Bangor – St Deiniol’s Cathedral


   Originally on the site of Bangor Cathedral, around 530, it was monastery founded by Saint Deiniol. It obtained the status of the cathedral in 546, when Deiniol was appointed a bishop of Gwynedd by Saint David. In 634 and again in 1073 the monastery and church was plundered during the invasions of sea pirates.
Burned and robbed by the Vikings, the cathedral was rebuilt around 1130, thanks to the efforts of King of Gwynedd, Gruffudd ap Cynan and the bishop of St Davids. In 1211, the cathedral suffered once more, this time during the invasion of Gwynedd by King John’s troops. During the reconstruction, initiated around 1220 by prince Llywelyn Fawr (Llywelyn the Great), significant transformations were made and, at the same time, the cathedral was enlarged. The next destruction was brought by Edward I’s invasion of Gwynedd in 1282, after which, during renovation, the arms of the transept were rebuilt. Work on the nave lasted until the late 14th century. A thorough reconstruction of the cathedral was carried out at the beginning of the 16th century by Bishop Skevington. Until 1532, the western tower was erected and the nave was rebuilt. The completed church then served the Welsh-speaking inhabitants of Bangor.
   The great church restoration program was carried out by George Gilbert Scott in 1868–1870, and continued by his son, Jan Oldrid Scott in 1879–1880. It was planned at that time to build a tall central tower with a spire, but due to weak walls, cracks appearing and lack of funds, it was left as a low, unfinished structure. It was not until 1966–1967 that the tower was completed and a pyramidal top was placed on it.


   The cathedral from the 12th century was built in the Romanesque style with one nave and a chancel ending in the east with a semicircular apse. The apses were also located at the eastern walls of the transept, which gave the whole plan the form of a Latin cross.
   The reconstruction of the church from the first half of the 13th century resulted in the extension of the chancel and at the same time the removal of the apse, which was replaced with a straight closure. The silhouette of the church was also enlarged at the end of the 13th century by a new transept, thanks to which the whole structure retained the shape of a Latin cross, despite the later enlargement of the nave, which obtained the form of a three-aisle basilica. The new transept was not very symmetrical, as its southern arm was slightly longer than the northern one.
   At the end of the Middle Ages, in the first half of the 16th century, the church was given the form of a six-bay basilica by adding aisles, lower than the older central nave, reinforced from the outside with buttresses (unusually the arrangement of the pillars did not correspond to the arrangement of the buttresses). A bell tower on the west side was also built at that time. It was erected on a square plan, three-story, with an entrance portal on the west side, two corner, diagonal buttresses and a crowning in the form of a decorative battlement.
   Inside, no part of the cathedral was vaulted, the whole was covered with a wooden roof truss. Six bays in the nave were separated by polygonal pillars, between which slightly pointed, moulded arcades spread. Above them, the ogival windows of the clerestory were pierced, divided by mullions into three lights. Slightly larger windows with sharper arches and three-light tracery illuminated the side aisles. The largest windows with rich traceries decorated the gable walls of the transept and the eastern wall of the chancel, where the window was filled with two rows of openings closed with quinquefoils and similar, but smaller traceries in the upper, pointed part of window.

Current state

   The oldest preserved fragments of the building come from the 11th century, but they are basically limited to the part of the southern wall of the choir with a bricked up semicircular window and a pilaster strip. The remaining walls of the chancel date back to the 13th century, except for the upper parts and the eastern window, rebuilt at the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries. The present transept mostly dates from the 13th century, the central nave from the 14th century, and the west tower and aisles are a late-medieval from the 16th century. The chapter house and the sacristy on the northern side of the chancel were built only before 1721, and the tower at the crossing of the naves is also an early modern addition.

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Salter M., Abbeys, priories and cathedrals od Wales, Malvern 2012.

Wooding J., Yates N., A Guide to the churches and chapels of Wales, Cardiff 2011.
Website, Bangor Cathedral.