St Baruc's Chapel
Who is St Baruc?
St Baruc is an important Celtic Saint who is said to have been buried at this site around 700AD. He was a student of St. Cadoc who founded the monastery at Llancarfan, about 7 miles away. Today St. Cadoc's Church in Llancarfan is home to some remarkable wood carvings and the recently discovered 15th century wall paintings that had been covered up during the Reformation.
The place name Barry Island is beleived to be derived from Baruc's Island and refers to St. Baruc's tragic story. Baruc's island was significant enough for the writer Gerald Cambrensis to include it in his description of late 12th centure Wales; 'Not far from Caerdyf is a small island, situated on the shore of the Severn, called Barry, from St Baroc, who formerly lived there and whose remains are deposited in a chapel covered in ivy'.
The simple chapel consisted of a nave and chancel, roofed with local Pennant sandstone. It was located alongside an earlier single-roomed chapel that measured just 16ft x 10ft, itself built over an older burial ground. Later, a two-roomed priest’s house was joined to the chapel. The chapel, which was rebuilt in the 14th century, remained in use until at least the 16th century.
There has been a place of worship here, dedicated to St. Baruc, since his burial around 700AD. Initially there may have been a wattle construction but in Norman times a small stone chapel was built over the grave of St Baruc.
A Tragic Tale
In the early Medieval period, many islands around the Welsh coast were places of spiritual retreat. St. Cadoc and the monks from Llancarfan regularly spent periods on Barry Island, which was a rather hostile place connected to the mainland only at low tide. In fact, it was not until the end of the 19th century that this island became permanently joined to the mainland.
On one particular occasion, they went on a retreat from Barry Island to Flat Holm, one of the two islands in the Severn Estuary. When St. Cadoc and his followers returned to Barry Island they discovered that a special handbook had been left behind. St.Cadoc sent Baruc and Gweldes back to Flat Holm to fetch it but, when returning with the book, they were drowned and the book lost at sea. Baruc’s body was washed up on Barry Island and buried on the headland.
Rather surprisingly, St. Cadoc proceeded to think about dinner, and ordered the monksto catch some fish. They came across a huge salmon and, when it was cut open, they discovered St. Cadoc’s precious book inside, in perfect condition. This amazing story marked Barry Island out as a site of religious importance throughout the Middle Ages.