Llandaff Cathedral
Cathedral Close
Cardiff CF5 2LA
The Welsh capital city of Cardiff has two cathedrals. The Roman Catholic cathedral is in the centre of the city, and the Anglican Cathedral is in the northern suburb of Llandaff.
From the outside Llandaff Cathedral appears to be a normal medieval building but inside, it is full of surprises. The church we see today is a wonderful mix of medieval architecture, pre-Raphaelite artwork and extraordinary 20th century additions. It is well worth a visit.
Highlights of the cathedral include Dante Gabriel Rosetti’s pre-Raphaelite Triptych in the Illtud Chapel, George Pace’s concrete arches and Jacob Epstein’s aluminium sculpture, ‘Christ in Majesty’ or ‘Majestas’.
Opening Hours
Monday – Saturday: 09:00 hours. Closes following the last service of the day.
Sunday:                  07:00 hours. Closes following the last service of the day.
Note: Due to services and events taking place, the Cathedral may have to close at short notice or restrict access. Please check the official website for up to date information.
Disabled Access
Wheelchair access is provided at the East and West ends of the Cathedral.
Before all else, the Cathedral is a place of worship and everyone is welcome.
Services include a daily Eucharist, Morning Prayer, Evensong and Evening Prayer.
For full details go to  Web:  Landaff Cathedral/ Worship
Llandaff Cathedral was founded in 1120 and constructed on the site of an earlier church. However, over the centuries, the building has suffered many disasters, both natural and man-made. Severe damage was done to the church in 1400 during the rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr; during the English Civil War when it was overrun by Parliamentary troops; and during the Great Storm of 1703.
Subsequent storms in the early 18th century caused so much damage that the Church seriously considered moving the See to another bishopric. Fortunately, Llandaff retained the See and a new cathedral began construction in 1734.
Disaster struck again during the Cardiff Blitz of the Second World War. In January 1941, the cathedral was severely damaged when a parachute mine was dropped; blowing the roof off the nave, south aisle and chapter house. The most recent mishap occurred in February 2007 when the organ was damaged during a severe lightning strike, prompting a fundraiser of £1.5 million to raise money for an entirely new organ.
The cathedral has five patron saints – two English and three Welsh. This unusual arrangement is a reminder of a time when Wales was part of England and had no autonomy. The two English saints are St Peter and St Paul. The three Welsh saints are: St Dyfrig (English: Dubricius), St Teilo and St Euddogwy (English: Oudoceus).
Medieval Remnants
Little remains of the medieval cathedral begun in 1120, except for the West front which was started in the early 13th century. Initially, constant alterations and repairs to the original 12th century building took place between 1266 and 1287; the old choir area at the rear of the building was removed to build the Lady Chapel and the two bays of the north choir aisle, were rebuilt.
Following the 1400 rebellion by Owain Glyndŵr, extensive damage was repaired, a new reredos was built, and a spire-less north-west tower was erected by Jasper Tudor.
Some late medieval tombs include that of Sir David ap Mathew (1400–1484). King Edward IV granted Sir David the title of ‘Grand Standard Bearer of England’ for saving his life at the Battle of Towton as part of the War of the Roses.
Internal Features
- The Nave
Dominating the Nave is the concrete parabolic arch supporting the organ case and Jacob Epstein’s spectacular ‘Christ in Majesty’ or ‘Majestas’ sculpture.
Designed by architect, George Pace during the post-war restoration, the arch divides the nave from the choir, whilst leaving an uninterrupted view through the Cathedral from the West door to the Lady Chapel.
Resting on the nave floor, next to the wall, is the effigy of Henry de Abergavenny and Bishop of Llandaff from 1193 to 1218. During his time the nave of the Norman Cathedral was extended.
Near the effigy is a niche containing a Flemish wooden carving from c.1430 of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Nave is also home to a 1991 bronze sculpture of St Francis preaching to the birds by the Penarth Sculptor, Frank Roper. His work can be seen in other parts of the Cathedral and many other churches around the Diocese.
- Chapels
There are numerous chapels in the Cathedral ranging from small spaces reserved for private prayer to large memorial chapels such as the Welch Regiment Chapel of St David.
- The Dyfrig Chapel
Named in honour of St Dyfrig, an early Welsh Saint and one of the patron saints of the Cathedral, this small chapel is a haven of peace reserved for quiet prayer and reflection.
It is also where the Blessed Sacrament (bread and wine consecrated during the Holy Eucharist) is stored. It is kept in the Aumbrey, a small recessed cupboard to the right of the altar. Above it is a modern statue of Dyfrig by John Excel, and above the altar are panels depicting the six days of creation, designed by the 19th century artist, Edward Burne-Jones.
The medieval stone reredos that once stood behind the High Altar is on the north wall of the Chapel, which also houses the tombs of Edmund Brofield, Bishop of Llandaff from 1389 to 1393, and two tombs of the Mathew family. The chapel is divided by a timber and metal overthrow screen, designed by Robert Heaton as a memorial to Archbishop Glyn Simon, Bishop of Llandaff from 1957 to 1971.
- The Teilo Chapel
The other small chapel is The Teilo Chapel located in the east wall of the Cathedral and next to The Lady Chapel.
To the right of the altar, enclosed in a reliquary and mounted on art nouveau silver, is the reputed skull of St Teilo. The skull was returned to the Cathedral from Australia in 1994.
