Because of the characteristic round shape of its churchyard, the Brecon 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 16th century. The smoke-blackened roof of its hall was built between 1237 and 1267.

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 19th 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.



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Brecon, United Kingdom
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Founded: 13th century
Category: Religious sites in United Kingdom

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User Reviews

Stefani Clark (8 months ago)
Well worth a visit. A special place, very peaceful. There is a lovely tea room too and we sat under the ancient trees. Will visit again!
david howells (10 months ago)
Stunning cathedral and location. Brecon Cathedral is the cathedral of the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon and seat of the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon. It is the most beautiful place and in the Harvard Chapel annex are the Regimental colours of the South Wales Borderers that were present in the famous battle of Isandhlwana during the Zulu wars. The on site Pilgrim cafe/shop is also a lovely place for refreshments but it is closed at the moment (to be opened again in the spring). Simply put it is superb medieval church, one of the finest examples of medieval architecture in Wales. Free entry with toilets only available in the cafe. Nearby pay and display cafe. Easy walking access from Brecon town.
heimdal odinson (10 months ago)
Wonderful Peaceful Beautiful just some of the words I can think of to describe this place . Oh and Delightful for the lady working here who told me all about it . It was built on the site of an earlier Celtic Church by Bernard de Neufmarche and rebuilt in the reign of King John in the Gothic style . It was known as the Church of the Holy Rood and was a major pilgrimage site . In the nave today you can still see two wooden doors opposite each other which in its day had a bridge between them with a great Golden Rood stood on it . Pilgrims would enter one door touch the cross and exit by the other . The oldest part of the building is said to be a fantastic stone font with depictions of the Green Man and Tree of Life on it . On the day I visited there was a very talented Organist practicing which I enjoyed . The windows are amazing and the atmosphere very homely . I think an hour in here could easily convert the staunchest of non believers . There is a very interesting Crucifix hanging from the ceiling made by a local lady from drift wood . One of a kind I am sure . A lovely place and wonderful day out .
Shasta Marrero (10 months ago)
Really nice visit to this cathedral. The history is really nicely presented on multilingual fact sheets around the cathedral, with lots of really interesting artifacts. Enjoyed learning all this stuff in addition to seeing the inside. The tree ID tags outside were a nice addition and the cafe looks like it would be a nice break (we didn't stop to eat). I don't know if I'd make a visit just for this, but the great grounds and history made for a nice stop.
Christian Jenkins (11 months ago)
Beautiful cathedral. The Pilgrim cafe/shop seems to be closed permanently but it was still nice to look around the Church. Lots of interesting artifacts and history.
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