the conquest of Glamorgan, the Normans proceeded to exercise a growing
influence over the affairs of the Church at Llandaff. Little is known about
Urban, who was consecrated Bishop of Llandaff at Canterbury in 1107, but he may
have attracted the attention of Robert Fitzhamon while serving in the Diocese
of Worcester. His appointment transformed a tribal Church into an organised
diocese, owing "canonical obedience to Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury
and primate of the whole of Britain, and all his successors canonically
succeeding him'. This allegiance to Canterbury was to continue until the Welsh
Church was disestablished in 1920.
Urban's ambition was to make
Llandaff the pre-eminent diocese of Wales. He claimed jurisdiction over a
territory ranging from the Towy to the Wye and, in so doing, provoked a clash
with the bishops of St. David's and Hereford. In order to strengthen his case,
Urban falsified entries in the Book of Llandaff, stressing the antiquity
and prestige of the cathedral. For the same reason, the bones of St. Dyfrig
were removed from Bardsey Island to Llandaff, the inference being that he was
the first bishop of the diocese. Thus the cathedral was dedicated to three
Celtic saints: Teilo; Dyfrig; and Euddogwy, the Episcopal Abbot who succeeded Teilo.
In addition, to unite Roman power with Celtic tradition and to curry favour
with the Pope, Llandaff Cathedral was also dedicated to Peter and Paul. All
these intrigues proved to be in vain. Despite appeals to the Pope and two
visits to plead his cause personally in Rome, the judgement went against Urban
and the boundaries of Llandaff were curtailed.
This was not the only setback
suffered by the diocese. The endowments, made by the lords of Glamorgan in
favour of monastic houses elsewhere, added to the poverty of Llandaff until, in
the fifteenth century, it was regarded as the poorest see in the realm. Even
so, the demesne of the mediaeval bishops of Llandaff extended over a wide area.
They possessed a number of scattered episcopal manors at Mathern, Bishton and
Basseleg in Gwent Nearer Cardiff, the episcopal lands included a pre-conquest
gift; Worleton, Nash and Llysworney in Glamorgan; and Bishopston in Gower. from
the King of Morgannwg at Splott, a name perhaps derived from "God's Plot',
and the hamlets of Llandaff North and Gabalfa. The Bishop's main estates were
to be found at Llandaff itself and the surrounding districts of Fairwater,
Caerau, Ely and Canton.
The church inherited by Urban at
Llandaff was no more than an aisled nave with an apse at its east end. He
decided to build a more impressive cathedral which incorporated part of the
existing structure but, owing to a lack of money, work did not commence until
April 1120. On 23 May, with great ceremony, the bones of St. Dyfrig were washed
and, according to legend, the water began to bubble as though red hot stones
had been tossed into the basins. The holy relics of St. Teilo were carried in
procession behind the high cross and the remains of both saints were
re-interred near the altar. Throughout the Middle Ages, the swearing of an oath
upon the bones of these saints was regarded as a solemn and binding act.
The Norman Cathedral was cruciform
in shape and some of this Romanesque work survives. A magnificent rounded arch,
with a rich medallion decoration, separates the Presbytery from the Lady
Chapel, and another Norman arch leads into St. David's Chapel. The Norman
stonemason's craft can be seen at its best on the south side of the cathedral
where a splendid doorway, crowned with an ornate chevron pattern, was
fortunately undamaged in the Blitz of 1941.
About 1170 the cathedral was
extended westward in the new Early English or Gothic style. The West Front,
constructed by 1220, rises gracefully in three layers and is regarded as one of
the finest examples in Wales from this period of architecture.
The Chapter House, completed about
1250, was a small building where a chapter from the scriptures was read each
day, before the daily business of the cathedral was discussed in the presence
of the Bishop or Archdeacon. Its upper room was to become the treasury of the
The cathedral was dedicated on 23
November 1266 in a double celebration which also saw the enthronement of a new
bishop, William de Braose. He commissioned the building of the Lady Chapel and,
when he died in 1287, it was appropriate that this became his resting place.
