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Strata Florida Abbey ~ Tintern Abbey ~ Valle Crucis Abbey
Strata Florida Abbey

Ystrad - Fflur/ Strata Florida , situated high in a secluded place near the head waters of the river Tiefy on the west side of the Cambrian mountains in the old kingdom of Deheubarth. .

Because of the remoteness of the little valley It is hardly surprising that a group of monks, from their mother Abbey of Whitland, established themselves on the site in 1164. They struggled to survive during the first twelve months, but by the following year the Lord Rhys of Deheubarth had assumed patronage of the abbey. On doing so he granted the Abbey substantial lands, which secured the immediate future of the abbey and the monks.

Strata Florida entrance Strata Florida - Aerial Photo

Lord Rhys continued his support the abbey throughout his life, as he did to other places and orders such as the Cistercian's at Whitland, Talley Abbey for the Premonstratensian Canons, Llanllyr one of only two Cistercian nunneries in Wales, and Cardigan, which of all things was a Benedictine order. A truly remarkable man lord Rhys, fighting the Normans on one hand then supporting their religious order with the other. The life of Strata Florida continued after the death of Lord Rhys, both Llywelyn ap Iorwerth and his grandson Llywelyn ap Gruffudd visited there on several occasions and received a blessing from the Abbott.

The thirteenth century saw the Abbey begin to decline as a monastic house. A fire in 1286, set by lighting, caused severe damage. Then during a rebellion in 1294-95 the Abbey suffered further damage from the attentions of English royal forces.

In 1401, during the rising of Owain Glyndwr, it was occupied once again. This time it was by the forces of king Henry IV, his men even used the church as a stable for their horses and they had the
audacity to call the Welsh heathens!!!

In 1407 the Abbey was again used as barracks, this time 120 English men-at-arms and 360 archers were stationed there. It was then however that the Abbott decided that he had had enough, with his monks he promptly up and left and abandoned the Abbey to its fate. So started the decay until just what one can see now is left, which thankfully has been stabilized by the Welsh Organisation CADW.

This Welsh Cistercian house, first founded in 1164, moved to it picturesque location in 1184, and it took about 90 years for the building works to be completed. Unfortunately, no sooner had the monastery been completed, when a series of disasters brought about severe damage and destruction.

In 1285 the abbey church was struck by lightning, which caused a great deal of fire damage, then only 9 years later further destruction was suffered as a result of the Welsh rebellion About a century later still, the abbey was vandalised and deserted, left eventually for military occupation during a further revolt. Considering the frequency and severity of these wars, it is nothing short of a miracle that there are some remains at Strata Florida worth viewing.

The beautifully preserved west doorway, with its unique composition of ornate stonework, provides a perfect window for surveying the foundations and fragmented remains of the site, against a magnificent backdrop of rolling countryside. Along the length of the nave there is little to see except for the unusual arrangement of the screened nave aisles, verified by the low foundation walls that exist. However, what is enchanting to see are the proliferation of wild flowers springing from every crack and crevice in the craggy slate walls.

At the original crossing of the church, three of the south transept chapels have been roofed to protect a splendid collection of re-laid medieval floor tiles, and some fragments of painted wall plaster. These fine examples give an indication of the rich and colourful work that went into the decoration of the medieval monasteries, and provide us with sufficient evidence to fire the imagination.

Even today, surrounded as it is by farmland , it is not difficult to visualise the secluded, and mostly peaceful, lifestyle enjoyed by the Cistercian monks in this gloriously uninhabited valley

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