A short history of Strata Florida

The Cistercian Abbey of Strata Florida was first founded in 1164 when a Norman knight, Robert Fitzstephan, granted lands in central Ceredigion to the monks of Whitland Abbey in Carmarthenshire. In the following year the Normans were driven out of Ceredigion by Rhys ap Gruffydd, Lord of Dinefwr and Prince of Deheubarth and he became the Abbey's main patron. It is thought that the Abbey was first established at Henfynachlog (Old Monastery), today a farm some 2 kilometres to the south-west of the present site.

In 1184 Rhys increased the extent of his grants and encouraged the monks to build a larger Abbey where its ruins are today. In 1201 it was consecrated and very quickly established its reputation as a centre of Welsh cultural and political life, perhaps something Rhys himself had intended. It Is probable that its reputation was built on the existence an earlier, pre-Norman monastery on the site.

The 13th century was the hey-day of the Abbey and in 1238 Llywelyn ap Iorwerth ('the Great'), the prince of Gwynedd and the first Prince of Wales, used the Abbey as the venue for an important meeting held to consolidate his and his son's authority over the other native princes and lords of Wales.

By the end of the 13th century, however, Wales was under the control of Edward I of England and the influence of Strata Florida waned. However, during the rising of Owain Glyndwr at the very end of the 14th and beginning of the 15th centuries, the monks of the Abbey seem to have supported the rebellion. As a result elements of an English army were billeted in the Abbey and it was extensively damaged. It never fully recovered from this shock and by the time of the Dissolution in 1539, there was not much left and even that was in a parlous state.

After the Abbey was closed, the site and the former lands eventually ended up in the hands of gentry families, notably the Stedmans who seem to have created a mansion out of the remains of he Abbey's Refectory. By the mid-18th century the estate was in the hands of the Powells of Nanteos.

In the 1880s the site of the former Abbey was excavated by Stephen Williams and it is substantially what he revealed that is now in the care of Cadw and can be visited as a monument. In 1999 the University of Wales Trinity St David began a long-term project under the direction of Professor David Austin to understand more about the Abbey and its historic landscape. It is on this work that the contents of this web-page are based.

In 2006 the independent Strata Florida Trust was formed under the chairmanship of Professor Austin and in 2016 it purchased the Mynachlog Fawr complex of farm buildings which includes the former mansion of the Stedman family, itself built out of the remains of the Abbey refectory. Over the next few years the Strata Florida Centre will be created to preserve these buildings to be used in a variety of ways that reflect the history and traditions of the Abbey and its successor estate.

This page copyright (c) Professor David Austin, Chairman Strata Florida Trust

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