Margam Abbey was a Cistercian monastery, located in the village of Margam, a suburb of modern Port Talbot. It was founded in 1147 as a daughter house of Clairvaux by Robert, Earl of Gloucester. Early Christian crosses found in the close vicinity and conserved in the nearby Margam Stones Museum suggest the existence of an earlier Celtic monastic community. The founding abbot was William of Clairvaux. The third abbot, Conan, enjoyed the praise of Giraldus Cambrensis, whom he appears to have entertained prior to his official visit with Baldwin of Forde, Archbishop of Canterbury, to preach the Crusade in 1188. Conan (or Cunan) contributed to Patristic literature, as he is credited with the capitula or chapter-headings prefixing each section of St. Bernard's Sermons on the Song of Songs, one of the works for which that author was titled a Doctor of the Church.
The abbey was dissolved by King Henry VIII of England in 1536 and sold to Sir Rice Mansel. Significant holdings of the monastery library appear to have survived this event, including the Annales de Margan. At this time, only 12 monks were living in the monastery. From the Mansel family the abbey eventually passed into their descendants in the female line, the Talbot family. In the 19th century, C R M Talbot constructed a mansion at Margam Castle which overlooks the abbey ruins. The nave of the abbey continued in use as the parish church, as it does to this day. It is Anglo-Catholic in its churchmanship.
Margam Abbey now consists of the intact nave and impressive surrounding ruins. Those ruins not belonging to the church are now owned by the County Council. These remains, including the unusually large twelve-sided chapter house, dating from the 13th century, stand within 3.4 km² Margam Country Park, close to Margam Castle. The Abbey church of St Mary, the ruined Chapter House and the Abbey undercroft are all Grade I listed buildings.
On a hill overlooking the abbey stand the ruins of an outlying monastery building, Capel Mair ar y Bryn ('the chapel of St Mary on the hill'). The purpose of this building is thought to have been to allow members of the monastic community who were engaged in the keeping of flocks to fulfil their devotional obligations without having to return to the main church.References:
Castle of Lorca (Castillo de Lorca) is a fortress of medieval origin constructed between the 9th and 15th centuries. It consists of a series of defensive structures that, during the Middle Ages, made the town and the fortress an impregnable point in the southeast part of the Iberian Peninsula. Lorca Castle was a key strategic point of contention between Christians and Muslims during the Reconquista.
Archaeological excavations have revealed that the site of the castle has been inhabited since Neolithic times.
It has not been determined exactly when a castle or fortress was first built on the hill. The first written documentation referring to a castle at Lorca is of Muslim origin, which in the 9th century, indicates that the city of Lurqa was an important town in the area ruled by Theudimer (Tudmir). During Muslim rule, Lorca Castle was an impregnable fortress and its interior was divided into two sections by the Espaldón Wall. In the western part, there was an area used to protect livestock and grain in times of danger. The eastern part had a neighbourhood called the barrio de Alcalá.
Lorca was conquered by the Castilian Infante Don Alfonso, the future Alfonso X, in 1244, and the fortress became a key defensive point against the Kingdom of Granada. For 250 years, Lorca Castle was a watchpoint on the border between the Christian kingdom of Murcia and the Muslim state of Granada.
Alfonso X ordered the construction of the towers known as the Alfonsina and Espolón Towers, and strengthened and fixed the walls. Hardly a trace of the Muslim fortress remained due to this reconstruction. Muslim traces remain in the foundation stones and the wall known as the muro del Espaldón.
The Jewish Quarter was found within the alcazaba, the Moorish fortification, separated from the rest of the city by its walls. The physical separation had the purpose of protecting the Jewish people in the town from harm, but also had the result of keeping Christians and Jews separate, with the Christians inhabiting the lower part of town.
The remains of the Jewish Quarter extended over an area of 5,700 square m, and 12 homes and a synagogue have been found; the synagogue dates from the 14th century and is the only one found in the Murcia. The streets of the town had an irregular layout, adapted to the landscape, and is divided into four terraces. The synagogue was in the central location, and around it were the homes. The homes were of rectangular shape, with various compartmentalized rooms. The living quarters were elevated and a common feature was benches attached to the walls, kitchens, stand for earthenware jars, or cupboards.
With the disappearance of the frontier after the conquest of Granada in 1492, Lorca Castle no longer became as important as before. With the expulsion of the Jews by order of Ferdinand and Isabella, Lorca Castle was also depopulated as a result. The castle was abandoned completely, and was almost a complete ruin by the 18th century. In the 19th century, the castle was refurbished due to the War of Spanish Independence. The walls and structures were repaired or modified and its medieval look changed. A battery of cannons was installed, for example, during this time. In 1931 Lorca Castle was declared a National Historic Monument.
Currently, a parador (luxury hotel) has been built within the castle. As a result, archaeological discoveries have been found, including the Jewish Quarter.