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Llandaff, Cardiff, has now been officially absorbed into the boundaries of Cardiff, but this village-city and its cathedral have retained a strange, secluded charm. Llandaff must possess some secret of indomitable survival. The settlement has been sacked by the Norsemen and burnt by the Welsh. The great church has been ruined by its own bishops, and blasted by German bombs in the 20th century. The suburbs of Cardiff creep ever closer to the West. Yet Llandaff remains a place apart - a small corner of quiet and contemplation, away from the rush of modern life. It lies on the banks of the River Taff 2 miles from the centre of Cardiff, and forms the climax to the long line of parklands, gardens, and playing-fields that lead so splendidly northwards, out from the heart of the city along the riverside.

Approached from the West, Llandaff Cathedral, like many of the great ecclesiastical buildings of Wales, lies half hidden in a hollow. The Cathedral green is the first pleasure offered to the visitor. None of the buildings that surround this large green plot are especially notable from the architectural point of view, but they all seem to fit in together. The Victorian houses, the whitewashed walls of the deanery, the plain white l8th century façades of the canons' residences surround the village green. At the South end lie the ruins of the gateway to the old episcopal palace, a l3th century fortified mansion that was sacked by Owain Glyndwr in 1402. It is the garden entrance to the present palace, a large, late l8th century building that, in 1958, became part of the Cathedral school of Llandaff. The miraculous well of St Teilo lay on the right-hand side of the steep road leading down from the gatehouse ruins to the Cathedral, but was sealed up many years ago.

On the Cathedral green are three interesting monuments. The first is the cross, with a restored shaft on an ancient base. Here, according to tradition, is the spot where Archbishop Baldwin preached the Third Crusade in 1188. He was accompanied by Gerald de Barn, who left a vivid description of the scene as many came forward to take the Cross: “the English standing on one side and the Welsh on the other”. Further up, on the green, is the statue of James Price Buckley, Vicar of Llandaff and Archdeacon until 1924: “A man he was to all the country dear”. At the far end of the green is the war memorial to those who fell in the First World War: “Llandaff remembers her own sons”.

Near the cross, the path leads down, past a tower ruined in the 15th century, to the Cathedral itself. This tower was once the detached belfry. Llandaff can pride itself on a foundation going back to the 6th century. St Teilo, the great West Wales monastic leader, is credited with visiting the spot in A.D. 500 and with founding a monastic settlement on the site. The “han”, or monastery, he founded took its name from the River Taff. The clergy of Llandaff were always proud to be known as “Teulu Deilo”, the family of St Teilo. Nothing remains of the early Celtic churches, although a 10th century, Celtic cross was discovered in 1870 and now stands in the South West presbytery aisle. The history of the present building really begins with the Normans, when Bishop Urban (in office 1107—33) began building a cathedral far more ambitious than the “little minster” that previously stood here. The work went steadily on through the next century. The completion of the inner walls of the nave was the work of Urban's successor, Bishop Henry of Abergavenny. The six western arches of the nave followed, in the style typical of the Gothic work of the West of England. The West front was constructed around 1220. This early period of construction fitly closed with the great dedication service held in 1266, when the new Bishop, William de Braose, was enthroned. He lies buried in the Lady Chapel, an elegant l3th century addition to the Cathedral. The 14th and 15th centuries saw the fabric of the Cathedral perfected; Bishop Marshall (1418—96) was one of the great benefactors. His tomb is on the North side of the presbytery, and the painting on board, which once formed part of his bishop's throne, was saved from destruction at the hands of Cromwell's soldiers by being covered with black lead. It is now in the Euddogwy Chapel in the North aisle of the nave.

The last of the medieval additions to the building was made by Jasper Tudor, uncle of Henry VII, who built the North West tower, now known as the Jasper Tower.

Then followed centuries of appalling neglect. The Bishops of Llandaff were generally absentees. The revenues of the see went on everything except the upkeep of the fabric. Cromwell's soldiers used part of the nave as a beerhouse. The chapter library books were burnt. The climax of neglect was reached in 1723 when the South West tower was blown down during a great storm. No wonder the clerics talked of “our sad and miserable cathedral”.

