Scroll down to read the history of St. German's Church and a little of Saint German himself
St German’s Church opened in 1884 and owes its origins to two factors, one secular and one religious: a population explosion, and the Oxford movement. The opening of the Bute Docks in Cardiff and the coming of the railway led to a vast influx of people; between 1872 and 1884, the population of Roath increased from 8,000 to 40,000, and new churches were desperately needed. What those churches would be like was in large part determined by the influence of the movement that began in Oxford in the 1840’s, to recover the catholic character of the Anglican church and restore the emphasis on sacramental worship. Churches with 3-decker pulpits, galleries and tiny altar tables were to be a thing of the past! When Father Frederick W Puller, the new Vicar of Roath, trained in Oxford, arrived in 1872, he found a parish church seating 300 and a small chapel in a converted barn, woefully inadequate for the growing numbers of people. Christian education was also a priority of the movement, and had now to compete with the newly formed school boards following the 1870 Education Act. By 1874, he had engaged the architect George F Bodley to build Metal Street Schools for boys and girls, the infants taught in the old chapel next door. Now, of course, a new place of worship was needed in this area of Adamsdown, and by September 1874 an iron building had been erected and dedicated to St German.
In an old church history book, Father Puller found reference to German passing through Roath on his way to Wales’ (did he realise he’d arrived?) He would have travelled along the old Via Maritima, now the Newport Road, and so Father Puller felt that, for the new church about to be built just behind it, German, champion of Catholic truth, would be a fitting patron saint.
When Bodley and his partner Thomas Garner built town churches, they aimed to make them harmonise with, rather than dominate their surroundings. The church is built of local Swelldon stone, with Bath stone dressings and a Welsh slate roof. Distinctive features are the dignified proportions, the flying butressess, being the only ones in Cardiff, which support the sanctuary roof, the slate-covered fleche (slender spire) with its sanctus bell, and the six-light east window with its rich flowing tracery. Close to the west entrance is a Calvary in wrought iron, the work of sculptor Frank Roper, the stone Calvary having been destroyed in WW2.
When you enter the building’s west door, the magnificent interior may well take your breath away.
More to follow
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