Historic churches and chapels are to become a key part of Wales' tourism offer, thanks to 'Exploring Sacred Wales', a new project from the National Churches Trust.
Working with Visit Wales, the Church in Wales, Addoldai Cymru, Cadw and other national partners, 'Exploring Sacred Wales' will see over 500 historic places of worship in Wales featured on ExploreChurches, the UK's church tourism hub (www.explorechurches.com), by May 2020.
The website will showcase the fascinating history and stunning art and architecture of over 500 historic churches and chapels along and around The Wales Way, a family of three national routes developed by Visit Wales - The Coastal Way, The Cambrian Way and The North Wales Way.
New photography and films will form part of 'Exploring Sacred Wales', helping to shine the spotlight on some of the very finest sacred spaces in the UK.
The project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.
'Exploring Sacred Wales' will make it easy for visitors to discover Wales' world class sacred heritage, with the ExploreChurches website providing details of opening times, special events and mapping tools to make historic churches and chapels a 'must see' on the tourist map of Wales. Key information will also be featured on The Wales Way website. The aim is to make sure that visiting churches and chapels becomes part of family holidays, weekends away, short breaks and days out in Wales.
The sacred spaces of Wales will also be marketed to the tourism trade in Britain and abroad. Are you longing to sit where the Bishops did? To be moved by the power of the chapel? To follow in the footsteps of pilgrims? Five powerful 'experiences', bookable online and themed around place and history will form part of 'Exploring Sacred Wales', so visitors can book and easily explore Wales' heritage at first hand.
Huw Edwards, Broadcaster and Journalist and Vice-President of the National Churches Trust said: "From hill top chapels to ancient churches to medieval cathedrals, the churches and chapels of Wales are some of the most beautiful religious buildings anywhere in the world."
"I'm delighted that 'Exploring Sacred Wales' is making it exciting and easy to discover the sacred spaces of Wales. It's high time that the churches and chapels of Wales took their rightful place on the tourism map alongside our magnificent castles, stunning mountains and exhilarating coastline."
Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust said: "For too long, the history, art and architecture of the churches and chapels of Wales has been a secret known only to a lucky few. The sacred space of Wales are packed with history, culture and mythology and have the power to inspire the mind and invigorate the soul. Using the power of the digital, 'Exploring Sacred Wales' will make it easy for the people of Wales and visitors from the rest of the UK and abroad to discover and experience this living work of art."
"I'm very grateful for the investment of time and money in 'Exploring Sacred Wales' by our key partners, Visit Wales, the Church in Wales, Addoldai Cymru, Cadw. Attracting more people to visit the churches and chapels of Wales is key to ensuring their long term sustainability. The tourist pound they bring with them will also help boost the economy and support local businesses which is good news for everyone in Wales."
Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas, said:
"I'm delighted that we've been able to support this exciting partnership and initiative during our Year of Discovery. So much of Wales' story is linked to our sacred places - and this initiative will bring that story life and attract more people to discover what our chapels and churches have to offer."
Sarah Crossland, Church Tourism Manager of the National Churches Trust commented: "We are looking forward to working with volunteers in churches and chapels along The Wales Way and throughout Wales to discover and tell their stories. Wales' ancient churches and powerful historic chapels will become an important part of the country's growing tourism offer. With glorious photographs, engaging films and unique 'experiences' we invite you to join us in 'Exploring Sacred Wales'."
Experiencing Sacred Wales - www.explorechurches.org/experiencing-sacred-wales
National Churches Trust - www.nationalchurchestrust.org/
Explore Churches - www.explorechurches.org/
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