Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Llandaff Cathedral

I was in Cardiff a few weeks ago while my aunts and my cousin were there for rugby. I plan on writing more later, but I am VERY busy now and do not have much time. Anyway...ENJOY!

Llandaff is a city (or suburb, I am not very clear on its exact distinction) on the outskirts of the capital of Wales, Cardiff. Interestingly (at least to me) unlike England, the Archbishop of Wales is chosen by the other Welsh Bishops, and he (or she, as could possibly happen some day). The Archbishop then stays at the Cathedral where he is already situated. In England one becomes the Archbishop of Canterbury, officially, by being the Bishop of Canterbury; the place and the title are officially linked; one cannot be the Archbishop of Canterbury if one is not also the Bishop of Canterbury. This is similar to the Pope, whose official title is the Bishop of Rome (a term used derogatorily by Reformers in the 16th and 17th century).

Llandaff Cathedral is the oldest Christian site in the Britain, having been founded by Irish monks in the 5th century. It is the Anglican cathedra for Cardiff, the capitol of Wales, and one of the favorite churches of the Queen (according to the guide who I talked to). I walked around the cathedral for a bit before asking a guide a few questions about the church. My guide’s name was Henry, was 86 years old and had lived in Wales for about half his life. After the war he married a Welsh girl he met in London and then lived in Illinois for 11 years, working for the Royal Air Force and training new recruits. There is too much to mention here, but I have captioned a few pictures for your enjoyment/edification.

The Majesto is the giant, 1950s sculpture that dominates the cathedral. During the war, a German bomber, probably aiming for the port, dropped a giant bomb just outside the cathedral, destroying half the nave. Eventually the nave was rebuilt, using almost all the original stone. In order to commemorate this event, a famous Jewish artist (who had recently finished work at the rebuild Coventry Cathedral) was asked to create a piece for Llandaff. It took him a few years, but eventually created The Majesto, which he called The Jewish Christ. I think it is hideous. In general I do not like this style of art/architecture. It is well made, just not my style. The part that ruins the cathedral, n my opinion, is the arch on which the main statue sits. It does not match the rest of the cathedral in form, texture, color, angle or anything. It looks like something was packed to look as out of place as possible and then given a prime location in the cathedral. Henry said that the people who work in the cathedral all love it.

This is the skull of St Teowl (I think I have spelled it correctly). It is a relic of one of the saints who the cathedral is dedicated to. A verger told me “St Teowl had three heads. It’s true! How else could three different churches claim to have his skull?”

The cathedral has a square chapter house (the room where the monks or governing body of the cathedral gather for business). You can see it in this picture, with the grey roof and tiny windows. I have never scene a square chapter house, only circular. When I mentioned this to Henry he said, “Well what shape are they usually?” “Round.” I said. I was able to see inside (it is not open to the public, but a verger showed me around). It was not only square, but also surprisingly small for a cathedral. I later saw a square chapter house at Tintern Abbey.

The eastern end, a Lady Chapel, was restored by the Victorians in their classic I-think-this-is-what-it-must-have-looked-like-because-I-have-am-overly-romantic-view-of-the-time-period-and-will-freely-change-anything-to-what-I-think-it-looked-liked-even-if-there-is-no-evidence-for-this-and-still-call-it-original. It wasn’t as badly restored as other Victorian churches (I read a historian that once said the Victorians destroyed more churches that the Reformation). It was the prettiest part of the cathedral and I enjoyed it very much.

The archway here shows the age of the building. The rounded arch with its geometric patterns indicates that it is a Norman building (Norman is British for Romanesque). A later arch would be pointed and have an airier feel to it, making it a Gothic arch.

I just really like this picture. This is the west door showing the stairs leading up the hill. Normally cathedrals are built on higher ground, and I have never seen a cathedral built in the side of the hill like this is.

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