Sacred Places of Wales

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Bangor (pop. c. 12,000) is completely dominated by the university buildings high on a ridge overlooking the town. Down in the city centre, however, shyly hiding from view is Bangor Cathedral, occupying the site of one of the earliest monastic settlements in all of Britain. The word Bangor comes from the Welsh for a wattle fence, for it was such a fence that surrounded the monastic community founded here by St. Deiniol in the year 525. Deiniol was consecrated Bishop in 546 and his church became a cathedral.

Bangor Cathedral
The cathedral itself merits highly on our list of sacred places, for it may be the oldest in Britain in continuous use. Four bishops of Bangor became Archbishops of Canterbury. Archbishop Baldwin preached the Crusade here in 1188.

The present unpretentious building, or what is left of it after centuries of neglect and numerous fires, was erected by Bishop David between 1120 and 1139. Much damage was sustained during the Welsh wars against Edward I and again in 1402 at the hands of Welsh patriot Owen Glendower's army. It wasn't until the late 15th century that extensive rebuilding took place, lots of which was again damaged or neglected during the English Civil Wars. In the 19th century, the ubiquitous Sir Gilbert Scott was called upon to supervise a drastic restoration, which resulted in the building we see today - a Victorian creation completely hiding any vestiges of the original edifice.

Yet some items of interest remain. The cathedral's greatest treasure is the late 13th century "Anian Pontifical", a service book for Bishops, set to music. Inside the church you will find a set of dog tongues (a set is also found at Clynnog Church) used to remove noisy or unruly dogs from church services; the Mostyn Christ of 1518 said to have been hidden by the Catholic Mostyn family during the Reformation; and a 12th century tomb once thought to have been that of Prince Owain Gwynedd, one of the few rulers of an independent Wales. He is one of three princes of Gwynedd buried here.

Inside the ancient but venerable structure, two murals depict the sacred places of our pilgrimage - the six cathedrals of Wales and also notable men of the Welsh Church from Dubricius (Dyfrig: Duvrigg) to the first Archbishop of Wales, A.G. Edwards. There is also a memorial to poet Goronwy Owen, who left his native Wales to teach at William and Mary College in Virginia in the mid-18th century.

A very pleasant, and most unusual feature of the exterior of the cathedral is the Bishop's Garden, containing the Biblical garden which is planted on one side with flowers and shrubs traditionally associated with the medieval church. On the other side, planted chronologically according to the order in which they are mentioned, are found examples of all trees, shrubs and plants in the Bible and able to survive the climate of this northern part of Britain.

Next Stop: Capel Garmon & Penmaenmawr
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