Abbey Cwm Hir Wales - Strata Florida - Ystrad Fflur
Abbeycwmhir Wales (Abaty Cwm Hir, Abbey in the Long Valley in Welsh) is a small village in the county of Radnorshire, Powys in mid-Wales. The village is named after the Cistercian abbey that was founded there in 1143. Abbeycwmhir lies in the secluded, remote valley of the river Clywedog (a tributary of the river Ithon), some six miles east of the town of Rhayader and the Cwm Elan (Elan Valley) reservoirs.
The remains of the abbey ruins are open to the public and are easily accessible. There is also a stone slab laid here to commemorate the burial of Prince Llywelyn Ein Llyw olaf (Llywelyn the Last).
Welsh Celebration Days
History of Abbeycwmhir
The Cistercian abbey is of great historical importance and was once the largest Abbey in Wales. It was founded in 1143 by Welsh Prince Cadwathelan ap Madoc of Maelienydd, as this area of Wales was known at the time. It became a permanent establishment in 1176. In 1197 the original wooden building was gradually replaced by a permanent stone structure although it was never completed. It was designed for 60 monks in a 14-bay nave that was 242 feet in length and only the cathedrals of Durham and Winchester were larger. Despite being built for 60 monks, it is thought that only a small proportion of this number ever lived at the Abbey. Some of the remains of the Abbey were moved to nearby Llanidloes in 1542 and can still be seen today.
At around the same time period, another Cistercian abbey was founded by Robert Fitz Stephen, an Anglo-Norman lord, in 1164 in Strata Florida (Ystrad Fflur in Welsh), some 40 miles from Abbey Cwm Hir over the Cambrian Mountains. However, it was not long before the patronage of this Cistercian community at Strata Florida was assumed by Rhys ap Gruffudd, a Welsh Prince of the ancient kingship of Deheubarth. It is believed that the Abbey was not completed by the middle of the thirteenth century.
Through the course of the thirteenth century, the Abbey was an ardent supporter of the Welsh cause, occasionally resulting in the hostility of the kings of England. It was at Strata Florida that a copy of Brut y Tywysogion (Chronicle of the princes) was written, and it was here too that many members of the Deheubarth dynasty of princes were laid to rest. The abbey at Strata Florida suffered damage during the Welsh wars of King Edward I in 1276-77 and again in 1282-83 following Prince Llywelyn's death at Cilmeri.
As a consequence, Strata Florida was certainly remodelled in the early fourteenth century. Thereafter, the Black Death (1348-49) and the revolt of Owain Glyndwr (1400-09) took their toll. Despite late medieval revivals, by the early 1530s the suppression loomed large and by 1539, Strata Florida had closed.
Prince Llywelyn and Cilmeri
One of the most notable people buried at Abbeycwmhir is Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the last native Prince of Wales. Llywelyn died in 1282 after being defeated by Edward I of England. Following his death atCilmeri and with Prince Llywelyn’s head being taken to London, his headless body was buried at the altar of the Abbey in 1282. Llywelyn's tomb is marked by a memorial stone. The stone is inscribed with the words "Here lies Llywelyn, the last Prince of Wales."
AbbeyCwmHir and Owain Glyndŵr
The Abbey was ransacked by Owain Glyndŵr in 1401 who suspected that the monks were supporting the English kings. After the 1401 attack, it is probable that only the easternmost five bays, containing the choir and high alter, were regularly used. In 1540, the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540, only three monks lived in the abbey. Even after the dissolution, the Abbey suffered an up-and-down history. The Fowler family took over the Abbey in 1565 but in 1644 during the Civil War, the occupied monastic buildings were besieged and captured by Parliamentarian forces under Sir Thomas Myddelton.
The ruins of Abbeycwmhir are a popular tourist destination. The abbey is also a focal point for the local community. The Abbeycwmhir Heritage Trust organises a variety of events and activities at the abbey, including talks, tours, and workshops.
The abbey is a reminder of the rich history of Abbeycwmhir and its important role in Welsh history. It is a place of beauty and significance, and it is well worth a visit.
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