Grace Dieu Abbey site, Llangattock-Vibon-Avel
Here the Offa’s Dyke Path passes the site of Grace Dieu Abbey, founded in 1226 by John, Lord of Monmouth. Monks from the Cistercian order were sent from Dore Abbey, in Herefordshire.
The abbey’s early existence was troubled. Indigenous Welsh people maintained that Grace Dieu occupied land which had been seized illegally from them. The abbey was attacked several times. In 1232 the abbot and a monk were kidnapped and held captive. The monk was wounded and another summoned to take his place. The abbot and substitute monk eventually escaped by stuffing hay into their cowls, which they posed in a praying position. Their captors realised the figures were dummies after the abbot and monk had got clean away.
Local people attacked the abbey and flattened it in 1233. The abbey was rebuilt a few years later at a different site nearby, probably on the west of the river Trothy.
By 1535 the abbey’s annual income was just over £19, lower than at any other Cistercian abbey in Wales or England. The Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 followed King Henry VIII’s decision to sever his country’s religious allegiance to the Pope in Rome. Grace Dieu fell into ruin. It subsequently vanished so completely that archaeologists have been unable to establish precisely where the buildings stood.
This parish was known in Welsh as Llangatwg Feibion Afel, anglicised as Llangattock Vibion Avel (now Llangattock-Vibon-Avel). In 1254 it was written as Lancadok Avel, as Lankadok Webonawel in 1350, and Llangotocke Vybon Ave'll in 1535. The name describes the church of Cadog and the sons of Afel. It’s likely that someone called Afel sponsored the church by the 13th century, and later his sons were acknowledged as sponsors.
With thanks to Richard Morgan, of the Welsh Place Name Society