Faith & The British: Pt 6 – St John’s, Brecon

We have so far been inside two fantastic Cathedrals in Wales, and the first of these was in Powys, Mid Wales, in the charming town of Brecon…

St John’s:

Location: Brecon, Powys, Wales

Status: Cathedral

Faith: Church in Wales

Constructed: circa 1215

Architect: Dr Geoff Worsley

Brecon 6

Brecon Cathedral is situated in the beautiful rolling hills of the Brecon Beacons National Park in the heart of Wales, just outside the pleasant town of Brecon. The present building dates back to 1215, when it was rebuilt when King John (1166 – 1216) was King of England and Wales. A few previous Churches had existed on the site, starting with the Celtic Church sometime after the 5th Century when Celtic Christian was prevalent across Celtic nations, and Wales is one of the ancient ones. This was followed by a new Church built after 1093, by Bernard de Neufmarche (1050 – 1125, who conquered the Kingdom of Brycheiniog, which Brecon is a part, between 1088 and 1095) and dedicated to King John.

The Church eventually became a Priory, but after the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) between 1536 and 1541, it became the Parish Church. It was part of a wider selection of buildings, which included the main Church pictured. The other buildings do still exists, but fulfill a variety of functions today, from a Cathedral Clergy to the Heritage Centre and Restaurant.

In the 1860’s, after some work in 1836, the building was restored following a period of decay, and the tower was strengthened later in 1914. The building became a Cathedral in 1920, after the Church of England was disestablished in Wales, leading to the creation of the Church in Wales which still operates today. Brecon is the head of the Diocese covering Swansea and Brecon, since it’s creation in 1923.

Brecon C

This is the central Nave of the building, with the Chancel and the East Window of the Sanctuary visible in the distance. The Central Tower sits high above the Chancel, with the North Transept off to the left, and the South Transept to the right. When we visited they were setting up for a concert, although I can’t remember who was performing, and this involved setting up a stage underneath the tower, with lighting along the aisles. There are no pews in the Nave, just rows of chairs arranged on the beautiful patterned floor which you can see above. Underneath the Tower hangs a wooden cross, which features a figure of Jesus on it.

There are two chapels in the Nave, one off either side of the aisles, with the Corvizors & Tailors Chapel on the left, and the Weavers & Tuckers Chapel on the right. The Font is located just behind where I was stood to take this picture, along with the two West Windows, split between the two portions, which features a Good Shepherd, and the main West Window beneath it.

Brecon C 4

This is a close up shot of the East Window from 1882, which features Christ in the very centre, with Mary and St John beneath him to either side, and Mary Magdalene in the centre, pointing up at Christ who has saved her soul. As with many windows in the Cathedral, it is a memorial, and this is one is to the South African War between 1877 and 1879.

A wooden cross hangs from the ceiling underneath the tower, also depicting Jesus.

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Off to the left of Chancel is the Vicar’s Chapel (also called the Havard), which joins on to the North Transept, shown above. It contains rows of pews, with a tall central window set into the far wall. This area acts a War Memorial to the South Wales Borderers (the 24th Regiment of the Foot) and of the Monmouthshire Regiment of 1923. Around the outside of the Chapel are the colours of previous Regiments, dating back centuries.

Brecon C 5

Leaving the Chapel then brings you out into the North Transept, shown above. It contains various memorials and more stunning windows, with a curved wooden beam roof that is a thing of beauty. Underneath it is the North Window, which was added in 1903. Designed by Taylor & Clifton, it features three large windows, in memorial to those who died in the Boer War between 1899 and 1902. Various saints and Christ himself are shown across various panes, and you can find out more by following the link near the end of this post.

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This view is looking back from underneath the Central Tower towards the main entrance and the West Windows. A piano sits in the centre of the area beneath the Tower, and the South Transept is off to the left, and joins onto the Vestry and the St Lawrence Chapel.

Brecon C 1

I think the roof is one of the most stunning parts of the building, and could almost be an original feature, if it wasn’t for the fact that sadly wood decays over time so it must have been replaced quite a few times over the last few centuries. The ribs are a very intricate design and make me recall some of the design work from the Lord of the Rings, in the Elvish city of Lothlorien, where I think it would fit brilliantly.

Brecon C 2

This is a view into the Corvizors and Tailors Chapel, which is the special chapel for two of the Trade Guilds, the Corvizors (which I think was an old Cobbler) and the Tailors. It is now part of the main church, whereas it was once separated when it was inhabited by the guilds. The Chapel on the far side is also a Guild Chapel, for Weavers and Tuckers.

On the far right an arch is visible, and these leads into the North Transept. There are at least 5 impressive Stained Glass Windows in this Chapel, with 2 in the adjacent one. You can find out about the various stained glass windows around the Cathedral by following this link.

Brecon C 8

One rather interesting find is shown above, and is called the “Games Monument” from around 1555, and rather than being a monument to a sport, it is a memorial to the Games family of Aberbran. Supposedly there were other figures in the collection but were burned by Oliver Cromwell’s Soldiers. I assume the rest of the figures showed the main figures of the family, and as this figure is female it could be a wife of one of the males, or a daughter.

The Cathedral is a fantastic building, and has kept its charm from centuries past. Brecon itself is a lovely town to visit and you can find out more about it in my dedicated post here.

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