James, the Giant Peach and the Norwegian Sailor’s Church

By | Category: Travel destinations

Norwegian Chuch as it was

Norwegian Chuch as it was

In Cardiff Bay, not far from the Millennium Centre is what you might consider an oddity, a church. What’s so strange about that you might say, Wales is full of churches and chapels. The difference is that this is a Norwegian church which tells a story about Cardiff that many people don’t know. And today, Norway’s national day, it re-opens after seven months spent on refurbishment.
The church, founded by Oslo based Herman Lunde was opened only in 1868 between the old east and west docks and was for the religious and social care of Norwegian sailors. That the church was extended quite a few times in order house all its work shows just how well used it must have been by the sailors. And how many Norwegian sailors there must have been. At the height of its use it was welcoming 73,000 Norwegian sailors to Cardiff each year. They had arrived on hundreds of vessels to transport coal back to Norway and other countries. By now the church had become a seamen’s mission where sailors could read and catch on the news from back home, revel in the own culture and chat away the hours with other seafarers.
Today, the church is in Cardiff Bay. Why? As coal shipments from Cardiff declined so did the visits by Norwegian ships. Gradually the church fell into disuse and suffered at the hands of vandals. As the Bay was redeveloped, the church was dismantled and, luckily, stored. Money was raised in both in Wales and Norway and the church was re-erected on its present site. It re-opened in 1992 and since 2006, is managed by the Cardiff Harbour Authority. Having undergone another bout of refurbishment it is now open again for visitors. As a survivor, it is now the oldest surviving church in the UK to be founded by the Norwegian Seamen’s Mission.
In its time the church was known throughout the world as a meeting place for sailors. Today it provides a legacy of a time when coal was vital to Cardiff’s development. But most people associate coal with Wales, if not Cardiff. What is less well known is how big a meeting place it turned out to be for different nations. And the Norwegians were one of the largest groups of latterday “invaders”. One of those invaders was the father of Roald Dahl. The family regularly worshipped at the church and Roald was the first president of the trust that was set up to preserve it. Without the church maybe no Welshman called Roald Dahl. And no Chocolate Factory for Charley, giant peach for James or Big Friendly Giant for children of all ages to enjoy.

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