St Asaph – cathedral

History

   According to tradition, the church in St Asaph was to be built as early as the sixth century, on the initiative of Saint Kentiger, the bishop of Strathclyde. His successor was to be a bishop, Saint Asaph, from whose the settlement took its name. The present church (nave) was founded in 1143 by the Normans, and about 1239 enlarged by an added chancel. In 1281, the relics of Saint Asaph were moved to the church, which were later the destination of numerous pilgrimages. Between 1284 and 1392, further extensive work was carried out on the development of the temple. During the term of bishop Llywelyn of Bromfield, at the beginning of the fourteenth century, the arcades between the aisles, the intersection of naves and the upper parts of the west façade, in which the new portal was added, were rebuilt. Walls of the aisles were partially rebuilt and new windows were added to the clerestorium. Between 1315 and 1320 a transept was probably erected and the tower was added in 1391.
   
The cathedral was destroyed several times, especially during the Welsh – English wars of the thirteenth century, and during the rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr in 1402. The Redman bishop completed its reconstruction in 1482. The English Civil War of the seventeenth century caused further damages, and the upper part of the tower collapsed in 1714, as a result of a fierce storm. In 1778, the chapter house was demolished and the chancel was rebuilt. Sir George Gilbert Scott carried out a thorough renovation of the building in 1867-1875, during which many changes from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were removed.

Architecture

   The cathedral was built on a cruciform plan. It has a three-nave, five-bay corpus in the form of a basilica, the northern and southern transepts from 1315-1320 and a rectangular chancel from the east. At the intersection of the naves from 1391 rises the tower. The interior of the nave has a beautiful timber ceiling from the beginning of the fourteenth century, which strong ribbing imitates the stellar vault. The presbytery has unique stalls with canopies from the end of the fifteenth century, the only of its kind that survived in Wales. They are tall, vaulted, decorated with pinnacles and carved ornaments. In the cathedral, the first translation of the Bible into Welsh, by William Morgan, is kept.

show this monument on map

return to alphabetical index

bibliography:
Wooding J., Yates N., A Guide to the churches and chapels of Wales, Cardiff 2011.
Website st-asaph.com, The Fourteenth Century.