St John the Baptist Church
St John the Baptist Church, St John Street
This is the oldest surviving medieval building in Cardiff, apart from sections of the castle. Originally St John’s was a chapel of ease for St Mary’s, the parish church of Cardiff which was founded just before 1100 by the first Lord of Glamorgan. St Mary’s Church (which no longer exists) was at the opposite end of St Mary Street from St John’s.
In 1180 the parish was placed in the pastoral care of Benedictine monks at Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire. St Mary’s became a priory. From 1190 the abbey appointed the chaplain for St John’s Church, which was at the heart of the growing commercial area outside the castle. From the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century until the disestablished Church in Wales was created in 1921, the Dean and Chapter of Gloucester Cathedral appointed Cardiff’s clergy.
St John’s Church was wrecked in 1404 by the army of Owain Glyndŵr (after whom the pub opposite is named), but one section of the original building still survives – part of the south choir arcade. The church’s rebuilding in 1453 created the nave and tower which have been city landmarks ever since. St John’s became a parish church in its own right as this area of Cardiff prospered.
Aisles were added north and south of the nave in 1889. The carved and gilded stone figures in the reredos, by Sir William Goscombe John, were installed soon after this. The church organ dates from 1894 – click here for details of this historic instrument.
The church has fine stained glass windows, some by notable designers such as William Morris and Ninian Comper.
The Herbert Chapel contains the finely sculpted tomb (pictured right) of brothers Sir John and Sir William Herbert. Sir John, who died in 1617, was born in Swansea and was an ambassador in Denmark and Poland. During his career as an MP he represented six different constituencies.
Postcode: CF10 1GL View Location Map