The stained glass in the East window is by William Morris and Ford Madox Brown, and depicts Christ the King, with Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist on the right, and Elizabeth with an infant John the Baptist, on the left.
- The Lady Chapel
Although completed around 1280, this medieval chapel honouring the Virgin Mary was restored in the 20th century. Some of the medieval features were kept such as the 15th century screen behind the altar (the reredos) and the 12th century East window.
Enhancements to the chapel include the 1908 stencilling of the walls and ceiling designed by Geoffrey Webb and restored in 1988. In the centre of the reredos is a delightful statue of Mary and the Christ-child by A.G.Walker, placed there in 1934. Surrounding this statue, individual gilded panels designed by Frank Roper in 1954, depict wildflowers with welsh names that honour Mary.
The 12th century East window is filled with modern stained glass. Displayed is Matthew’s Gospel account of Christ’s ancestors as depicted in the description of ‘The Tree of Jesse’.
Finally, the tomb of William de Braose, Bishop of Llandaff from 1266 to 1287, can be seen on the north side of the altar.
- The St David Chapel
Added to the Cathedral in the 20th century, this chapel is also known as the Welch Regiment Chapel. It was designed by George Pace and dedicated on the 22nd of September 1956 in memory of the fallen of all wars since the 18th Century.
The regimental colours hang from the ceiling on either side of the altar while brass floor tablets and pew ends commemorate officers of the Welch Regiment. Stones on the east wall commemorate the battles the regiment was involved with from 1792 to 1969.
Against the first pillar of the chapel stands the medieval Majestas, which stood in the gable of the West Front until 1984.
- The St Illtud Chapel
Beneath the north-west Jasper tower is the St Illtud Chapel. Officially, this is the chapel of the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division. However, it is much better known for being the repository of a fine example of pre-Raphaelite art, The Rosetti Triptych.
- The Rosetti Triptych
In 1855 and always keen to promote The Arts, Llandaff’s Dean and Chapter made a very controversial decision. They commissioned the notorious Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood artist, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, to produce a painting for the reredos of the High Altar.
Rosetti was extremely slow in fulfilling the commission and the whole painting was not finally delivered until 1864, much to the relief of the Dean and Chapter. By this time, Rossetti was very unhappy with its location. It was set amidst white Caen stone and unsuitably lit.
Happily, the triptych’s new home in the Illtyd Chapel, surrounded by a stressed gold leaf frame, is a much better setting for this lovely painting.
The triptych is quite a political commentary and is worthy of careful study. At first sight, the painting appears to be a straight-forward depiction of the Nativity, but Rossetti declared that he was in fact presenting “a condensed symbol of it”.
He sought to show that Christ was descended from rich and poor. He did this by emphasising Christ as the ultimate descendant of David, who is shown in the side panels as both poor shepherd boy and wealthy king. He also wanted to show that Christ was worshipped by rich and poor, and so he is depicted at his birth being worshipped by a king and a shepherd at the same time. Rossetti shows Christ offering his hand to the shepherd and his foot to the king to symbolise the superiority of poverty over wealth. Christ is also being worshipped by an angel – celestial beings as well as humans.
- Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
When Rossetti was commissioned, the Pre-Raphaelite artists were still highly contentious. One of the reasons for this was their insistence on going back to a greater simplicity and realism in their paintings. One aspect of this was that, in their religious and historical paintings alike, they made use of real people as models rather than images drawn from antique sculpture or the art of the Renaissance.
In the Llandaff Triptych, it is possible to identify the models for virtually all the figures and they include such well-known people as William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Algernon Swinburne, Lizzie Siddal, Fanny Cornforth, and Jane Burden.
Epsteim’s Majestas
The 20th century Majestas by Jacob Epstein should be one of the primary reasons for visiting Landaff Cathedral.
In the 1950s the cathedral was criticised for resembling a large parish church. Architect, George Pace suggested that the installation of an arch topped by a modern sculpture placed just before the choir stalls, would remedy the problem.
The Dean and Chapter accepted this suggestion and chose a double wishbone concrete arch surmounted by a hollow drum to house the organ case. The artist chosen to fashion the figure of ‘Christ in Glory’ that would be mounted on the West face of the drum was Jacob Epstein.
As with the commissioning of members of the pre-Raphaelite brotherhood to contribute to the restoration in the nineteenth century, the idea of employing this contemporary and controversial artist raised a storm of protest.
The Dean and Chapter negotiated with the War Damage Commission that the monies allocated for the replacement of stained glass lost in the bombing could be used to fund work or works of art in other media, so that funds towards the cost of casting the “Majestas” in aluminium were at least partially available.
The ‘Christ in Majesty’ figure is 16 feet (4.9 metres) high, weighs 7cwt (355.6 Kg) and was cast by the Morris-Singer works in Lambeth. Llandaff’s Christ looks not at the congregation at his feet but through the clear glass of the Cathedral’s West window to the wider world beyond.
This stunning modern addition to the Cathedral is best described by this quote from its creator, Sir Jacob Epstein:
“...All my life I have searched for truth and beauty and, in the end, I discovered that it is in the idea of the Christ that they are to be found.”
After Sir Jacob’s death in 1959 the original plaster figure from which the Majestas was cast was gilded and moved to Riverside Church in New York.
Contact & Further Information
The Cathedral has an excellent website with more interesting information about this iconic building and its history.
Getting There
Car parking in the area of the Cathedral is free and unrestricted. There is also a car park off Llandaff High Street which is free for the first two hours.
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