Llandaff – St Teilo Cathedral


   The earliest temple in Llandaff was founded in the 6th century. According to tradition, it was created on the initiative of Saint Teilo, at the ferry on the Taff River. To this day, the only remnant of this building is the Celtic cross. The construction of the cathedral was started in 1120 by the first Norman bishop, Urban. The basic construction work was completed in the time of bishop Nicholas ap Gwrgant, who died in 1183. At that time the cathedral received the call of Saint Peter and Paul and Saints Dubricius, Teilo and Oudoceus.
Around 1214, bishop Henry de Abergavenny organized a cathedral chapter at Llandaff. He set fourteen prebends, eight priests, four deacons and two subdeacons. In the days of his successor, the west façade was rebuilt, placing the statue of Saint Teilo, and in the second half of the thirteenth century bishop William de Braose erected a Lady Chapel. Therefore, it was necessary to destroy and transform the old chancel from the time of bishop Urban. Probably from that time the cathedral was in a state of constant repairs or transformations, carried out at a slow pace. Among other things, after the completion of the chapel, two bays of the northern nave of the chancel were rebuilt.
At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the building was damaged during the Welsh uprising Owain Glyndŵr. Most of the damages were repaired by the bishop Marshall in the second half of the fifteenth century, and in 1485 the building was enlarged by a northern tower, funded by Jasper Tudor, the uncle of king Henry VII.

   Until the beginning of the 16th century, the cathedral was visited by many pilgrims, whose donations made possible to maintain the temple. When the pilgrimages were banned during the Reformation period and the remaining revenues were taken away, it was no longer possible to keep the cathedral building in good condition. As a result, it began to decline. In addition, during the English Civil War in the 17th century, the cathedral was taken over by the troops of the Parliament. They made numerous destructions and took over the books of the cathedral library, taking them to the castle in Cardiff, where they were burnt. A man named Milles founded a tavern in the abandoned cathedral, part of it used as a stable, and the presbytery area as a cowshed. In 1703 during a great storm, the church suffered additional damage, which soon led to the collapse of the southern tower. Between 1720 and 1723, subsequent storms strained the building to such a state that due to danger, the west entrance to the cathedral was closed completely.
In 1734, the first works on the protection and reconstruction of the temple started, under the direction of architect John Wood. It carried out the renovation mainly of the eastern part of the cathedral in the then popular Italian style. In the nineteenth century, the growing prosperity of the diocese made it possible to undertake a thorough restoration of the temple, which began in 1843 with John Pritchard. He removed the eighteenth-century additions and finished in 1869 a new south tower, built on the site of collapsed one from 1722. For the last time the cathedral building was seriously damaged in 1941 by the explosion of the German parachute mine. The reconstruction of the roof from the devastation of war began architect Charles Nicholson, and after his death in 1949, took over George Pace, ending it in 1960.


   The medieval cathedral from the 12th century was built of stone from Dundra of Somerset in England, and some local materials like blue lias or Sutton stone. The building was erected in the form of a three-nave basilica with a chancel ended with a straight wall on the eastern side and a gable western façade in the form of early English gothic.
Around 1287, the cathedral was enlarged by building on the eastern side, partially embedded in the chancel, rectangular in the plan Lady Chapel. A little earlier, because in the mid-thirteenth century, the chapter house was erected on the south side of the church. It was created as a small, square building, with two floors with lancet windows crowned with trefoils. In the fourteenth century, aisles windows were rebuilt from older romanesque to larger, pointed-arch with traceries, in the style of English decorated gothic. In the late medieval period, two towers were erected by the west facade. The northern one was created in 1485, the original southern one has not survived until present times, it is replaced by a Victorian tower erected in the 19th century.

show this monument on map

return to alphabetical index

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