St Mary’s Church, Strata Florida

St Mary’s Church, Strata Florida

St Mary’s Church dates from 1815, but this is merely the latest church building on this sacred site beside the remains of the 12th-century Cistercian monastery of Strata Florida.

A much older history of the site is suggested by visual sources such as the Buck Print of 1741, diocesan records of the 17th and 18th centuries and substantial archaeological evidence. The site possibly hosted a chapel of the abbey, and may have even have older Celtic origins.

The present church incorporates stones salvaged from the abbey. Features you can see inside include a pulpit inscribed with the date 1742, a circular pulpit and impressive 20th-century stained glass.

The graveyard is intertwined with the social history of this rural parish. Three local men are buried in war graves there – see below for their details. One gravestone records the burial place in 1756 of Henry Hughes’ left leg and part of his thigh! The reason for the amputation isn’t known, but it left him fit enough to start a new life in the USA.

The poet Dafydd ap Gwilym, who died c.1350, is reputedly buried under a yew tree in the graveyard. He may have received some of his education at the abbey.

Gerald of Wales and the Archbishop of Canterbury stayed for a while at Strata Florida while touring Wales in 1188 to preach and recruit for the third crusade. They arrived and left in the company of Seisyll, abbot of Strata Florida, and John, abbot of Whitland Abbey (mother house of Strata Florida).

After leaving Strata Florida they were met by Lord Rhys (ruler of much of South Wales) and three of his sons, all of whom jostled each other to sign up for the crusade. It appears that they were making a pretence, as none of them went to the Holy Land to fight. Gerald noted that one son, Cynwrig, dressed simply in the Welsh tradition - wearing only a shirt and thin cloak. Cynwrig wasn’t troubled by thorny plants scratching his bare feet and legs.

With thanks to Carys Aldous-Hughes, of the Strata Florida Trust, and to Steve John

Postcode: SY25 6ES    View Location Map

Parish website

button_tour_gerald-E Navigation previous buttonNavigation next button

War graves at St Mary’s churchyard

Edwards, Philip, Gunner 168352. Died 31/01/1918. Royal Field Artillery. Son of Rachel Edwards, of 6 Terrace Road, of Elder Court, Pontrhydfendigaid.

Jones, David Rowland, Private 55559. Died 23/09/1919. Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Son of John and Annie Jones, of Dolfawr, Ystrad Meurig. Discharged from the army after being shot in the arm and later died from his wounds.

Thomas, Robert Morgan, Sapper 2008306. Died 28/12/1940 aged 21. Royal Engineers. Son of Morgan and Bertha Thomas, of Pontrhydfendigaid.