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Brecon Cathedral

Brecon is not an ancient Cathedral for it was first a Benedictine Priory of St. John the Evangelist at the close of the 11th century. Giraldus Cambrensis was Archdeacon here in 1172, ( but more of him in another page perhaps )

It was Bernard of Neufmarche a half brother to William the Conqueror who, having built the first castle at Brecon and defeated the local chieftain in battle just north of the town: gave an existing church near the castle described as ‘the church of St. John the Evangelist without' to a monk of Battle Abbey in Sussex called Roger. He and other monks of the Benedictine Order then established a Priory on this site, and it became the daughter house of Battle Abbey

Very like its counterpart St. Woolos Cathedral in Newport south east Wales, St. John's church was granted cathedral status very late in its life. The honour was in fact granted in 1923 when the diocese of Swansea and Brecon was created as part of the new Church in Wales after its separation from the Church in England

The Knave Brecon Cathedral

Before the desecration of the Monasteries and Cathedrals by Henry VIII the nave was divided in two by a rood screen, this allowed one half to be used by the Benedictine monks while the other half was used as a parish church. Above the screen was suspended the Brecon Cross; it was the Cross that made the Cathedral an important place of pilgrimage throughout the late Middle Ages.

In 1537 the Priory of Brecon was dissolved, but fortunately the main edifice survived as the Parish Church of Brecon, and remained so until Brecon received Cathedral status. The cathedral today houses the Harvard Chapel, which is the Regimental Chapel of the South Wales Borderers, who won 11 Victoria Crosses at the Battle of Rorke's Drift during the Zulu War. Also in the chapel is the Queen's Colour of the 1st Battalion, which commemorates the battle of Isandhlawana in 1879.

Standing as it does among old tombs, headstones and ancient trees, the cathedral with its nave, transepts and central tower looks more like and enormous country church. Rebuilding of this monastic place began in 1201 and today the Cathedral contains many outstanding treasurers, none more so than the 12 century font. A reminder of those far gone Norman times, the font is carved with masks, birds and beasts; above it hangs a brass candelabrum of 1722.

Yes indeed Brecon can be proud of its history, for there is more than 900 years that can be perused in one form or other.

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