During World War II, Cardiff Docks was one of the biggest coal ports in the world. The city thus proved a tempting target for the German Luftwaffe during its bombing of Britain. Beginning in 1940 and continuing until 1943, the Germans repeatedly bombed Cardiff in what is remembered as the Cardiff Blitz. The worst night of bombing, however, occurred on 2 January 1941.
That fateful night saw 165 people killed while 427 more were injured. About 350 homes were destroyed or had to be demolished. One of the most iconic buildings to suffer damage on that night was Llandaff Cathedral, a 12th century construction. During the bombing, a parachute mine was dropped close enough to the cathedral to tear the roof off the nave, south aisle and chapter house. The cathedral’s spire and organ also suffered damage needing repair.
An eyewitness described the explosion that damaged Llandaff Cathedral this way: “A huge crater erupted among the ancient graves in the churchyard and tombstones were hurled like ancient missiles more than half a mile away.” Due to the severity of the bombing, Llandaff Cathedral suffered the second largest amount of damage among British cathedrals, with only Coventry Cathedral suffering more damage.
A full restoration of the cathedral began in 1949 under the direction of Architect George Pace. The restoration was not completed until 1958, when the cathedral was reopened for full use.
P.S. – A big thank you to a thoughtful reader who happens to live in Llandaff and shared the following: “Although the cathedral was badly damaged, it was seen as a miracle because the parachute mine caught on the spire and exploded at that height, which saved a lot of lives down in the village below. On that same night, a boarding house down in Grangetown was bombed and a woman was trapped in the rubble and starved to death – more than 60 years later, they’ve only just rebuilt another house on that plot, it was left empty for all those years!”