Abbeys and Priories of Medieval Wales by Janet Burton, Karen Stöber

By Janet Burton, Karen Stöber

This quantity is a entire, richly illustrated consultant to the non secular homes of Wales from the 12th throughout the 16th centuries. It bargains an intensive creation to the historical past of monastic orders in Wales, together with the Benedictines, Cluniacs, Cistercians, etc moreover, it presents specified bills of virtually sixty communes of non secular women and men. Descriptions of the extant is still of the constructions, in addition to maps, floor plans, and tourist info make this not only a piece of scholarship, yet an imperative consultant for pilgrims in addition.

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These are useful indices of relative wealth and poverty, although they should not be taken as accurate in all respects. They are only snapshots after all – a monastery may have been experiencing a temporary fall or (less likely) a rise in fortune at the time a valuation was made. Moreover abbots and priors may have sought to underplay their assets, particularly if they were being assessed for taxation. However, these surveys can give us an indication of the nature of the lands and other sources of income enjoyed by individual houses.

In smaller houses guests might be accommodated within the claustral precinct, but the Cistercians, being anxious to exclude lay people from the central core of their abbeys, generally placed the guest house at the extreme margin of the site, usually outside the west range. Traces of what was probably the guest house at Tintern lie in the vicinity of the present-day pub to the west of the abbey. Sometimes there appear to have been more than one building accommodating guests. Gerald of Wales famously complained about the inadequate treatment he felt he had received from the Strata Florida monks, who lodged him in the quarters designated for ‘ordinary’ guests rather than granting him special treatment in what seems to have been the medieval equivalent of Strata Florida’s first class suite.

His reasons for so doing are not documented. He may have felt that canons rather than monks would better serve the pastoral needs of an urban population. Two further southern foundations followed: Haverfordwest, occupying a site just outside the walls of a town of growing importance, and St Kynemark’s near Chepstow, about which very little is known. A striking phenomenon, however, is the arrival of the regular canons in the north, and their transformation, under the patronage of the thirteenth-century rulers of Gwynedd, of sites originally occupied by culdees.

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