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While Cardiff and its surrounding areas have many old or even ancient churches, the Cardiff Metropolitan Cathedral of St. David is relatively new, having only been completed in 1959. Staying in a Cardiff city centre bed and breakfast, mid-priced hotel or luxury accommodation will put this and many of the city centre’s other landmarks close at hand.
The church was originally dedicated to the patron saint of Wales, St. David, and was completed in 1842, thanks to local fundraising. This became inadequate in size for the growing congregation, so a new cathedral was started in nearby Charles Street, and completed in 1887. However, the building was destroyed by incendiary bombs during an airborne attack in World War II in 1941. Restoration work was not to begin until after the war, with the cathedral finally reopening in March 1959.
The current cathedral is built in what is known as Early English style. Its four-stage tower can be seen for miles around and dominates the city centre townscape. Inside, a seven-bay nave, with side chapels and confessionals, looks on to its two-bay choir. There are statues of two of Cardiff’s martyrs, John Lloyd and Philip Evans, illuminated naturally by the stained glass west window, depicting the Immaculate Conception.
The cathedral is home to three choirs. The Boys’ Choir, established in 1959, has in more recent times been joined by both the Junior and Senior Girls’ Choirs. Since 1988, the choir’s members have been educated at St John’s College, a leading independent day school for both girls and boys between the ages of 3 and 18. It has a consistently outstanding assessment from the ESTYN, Wales’ school inspection body, and was named top school in Wales by the Sunday Times in 2014. The choir not only sings the weekly services at the cathedral, but regularly performs on the continent. Since 2013, it has sung at the Nôtre Dame Cathedral in Paris and in Bruges, as well as making appearances at both the Queen’s College and Magdalen College in Oxford and Bath Abbey, to perform Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s St John Passion. The choir makes regular appearances on BBC Radio, including an appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Worship with an estimated audience of almost two million listeners. It has also made an appearance on a Christmas Special edition of BBC TV’s Doctor Who, to an audience of millions.
It is very easy to spend a few days solely devoted to a tour of Cardiff’s historic churches. Architecture from many periods is here to be seen and admired, both by worshippers of all faiths and those interested in the history of Welsh architecture. Both inside and out, the Cathedral Metropolitan Cathedral of St. David is a wonder of design. Worshippers have enjoyed these surroundings for decades, but non-worshippers, too, will appreciate its design and appearance. A stay in a Cardiff city centre hotel will put any visitor close to this cathedral and many other neighbouring grand and historic buildings.