Valle Crucis Abbey

Valle Crucis has a relatively late foundation at 1201 as a Cisterican Abbey, 70 years after Tintern. Valle Crucis means ‘Valley of the Cross’ and takes its name from from Eliseg’s Pillar nearby, which would already have stood for nearly four centuries when the abbey was established. Like Tintern, Valle Crucis was Cistercian, but was, a ‘daughter’ house of another another Welsh abbey, Strata Marcella, near Welshpool, which was founded by a King of Powys. Valle Crucis’s patron was Madog ap Gruffudd Maelor, ruler of northern Powys. The abbey prospered, nestled as it was in a valley near Llangollen, but it suffered a serious fire soon after its founder’s death in 1236. Traces of burning are visible on the lower stonework of the church and the south range. Substantial rebuilding (distinguished by putlog holes for the ends of the wooden Read more…

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…

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…

Books in the Middle Ages

Books have been around as long as there has been writing–it’s just that in the past, they were less accessible, expensive, and rare.  Many, many fewer people were literate, especially as we understand the word (see my post on literacy: https://sarahwoodbury.com/?p=1310). “Every stage in the creation of a medieval book required intensive labor, sometimes involving the collaboration of entire workshops. Parchment for the pages had to be made from the dried hides of animals, cut to size and sewn into quires; inks had to be mixed, pens prepared, and the pages ruled for lettering. A scribe copied the text from an established edition, and artists might then embellish it with illustrations, decorated initials, and ornament in the margins. The most lavish medieval books were bound in covers set with enamels, jewels, and ivory carvings.”  Source: The Art of the Book Read more…