Parts of the cathedral, including a splendid Romanesque sanctuary arch, date from 1120. That was when Bishop Urban rebuilt the small church he’d inherited on the site of a Christian community, originally founded in the 6th century by St Dyfrig and his successors, St Teilo and St Euddogwy. These saints remained as patrons of the new cathedral, but the Normans added St Peter and St Paul.
It’s thought that Bishop Urban supervised the writing of The Book of Llandaff, one of Wales’ earliest church manuscripts. You can view the book on the National Library of Wales website here.
The Norman cathedral was subsequently enlarged and modified, especially in the 13th century. The centre of the west front, dating from 1220, is regarded as one of the most important works of medieval art in Wales.
The Somerset-style north-west bell-tower was built c.1485 with money from Jasper Tudor, uncle of King Henry VII. It replaced a detached belfry, situated up the adjoining slope, which was ruined in the Glyndŵr revolt in 1403.
As a result of King Henry VIII’s religious reforms in the following century, St Teilo’s shrine disappeared, along with the revenues from pilgrims’ gifts. More importantly, the cathedral lost most of the lands which had funded its upkeep. The cathedral fell into ever greater disrepair, reaching its nadir when the medieval south-west tower collapsed during a great gale in 1722, bringing down much of the nave roof.
In 1734, there was an attempt at restoration, with John Wood the Elder of Bath as architect. Only the eastern half was repaired, in the classical style. The rest was left as a gothic ruin. From 1840, with increased prosperity in the area, a thorough restoration in gothic style under architect John Prichard eradicated the 18th-century work. The impressive south-west tower and spire were added in 1869.
In 1941, a German land-mine left much of the building a roofless ruin once more. Its post-war repair, directed by George Pace, blended the old with the new, giving the interior a more spacious and airy feel. His most obvious addition was the concrete arch, dividing the nave from the choir. It’s fronted by the most striking work of art in the cathedral – the unpolished aluminium figure of Christ in Majesty by Jacob Epstein. Pace also added the restrained and peaceful St David’s Chapel, as a memorial chapel for the Welch Regiment.
Another important artwork is the triptych, the Seed of David, originally commissioned in 1856 from the pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti for the high altar. It’s now in St Illtyd’s Chapel. Many other artists have contributed works to the cathedral including Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, Ford Maddox Brown, John Piper, William Goscombe John and Alan Durst.
The cathedral is the mother church of the diocese of Llandaff, which stretches from Cardiff to Neath. It’s open daily, with services every weekday including Choral Evensong (usually) and six services on a Sunday. The Nicholson organ, inaugarated in 2010, is the largest organ built in Britain in the last half century.
Postcode: CF5 2LA View Location Map