Strata Florida Abbey

Tregaron, United Kingdom

Strata Florida Abbey was founded in 1164 by the Cambro-Norman Knight Robert FitzStephen. In the 12th century, Cistercian monks from Whitland Abbey, Narbeth, Carmarthenshire started to construct a religious settlement on the banks of the Afon Fflur (from which the present Abbey takes its name), a short distance from the present site. This was at a time of fast expansion of the Cistercian order. The church was consecrated in 1201.

Several descendants of the Lord Rhys have been buried at this Abbey, including 11 princes of the Welsh royal house of Dinefwr of Deheubarth during the 12th and 13th centuries Notable burials include Prince Gruffydd ap Rhys II and poet Dafydd ap Gwilym.

Strata Florida became an important and powerful religious centre. Around 1238, Prince Llywelyn ap Iorwerth held a council at Strata Florida. It was here that he made the other Welsh leaders acknowledge his son Dafydd as his rightful successor. Strata Florida controlled many farms throughout Wales.

In 1401, during the early years of Owain Glyndŵr's rebellion, Strata Florida Abbey was taken by King Henry IV and his son. The monks were deemed to be sympathetic to Glyndŵr, so they were evicted from the monastery, which was plundered. Henry IV turned the religious buildings into a military base as he planned to capture or defeat any Welsh rebel forces active in the area. By 1402 the Earl of Worcester held the Abbey for the English Crown with a garrison of several hundred men-at-arms, archers and foot soldiers. It continued to be used as a military base for further campaigns against the Welsh rebels in 1407 and 1415.

The monastic site was returned to the Cistercians with the end of the Glyndŵr rebellion.

Dissolution

Beginning in 1539, Henry VIII used his dissatisfaction with the Catholic Church in Rome to dissolve and sack the monasteries of England and Wales. Strata Florida Abbey was dissolved in 1539 by church commissioners. The buildings and their contents were valued and then sold off. The church and most of the ancillary buildings were demolished for building materials such as the window glass and stone as well as the roof tiles and lead. However, the refectory and dormitory were rebuilt as Ty Abaty, a house for the local gentry. The property has been owned by a number of notable families including the Steadmans and the Powells of Nanteos. Much of the former monastic lands of the Cistercian abbey at Strata Florida were given to Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex who sold them on to Sir John Vaughan, of Trawsgoed. Through his marriage to Jane Stedman, daughter of John Stedman of Ystrad Fflur and Cilcennin, he gained more land on which to create the large Trawsgoed estate.

The present parish church of St. Mary, within the boundaries of the graveyard, may have been built with stone taken from the monastic site.

Abandonment

Following its dissolution, the site of Strata Florida Abbey was left to deteriorate. It was not until the coming of the railways in the late 19th century that interest in the site was rekindled. Stephen Williams, a railway engineer, was surveying a possible route through the area when he took an interest in the ruins. As Williams was a founder member of the Cambrian Archaeological Association, he invited the group to the site in 1848. Following this visit the Association leased the Abbey site in order to create better displays and presentations to the public.

Williams, who was to become a leading expert on the archaeology of the Cistercian Order, was placed in charge of excavations. Over the next few years, he removed huge amounts of spoil, to uncover the majority of remains that are still on view today. Interest in the ruins brought in wealthy Victorians by railway. Strata Florida, a principal station on the Carmarthen Aberystwyth Line, was named after the Abbey.

Present day

The site was designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1919 and is now in the care of Cadw. It has a variety of ruins. The only substantive structure remaining of the monastery is the main entrance archway. The Great West Door to the Abbey Church has low walls marking the extent of the church and its six subsidiary chapels. A modern roof protects an area of excavated work medieval tiling. The small on-site museum has some of these tiles on display. One of the best-known is one depicting a medieval gentleman admiring himself in a mirror.

The graveyard next to the Abbey ruins is still used for burials. A memorial to the Welsh language poet, Dafydd ap Gwilym, who is interred here is next to an ancient yew tree. A stone memorial in the Chapter House commemorates the princes who are buried at Strata Florida. It is a replica; the original is housed in the site's small museum.

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Details

Founded: 1164
Category: Religious sites in United Kingdom

More Information

en.wikipedia.org

Rating

4.3/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Nathan Hier (20 months ago)
Price is steep considering you can see the arch from the gate
Eliot Collins (2 years ago)
Abaty Ystrad Fflur, Strata Florida Abbey or Abbey of the Vale of Flowers is the ruins of a Cistercian abbey built near the banks of the Afon Teifi in 1201. The abbey is said to have been the second most popular church in Wales after St David's Cathedral. The abbey is home to the final resting place of many generations of Welsh princes, the Dinefwr family of Deheubarth. Nicknamed the "Westminster of Wales", there isn't much left of the ruins but there are a handful of elements suggest its historic grandeur. The Romanesque west entrance is iconic, with several rows of concentric carvings. In what would have been chapels in the trancepts, ornate tiles can still be seen. As with many monastic buildings in England and Wales, the abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539. The land was sold and much of the buildings demolished. Many of the nearby buildings are made of stone from the abbey. There isn't much left to see of Strata Florida, compared with some other Cadw abbeys. Check the Cadw website to confirm entry times and dates as it is free in the off season.
Maria Smith (2 years ago)
Really taken aback how lovely this was to visit. So tranquil, maybe because visitor shop was closed due to covid. Went to the cemetery alongside as well.
Zena Pickering (2 years ago)
The Abbey grounds we're open and we enjoyed an interesting look round. We were disappointed that the car park was shut (covid precautions?) so we were unable to park anywhere and go for a walk up to the lakes from here.
Dewi Jones (2 years ago)
A very historic spot and well worth the small entry fee... or become a Cadw member. Parking was easy. Set in stunning countryside.
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