Tuesday 7 May 2013

Gawdy Pre-Reformation Tat

Early yesterday morning on the cliffs west of Caerfai on the St David's peninsula

As a tonic to refresh my mental health I try to get to see the spring flowers at their best each year on the Pembrokeshire coast. Twenty years ago this meant early May but in recent years more like mid-to-late April. Greenies will tell you this is because of global warming: I have no idea but there have been cycles of temperature change throughout history so who knows?

Anyway this year I calculated that, because of the grimly bad weather in March, early May would be right and sure enough it was all happening yesterday. Needless to say my photo completely fails to capture the profusion of colour and form which spills over the cliffs - you really have to see for yourselves and next weekend will be about the last good opportunity before rank grass smothers the effect somewhat.

The spring flowers are a bit like Blackpool's famous Illuminations - a good reason to visit outside the main summer season - but of course I'll be back at every opportunity for the swimming and fishing from June to September.

After a good walk I visited the Cathedral for a nose around, something I usually do at least once a year. All Welsh people should make the pilgrimage even if like me only out of antiquarian curiosity.

But it's a bit of a disappointment in some respects. The Victorians cleaned up much too vigorously what was apparently a crumbling but authentic shambles. There remains much which is interesting, not least the drunkenly-leaning internal architecture, but a lot of what you see today is hygienised or frankly fake and the Mediaeval stuff is optimistically labelled as relating to famous Welsh or Norman characters - most of this pure hokum I'm afraid.

On the whole I support the idea that the Anglican Churches in England and Wales should continue to run these buildings rather than, say, Cadw or the dreaded National Trust. But a heavy price is paid because the church authorities will often litter the building with philistine rubbish and St David's is sadly no exception.

The latest addition is a ridiculous "reconstruction" of the "shrine of Saint David" which blots the very centre of the building. This monstrosity appears to be the result of an unholy alliance between New Age "artisans" and High Church anglo-catholics attempting to insinuate gawdy pre-Reformation tat into this otherwise austere and beautiful setting.

We will have to wait for a future Low Church Dean to be appointed who can rip it out and burn it gleefully in the churchyard like a righteous Cromwellian trooper. I'll be there to cheer him or her on.