Brecon Cathedral

All Photographs on this page © Wendy and Andrew McGregor

All Photographs on this page © Wendy and Andrew McGregor

Brecon Cathedral, in the town of Brecon, is the Cathedral of the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon in the Church in Wales, and seat of the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon. Previously Brecon Priory, it became Brecon Cathedral following the disestablishment of the Church in Wales in 1920, and the creation of the Diocese and Swansea and Brecon in 1923.

Because of the characteristic round shape of its churchyard, the cathedral is thought to be on the site of an earlier Celtic church, of which no trace remains. A new church, dedicated to St. John, was built on the orders of Bernard de Neufmarché, the Norman knight who conquered the kingdom of Brycheiniog in 1093. He gave the church to one of his followers, Roger, a monk from Battle Abbey, who founded a priory on the site as a daughter house of Battle. The first prior at Brecon was Walter, another monk from Battle. Bernard de Neufmarché also endowed the priory with lands, rights and tithes from the surrounding area, and, after his death, it passed to the Earls of Hereford, so giving it greater prosperity. The church was rebuilt and extended in the Gothic style in about 1215, during the reign of King John. In the Middle Ages, the church was known as the church of Holy Rood or Holy Cross, because it owned a great ‘golden rood’ which was an object of pilgrimage and veneration until it was destroyed in the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the sixteenth century.

In 1538 the Prior was pensioned off, and the priory church became the parish church. Some of the surrounding buildings were adapted for secular use and others, such as the cloisters, were left to decay and later demolished. By the nineteenth century, the church was in poor repair and only the nave was in use. Some restoration took place in 1836, but major renovation of the church did not start until the 1860s. The tower was strengthened in 1914.

In recent years, some of the buildings in the Cathedral close have been converted into a Diocesan Centre, a Heritage Centre and exhibition, as well as a shop and Pilgrims restaurant.

Charles Lumley (1824–1858), awarded the Victoria Cross during the Crimean War, was buried in the cathedral churchyard.

The present Dean is the Very Reverend Geoffrey Marshall, who was appointed in 2008, who succeeded the Very Reverend John Davies who became Bishop of the diocese.

List of Deans

1939–1949 Edward Roberts
1950–1964 William Jones
1964–1967 Gwynno James
1967–1978 Ungoed Jacob
1979–1982 Alwyn Rice Jones (afterwards Bishop of St Asaph, 1982)
1982–1993 Huw Jones (afterwards Bishop of St David’s, 1996)
1993–1998 John Harris
1998–2000 Geraint Hughes
2000–2008 John Davies (afterwards Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, 2008)
2008–present Geoffrey Marshall

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