated to St Ffraid, or Brigid, on Holy Island indicates the importance of this Irish saint to the area around Holyhead in the Middle Ages.

The shrine of St Cybi at the church in Holyhead was probably the most important saint’s cult on Holy Island in the Middle Ages, but other saints were also venerated on Holy Island, the largest island off the coast of Anglesey.

The church at Rhoscolyn to the south of Holy Island appears to have been dedicated to St Gwenfaen, of whom very little is known, and at Tywyn-y-Capel, the location of the present resort of Trearddur Bay, a chapel dedicated to St Ffraid once stood. The bay was formerly known as St Bride’s Bay, and an association with the saint is known from place-name evidence dating back to the sixteenth century.

Ffraid is the Welsh name for the saint usually known as Bridget, Brigid or Bride, who is closely associated with Kildare. The chapel dedicated to her on Holy Island stood in ruins on a mound on the beach at Tywyn-y-Capel in the late eighteenth century, and was drawn by the artist Moses Griffith for his master Thomas Pennant in 1776.

The landscape in the drawing is scarcely recognisable now and the chapel, and the mound on which it stood, has been lost to the sea. Burials around the chapel became exposed to the elements and in 1868 the local antiquarian William Owen Stanley reported that the chapel had been completely washed away. A recent excavation of 2003–4 at the site suggested its use from the seventh century until the twelfth century. A bronze penannular brooch of the eighth or ninth century was discovered close to the site in 1980, which is now in the collections of National Museum Wales.

St Ffraid was remembered in the dedication of the new church built at Trearddur Bay in 1930–2. The stone church replaced a temporary wooden church that had been re-erected twice on different sites since being put up for the first time in 1898. An image of Ffraid was included in the east window of the church that was installed in 1940 and made by the artist Christopher Charles Powell.

In the window she stands on a turf of grass that appears to be floating on water. A sixteenth-century poem by the Welsh poet Iorwerth Fynglwyd refers to a tradition that she travelled across the sea from Ireland to Wales on a turf, arriving at the Dyfi estuary in mid-Wales. Other traditions fix her arrival at Deganwy, close to Llansantffraid Glan Conwy in north Wales, and at Tywyn-y-Capel.

Ffraid holds fire in her right hand, a symbol that refers to the perpetual fire maintained by her nuns at Kildare, as attested by Gerald of Wales in the late twelfth century. The symbol of fire is used on the millennium cross set alongside the promenade at Trearddur Bay, which marks the site of the lost chapel of St Ffraid in the dunes.

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