Castle roof garden has hidden Biblical gems

DISCOVERY: Lydia Aisenberg visits the Cardiff Castle roof garden, depicting Biblical scenes and texts in Hebrew

By Lydia Aisenberg

IN the heart of Cardiff sits an impressive castle with enormous grounds, part of the outer walls of which overlooking Victorian, Edwardian and modern day-era indoor shopping arcades.

Of particular interest to Jewish visitors to Cardiff Castle - one of Wales' leading tourist attractions - is a phenomenal roof garden, the walls of which depict colourful scenes from the Old Testament story of Elijah, rows of Hebrew lettering under each scene.

Upon entering the roof garden, the sight is absolutely breathtaking, in more ways than one.

Created in the Bute Tower of the castle in the 1870s, the roof garden consists of a sunken courtyard, in the centre of which sits a rather intricate tiered fountain, encircled by decorative metal plant holders, overlooked by an impressive statue created by Ceccardo Fucigna of Madonna and child.

The courtyard is surrounded by a colonnade bordered by corniced metal pillars - the floors covered entirely in decorative, intricately patterned tiles.

Adorned with panels of beautifully-crafted tiles depicting the story of Elijah, the almost unbelievable artwork creates an almost overwhelming colourful kaleidoscope of long robed men and women, animals, fauna and flora in Biblical times.

The lower section of the walls underneath the main plethora of Biblical scenes contains the more subdued panels of animals and birds.

The windows between the tiled panels are covered in green wooden shutters, the black painted large iron hinges of which are also eye-catching, all crafted in a similar way to the medieval hinged shutters of the style to be found in the main castle wall, although those are not painted green.

A guided tour of the castle, bequeathed to the City of Cardiff in 1947, takes one back 2,000 years.

The castle is a true mix of architectural styles, but the 19th century Gothic-Victorian parts of the complex showcases a great deal of ornate Victorian creativity, the subjects of which not only include Biblical characters and scenes, but also signs of the Zodiac, nature in all its glory, Coats of Arms and other motifs of heraldry.

Many a noble family owned and lived in Cardiff Castle, but from 1766 until the 1940s, it passed from generation to generation of the Bute family - the 2nd Marquess being credited with making the Welsh capital one of the world's greatest coal exporting ports.

His son, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, was purported to be one of the richest men in the world in his time and, when the 4th Marquess died, the family decided to gift the enormous castle and parkland to the city of Cardiff.

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