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Re-opening of Llandaff Cathedral

The Origins of Llandaff Cathedral

King Lucius

In the Triad 35, “when Lleirwg (Lucius) comes to be mentioned: (Lleirwg the son of Coel, the son of St. Cyllin),” surnamed, Lleufer Mawr the “Great Light, “who made the first church at Llandaf, and that was the first in the Isle of Britain, and who bestowed the privilege of country, and nation, and judgment, and validity of (oath upon those who should be of the faith in Christ.) The "Bonedd y Saint" confirms the Triads; and makes no mention whatever of any connection between Bran and St. Paul. The old name of St. Mellons was Llaneirwg.

This King Lucius founded the following churches/Abbeys: built St. Michael’s Mount at Glastonbury, St. Mary de Lode, Gloucester, Llandaff, Winchester, and at St Peter’s Cornhill, London for his Bishops.

The See of Llandaff is asserted to be beyond dispute-the oldest, as its revenues are unquestionably the poorest, in the kingdom "Touching the antiquity of this church," says Bishop Godwin, “it is reported to have been built in the 2nd century, about the year of Christ 180. “It is certain that Dubricius presided here in 436, and that he was instituted metropolitan in these parts." For more than fourteen centuries of the Christian era has Llandaff existed with various fluctuations of wealth and depression, as an Episcopal See and it may serve to shew how great has been the spoil and waste of her revenues when we state, on the authority of the same Bishop Godwin, that so much riches has been bestowed on Llandaff, that if it enjoyed the tenth part of that which it has been endowed with first and last, it would be one of the wealthiest churches in Christendom whereas, "adds the mournful chronicle,” “it hath now hardly sufficient to repair itself."


The first bishop is stated to have been St. Dubricius, (Dyfrig), who died in 522, on an inland off the Caernarvonshire coast, and whose were in 1120 translated to Llandaff by Bishop Urban, the founder of the present Cathedral. Dugdale. in his “Monasticon," says, "There is much of uncertainty in the history of Llandaff; as well in relation to it’s see as to its bishops, till the latter end of the ninth century; but he adds that, "Dubricius was consecrated the first bishop of Wales sitting sometimes at Caerleon and at Llandaff, for which reason he is reckoned the first bishop of the latter see."

St. Teilo became Prelate, was a man of high reputation for sanctity, but his devotional habits did not impede a considerate attention to the temporal interests of his diocese. In his day a market and a mint existed at Llandaff, and he stablished an episcopal court, the jurisdiction of which over the territories related to the Church, was equal to and independent of that of the “King of Glamorgan over the royal demesne; it being expressed that" "every knight belonging to the King of Glamorgan in his court, all wholly belong to the Bishop of Teilo in his court." moreover, the King could be cited to the court-house of Teilo, at Llandaff, to receive judgment for any injury one by himself or his dependents, to the prelate, his ten, or servants. In practice of the favourite maxim f medieval ecclesiasts, " As water extinguishes fires, so does almsgiving sin,” the Church of Llandaff obtained large grants of money and lands in condonation for fences committed by the semi-barbarous chieftains of the country round; no crime, not even murdering beyond such redemption. Thus, it is related that and Carnawg, who had been at mortal strife, met together for reconciliation at the monastery of Llandaff, and in the presence of Bishop Cerenhir (the tenth in succession) and his clergy, confirmed their peace by paths upon the holy relics and gospels notwithstanding which Ile sometime after treacherously slew the father.


Great, it is true, has been the expenditure in achieving the restoration of the main and essential portions of this splendid old fane, but we cannot dare to doubt that the generous spirit which sympathised so deeply with the Chapter when the cathedral lay a "noble wreck in ruinous perfection," will withhold that small help which is needed to accomplish the entire and final restoration.

The edifice must be, crowned. To this end there is wanting a peal of bells. In the official circular issued to the public, giving notice of the restoration service, the. Dean has modestly classed the peal of bells amongst the minor details, but we have a sanguine hope that the public will notice accept that classification. The beauty of the cathedral is great, but how much greater would its glory be with a peal of bells befitting the ‘ensemble’ of the structure, and so long as the belfry remains unfurnished in this respect so long will the temple be incomplete.

Dean and Chapter speak in their own behalf. Thus:

In the last report ol the progress of the restoration of our cathedral, published in 1866, a conviction was expressed that those who bad so far supported us would not be content with a unfinished work, an appeal was then made for one more hearty and earnest effort to bring our undertaking to its final close by the re-building of the south-western. tower, without which the unrivalled western front, and, indeed, the whole fabric-still looked maimed and incomplete, asking something, net merely of beauty, but of strength and of solidity too. That conviction las been fully justice, and that appeal was not made in vain; for subscriptions, amounting to about £2,000, have since been gathered in; and, though the outlay on the south-western tower has far exceeded the original estimate, and a large and unlooked for expenditure has been found necessary on the northern tower too, both are now complete; while the latter has regained its crown of battlements, and the former has been rebuilt from the ground and surmounted by a spire, which is visible, and makes the existence of the cathedral visible to all the country round.

The cost of these works has been more than £8,000; but, by all arrangement with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the subscription of £2,000 has be he supplemented by a sum of £5,000 derived from the chapter estates; so that, with part of the proceeds of a legacy of £500 from the late E. P. Richards, this expenditure, large as it is, has been nearly met. It seems now time to call our friends once more together, to rejoice with us over what God has wrought in a restoration which, looking back to the ruin and desolation of our Cathedral but some few years ago, we do not hesitate to say is quits unexampled. amongst the many restorations of the present day.

The general arrangement of the cathedral consists of two western towers, with nave and choir and north and south aisles. Presbytery and Lady Chapel, and Chapter-house forming a prominent and picturesque feature on the south side of the building. No record is to be found of the time and circumstances connected with the first institution of a Captilular Body at Llandaff, and there are various and conflicting traditions in regard to it.

One of them informs us that a church was built at Llandaff by Lucius, a descendant of Bran, the first Christian convent of the British nation. Another mentions a small church built by Dubritius, who, it is said, was the first Bishop of Llandaff, and who, according to Fuller, was Archbishop of Caerleon, A.D. 516.

The earliest-part of the existing building is the Norman work of the 12th century, comprising the peculiar and effective Norman arch dividing the Presbytery from the Lady Chapel, and the two Norman doorways in the north end south aisle walls. The western gables and doorway, and the whole of the arcades of the nave and the clerestory, as far as the Presbytery, belong to the 15th century, and form a beautiful specimen of the work of that period.

The Presbytery, intervenes between the nave and the Lady Chapel, is of the 14th century; while the Lady Chapel itself and the Chapter-house are of the same period as the nave. The aisle walls are for the most part pierced with windows of the 14th century, and the only work of a later period is the north-west tower, which is said to have been built by Jasper, Duke of Bedford, in the 15th century. According to ‘Tanner and Dugdale’ the church was dedicated to St. Peter, St. Dubritius, St. Teileian (St. Teilo), and St. Oudoceus, and the sculptured figure still remaining over the western doorway is commonly permitted to remain in a state of decay. In the year 1575, Bishop Blethyn, in a speech then addressed to the Prebendaries, speaks of the cathedral as being in a state of "almost irreparable ruin."

We traced its history down to the time of Dean Bruce Knight, under whose able hand energetic auspices the work of what might be called "real restoration” began by the insertion of the great east window. This first step in the path which has led to the completion of a conscientious restoration was, soon afterwards followed by the restoring of the whole of the Lady Chapel. The success which Dean Bruce Knight thus far met with encouraged him to entertain hopes of a complete and thorough restorations of the entire cathedral. Unhappily, in 1845 he died, and, the great work which he had begun in so fervent and sincere at spirit was necessarily bequeathed to other hands The Church, no less than all lovers of architecture, and good reason to rejoice at finding, the work transmitted to so gifted and accomplished a man as Dean Conybeare.

The presbytery formed the first of a series of contracts for works extending from east to west, subsequently embracing the choir, and nave, the lowering, of the floor to its original level, the laying of encaustic tile floors, the provision of seats and boarded floors, the pulpit, sedilia, and reredos, and the erection of external buttresses with their internal arches, these latter being modern additions to support the leaning arcades. These works, with others of a minor character, and the previous expenditure on the Lady Chapel, involved and outlay of over £8,800.

In 1857 the choir and nave were so far finished as to enable the Dean and Chapter to celebrate the performance of Divine service in the cathedral once more. This ceremony, which took place on the 15th of April, was conducted on quite a royal scale. Tire Bishop of Oxford delivered ass eloquent sermon on the occasion to a congregation that extended beyond the limits of the cathedral walls. At the luncheon which followed, the present Dean, then Archdeacons of Llandaff, in an appeal as much marked by its elegance as its fervour, so stirred the hearts of those present, that many of the country gentlemen, headed by Mr. Bruce Pryce, immediately started a subscription for the complete restorations of the whole edifice.

It was Dean Williams who removed the offensive wall put up a hundred years ago, which profanely cut the nave in twain, and thus accomplished the conversion of the ruin, which consisted of the four westernmost bays, into the perfect whole it now is, embracing the new fine south-west so tower and spire, and the restoration of the Jasper tower.

Turning our attention to the interior of the cathedral, we must not forget to notice the beautiful carved throne and prebendal stalls, which were, introduced about seven years ago. The material of the whole is wood, and the design of the throne is square at the base, bracketed out about 10 feet from the floors, and then, by means of canopies, merges it into an octagon form, which terminates in a loft spire, surmounted by at crosier-shaped finial. At this point where this work assumes the octagonal form, advantage las been taken of the opportunity of introducing richly canopies, filled with imagery it representing some of the most distinguished of the early fathers, with statuettes of the reformers occupying smaller niches.

There are panels on the east and west slides filled with Sculpture, that to the west representing our Saviour’s to command, "Feed my Sheep," and that to the east, St. Paul, as he was preaching to the Athenians on n Mars-hill. Addressing the Athenians, the Apostle said, "I perceive that ye are too superstitions; for as I passed through your city I saw an altar to the unknown God. Him, therefore, whom you ignorantly worship declare I unto you." At the front of the reading desk is a large carved panel filled with sculpture, representing our Lord commanding His Apostles "Go ye and preach to all nations."

The organ is on the north side of the choir facing the stalls. It is regarded its being of an unusually fine tone, having been built by Messrs. Gray and Davison, under the immediate superintendence of Sir Frederick Ouseley. Its front is richly carved, and illuminated, and is peculiar from having trumpet pipes, projecting at right angles from its face, which though much criticised, are undoubtedly the means of more effectually distributing sound, and precedents for which are found in many of the churches in Spain and Portugal.

The last and most imposing works are the north and south towers at the western end of the building. Jasper's Tower has been simply restored, and is surmounted by an elaborate lofty pierced battlement, after the Somersetshire type. Three of the angles are marked by turrets of open work of uniform design and size, and the fourth, enclosing the staircase, is of larger proportions and terminates in a spire.

The crowning work of the whole is the new tower, at the, south-west angle. This is an, entirely new work, and there can be no doubt that Mr. Pritchard has here conceived and successfully carried out a work noble and majestic proportions.

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