98: The Dragon of Wales
St Davids Cathedral, Lady Chapel
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Original stone finish (98)

Red Antique finish (98R)

This splendidly archetypal Welsh Dragon, has to be one of the oldest and most venerable of Welsh Dragons available today! The design of this delightful carving is wonderfully imaginative (the dragon looks as though he's stepped straight from the pages of a story book) and it is easy to forget that he's actually over 650 years old - but then, of course, Dragons do tend to live long lives in their homeland ...! He is a carved detail above the sedilia on the south side of the Lady Chapel sanctuary, carved from fine-grained Cambrian sandstone, quarried from cliffs south of the cathedral.

A sedilia is an ornate bench for the priest, deacon and sub deacon celebrating mass. This example was built between 1328 and 1347 by Bishop Henry Gower. The Lady Chapel was built in the early 13th century, remodelled by Bishop Vaughan in the early 16th century, then following almost two centuries of being roofless, was restored in 1901.

St Davids Cathedral

There has been a monastic building on the site of the present cathedral since St David, patron saint of Wales, founded a monastery in the 6th century. During the turbulent 10th and 11th centuries the cathedral was sacked by Vikings and Bishops Morgenau and Abraham were killed in 999 and 1080 respectively, indeed, between 645 and 1097 St Davids (then called Menevia) was destroyed 13 times. Hardly surprisingly no building from this period has survived. In 1115 King Henry I appointed Bishop Bernard (first Norman Bishop of St Davids) and in 1131 a new cathedral was dedicated. However, in 1181/2 Bishop Peter de Leia began rebuilding the cathedral in the Transitional Norman style (nave arcade arches round, triforium pointed), forming the basis of the present structure. Disaster struck in 1220 when the tower collapsed and again in 1247/8 when an earthquake caused extensive damage to the cathedral. At the end of the 13th century the Lady Chapel and Porth y Twr bell tower were added. In the early 14th century the energetic Bishop Henry Gower arrived and built the magnificent Bishop's Palace to the west of the cathedral. He also altered much of the cathedral's interior where he heightened aisles, added the rood screen, the lantern (middle) stage to the tower, the sedilia and tombs in the Lady Chapel and incorporated a Treasury and Chapter House into St Thomas's Chapel.

By the late 15th century the nave was showing signs of serious subsidence with the arcades leaning outwards as the inadequate 12th century foundations settled in the waterlogged site. To remedy this flying buttresses were inserted, the nave roof lowered and the present oak ceiling instated. The Reformation saw the desecration of relics and shrines and in 1648 lead was removed from the roofs, leaving the east end of the cathedral derelict. The organ, bells, stained glass and the medieval library were also destroyed. Towards the end of the 18th century the nave was again subsiding, so the west wall was rebuilt by architect John Nash. However, the problem continued and in 1862 architect Sir George Gilbert Scott began massive works to stabilise the, by now, unsafe tower and west wall, redesigning and rebuilding the whole west front. In 1901, Gilbert Scott's son, Oldrid, completed the restoration of the Lady Chapel, incorporating much medieval stonework. The final part of the cathedral left roofless in 1648 (the Chapel of Edward the Confessor) was re-roofed in 1920.

With gratitude to St Davids Cathedral for the above information.

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