Until the Reformation, a silver gilt shrine of St. Teilo in the Lady Chapel was
a place of worship for mediaeval pilgrims.
The West Front was flanked by two
thirteenth century towers, neither of which now exists. The South-west Tower
collapsed in 1723, while its twin was replaced by the Jasper Tower at the end
of the fifteenth century. Jasper Tudor is said to have commissioned this work
when he became Lord of Cardiff Castle after the Battle of Bosworth. The tower
has similarities to that of St. John's Church and houses the bells of the
cathedral. The original thirteenth century Bell Tower has probably been a ruin
since the assault of Owain Glyndwr on Llandaff in 1404.
far from this ruin stands the Cross. Near here, in 1188, Archbishop Baldwin and
Giraldus Cambrensis exhorted Welsh and English alike to join the Third Crusade
as brothers-in-arms, setting aside their customary animosity. Gerald wrote at
the time, "The business of the cross being publicly proclaimed at
Llandaff, the English standing on one side and the Welsh on the other, many
persons of each nation took the cross'.
The manor of Llandaff stretched
south through Llandaff Fields to the Canton Common and the Canton Cross, from
which a nearby public house takes its name. The Bishop owned a manor house to
the west of the common, together with another in Llandaff. A short distance
away from the manor at Llandaff, on land now occupied by the University of
Wales Institute Cardiff, stood a water mill which was demolished when Western
Avenue was constructed. In all, the Bishop possessed six mills, the others
being located in Ely and Canton.
The Bishop's main residence was his
castle, the ruins of which can be observed near Llandaff Green. The thirteenth
century buildings were probably destroyed by Owain Glyndwr, and only the
gateway, the towers and the courtyard to the rear have survived the passage of
time. Originally the castle was probably intended to bolster the prestige of
the Bishop but its somewhat uninviting appearance led a nineteenth century
writer to comment, "the remains have nothing distinctively episcopal about
them; they might as well have been the stronghold of any Norman robber, the
lair of the wolf of the fold, rather than the dwelling of its shepherd.'
In his defence, it must be
remembered that the Bishop of Llandaff was a lord in his own right, aware of
the presence of a powerful neighbour. Robert the Consul sought to ease
relationships and create harmony between the lordships of Glamorgan and
Llandaff by making a concordat with Bishop Urban in 1126.
In this concordat, Robert granted
the Bishop 100 acres of land "to plough or meadow' between the Taff and
the Ely rivers; a fishery on the Ely; the chapel of Whitchurch; and the right
to take timber from certain forests for the repair of the church at Llandaff.
In return, Bishop Urban promised to adjust the sluice of his mill at Llandaff,
so that the flow of the river was not impeded. This concession was significant
since the ford at Llandaff was an important crossing point, especially when the
bridge at Cardiff was impassable because of flooding.
The agreement clarified the legal
jurisdiction of the two lords. If the outcome of a trial was to be determined
by personal combat, duels were usually held at Cardiff Castle though, if a
dispute concerned the Bishop's tenants only, the duel could be fought at
Llandaff. Trials by ordeal were regarded as within the Bishop's prerogative. If
the accused carried a red hot iron, and the wound disappeared in three days, he
was adjudged to be innocent. When ordeal by water was prescribed, the prisoner
was bound and tossed into a pit which was dug on the Bishop's lands near
Cardiff Castle. If he floated he was considered guilty. If he sank he was
pulled out of the water, hopefully still alive, and pronounced innocent.
The lordship of Llandaff acquired
additional privileges in the reign of King John. In 1205, as Lord of Glamorgan,
the King granted the right to stage a weekly Sunday market after divine
service. He also gave permission to hold an
annual fair at Whitsun, the tolls from which gave the Bishop a further
source of income.
It would, however, be a mistake to
believe that the bishops of Llandaff enjoyed equality with their secular
counterparts. For example, in the interval pending the appointment of a new
bishop, the Lord of Glamorgan became entitled to the rents from the estates in
the diocese, a lucrative source of income which the King succeeded in
transferring to his own advantage before the end of the thirteenth century.