ST. ASAPH CATHEDRAL, NORTH WALES
It was a grey and murky morning so having decided we would go to the coast, we changed our minds and visited a cathedral instead!
St. Asaph Cathedral in Denbighshire, North Wales is the smallest cathedral in England and Wales. It dates back 1,400 years with the current building dating from the 13th century when a new building was begun on the site after the original stone cathedral was burnt by King Edward I in 1282. From the outside, you wouldn’t even think it was a cathedral - top left in the collage. The middle two photographs show a view looking up to the high altar with the beautiful stained glass window and wooden vaulted ceiling.
When we first arrived, there was no-one else in the cathedral, so it was good to walk round in our own time so that we could take everything in. There is a great dal of information about the cathedral on well presented boards, just inside the entrance, so we could read these unhurriedly.
We then went into a small side chapel where there is a sculpture depicting The Nativity entitled “This is God: God is Tenderness”. It is the work of a local sculptor and artist, Fr. Rory Geoghegan, a Jesuit priest, now in his eighties, who lives nearby in Tremeirchion and was unveiled during Advent last year. It shows Jesus, Mary and Joseph in a loving family pose.
Although the sculpture looks like precious metal, it’s interesting to read that the basic shape was actually constructed over pieces of chicken wire and foam blocks covered in layers of plaster, which were then cut, shaped and smoothed and then finished with layers of paint. It is a beautiful piece and it was good to be able to look at it without being rushed.
Many of the pillars in the cathedral were decorated with hundreds of vibrant blue flowers, forget-me-nots, and were made by nearby care home residents to remember the soldiers who died in the First World War. The tiny blue flowers symbolise remembrance and apparently, many of the letters sent by soldiers had these drawn on them. I thought that they were for Remembrance Sunday, but was told that they were actually put in place for the North Wales International Music Festival in September, when the theme was “Reflections”. On the many hundreds of flowers, on several of the pillars were some very poignant messages.
George and Felix Powell were brothers who were born and bred in St. Asaph. In 1915 George wrote the words for the song “Pack up Your Troubles, and his brother, Felix wrote the music. Apparently, this won them a prize in a music competition and the song became a hit at the time. During the First World War, Felix served in the army and George was a conscientious objector.
I can imagine that a lot of the people who made the forget-me-nots might have sung the song whilst making the flowers and as over fifty servicemen from St Asaph were killed in the First World War, those who made these wonderful flowers might even have known some of them. Three small suitcases, covered in a collage of pictures and letters from the time were also made; you can see one of the cases and a pillar covered with the blue flowers in the middle of the collage.
Behind the blue forget-me-not pillar you can also see a cascade of red poppies, and obviously this was made for the Remembrance Day Service last Sunday.
In the middle right of the collage is a large sculpture entitled “The Naked Christ” by Michelle Coxon - apparently it had varying responses when it was first hung on the wall in the cathedral, and depicts the crucifixion of Christ. I felt it was a very moving piece, and for me certainly didn’t “sanitise” Christ’s death and crucifixion of but is probably one you either like or hate.
I rather liked the gold angel at the bottom left of my collage, which I noticed as we walked back in from the Translators’ Tearooms - more of that later - especially as it was embellished with quite a lot of cobwebs - which appealed to me, having many of them at home!
Next to the angel is the magnificent organ, and we heard from a lady in the Tearooms that it is warm in the cathedral because the organ has to be kept at a certain temperature. I read that in August 2018 the music staff at the cathedral was made redundant, because of financial pressures - although the choir is still serving under a volunteer conductor. As expected, many in the congregation have expressed their concern at these changes.
The next photograph shows the magnificent stained glass window above the high altar and next to that is the Translators’ Memorial. This is outside the cathedral and commemorates the work done by six religious men almost 500 years ago who wanted to share their faith and translated the Bible into Welsh, so that their fellow men and women could read the Bible in their own language for the first time.
After we had spent about two hours in the cathedral, we went into the Translators’ Tearoom, and treated ourselves to a toasted tea cake and coffee. We met a lovely lady called Jackie, who told us she works in the Tearoom for three days each week and then in the Diocesan Office for two days, providing administrative support within the Diocese. We chatted to her for sometime and then later met her husband, Tim, who told us he is the “Under 25’s Worker” for the Diocese, working with children and youth workers. What a lovely couple!
We also met another couple in the Tearoom who said they walked miles each day and always enjoyed their visits to the Tearoom. They had actually walked there today from Denbigh - they are obviously very fit! I told him about Blip and he was very interested, so gave him one of my cards, so that he could look for himself.
We have had a wonderful day and are now back at The Boathouse, where we had a visit a little earlier from the owner, who lives in the house next door.
Today I am grateful for:
1. A wonderful visit to St Asaph Cathedral
2. Meeting some great people
3. Mr. HCB attending to the fire and doing the washing up - all week!
4. Buying Mr. HCB’s Christmas present in the tearoom