Our Lady Star of the Sea

An iconic avant garde church from the 1930s, designed by an Italian architect prisoner of war who married a Welshwoman and settled in Conwy.

About this church

Fans of Modernism will adore Our Lady Star of the Sea; designed in 1932 by Giuseppe Rinvolucri, an Italian from Piedmont who came to Britain as a prisoner of war in World War I. A Roman Catholic church dedicated to Our Lady St Mary, as well as the 7th century Welsh saint St Winefride, Our Lady Star of the Sea is a true 20th century icon and recognised as Rinvolucri’s best work. 

Set on the Anglesey coast path and looking out to the Irish sea, the church is designed to reflect the shape of an upturned hull, complete with porthole like windows near the bottom, a homage to Amlwch's maritime history, the sea and the storms that batter it. The new material of reinforced concrete, popular across Europe as an expression of the Modern age, enabled this striking Futurist design; a concrete and brick structure vault formed on 6 arches, expressed externally as ‘ribs’, like those of a boat. 

The interior has real wow factor, cocooning the visitor in its soft curves, and at night the church positively glows, light exuding ethereally out of the three narrow glazed panels, in clear and blue glass, which run the entire length of the ribs. Five small glazed stars, made in France, punctuate the apse at the east end, around the alter, and one large star marks the south end over the main entrance. The port hole like windows open into the parish hall on the ground floor, underneath the main body of the church.

The façade of the church was originally rough stone, with a smooth plastered area around the star shaped window. It was like this until the late 1950s or early 1960s when it was completely covered over. The plasterer very carefully decorated the plaster so that it looked like finely dressed stone.

Our Lady has been a safe haven for sailors and travellers alike, but over the years the storms took their toll and in 2004 this Grade II* listed church closed, the cost of repairs was beyond the capability of the parish, the building deemed unsafe, and demolition was a real possibility.  But local people rallied, a Friends group was formed and £1.4 million was raised, including a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Cadw and ourselves, the National Churches Trust. This national treasure was saved for the nation, and in 2011 opened once more for worship and visitors.

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Glorious furnishings
  • Social heritage stories
  • National heritage here

Visitors information

  • Bus stop within 100m
  • Train station within 250m
  • Level access to the main areas
  • On street parking at church
  • Parking within 250m
  • Accessible toilets nearby
  • Café within 500m
  • Dog friendly
  • Walkers & cyclists welcome
  • Space to secure your bike

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