Llywelyn Fawr statue
This statue of Llywelyn ab Iorwerth (Llywelyn Fawr – “Llywelyn the Great”) was created by E O Griffith of Liverpool in 1895. It stands on a fountain by architects Grayson & Ould. The inscription around the fountain asserts that Llywelyn founded Aberconwy Abbey in 1184, when Llywelyn was still a child. Cistercian monks laid the abbey’s foundations in 1172, but it wasn’t until 1186 that the facilities had reached the standards required for the complex to be officially called an abbey.
Llywelyn himself may have sown the seed of the idea that he founded the abbey, or the idea may have stemmed from the word “funder” being misinterpreted as “founder”, Conwy historian Llew Groom has suggested.
Llywelyn died in 1240 and was buried in the Abbey grounds. Later that century King Edward I expelled the monks and Llywelyn’s remains were moved to Maenan, in the Conwy Valley. It is said that Conwy Castle stands on the spot where Llywelyn was interred. Llywelyn’s stone coffin is now in the church at Llanrwst, but his remains were lost long ago, perhaps during the 16th-century dissolution of Britain’s monasteries. The original church of Aberconwy Abbey survives, with various alterations, as St Mary’s Church.
Llywelyn was reputedly born in Dolwyddelan Castle, near Betws-y-Coed, c.1174. He defeated his own uncle in a battle near Conwy in 1194. He subsequently expanded his territory, bringing unprecedented unity to Wales. This earned him the title Prince of Wales. In 1205 he married Joan, the daughter of King John, but the relationship between the rulers of Wales and England was tempestuous. John once forced Llywelyn to surrender land east of the Conwy estuary. Llywelyn got his revenge when he seized Shrewsbury in 1215 in support of the campaign by disgruntled English barons to force King John to sign a bill of rights, the Magna Carta.
With thanks to Llew Groom, of Aberconwy Historical Society
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