Saturday, 13 July 2013

Llandaff Cathedral and the Senghenydd Mining Memorial

And so to Cardiff to take Son the Elder to an audition.  I lived in Cardiff, briefly, 20-odd years ago, and my younger daughter was born there.  It also happens to be my ex-husband's former home city, and although I have been back and forward over the bridge regularly these last four and a half years, this was to be my first trip to Llandaff since. But nothing daunted - time to overlay all those bad memories with some good ones.  

So, after dropping the budding thespian off, I parked in Pontcanna, in the street where I used to live, and walked my swain over Llandaff and Pontcanna Fields to Llandaff village, where we had coffee and flapjack before visiting the Cathdral.  It was early but already sweltering, so the Cathedral felt like a very comfortable place to be.  And it was great to catch up with some old friends.  There are Arts and Crafts favourites, like Rossetti's triptych 'The Seed of David', Morris & Co and John Piper stained glass,  and the lovely Della Robbia ceramic panels depicting Edward Burne Jones' 'The Six Days of Creation'. (Unfortunately the side chapel in which the latter live was roped off, but you can just glimpse them here, the far side of this rather fetching knight's tomb, still with some original paint, look.)

Today, however, it was the vistas that struck me, perhaps because the great West door was open, bringing the outside in.  This is looking east towards Jacob Epstein's Majestas (Christ in Majesty) which was commissioned to commemorate the ... well, resurrection seems the most appropriate word ... of the Cathedral after it was partially destroyed during the Cardiff blitz. (Only Coventry Cathedral sustained more damage during the war.) 

 This is the rear view of the Majestas looking towards the West Door - and look, there's reflected heart on the arch, which is mighty pleasing and which I am taking to be A Sign.  

This is a view through a Norman arch of the Lady Chapel, from the other side of the High Altar.  

And this is the Lady Chapel's beautiful painted roof.

Llandaff can trace its line of bishops back to c500AD, which is most impressive.  This mediaeval memento mori is postively modern by comparison, but I find myself drawn also to the contemporary, particularly the bold way in which the Cathedral was restored in the 1950s following the bombing.

Here's one of my favourite post-war parts, the Welch Regiment Memorial Chapel.  I love the red lettering on the walls of places around the world where the regiment has been stationed ...
   ... but best of all are the copper panels set into the floor, which were engraved by my former brother-in-law. I like to think of them as the shining footprints of the dead ... except that sadly, only officers are commemorated thus.

Then it was time to walk into town along the banks of the River Taff.  The first part of this walk takes us through an old part of the cemetry, where the grass is allowed to grow tall in the summer.  It was almost like being under water in parts. 

Out here nature was in competition with all the artists who have work inside the Cathedral, and giving a good account of itself too. 

Talking of water, the Taff looked quite inviting for once, and we did see one or two local sirens bathing.  

As we were whiling away time until the auditions ended by slaking our thirst in a hostelry, we were treated to lusty renditions of some mining songs by a choir who were raising money for the Welsh National Mining Memorial, which will pay tribute to the legacy of coal mining and commemorate the 8000 people who died in Welsh mines and the many more who succumbed to mining-related illnesses.  The statue in a garden of remembrance is due to be unveiled on 14th October near the site of the former colliery at Senghenydd.  This date marks the 100th anniversary of the UK's worst ever mining disaster in which 440 men and boys died. 

Oh but it did my heart good to hear some socialist songs in these politically dark days, and for such an excellent cause also.  Money is still needed to pay for a national memorial pathway so if the spirit moves you, please call 02920 830444/5 or email to make a donation.  

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