We sometimes forget that the diocese and cathedral of Llandaff, now part of the Church in Wales, were Catholic for anything up to a thousand years. I hope that everyone has visited Llandaff Cathedral, which is one of the oldest Christian sites in Britain, right on our doorstep. It has had a varied history, rebuilt by the Normans, enduring the Reformation and then centuries of neglect. It had a kind of mini-cathedral built inside its semi- ruins, and then was restored by the Victorians. Finally of course it was bombed in the Second World War and restored again, to include the huge and famous Majestas statue by Jacob Epstein.
The coat of arms of Llandaff diocese includes three mitres, representing three saints from the earliest days of Christianity here in South Wales: Teilo, Euddogwy – and Dyfrig. St Dyfrig (feast day Thursday) was of royal stock, born around 465AD, probably in Madley, west of present day Belmont Abbey. In Latin he is known as Dubricius and in Norman French as Devereux.
Noted for his intelligence, Dyfrig soon became widely known as a scholar. Then, called to the Celtic monastic life, Dyfrig founded monasteries at Hentland and Moccas near Hereford. Later he was ordained Bishop and his diocese seems to have included all of Glamorgan and Gwent, an area that would later become the Catholic diocese of Llandaff. He became the teacher of well-known Welsh saints, including St Teilo and St Samson, and also was good friends with others like St Illtud. He is believed to have attended the famous Synod of Llanddewi Brefi, where he is said to have resigned his see in favour of Saint David. He was known to heal the sick of various disorders through the laying on of hands. Other versions of his life, even tell how it was Dyfrig/Dubricius who crowned King Arthur, and he appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae, and much later in Tennyson’s Idylls of the King.
Eventually St Dyfrig retired to Bardsey Island off the Llyn peninsula in North Wales where he eventually died and was buried. When the Normans regularised the system of dioceses across most of England and Wales, they confirmed Llandaff as the see for Glamorgan and Gwent. In 1120 Dyfrig’s body was transferred to the cathedral there, where it probably still rests – somewhere. Churches dedicated to Saint Dyfrig/Dubricius can be found in various parts of Herefordshire and South Wales, including the Catholic parish church of Treforest and Pontypridd, St Dyfrig’s. St Dyfrig and saints of Wales, pray for us.