Valle Crucis Abbey

Llangollen, United Kingdom

Valle Crucis Abbey (Valley of the Cross) is a Cistercian abbey located in Llantysilio in Denbighshire, Wales. It was founded in 1201 by Madog ap Gruffydd Maelor, and was the last Cistercian monastery to be built in Wales. 

The completed abbey is believed to have housed up to about sixty brethren, 20 choir monks and 40 lay-members who would have carried out the day-to-day duties including agricultural work. The numbers within the church fluctuated throughout its history and the monks and the abbey itself came under threat from various political and religious events. The abbey is believed to have been involved in the Welsh Wars of Edward I of England during the 13th century, and was supposedly damaged in the uprising led by Owain Glyndŵr. Numbers also fell after the Black Death ravaged Britain.

The fortunes of Valle Crucis improved during the 15th century, and the abbey gained a reputation as a place of hospitality. Several important Welsh poets of the period spent time at the abbey.

In 1537, Valle Crucis was dissolved, as it was deemed not prosperous compared to the more wealthy English abbeys. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the site fell into disrepair, and the building was given to Sir William Puckering. By the late 16th century the eastern range was converted into a manor house. By the late 18th century the building that remained were re-roofed and the site was used as a farm, before excavations were undertaken in the later half of the 19th century. The site is now cared for by Cadw, and is an open visitor attraction. It is surrounded by a caravan park, which occupies fields on three sides and extends up to the outer walls of the ruin.

Architecture

Valle Crucis Abbey consisted of the church plus several adjoining out buildings which enclosed a square courtyard. The church itself ran West to East in the traditional cruciform style. Today much of the original church is ruined, though the west end front wall survives, including the masonry of the rose window, and much of the east end. In the 14th century the church was effectively divided by a pulpitum across the nave. The lay brothers worshipped before an altar in front of the pulpitum, and the choir monks before the high altar or side chapels.

The outbuildings including the adjoining east range, which survives mainly intact and the west range, which housed the lay brethren's frater, but is now demolished. Completing the four sides of the inner courtyard was the southern frater and kitchen, which faced the church; these two building are also now ruins, with only foundation stones remaining. The east and west ranges housed the cloisters, with the east range also leading to the final structure, the abbot's lodgings which settled between the range and the church but outside the courtyard. The site is also home to the only remaining monastic fishpond in Wales, but suffered from being remodelled as a reflecting pool in the 18th century.

As well as the west end front wall, extensive parts of the east end of the structures survive to the present day. The chancel walls, the southern part of the transept, the east range of the cloister together with the chapter house and sacristy and the lower part of the reredorter all survive mainly intact. In 1870 the west end wall was restored by George Gilbert Scott.[5] Rather unusually for a monastic ruin, parts of the first floor can be accessed, including the dormitory and abbot's lodgings.

Many pieces have been removed by the local museum, and the font from the church was placed in the gardens of Plas Newydd, Llangollen by the Ladies of Llangollen in the late 18th century.

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Llangollen, United Kingdom
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Details

Founded: 1201
Category: Religious sites in United Kingdom

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Maxine Holliday (16 months ago)
Internet stated it was closed - still called in by to check it out whilst in the area. Upon arrival found out it is not permanently closed and is open to the general public from April to October only. Looked like there was some maintenance work taking place when we called by. The Abbey & the grounds are situated right next door to a holiday caravan park that has its own vending machines close by selling Ice cream, milkshakes, crisps, chocolates etc. Think there is a cafe/bistro in the area too. There is a couple of free parking spaces & a fee to pay to be able to enter the site when it's open to the public, although you can see a lot of the building from the roadside when driving past.
Mhairi Gibson (18 months ago)
Was there early January so not open to the public but was able to take some phoros. Its an impressive sight and definitely worth a visit. It was awesomely quiet. I suspect it could be very busy in summer so was great to visit in winter.
John Lancaster (2 years ago)
The ruins of a medieval Cistercian abbey which has enough to be able to imagine the structure as it once was. The sections for the months and the separate areas for the lay brothers are still quite clearly defined. Although a lesser Abbey when it was first built it did build up a reputation to rival others as time went on. Set in beautiful countryside off the road up to the Horsehoe Pass. Be careful to check opening times as these are limited. Although there was a day of torrential rain before we visited we were surprised that the ground of the whole site was firm, and the grass short. This made the site almost entirely accessible for my wife's wheelchair. There is a ramp down to the ticket office and shop and Cadw are planning to add more ramps around the building next year to make it even more accessible. The Abbey's name is Latin for Vale of the Cross referring to Elisaig's Pillar which is njust a short walk away. There is a small cafe and toilets near the main road.
Susan Yates (2 years ago)
A hidden gem in the Welsh countryside. So much history when you stand and look at the old walls of the abbey. There is some information in the booklet that's available from the ticket office and various boards around the ruins.
Irina Springate (3 years ago)
The Abbey at Valle Crucis was founded for monks of the Cistercian order in 1201 by Madog ap Gruffydd Maelor, the ruler of this part of northern Powys. In attempt to return to St Benedict's primitive spirit of monasticism, the Cistercians were the most successful of the various reformed monastic orders of the 11th and 12th centuries. The order spread rapidly to become a highly-organized international organization. Within a century there were over 500 abbeys right across Europe, Scandinavia and the near east. In Britain alone the final number was 85. The last of 14 of Cistercian foundations was built in Wales. The Cistercians, or 'White Monks', were the most popular of the monastic orders in medieval Wales. The name comes from their first foundation of Cîteaux (Latin: Cistercium) established in Burgundy, France some 900 years ago in 1098. The white monks they were called because of their garment of undyed wool. In desire of poverty and isolation, their monasteries were built in remote locations, "far from from the concourse of men", where the monks and lay-brothers combined an austerely religious life with farming on the outlying estates. The church, was built in the early 13th century first time, but it was badly damaged by the fire sometime the middle of that century and had to be extensively rebuilt. The east range of the cloister built around 1400, containing the chapter house and monks' dormitory. The fish pond you will see there on the left handside of the Abbey is now the only surviving monastic fish pond in Wales! The Cistercians were the most successful of the monastic orders in Wales with 13 houses founded here between 1131 and 1226. Valle Crucis Abbey was closed down in 1537, during Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries, but parts were converted adterwards into the house. We have parked just outside of the entrance. There is a gift shop there and toilet facilities there too. Lots of information boards there too to get information about each part of the Abbey. Masks are required to be worn. It is no doubt by far a very impressive Abbey we have come across on our holiday in Wales and definitely recommend to visit it!
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