Church Monuments Society


Llandaff Cathedral virtual study day part 2

By CMS in Heritage

In the first part of our study day we looked at tombs in the north part of the cathedral. After a break, we resume in the Lady Chapel with the tomb of an early bishop.

llandaffcathedralplan tombsnumbered

Plan of the Cathedral with tombs numbered


8.  William de Breos, bishop 1266-87

This is the only medieval bishop whose identity we can be sure about, because it is carved on the arch above his head: WILLELMUS DE BREWSA EP’S LA’D, William de Breos, bishop of Llandaff. He was responsible for building the Bishops’ Palace. He also rebuilt the Lady Chapel, which is where he is buried. Unlike most of the others, his tomb does not seem to have been moved. It has however suffered some damage: there are several breaks, and some evidence of hand wear.

The Lady Chapel used a lot of Blue Lias stone, and Bishop William’s effigy is also made of Blue Lias.  This is a limestone which takes a good polish and can look almost like marble, but it comes in rather shallow slabs which means the effigy is carved in low relief. It is very stylised, with the drapery carved in stiff shallow folds. The bishop is shown with is eyes closed, which is unusual at that date. He is holding his crozier, and his other hand is placed on his breast. You can see his episcopal ring quite clearly.

William de Breos



9.  Alabaster effigy of an unknown woman.

This is traditionally said to be a member of the Audley family and Rhianydd Biebrach suggests it could be Christian Audley, who died in about 1450. That would certainly agree with the style of her dress, with its sideless surcoat, the looped fastening of her mantle and her elaborate headdress and high collar. She has a rosary hanging from her belt, and at the foot of the tomb a little dog is biting at her skirts. The remains of two very battered angels are supporting her head on a large cushion – you can just see the bare feet of the one on the outside.

The 'Audley' Tomb



10.  A thirteenth-century bishop traditionally identified as St Teilo, in an elaborate Victorian niche. The gilding is also modern. Like the other bishops, he is dressed for Mass, with a low mitre and a crozier. His right hand is raised in blessing and his feet rest on a cockatrice. The effigy is in Dundry stone but unlike the other two Dundry bishops it is framed by side shafts as well as an elaborate canopy. To the left of the head, an angel takes the dead man’s soul (shown as a small child) to Heaven. To the right is a statue of the Virgin and Child.

Wilmott’s guide to the cathedral has an intriguing note on the Teilo tomb. It is rather garbled, but records the finding of the remains of a bishop, wrapped in leather (possibly because the body had been embalmed), with pastoral staff and crozier and a replica chalice, made of low-quality pewter:

During the restorations of the last century the tomb which had been bricked up in the year 1736 was re-opened, and the following curious legend was found inscribed on the wall:

September the 8th, 1736

On the south side of this Chansell, nare the door, is a Tumbe w[it]in a neach, now walled up, it is supposed to be Sant Blawe [?recte Tilawe] Tumbe when i opened the tumbe, the Parson buried apar’d to be a Bishopp by his Pastorall Staffe and Crotcher. The stafe when we came to Tuch it droped to peacis But the Crotcher being Puter But almost perished But wold hold together. Betwithin the stafe there was a large cup by his side but almost perished. The most of Puter he was rapt in leather and the upper part was very sound.


Architect, of Queen Sqr., Bath

Joyner and Carpenter, of Queen Sqr.

The 'Teilo' Tomb



11.  Possibly the most interesting of the lot, and very well hidden! Late thirteenth century and quite an early example of a double monument to a husband and wife. They are shown as if at their funeral, covered by a pall with a cross on it but with their heads showing. This kind of semi-effigy was of course easier to carve than a full effigy but it also suggests something about the meaning of these carvings as reminders of the dead.

The inscription round the edge is virtually illegible now, even with a raking light, but Browne Willis’s researcher read it in the early eighteenth century (it is in his manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, but not in the printed book.)

Philip le Taverner gist [ici] …e sa feme ausi Deu de lur alme fait merci
(Philip the Innkeeper lies here and his wife …e, may God have mercy on their souls)

This is early for a secular monument in the Cathedral, and Rhianydd Biebrach has suggested that it might originally have been in one of the Cardiff friaries and have been moved to the cathedral when the friaries were closed down in 1538. However, it seems unlikely that anyone would have been sufficiently connected with the grave over two centuries later to have made such an effort. Philip was clearly wealthy enough to afford an impressive tomb carving, so his inn must have been a big one … possibly where pilgrims to the shrines of the Cathedral’s saints would have stayed … so he could have had a connection with the Cathedral which would explain his burial there.

The tavern-keeper



12.  An early thirteenth-century bishop, traditionally said to be Henry of Abergavenny (d. 1218).

This rather worn low-relief effigy is carved in blue lias like that of William de Breos: the choice of stone explains the shallowness of the carving. The bishop is shown wearing his Mass vestments and a tall mitre, and carrying his crozier. His right hand might be raised in blessing. The head of an animal peeps out from his right foot and could be biting the end of his staff.

Henry of Abergavenny was responsible for the rebuilding of much of the cathedral in Dundry stone and in the Early English style. It is strange therefore that blue lias should have been chosen his monument. We do know that there was a monument to Henry of Abergavenny somewhere in the cathedral but this may not have been it: it is possible that he is actually commemorated by one of the Dundry effigies now associated with Dyfrig.

So if the blue lias slab is not Henry of Abergavenny, who is it? Browne Willis recorded another thirteenth-century monument lying on the altar steps as that of William of Radnor, bishop 1257-66. Might the blue lias slab be his?

Henry of Abergavenny

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