Llandaff Cathedral Cardiff, Wales (Exterior)

Llandaff Cathedral, Cardiff, Wales


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Llandaff Cathedral
Location: Cardiff, Wales
Date of visit: Saturday, 15 March 2014, 11:00am

The building

St Teilo founded the first church on the site, nothing of which has survived. The cathedral was begun in 1121 by Urban, the first Norman bishop, and was finished in 1290. Marked by huge pillars, thick walls and some beautiful arches, many of which remain today, the cathedral features a statue of St Teilo in the west front and is the resting place of the remains of St Dyfrig. Llandaff Cathedral has had a chequered history of construction and ruin, beginning in 1400 during the rebellion of Owain Glyndwr and continuing through 1941 when it was very seriously damaged by a land mine. During the English Civil War, the cathedral was overrun by Parliamentarian troops. It was extensively restored in the mid 19th century and again in the late 1950s, with Her Majesty the Queen attending a service celebrating the completion of the restoration. That work included the installation of the sculpture Christ in Majesty by the somewhat controversial modern sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein. A lightning strike in 2007 destroyed what was left of the organ's electrical circuitry, already in poor condition. A replacement organ was not finished until 2013. A more thorough history can be found on the cathedral's website.

The church

The Cathedral and Parish Church of St Peter & St Paul, St Dyfrig, St Teilo and St Euddogwy (to give the cathedral's full name) offers a full complement of said and sung services, including matins, evensong and compline as well as the eucharist. The Friends of the Cathedral help to maintain the fabric of the building, including paying for restoration work. The Cathedral School offers an outstanding academic and musical education to about 650 pupils.

The neighborhood

Llandaff, a district in the north of Cardiff, has long been known as a religious site and lately has developed quite a reputation for ghosts. It is said that by night the gloomy byways surrounding the cathedral glow with mysterious lights and misty forms of folk who perished long ago, some perhaps by foul play. On a brighter note, Llandaff village itself is a cheery mixture of shops and houses, theological college and many pubs.

The cast

The Very Revd Gerwyn Huw Capon, dean and vicar.

What was the name of the service?

Choral Eucharist.

How full was the building?

Mostly full. A lot of the congregation were single men or single women, although the age range was mainly 60-80 year olds.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

We were met at the open doors by a sidesperson, who smiled, said "Good morning" and handed us a service booklet and weekly notice sheet. During the peace, those close by shared the peace with us.

Was your pew comfortable?

Chairs – not too bad, as the congregation did not sit for long.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

As we entered the cathedral, we segued from a beautiful sunny day outside to a calm, tranquil indoor setting. It was quiet with some whispering.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

English Hymnal; weekly notice sheets with collect readings, psalm and gospel; Choral Eucharist booklet.

What musical instruments were played?

Organ. The cathedral's new organ is an opus of Nicholson & Co. of Malvern and is the largest, wholly-new, British built organ to be commissioned in a UK cathedral since Coventry.

Did anything distract you?

The continuous changing from sitting to standing to kneeling.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Stiff upper lip. All very reverent and well-rehearsed. The celebrant wore purple vestments. The congregational singing was good – the three hymns were traditional, and everyone was singing quite loudly. No incense. The cathedral choir chanted the psalm and a piece during communion. Everyone took communion and the cathedral stewards told each row in turn when to go up for communion. It was very orderly.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

12 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

9 – The dean seems well read, educated and articulate. The sermon was simple and straightforward to follow.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

He reflected upon the gospel passage concerning Nicodemus and how the passage was relevant today. It was all about having love in our hearts through Jesus Christ and living in hope. About meeting and treating each other with love. He asked if the congregations of Llandaff were doing that, and the answer was, "We are getting there!"

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The cathedral choir was good, and so was the sermon.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

The high altar was so far away that it was difficult to watch, pray and focus on the ministry of the Sacrament, especially the prayer of consecration.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

Absolutely nothing happened! We handed in our leaflets and were again bid a good morning.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

No refreshments after this service.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

2 – Call me unliturgical, but shouldn't all this kneeling, sitting and standing have been done away with at least 25 years ago?

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

In some ways yes: music and sermon.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

That it was a beautiful sunny day and the cathedral was warm and quiet.

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