St Mary’s Abbey Church, Margam

St Mary’s Abbey Church, Margam

This church occupies the nave of what was originally the church of Margam Abbey. The abbey was founded in 1147, when the Cistercians received land from Robert, Earl of Gloucester and Lord of Glamorgan. Ancient carved stones, now in the nearby Stones Museum, indicate that the site was used for Christian worship in pre-medieval times.

Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, visited Margam Abbey in March 1188 while touring Wales to recruit for the third crusade. He was accompanied by Gerald of Wales, who kept a journal of the whole trip.

Gerald wrote that Margam was the most generous of all Cistercian foundations in Wales, and that God rewarded the monks for their hospitality to travellers and people in need by ensuring the abbey had food whenever there was famine locally. In Gerald’s own time, local people and the monks were close to starvation when the crop in a field belonging to the abbey miraculously ripened a month early, sustaining the monks and poor people until main crops were ripe in the autumn.

Later the abbey became known for its patronage of Welsh poets. It was dissolved under King Henry VIII, enabling Sir Rice Mansel of Gower to buy most of the monastic estate by the early 1540s. The house he built in the grounds became the family’s seat. He retained the abbey church’s nave and opened it for public worship.

Later members of the family allowed the church to decay. It was restored from 1805 to 1810, when the pitch and height of the roof were reduced to avoid spoiling the view from the nearby orangery. The interior was refurbished in the 1870s and stained glass windows (still intact) by William Morris & Co were installed.

You can see some of the Mansel family’s marble tombs, elaborately carved, in the church. They include the tomb of Sir Rice, who died in 1559.

Postcode: SA13 2TA    View Location Map

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