Neath Abbey was a Cistercian monastery, located near the present-day town of Neath. It was once the largest abbey in Wales. Substantial ruins can still be seen, and are in the care of Cadw.

Neath Abbey was established in 1129 AD when Richard I de Grenville, one of the Twelve Knights of Glamorgan, gave (3,200 ha of his estate in Glamorgan, Wales, to Savigniac monks from western Normandy. The first monks arrived in 1130. Following the assumption of the Savigniac order into the Cistercian order in 1147, Neath Abbey also became a Cistercian house. The abbey was ravaged by the Welsh uprisings of the 13th century. During the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII of England the last abbot, Lleision ap Thomas, managed to buy time through payment of a large fine in 1536, but the abbey was dissolved in 1539.

At this time, the abbey was turned into a large estate, initially granted to Richard Williams, although by 1600 it was owned by Sir John Herbert, and had a substantial Tudor mansion occupying a part of the cloisters. The mansion itself was only habitable for 100 years or so, before being abandoned as the site became a scene of industry.

By 1730, some of the buildings were being used for copper smelting, and the rest were abandoned. In the late 18th century, an iron foundry was opened near the abbey ruins by a company owned by the Price, Fox and Tregelles families. The ruined walls of both the Abbey and later mansion were gradually engulfed in quantities of industrial waste. The ownership of the site passed to the Rice family, Barons Dynevor, and it was in the 1920s, under Walter FitzUryan Rice, 7th Baron Dynevor that a local group of amateur archaeologists began the process of uncovering the medieval ruins.

North of the abbey ruins are the remains of the gatehouse which would have controlled access into the abbey precinct. It now stands on New Road alongside the playground of Abbey Primary School. It was originally built around 1130, but the most prominent surviving features, two pointed windows that face onto the road, date from the 13th or 14th century.

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Founded: 1129
Category: Religious sites in United Kingdom

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Lorca Castle

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.

Muslim Era

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.

After Reconquista

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.

Modern history

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.