[ACNS] A special commemoration service was held in Cardiff yesterday (Sunday) to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the near-destruction of the city’s Anglican cathedral during a night of war time bombing that resulted in the deaths of 165 people.
Llandaff Cathedral suffered the most severe attack on any UK cathedral, apart from Coventry, during the Blitz of World War II. A bomb exploded adjacent to the cathedral, tearing its roof off and causing extensive internal damage. The site where the bomb landed has been turned into a garden of remembrance.
The Dean and head verger were on fire duty on the night of the bombing but managed to escape. But, in addition to the 165 people killed that night, a further 427 were injured and 350 homes were destroyed.
The architect George Pace led a major programme of restoration over the following 17 years, which included the construction of a memorial chapel to the Welch Regiment. The famous sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein was commissioned to create the figure of Christ in Majesty which is suspended above the nave on a concrete arch – one of the defining sights of the re-built cathedral. The full re-opening of the Cathedral was marked by a special service in 1960, attended by Queen Elizabeth II.
The sculpture of Christ in Majesty by Sir Jacob Epstein, suspended above the congregation on a concrete arch, is the striking centre-piece of the re-built Llandaff Cathedral.
Photo: Church in Wales
“This vigil [was] a chance for us to remember that awful night in Cardiff when so many people lost their lives and their homes and our Cathedral was terribly damaged,” the Very Revd Gerwyn Capon, Dean of Llandaff, said. “It [was] also a service of reconciliation when we pray for peace and an end to all conflicts.
“In the years that followed the Cathedral was restored and enhanced so that today we are blessed with a beautiful building that is a tremendous asset for the whole of the city.”
Cathedral steward Arthur Impey, secretary of the Friends of Llandaff Cathedral, told the Western Mail newspaper of his recollections as a six-year-old boy living in Cardiff at the time of the bombing.
“We little boys went up to have a look and my one clear memory is that the blast had blown out all the windows and we were delighted to see little pieces of lead which had held the glass,” the now-81-year-old said.
“Quite illegally we collected bits of this lead which we took home and melted down to make model aeroplanes. That’s one of my most vivid memories. We were lucky to have one or two toys for Christmas then and it had just been Christmas when the bomb fell.”
Contrasting scenes: the photo above (courtesy Western Mail / Media Wales) shows Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff following the bombing on the night of 2 January 1941; while the photo below (courtesy Church in Wales) shows how the church looks today.