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St Asaph Cathedral

Llanelwy: the Welsh name for St. Asaph. Its meaning is the sacred religious enclosure situated on the hill above the confluence of the rivers Elwy and Clwyd in North Wales.

It was St. Kentigern, bishop of Strathclyde, who on having been driven into exile, founded the church and monastery between the years 560 - 573 AD. On the return of St. Kentigern to Scotland in 573 it was St. Asaph who replaced him as abbot-bishop and remained so until his death in 596.

St. Asaph's Cathedral

The diocese originally coincided with the principality of Powys, but lost much territory first by the Mercian encroachment then again by the construction of Offa's dyke, soon after 798.

Many legends emanate from St. Asaph's, none can be more powerful religiously than the one, when as a boy, St. Asaph was sent by St. Kentigern to bring coals that he might warm himself. Having nothing else in which to carry the burning coals St. Asaph used his cloak but neither his own flesh nor the cloak were burnt.

In 1073, when Rhuddlan castle was in the possession of the Normans, Theobald, in a move to protect the interests of the Province of Canterbury, consecrated Gilbert as the cathedral's first bishop. Then after him it was the turn of Geoffrey of Monmouth, he was consecrated bishop of St. Asaph in 1152. though he never visited his diocese, preferring to spend most of his time at Oxford.

In 1188 Gerald of Wales visited the cathedral during his tour of Wales with Archbishop Baldwin, who said Mass, and described the church as in " a poor state of repair". That description was certainly true for 1188, but compared to its total destruction in less than one hundred years later by the army of Edward I [ Edward Longshanks ] during his conquest of North Wales. it was quiet insignificant.

In a major and unprecedented victory for the Welsh Church, the cathedral was rebuilt on its original site despite Edward Ist preference for Rhuddlan. It was achieved through the efforts of Bishop Anian II, (1268-93) perhaps one of the most significant appointment of a bishop, for as Dominican Prior of Rhuddlan he was known as 'the black friar of Nannau and as the best and stoutest upholder ever seen of the rights of his bishopric'. Anian withstood the enmity of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the last native Prince of Wales.

Damaged again occurred to the abbey l402 during the rebellion of Owain Glyndwr, when a fire destroyed the woodwork. Further damage took place and again in 1715 when the tower was completely demolished in a fierce storm. It was Sir Gilbert Scott who was responsible for the major restoration of St. Asaph during the latter half of the nineteenth and the early part of the twentieth century.

It is perhaps the appointment of William Morgan as bishop at St. Asaph, which is the most significant; for it was he, who in the later half of the 16th Century undoubtedly saved my Nation's language, when he translated that most holy of books, the bible, into Welsh. On his death he was buried at St. Asaph, may he rest in peace, for his endeavour he truly deserves too..

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