Strata Florida Abbey - Sarah Woodbury

Strata Florida Abbey

Strata Florida Abbey was an order sponsored by Lord Rhys of Deheubarth and was always a strong supporter of the native Welsh Princes.  One of the Chronicles of the Prices (not the Red Book of Hergest, but the more complete one which includes the events of 1282), was possibly written here.

“The site of a 12th century Cistercian Abbey, Strata Florida is situated in the hills above the Ceredigion town of Tregaron and has been shaped by both human and natural influences.

As the Ice Age ended, the retreating glacier widened the valley and left behind ridges known as moraines. Over the last 12,000 years, Tregaron Bog (Cors Caron) has formed in the lake created by one of the moraines and within the bog, scientists have found pollen evidence to help them piece together the site’s dynamic history.

Extensive clearance and cultivation of the mixed woodland covering the slopes began in the Bronze Age, spread to the valley floor in the Iron Age and was more or less complete by the end of Roman times. Following the Roman departure, the forest began to regenerate until the Cistercians arrived in the 12th Century and reinstated the clearing.

These monks grazed their numerous sheep on the uplands, converting land that had previously been used for cattle and arable crops. They also made use of other natural resources such as mines and quarries in the mountain, peat and iron in the boglands and power generated by the rivers and streams.

The ruinous remains of the Abbey they founded are visible thanks to 19th century excavations. After the dissolution of the monastery in 1539, the land passed into the hands of the landed gentry who used intensive methods to farm the now arable land.”

An offshoot of the Benedictines, “the Cistercian order came about through the actions of a group of break-away monks who left their monastery of Molesme in Burgundy, in order to try to adhere more strictly to the Rule of St Benedict. In 1098, they acquired a portion of land at Citeaux and founded what was to be the motherhouse of the Cistercian Order. By 1118, the monastery at Citeaux was well enough established to send out monks to create other Cistercian monasteries, and what was to be a Europe-wide spread began. Eventually, the Cistercians would have more than 700 religious houses throughout Europe.

The Cistercians followed the Rule of St Benedict and were known as the White Monks, because of the undyed wool habits they wore. It was impossible for them to live entirely free from the influence of the outside world and lay brothers were engaged in most monasteries; secular men who worked the lands belonging to the abbey and dealt with buying and selling the goods necessary to keep the monastery running.”

The Cistercians were the religious order most sympathetic to the Princes of Wales and Welsh nationalism in the 13th century.