Wait, how come Brecon has a cathedral?
Ok, let’s go back a bit first. Back to 1093, when it was the Benedictine Priory of St John the Evangelist. It was built by Norman conquerors on the site of a much earlier Celtic church. This was usually done to assert the authority of the new Christian faith.
Henry VIII (the one with a fondness for wives and executions) dissolved the monasteries in 1537. Consequently, it became the Brecon Parish Church. And after the diocese of Swansea and Brecon was created in 1923, it became a cathedral. This was a few years after the disestablishment of the Church in Wales. It’s therefore had a busy life, and several changes of identity.
The Diocese stretches from Beguildy in the North to the Gower Peninsula in the South, and includes the city of Swansea and most of the Brecon Beacons National Park. In spite of this, the cathedral is small, and exudes friendliness and warmth.
Treasures of the Cathedral
The Cathedral boasts a 12th-century font. A beautiful bowl font stood on a Victorian base, it’s elaborately carved with birds, beasts, and geometric designs.
Most interestingly of all, the font shows several images of the Green Man symbol. The font seems to be pre-Conquest, although the exact date isn’t known. It could even be much earlier than that.
In a chapel off the north aisle there’s a lovely carved wooden screen created by Thompson of Kilburn, the ‘mouse man’ carver. His trademark carved mouse is low on a panel to the right of the chapel door.
The Church now
The Church today isn’t just a place of worship. It hosts academic conferences, lunchtime music concerts and held a concert with Brecon Male Voice Choir this year to mark King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu‘s visit to the town.
This isn’t your typical cathedral. Small, but with extraordinary architecture and a fascinating history. You must add to your list of places to visit if you’re ever in the area. It’s something to do on one of those glorious spring days when there’s adventure on the breeze.
Above all, it is a place to worship God. In that small closed cathedral, you can really feel the warmth and love of centuries of faith.
The town is situated on the main A40 trunk road, midway between Abergavenny to the East and Llandovery to the West. You can get there from the South (Cardiff) via the A470 and the North East (Builth Wells, Hay On Wye, Hereford etc.) via the A470 and A465. It’s situated on the B4520 and is well signposted as you enter the town.