Llandaff – cathedral of St Peter, St Paul, St Dubricius, St Teilo and St Oudoceus


   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-aisle basilica with a chancel ended with a straight wall on the eastern side and a gable western façade, probably in the Romanesque style.
At the beginning of the 13th century, the cathedral was extended by three bays to the west and closed with a new facade in the form of early English Gothic with an entrance portal on the axis. Above it there were three lancet windows separated by very narrow, pointed recesses, a row of pyramidal situated blind arcades with a window in the middle, closed with trefoils and separated by shafts, and at the highest, in the gable part, a similar trefoil niche, perhaps originally housing a carved figure. Inside, the church was quite modest for a cathedral, because it did not have a triforium, but only clerestory windows set above the pointed arcades between the aisles. The arcades themselves were richly moulded, as were the pillars, which were varied with shafts with floral capitals and corbels carved in the shape of human faces, masks and floral patterns. Four eastern bays, erected a bit late, were mounted on similarly moulded, but much slender pillars.
   Around 1287, the cathedral was enlarged by adding a rectangular Lady Chapel on the eastern side, partially embedded in the chancel extended by two bays of side aisles. The chapel was covered with a cross-rib vault, enriched in each of the five bays with an additional transverse rib, and illuminated from the east with a large pointed window with a five-light tracery and narrower two-light windows embedded in the longitudinal walls. A little earlier, in the mid-thirteenth century, a chapter house was erected, located on the south side of the church, at the height of the third bay from the east. It was created as a small, square building, with two floors, with narrow windows topped with trefoils. Its lower storey was covered with a vault set on the central pillar.
   In the 14th century, the nave windows were rebuilt from the older Romanesque ones to larger, pointed with traceries in the style of English Decorated Gothic. In the late Middle Ages, at the end of the 15th century, two towers were erected at the west facade. Both had elevations divided into three parts by two cornices, but the southern tower was lower. The northern one was strengthened by corner buttresses and a high staircase, also playing a stabilizing role. The stair turret at the south tower was already half as low. Both towers received large pointed windows with traceries and the top in the form of corner pinnacles.

Current state

   The present cathedral is the result of transformations over the centuries, maintained in the Romanesque and Gothic style, and the effect of renovation works that had to be carried out as a result of many years of neglect. From the oldest Romanesque church, only the magnificent arcade separating the sanctuary from the Lady Chapel and fragments of the walling in the southern part of the choir with two capitals of semicircular windows has survived. A bit later, but still from the 12th century, there are two Romanesque portals: northern and southern ones, located in the western part of the nave. The walls of the rest of the cathedral come mainly from the 13th and 14th centuries, except for their upper parts (a large part of the clerestory of the western part of the church), the early modern south tower and the north chapel, which covered one of the Romanesque portals.

show this monument on map

return to alphabetical index

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 wikipedia.org, Llandaff Cathedral.