Bangor Cathedral

Link to French translationSt Deiniol’s Cathedral, Bangor

This is the oldest cathedral foundation in Britain. It was founded c.525AD on the site of a clas, an institution of the Celtic Church which was somewhere between a monastery and a college.

It is thought that Deiniol was given land by Maelgwn, king of Gwynedd, where he created an enclosure for his clas by driving poles into the ground and weaving branches between them. This type of fence was known as “bangor”. Huts and cells were erected in the enclosure by missionaries and their families.

The present structure dates from the early 12th century, before Gerald of Wales and Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, visited in 1188 during their tour of Wales to recruit for the third crusade. They spent a night in Bangor, with hospitality from bishop Gwion.

Gerald’s journal records that Baldwin celebrated mass at the cathedral’s high altar in the morning. Baldwin and others implored Bishop Gwion to enlist for the crusade, which Gwion eventually did. Members of the congregation were worried by this, apparently fearing the bishop would come to harm overseas. Men and women cried loudly.

Various alterations to the cathedral were made later, especially in the early 16th century when the nave and western bell tower were added. Sir George Gilbert Scott supervised restoration works in the late 19th century. He reconstructed medieval features, such as the transept windows, after studying remnants of the originals. He envisaged a tower but there wasn’t enough money to build it much higher than the roof.

In the 1950s money became available for the tower, but engineers warned that the ground wasn’t suitable for the weight of the extra masonry. Instead, the stump of the tower was finished with battlements, a pyramidal roof and a tall weathervane.

Notable objects inside the cathedral include a life-size depiction of Jesus, bound up shortly before his crucifixion. It dates from the 15th century or earlier, and was once at St Grwst’s Church in Llanrwst, Conwy Valley.

Postcode: LL57 1LH    View Location Map

Cathedral website

button_tour_gerald-E Navigation previous buttonNavigation next button
Pilgrim's Way Tour Label Navigation previous buttonNavigation next button