Valle Crucis Abbey - Sarah Woodbury

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 lower stonework of the church and the south range. Substantial rebuilding (distinguished by putlog holes for the ends of the wooden scaffolding) had already taken place when the abbey found itself on the losing side during Edward I’s Welsh campaigns in 1276-7 and 1282-3, although subsequent compensation enabled it to flourish for much of the following century. Repairs to the church, notably the reconstruction of the magnificent western gable end, commemorated by the inscription above the rose window, were carried out under Abbot Adam in the early 14th century. Whether this was restoration of damage in the Welsh campaigns or in some later episode is not clear. After the Black Death, numbers declined, not only of lay brethren but probably of choir monks; late in the century the screen behind the choir stalls was moved eastwards from its original position one bay into the nave to the crossing arch where it can be seen today.

It was perhaps after the alleged damage during the early 15th-century Glyndwr rising that the east range rebuilding was completed. The superb vaulted chapter house is an especially well preserved feature and dates from this time. The wealth of the abbey certainly increased, and by the end of the century poets praised the hospitality of its abbots. About this time, part of the first-floor east range dormitory, together with an adjoining room, was made into a comfortable suite for the abbot, while the rest was converted into lodgings for the abbots guests. The few remaining monks may now have slept in the west range, in accommodation no longer required for lay brethren.

This prosperity was limited by comparison with many English abbeys, however, and Valle Crucis was dissolved in 1537 as one of the lesser houses. After the Dissolution the buildings rapidly fell into disrepair; in the late 16th century the eastern range was converted into a house with a new roof-line, although this roof had gone by the early 18th century. Many of the ruins were roofed again later in the century and used as a farm. Excavations and clearance of the ruins were carried out in the mid to late 19th century.”

Many original features remain, including the glorious west front complete with an elaborate, richly carved doorway, beautiful rose window and 14th century inscription ‘Abbot Adams carried out this work; may he rest in peace. Amen’.

Other well preserved features include the east end of the Abbey (which overlooks the monks’ original fishpond) and lovely Chapter House with its striking rib-vaulted roof. But Valle Crucis is not just a lesson in medieval ecclesiastical architecture.”

2 Replies to “Valle Crucis Abbey”

  1. Enjoying reading your account of your visit to our area, you have a great itinerary there. A lovely little video tour of the abbey, some great shots in there. I always find it odd that the peaceful Valle Crucis abbey lies next door to, virtually in the same grounds as, such a busy caravan site. it always reminds me of a visit many years ago to Shap Abbey in Cumbria, where I arrived to find the custodian hanging out her washing around the entrance way. I suppose it all shows that life continues rather than these places being totally embalmed.

    I love Dolbadarn castle, I think it is one of my favourite castle sites, such a gorgeous setting in the mountains by the lakeside, there is an old healing well further up the valley in Nant Peris that I mean to visit in the next month or two. My eldest daughter was at university in Bangor, so we got up there often at one time. My other favourite in Llanberis is Pete’s Eats – a good basic café that caters mainly for the walkers and climbers – excellent for large scale full English (or Welsh) breakfasts and lunches with huge mugs of tea or coffee (and fussy vegetarians like me well catered for).

    I’m glad the weather is so good for you this week, it has been terrible up until now, although I didn’t really envy you the trek up to Dinas Bran in the heat. Nice views when you get there, but a stiff climb.

    Hope you enjoy the rest of your visit.

    1. We have been having a wonderful time. We’ve saw Caerhun (the Roman fort of Canovium), hiked along the Roman road to the standing stones at Bwlch y Ddeufaen, and saw Dolwyddelan today. More videos are coming!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *