Bective Abbey

Bective Abbey was located within Norman controlled Ireland, called The Pale, which was the area around Dublin conquered by the Normans starting in 1171, and is the source of the phrase, ‘beyond the pale’. If something is beyond the pale, it is unacceptable or unseemly. In other words, here be dragons. Bective Abbey, and Trim Castle which is not too far away, are located on the River Boyne, which in some eras formed the barrier between Norman and Irish controlled Ireland—though Trim is on the inner bank and Bective on the outer. Dan: Does that mean it wasn’t always a Norman abbey? It was founded in 1147 by the king of the Irish Kingdom of Meath. I’m not pronouncing his name because I would only butcher it. It was a ‘daughter house’ of Mellifont Abbey, located close to Drogheda, and Read more…

Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx was the first Cistercian Abbey in the north of England, begun in the 1130s under the patronage of Walter Espec, a lord who came to England with William the Conqueror. He was one of the justiciar’s of northern England under William and his descendants, and one of the most powerful men in England as a result. The Abbey is located in Yorkshire, in a wooded dale by the River Rye, which the monks actually diverted to the west in order to have enough flat land to build on. They also used the river to provide fresh water to their monastery. By mining lead and iron and raising sheep to sell their wool, the abbey eventually built itself up to be one of the most powerful in England, with a hundred and forty monks (Norman, of course) and over five Read more…

Gwenffrewi

Today we’ll be talking about Gwenffrewi, an early Welsh saint, who endowed an abbey and a sacred well. She is the only woman so credited, which seems a woeful gap in the record. Still, the legend of Gwenffrewi, or Winifred in English, follows a similar pattern to that of her male counterparts in that she was born noble. After that, her story takes quite a dark turn. As was written down in the 12th century, she had a suitor who was enraged at her rejection of him to the point that he decapitated her. A healing spring flowed from the spot upon which her head fell, and then St. Bueno, her uncle, restored her head to her body. After this miracle Beuno turned to her suitor, Caradog, who is described as leaning on his sword and unrepentant, called up to Read more…

Medieval Monks

There were a lot of different orders of monks in the Middle Ages (still are, in fact), but the primary monasteries in England consisted of: Dominicans:  Dominicans are about preaching and doctrinal conformity.  They were (no surprise) the order behind the inquisition, with the intent to rule out any doctrine that didn’t abide strictly by received Catholic theology.  “Domingo de Guzman (around 1170-1221), a Spanish priest travelling with his bishop Diego of Osma, encountered by chance Cistercian monks who tried to bring the Cathars of Southern France back to the Catholic Church. He saw the deficiencies of their attempts and decided to do a better job, by walking and dressing humbly, listening to and talking with people, being aware of contemporary developments, and first of all preaching the Gospel. He gathered a band of priests around him. After the Fourth Read more…

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 Read more…

The Pillar of Eliseg

The Pillar of Eliseg is a 9th century tribute to Eliseg, a king of Powys.  “The first mentioning is an indirect one: the Brut y Tywysogion mentions that the Abbey of Valle Crucis was founded in A.D. 1200 ‘near the old cross in Yale‘. This so-called fragmentary free-standing pillar-cross stands in a field overlooking the ruined Valle Crucis Abbey (SJ 2142), a few miles from Llangollen in Clywd (former Denbighshire), en route to Horse-Shoe Pass. … The Pillar inspired the name Valle Crucis (Valley of the Cross). It was once erected by Cyngen, Prince of Powys for his great-grandfather Elise or Eliseg. The cross was defaced, thrown down and broken by Cromwell’s troops in the 17th century, hence the ‘pillar-shape’ now. This pillar stands on a large artificial mound where it was re-erected in 1779. At that time the mound Read more…

Valle Crucis Abbey

Valle Crucis Abbey was a monastery of the Cistercian Order, established in a valley north of Dinas Bran in 1200 AD.  Traditionally, the Cistercian monks were supportive of the Welsh Princes.  By the Reformation, the Abbey fell into disuse and disrepair.   “Valle Crucis (Valley of the Cross) takes its name from from Eliseg’s Pillar nearby, which would already have stood for nearly four centuries when the abbey was established in 1201. The new foundation was a Cistercian house, a ‘daughter’ of Strata Marcella, near Welshpool; its patron was Madog ap Gruffudd Maelor, ruler of northern Powys. So that the abbey could enjoy solitude required by the order, the existing settlement of Llangwestl was removed to Stansty, north-west of Wrexham. …The abbey suffered a serious fire soon after its founder’s death in 1236; traces of burning are visible on the Read more…