Saturday, 2 December 2017

All the Cathedrals (7): Brecon

There is a short climb up a hill from the town centre in order to reach Brecon Cathedral. As Cathedrals go, it is on the small side, but it gains something of clean lines as a result. The information panels that are displayed in the Cathedral can be downloaded from the Cathedral website (it is best to use the "download pdf" link from each of the pages, and to read the downloaded version). Following each of these information panels will allow you to make a "virtual visit" to the Cathedral.

The present Cathedral has a foundation in Norman times, though another Church may have pre-dated it on the site. Like a number of English Cathedrals, it shares the narrative of Benedictine monastery established or rebuilt in the Norman time, with the monastic community coming to an end with the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. Before dissolution, it appears to have been a centre of pilgrimage, with the crucifix of its rood screen being the subject of particular veneration by visitors. Unlike some of the larger Cathedrals, after the dissolution, Brecon became a parish church. It gained its status as a Cathedral as recently as 1923. Some rebuilding took place in the 14th century, and, like a number of other Cathedrals, there was a restoration in the Victorian era.

The oldest feature of the Church is thought to be its font, dating from the  original Norman foundation (see the first of the information panels). A nearby stone column features a number of mediaeval stone masons marks.

At the time of our visit, the sacrament was reserved in a veiled tabernacle in the St Keynes chapel (see the information panel on the St Keynes chapel) rather than the wall shrine more customary for the Church of England, suggesting a worship of an ecclesiastically "high" character. An interesting feature of this chapel is the stained glass window showing Brychan, Cynog and Alud, pioneers of Christianity in the area.

Another feature of the Cathedral, that is well described in the relevant information panel, is the Harvard Chapel in its role as the Regimental chapel of what is now, after the amalgamation of its former regiments, the Royal Welsh regiment. Do download and read the information panel. A visit to this chapel acts as a reminder of the impact on local communities of warfare on the scale that was seen in the 20th century.

The highlight for me, however, was the reredos in the main sanctuary of the Cathedral. This is described in the information panel on the sanctuary on the website. Dating from 1937, it really is a lovely work. Where the reformation sought to remove such features as the previous reredos and the rood screen with its venerated crucifix, the presence of this reredos restores something of a Catholic character to the Church.

Brecon Cathedral enjoys a more "homely" feel than some of the other Cathedrals that we have visited, and this is probably due to its smaller size. It is worth the walk up the hill to visit.

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