The 18th century saw the first attempt at restoration, when James Wood, the architect of Bath, created a classic temple amid the ruins. Luckily funds ran out before the whole of the remaining Gothic work was buried under columns and cornices. The two large Classical urns now placed on the pathway of the old prebendal house are relics of the “Italian temple”. In 1835 a movement began for a complete restoration of the Cathedral under the devoted inspiration of Dean Conyheare and later Dean Williams. The second great thanksgiving service in the history of the Cathedral was held in July 1839. The restoration was largely in the hands of a local architect, John Pritchard. He was responsible for the South East tower, with its French-style spire and the pepper-pot roof over the 13th century chapter house. The row of heads of British sovereigns that circles the South wall is also his work. King George VI and the present Queen are on the North side.

On the evening of the 2nd January 1941, Llandaff Cathedral was almost destroyed by a German landmine. Of the British cathedrals, Coventry alone received worse damage. Once again, the Cathedral of Llandaff rose from its ruins. The chief architect of this resurrection was Geoffrey Pace of York, and for the third time a great thanksgiving service was held in 1958 to celebrate the restoration of Llandaff to its ancient glory. And a most successful restoration it has proved to be. The Cathedral, as we see it today, is a harmonious mingling of various centuries and styles.

As you enter through the great West door, you are confronted by the most challenging part of the new restoration. A bold parabolic arch of reinforced concrete separates the nave from the choir, and yet leaves the West to East vista open at floor level. Surmounting the arch is a cylindrical organ-case, bearing the sixty-four Pre-Raphaelite figures that originally stood in the canopies of the old choir-stalls. On the side of the cylinder fronting the West door is the deeply impressive figure of the Christus by Sir Jacob Epstein, cast in unpolished aluminium. It dominates the whole Cathedral. The restoration included the replacement of the ceiling. The wood of the panelling is hardwood from Central Africa and Malaya. The font, the seating, the John Piper window over the high altar, the organ-cases, and console gallery are all new. One final and important addition has been made to the Cathedral. The officers and men of the Welsh Regiment raised the funds to build a chapel in memory of their comrades who fell in two world wars. The chapel was dedicated in 1958. It fits perfectly into the texture of the North side of the Cathedral, since the stones are river-washed stones that originally came from the bed of the Taff. Within, a great effect of simplicity and light has been achieved with the use of a barrel-vaulted ceiling. On the wall is the impressive roll-call of the regiment's battle honours.

Llandaff still holds some of its older treasures. Among them are the Rossetti triptych The Seed of David, now placed in the Chapel of the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division — St Illtuds — on the ground floor of the Jasper Tower immediately to your left as you enter through the great West door; the Mathew tomb near the modern pulpit; the traditional site of St Teilo's tomb beneath the l3th century effigy in the sanctuary; the fine Norman arch leading from the sanctuary into the Lady Chapel; the tomb in the Dying Chapel of Sir David Mathew, who was Edward IV's standard-bearer at the Battle of Towton, and the Norman South doorway.

So Llandaff Cathedral has been reborn. Today, with little of the l9th century stained glass left, it seems full of light and life a cathedral for today as well as for the past.

Llandaff “Village” as everyone locally calls the “City” — is also the home of the Theological College of St Michael's and All Angels and of Howell's Glamorgan School for Girls. Howell's School has a romantic origin. Thomas Howell, whose name it bears, was a merchant who traded with Spain. In 1540 he left 12,000 ducats to be “desposed unto foure maydens, being orphanes, to their marriage”. Over the years, the income from the investment has been diverted from the marriage of the young maidens to the equally important business of their education.

Nearby cities: Cardiff

Nearby towns: Barry, Caerphilly, Cowbridge, Llandaff, Newport

Nearby villages: Birchgrove, Butetown, Cardiff Bay, Cathays, Cathays Park, Cogan, Ely, Grangetown, Leckwith, Lisvane, Llandough, Llanishen, Maindy, Nantgarw, Pen-y-Lan, Penarth, Pentyrch, Peterston-super-Ely, Plas Newydd, Pontfaen, Radyr, Roath, Rumney, Saint Andrews Major, Saint Fagans, Saint Lythans, Saint Mellons, Saint Nicholas, Taffs Well, Thornhill, Wenvoe, Whitchurch

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