The conference will be held at Brecon Cathedral, which is situated in the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park. All talks will be given either within the Cathedral itself or across the shady walled close in the medieval tithebarn. The conference dinner will be held in the south transept–with its elaborate wall memorials and floor slabs, it’s a fitting location for the conference. The shops and sights of Brecon are only a short walk away as are paths through the lovely Priory Groves, which stretches for about a mile along the Honddu River.
The conference catering, including the conference dinner, will be supplied by Pilgrims Tea Rooms which is in the Cathedral Close. They will be offering freshly prepared homemade lunches, as well as delicious Welsh cakes and hot beverages at lunchtimes. All food will be locally-sourced.
Brecon Cathedral is dedicated to Saint John the Evangelist and described by Richard Haslam in the Pevsner Architectural Guide for Powys as ‘pre-eminently the most splendid and dignified Church in Mid-Wales’. Originally a Benedictine Priory and Parish Church, it became the Cathedral of the newly created Diocese of Swansea and Brecon in 1923. As such, it is the seat of the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, who currently is also the Archbishop of Wales.
The Priory was founded in the 11th century by Battle Abbey, with which is remained closely connected throughout the Middle Ages. The oldest object in the building is the font with its elaborate carvings of a foliage, animals, and three green men. It’s the largest Norman font in Wales, dating from c.1190, and remains in use for the regular christenings at the Cathedral.
During the late Middle Ages, the Priory was famed for its Golden Rood, a cross of gold mounted atop a massive screen that attracted pilgrims from across Wales. The doorways high up the north and south walls that once gave entrance for pilgrims to the screen’s platform still remain. Following the Reformation, the great rood was destroyed but some of the woodwork may remain in pulpit.
Because the Priory served also as the parish church, it was saved from demolition at the Reformation. Hugh Price, the founder of Jesus College, was born within the cathedral close at the Price home, which now houses the Cathedral and Diocesan offices. By the late 18th century, the building had fallen into disrepair, supporting a congregation composed primarily of the poorer families in Brecon (the wealthier attended St Mary’s Church in the centre of town). Gilbert Scott restored the building during the late 19th century—except for addition of the magnificent reredos and the removal of the pews, the interior remains substantially as he left it.
The Havard (Regimental) Chapel draws tourists from across the globe. The eastern chapel was built in the mid-14th century and was founded by the descendants of Sir Walter Havard, a Norman Knight, but later became the regimental chapel for the South Wales Borderers. It contains the regimental colours, including those from the Zulu Campaign. Strong connections between Brecon and the Zulus continue with regular visits from the Zulu royal family to Brecon and the Cathedral.-
Besides continuing to be a place of worship and the seat of the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, the Cathedral plays an important cultural role for Brecon. Various musical festivals take place annually, including the internationally acclaimed Brecon Baroque Festival. The annual Brecon Jazz Festival (and Brecon Fringe) draw crowds from across the UK and features a Jazz service on the Sunday morning, which always fills the cathedral. In partnership with the Brecknock Museum, the Cathedral also organises regular children’s activities days aimed at connecting them with their heritage. Finally, the Cathedral has begun to host academic conferences and regular public talks as it seeks to reclaim its heritage as a promoter of knowledge and learning.
Brecon Beacons National Park
Brecon is situated within the Brecon Beacons National Park, a major destination for those who enjoy the outdoors and the rich heritage of Brecon and nearby villages. Over 4 million visitors come to the Beacons each year, and roughly a quarter of them visit Brecon itself.
The highest peaks of the Beacons–Penyfan, Corn Du, Cribyn–are all visible from the Cathedral Close. The area within the BBNP contains a rich heritage stretching back millenia, visible now in the numerous standing stones, monuments, hillforts, churches, castles, and homes that are nestled among the slopes and foothills of the mountains. It is also an area rich in legend and folklore, which provide a storied backdrop to the beautiful landscape. Celtic legends sit alongside the lives of early saints, later memories of key historical events–not least the revolt of Owain Glyndwr and the mustering of archers for the Agincourt campaign–and important historical figures such as Gerald of Wales and the poet Henry Vaughan.