Site of Whitland Abbey

button-theme-crimeSite of Whitland Abbey

In this vicinity stood an early Cistercian abbey which became the “mother” of several other abbeys in Wales and Ireland. Little remains of the abbey buildings today. You can see some remnants from the road. Earthworks nearby are probably remnants of the abbey’s water supply, waste drainage, and fishponds.

The abbey was founded in the early 1140s by Bernard, Bishop of St Davids. The monks, from Clairvaux in France, were initially at Little Trefgarne, Pembrokeshire, and moved to Whitland c.1151. The abbey soon enjoyed the patronage of Lord Rhys, ruler of most of South Wales, and founded daughter abbeys at Strata Florida (Ceredigion), Strata Marcella and Cwmhir (both in Powys). In the 13th century it established daughters in County Down and County Cork.

In 1188 the Archbishop of Canterbury and Gerald of Wales visited Whitland Abbey during their tour of Wales to recruit for the third crusade. Here 12 archers from St Clears Castle were signed up – as punishment for murdering a young Welshman who was on his way to meet the Archbishop to enlist for the crusade. Abbot John of Whitland preached alongside the Archbishop later in the tour, at Strata Florida.

Over the following centuries, Whitland Abbey wasn’t as peaceful as you might imagine! It was attacked twice in the 13th century, abbey workers being killed by looters in 1258. King Edward I stayed here in 1295 as he sought to quell Welsh rebellion. The abbot complained c.1440 that warfare and fire had caused so much damage that the abbey was struggling to support him and his eight monks. A later abbot was dismissed for immoral behaviour. A visiting monk killed a priest at the abbey c.1496.

The abbey closed in 1539 after King Henry VII ordered the dissolution of monasteries.

Sources include: Monastic Wales website

Postcode: SA34 0LG    View Location Map

Monastic Wales – more Whitland Abbey history

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