The Dual Alignments of the Solstitial Churches in North Wales


  • Bernadette Brady University of Wales Trinity Saint David



churches, North Wales, pre-Christian orientations, solar alignments, solstice


In the north of Wales, there are 105 churches that have stonework dated to the thirteenth century or earlier. Of these, only twelve are oriented to face the summer solstice sunrise. Additionally, all of these solstitial churches are located in the northern-most counties of Wales, near or around the valleys which flow beside the Snowdonia Mountains or to the east of the mountains. The twelve solstitial churches take their landscape into account and, thus, vary considerably in their azimuths in order to align to the actual sunrise of the summer solstice. In such terrain, one would expect a wide and diverse collection of western declinations, yet these twelve churches fall into three distinct regional bands of western declination. The twelve solstice churches have western declinations that align them either with the winter solstice sunset (this is the natural alignment) or with the period of early February or early November. With all the churches fitting into these declination patterns, this paper presents an argument for the origin of this apparent intentionality based on the history of the region. The Isle of Anglesey, in the Roman period, was one of Europe’s major Druidic centres of learning and their naked- eye astronomy skills are evident in artefacts such as the Coligny calendar. Based on this background, this paper suggests that the original fifth or sixth century churches, which were later rebuilt in stone, appropriated pre-existing sacred sites. Thus, today, these Welsh historical churches appear to have preserved, in their medieval walls, older non-Christian orientations.


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Author Biography

Bernadette Brady, University of Wales Trinity Saint David

Bernadette Brady has a PhD in Anthropology (2012) and MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology (2005). She is currently a tutor in the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture (University of Wales Trinity Saint David, UK). Her archaeoastronomical work is focused in the cultural influence of stars, the role of star phases and the cultural history of the constellations. Her publications include her work on the linking of the Egyptian Ascension mythologyof the Pyramid Texts with the phases of the stars (CRE XII proceedings, Oxbow 2012), the arguing for the use of star lines in the megalithic period (SEAC 2011 proceedings, BAR forthcoming), the cultural implications of the persistence of the shape of constellations (Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture 7(1) 2013) and the ethnographical/astrological work on the Star of Bethlehem (SEAC 2012 proceedings, Slovene Anthropological Society 2013).


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How to Cite

Brady, B. (2017). The Dual Alignments of the Solstitial Churches in North Wales. Journal of Skyscape Archaeology, 3(1), 5–28.



Research Articles