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Strata Florida Abbey

Visited  August 2014

Location Tregaron, Ceredigion
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby No
Parking Yes
Facilities Gift Shop, Toilets
Map

 

The most famous feature of this Cistercian abbey is undoubtedly the archway of the great west door, as seen in the photos below.

 


 

 


Review

 

Founded in 1164, the abbey was the burial place of eleven Welsh princes, all descendants of Lord Rhys, the original founder. The graves are still visible at the site today.  Not much of the abbey building survives to full height, although the low level walls still exist to mark out the outline of the building.

 

The eastern end  has a small roofed area, which houses the original floor tiles of the abbey. Although staunchly Welsh since its patron Lord Rhys drove the Normans out of  Ceredigion, it appears the tiles may have been produced in England as some of them depict the arms of the Norman Lord Hugh Despenser, who was hated by the Welsh! There is also a tile depicting a man preening himself in a mirror- maybe as a warning against vanity for the monks?

 

The monks lived off the land and took also took part in 'quiet' occupations such as copying manuscripts. There is also the  story about  one of the monks who was named as a co-defendant in the trial of a local man found guilty of counterfeiting coins- the monk denied all knowledge of the scam and was believed- his co-defendant was hanged! Possibly the monk was very busy in the confessional after that!

 

The abbey was not spared from the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII and it was closed in the 1540's. The stone was used to build a house, still on the site now, and possibly used to build the small church of St Mary next door.

 


 

 


 

In the small parish churchyard next to the remains of the abbey lies the grave  of the medieval welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym. One of his poems, the Girls of Llanbadarn is reprinted on a stone at the abbey- it is a little saucy though so I won't quote it here on a family website!

 


 

 


 

In terms of visiting the site, there are toilets and a gift shop, although no café. There are a few activities to do in the shop, such as make your own floor tile, to the design similar to the ones found at the abbey. There are also some artefacts on exhibit.  We visited in 2014 which is the 850th anniversary of the abbey, and they had some birthday colouring available for the occasion which was quite fun. The best of all about visiting is the location- in the valley with views to the hills, it is wonderfully peaceful and calm, which is presumably why this spot was chosen in the first place!

 


 

 


 

More info:  CADW Strata Florida

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