Building » Porthmadog – Most Holy Redeemer

Porthmadog – Most Holy Redeemer

Borth Road, Porthmadog, LL49 9BB

A rugged Romanesque-style church, displaying Arts and Crafts influences and using modern construction techniques. It was built in 1933 from designs by Giuseppe Rinvolucri, who settled in North Wales and built a number of churches of original design. The church is well detailed and has fine furnishings, including works by Jonah Jones added in the mid-twentieth century. The roof was altered in the 1960s. The church has high townscape value.    

The first chapel in Porthmadog serving the small number of local Catholics was at Pen-y-Ceis; little more than a shed, it came into use about 1925 and was served from Pwllheli. In the early 1930s, the Italian architect Giuseppe Rinvolucri, who had married and settled in Conwy, was appointed to design a permanent replacement for the chapel. The builders were G. and J. P. Gregory of Caernarvon, and the church was blessed and opened by the Bishop of Menevia on 19 July 1933. Pope Pius XI granted a plenary indulgence for all visitors to the church that year who prayed for the conversion of Wales. The concrete roof was originally covered with a steep slate roof in the 1960s.

The interior was embellished in the 1950s with works by Jonah Jones, whose studio was on the bank of the harbour at Porthmadog.


The building is fully described in the list entry, below, and repetition is unnecessary. In addition to the fine mosaic work and statues by Jonah Jones highlighted in the list entry, the following furnishings may be mentioned:

  • Crucifix in the sanctuary, with a life-sized corpus probably made of plaster and hardwood cross; the account in The Tablet says it is a replica of a crucifix in St John Lateran, Rome 
  • A carved oak chair in the sanctuary is an Eisteddfod chair from the Corwen Eisteddfod of 1921; the back panel is decorated with a carved dragon rampant. The embroidered cushion commemorates the sixtieth anniversary of the opening of the church in 1993
  • The tabernacle is painted black with diamond patterning; it is cylindrical with a tall conical top, and appears to be original to the church
  • The tabernacle in the Lady Chapel is cylindrical with a conical top, gilded with an enamelled door featuring the Agnus Dei
  • The font is of red marble and black slate with incised fish detail and mahogany cover, a memorial to F/O. J. E. S. MacAlister (d. 1940) and P/O. P. D. MacAlister (d. 1941), killed on active service during the Second World War
  • The nave benches are of oak with open backs and chamfered edges, and appear to be the original ones 
  • The Stations of the Cross are square blocks of carved oak with low reliefs and English script. They are original to the church and were carved by a Mr Abbey, of Hendre Hall, Penrhyndeudraeth (The Tablet, 8 July, 1933)
  • There are memorials to Meriel Lady Howard Stepney of Lanelly House, Llanelli (d. 1952), Cyril Joseph Carter (d. 1982) and Canon Michael Tomkins (d. 2008)
  • A banner in the nave commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the arrival of the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Everon in Porthmadog
  • A panel of re-set medieval glass in the sanctuary is a memorial to Mary Burn (d. 10 August 1974), provenance not established
  • There is an oil painting of the Madonna and Child on the west wall over the entrance. It is slightly reminiscent of the Madonna and Child painting by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-79).

List description

Reference Number: 85372
Grade: II  
Date of Designation: 26/09/2005  
Date of Amendment: 26/09/2005  
Name of Property: Church of the Most Holy Redeemer  
Unitary Authority: Gwynedd  
Community: Porthmadog  
Town: Porthmadog  
Locality: Porthmadog  
Easting: 256707  
Northing: 338516  
Street Side: W  
Location: On the SW side of the town centre on the road to Morfa Bychan.  

History: A Roman Catholic church dated 1933. The architect was G. Rinvolucri, an Italian architect who was originally brought to Wales as a prisoner of war. He lived and worked in North Wales, and designed a number of other churches in Wales, including those at Abergele and Amlwch. This church was originally designed with a concrete roof, but the steep slate roof was added in the 1960s.  

Exterior: A church in simplified Romanesque style, with Arts-and-Crafts influence. The church is oriented N-S and comprises a nave and chancel under a single roof, with shallow apsidal projections to the chancel S (liturgical E) and E walls, and lower hipped vestry on the N side. Nave and chancel are tall and narrow, of rock-faced rubble stone with larger quoins, and a steep slate roof on a moulded stone cornice. The nave, reached up a steep flight of stone steps, has boarded doors with strap hinges, under a lintel with date and the inscription ‘ADDOLWYN A CHLODFORWN DI O GRIST. DHERWYDD TRWY DY CROES FENDIGAID TI A BRYNAiST Y BYD. The tympanum has thin voussoirs, and a representation of Christ on the Cross in low-relief – probably marble. It is inscribed with the text ‘ADOREMUS TE ET BENEDICIMUS TIBI QUIA SANCTUM CRUCEM REDEMISTI MUNDUM’. To the R and L are small round-headed windows with steel-framed glazing and incorporating pivoting lights. Above is a large cross in low relief, superimposed on a round window. The nave gable has raised verges, concealing a stack on the L (E) side, and has a slate-hung apex of swept profile, projecting on 2 gilded head corbels. The 3-window side walls have round-headed windows with steel-framed glazing and incorporating pivoting lights. The W side also has a small blocked window at the N end. The E wall has a boarded basement door to a boiler room at the N end, where the ground level is lower. The E apsidal chancel projection is lower and under a conical roof. The S (liturgical E) chancel apse has a hipped slate roof on wide eaves. The chancel gable is slate hung. The vestry has a half-lit door in the splay abutting the chancel, and in its S wall a 2-light and a 1-light window. In the opposite N wall is a boarded door under a 2-light window.  

Interior: The barn-like interior has a plaster tunnel vault, and plaster stripped to reveal rubble-stone walls. The chancel apse is blue mosaic and incorporates the figure of a dove. Apses in the side walls are in gold mosaic, and have fine stone statues of the Madonna and child and Christ the Redeemer; mosaic and statues are the work of Jonah Jones. Flanking the east apse are two round-arches: that to right is door to vestry over which is a high relief (timber?) mandorla with the Blessing of Christ; that to left contains a memorial of 1974, with a panel made up of fragments of medieval stained glass. The arrangement of the sanctuary reflects adaptation in the 1960s following the Second Vatican Council: the original rails remain, but other fittings are of the 1960s: altar and ambo are stone with marble framing, and have raised incised slate panels (also the work of Jonah Jones); the polished slate paschal candle-stand is an integral part of this design.  

Reason for designation: Listed for its special architectural interest as a strongly composed and robustly detailed C20 Roman Catholic Church, with good interior detail. A fine example of the work of the Italian architect Rinvolucri.  

Heritage Details

Architect: Giuseppe Rinvolucri

Original Date: 1930

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II