St. Asaph Cathedral

According to legend, a church and monastery were founded in St Asaph in the 6th century by St Kentigern, bishop of Strathclyde. 

His successor as abbot-bishop was Asaph, a local saint whose name is found in neighbouring places including Llanasa.

The cathedral was founded in 1143 by the Normans, who had established themselves in Rhuddlan. Gerald of Wales and Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, visited in 1188 during their tour of Wales to recruit for the third crusade. They had spent the previous night in Rhuddlan, Baldwin celebrated mass at the cathedral before departing for the priory at Basingwerk. Gerald`s journal describes St Asaph as a small cathedral town.

St Asaph`s relics were moved to the cathedral from Llanasa church by 1281. There was extensive rebuilding from 1284 to 1392 using large quantities of yellowish sandstone from Flint and Talacre. Purple sandstone, quarried locally, was also used. Aspects of the design were influenced by military work being undertaken at Caernarvon Castle.

The cathedral was damaged many times, including in the 13th century and by Owain Glyndwr`s uprising in 1402. Restoration in the 15th century included the provision of canopied stalls (enclosed seats) the only surviving examples in Wales. The Civil war wreaked further damage, and the tower`s upper part was blown over in 1714. Sir George Gilbert Scott masterminded the building's restoration from 1867 to 1875.

Memorials inside include the tomb of Anian !!, bishop of St Asaph from 1268-1293, William Morgan, the bishop from 1601-1604 who was responsible for the first complete Welsh translation of the Bible a contemporary copy of which can be seen in the cathedral.

The cathedral has a rich musical heritage and in 1972 composer William Mathias chose the building as the venue for a new music festival, now known as the North Wales International Music Festival which is held in St Asaph every September. He died in 1992 and his tombstone with its under-stated epitaph is on the left as you walk towards the cathedral from the south gate’ ( opposite the Car Park)

The William Hill organ of 1824 has been enlarged several times, Electric action replaced pneumatic in 1966. An oak case was provided when the organ was enlarged by Wood of Huddersfield in 1998.

I hope you have enjoyed our trip around St Asaph cathedral, we are still unable to hold our monthly meetings but are hopeful that it won`t be too much longer, Stay safe everyone

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