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Christmas Tree Festival 22-30 November
Friends AGM 11 September 2015

Around 20 Friends attended this year’s AGM.  The business side of the meeting was brief, with the Chair and all Committee members returned to office unopposed. 

Mick Moore presented the Annual Accounts, which showed a balance of £10,000 for the year ended 31 December 2014. This is a reduction of £2,000 on last year’s figure, largely accounted for by grants to PCC for projects undertaken during the year.  As a consequence of the Friends taking on responsibility for management, and part-funding of the church Lighting Project, the Committee had decided not to fund any more small projects until funds had been built up sufficiently to enable the Friends to make a serious contribution to the project.  The accounts were accepted.

Nigel Swann, in his Chairman’s report, spoke of a number of successful events organised by the Friends during the year, highlighting the Afternoon Tea as the successful launch event for fund-raising for the Lighting Project.  More funding events would follow in 2016, and Nigel urged everyone to give their support to these.

After a short break for refreshments, Nigel again took the floor to present Part 2 of his mini-series “Lost Cathedrals”. Having done England last year, he chose (after some clerical persuasion) to speak on “The Lost Cathedrals of Wales”.  What follows is a short extract from a very enjoyable talk.


Wales' first cathedralWales’ first cathedral?
Geoffrey of Monmouth indicates that, at the time of the Christian Roman Emperors, “the City of the Legions” (Caerleon) had three churches – two dedicated to the town’s patron saints and one “used by the metropolitan” (meaning archbishop). The churches of St. Julius and St. Aaron cover the two churches for the saints, and the only other church functioning at that period was St. Cadoc’s (SEE BELOW). It stands prominently in the centre of the fort thereby indicating that it is of some importance. Its use by an archbishop should make it, ipso facto, a cathedral.

A replacement for St. Asaph’s cathedral
St Asaph's CathedralRobert Dudley (Earl of Leicester and a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I) also held the title of Baron of Denbigh and, in 1579, he decided to add prestige to his town by building a new large church at the foot of the castle mound. He hoped that, in time, it would supersede St. Asaph’s as the cathedral for the area. There were two problems with its construction – a lack of money…and Robert Dudley. Legend says that he was such a hard taskmaster that the Welsh workers took their revenge by dismantling by night what they had constructed during the day, thereby increasing the timescale of the project and draining funds. Other money allocated to building the church was taken up when Dudley had to finance a military expedition to Ireland. The church remains unfinished to this day (SEE BELOW); had it been completed it would have been the first and largest post-Reformation church in Britain.

Tintern AbbeyNew diocese : new cathedral
The Welsh Churches Act of 1914, which disestablished the Church of England and created the Church in Wales, was only implemented after the Great War on 31st March 1920. The new diocese of Monmouth was instituted from the eastern section of Llandaff diocese, and St. Woolos church in Newport was appointed as the pro-cathedral in 1921 whilst other options were considered. These included building a new cathedral at either Ridgeway Hill or Bassaleg in Newport (the Bassaleg site would have been most appropriate as it is the only area in Great Britain whose name derives from the word “basilica”), or restoring Tintern Abbey (SEE BELOW)

Tintern Abbey was the first Cistercian abbey to be established in Wales (1131). It was closed at the time of the Dissolution in 1536, and the land and property were sold to the Earl of Worcester who took the lead off the roof to sell-on. The building has been left as a ruin ever since. By 1928, with £ 500,000 having been spent on assessment work and no firm conclusion being reached, it was decided to keep St. Woolos as the cathedral. A dean and chapter were installed in 1930, and the pro-cathedral was raised to cathedral status in 1949.

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