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Dramatisation based on law research premieres at St Davids Cathedral

29 November 2023

Thrice to Rome, was written by Professor Norman Doe

This October, a School of Law and Politics Professor changed role for the evening and saw a play he had written, performed to a packed house at St Davids Cathedral, Pembrokeshire.

The play, Thrice to Rome, was written by Professor Norman Doe, Director of the Centre for Law and Religion and is the dramatised reading of the 3 appearances of Gerald of Wales in Rome before the court of Pope Innocent III in 1201-03.

Performed on 6 October 2023, the play is based on Gerald’s own accounts of the trials and marks the 800th anniversary of his death in 1223. Gerald is one of Wales’ greatest historical figures, famous for his books on the character of Wales and its people.

However, Professor Doe’s play enables us to reimagine Gerald as a canon lawyer of European stature. The trials took place in Rome, over 3 hearings before the papal court with the Pope himself, Innocent III, presiding. Gerald appealed to the Pope to confirm his election as Bishop of St Davids and to recognise the independence of St Davids and the Church in Wales from the Church in England. Both were opposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and by the King of England.

The play is a tale of Welsh-English rivalry, Church and State in conflict, and an epic clash between St Davids and Canterbury - all played out on the wider European stage.

Many of the issues within the play resonate with subsequent and modern politics in Wales. Staff and students from the School of Law and Politics had roles in the play: Russell Dewhurst (who assisted with translation of elements of the play from Latin), Morag Ellis KC, and Norman Doe.

The play is the result of research carried out by Professor Doe for an edited book on the history of the Church in Wales (published by Cambridge University Press in 2020) and an article on reclaiming Gerald as a canon lawyer published by Cambridge University in the Ecclesiastical Law Journal in 2023. Gerald’s vision of a Church in Wales free from Canterbury eventually came with the disestablishment of the Church of England in Wales in 1920. The research has not only had an impact already, in the play’s first performance, but also in the community (in cast and audience) engaging with the issue of Welsh church freedom. The event was a collaboration between the Centre for Law and Religion and St Davids Cathedral and was part of its Library Week organised by Mari James, Library Development Officer at St Davids Cathedral.

Thrice to Rome will be performed again on 5 March 2024 at the Temple Church, at the Inns of Court of the Middle Temple and Inner Temple, London, during the latter part of Wales Week London 2024.

PHOTOGRAPH: Front row, left to right: Cardinal Hugolinus: Arwel Davies (Chapter Clerk, St Davids Cathedral); Pope Innocent III: Gareth Powell (Pro-Chancellor Cardiff University); Bishop William Lyndwood: Russell Dewhurst (Fellow, Centre for Law and Religion, Cardiff University and PhD Student); Novella, Canon Law Teacher at Medieval Bologna: Morag Ellis KC (The Dean of Arches and Auditor, Church of England, and LLM in Canon Law Student); Bettina, Canon Law Teacher at Medieval Padua: Heather Payne (Senior Medical Officer, Welsh Government); Back row, left to right: John of Tynemouth, Canterbury’s Advocate: Christopher Limbert (Vicar Choral and Cathedral Office Manager); Reginald Foliot, Canon of St Davids: Leigh Richardson (Sub Dean, St Davids Cathedral); Gerald of Wales: Norman Doe (Professor of Law, Cardiff University); Buongiovanni, Archbishop of Canterbury’s Clerk: Chris Crooks (Dean’s Verger, St Davids Cathedral).

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