Sunday, 30 March 2008

Valle Crucis Abbey

Valle Crucis Abbey near Llangollen, north Wales,
is set in a beautiful location.

Building work began at this site in 1201.

Unfortunately, at some point in the more recent past,
planning permission was given to the owner
of the surrounding land to allow it to be used
for camping and as a caravan park.

This makes the approach to the Abbey ruins really ugly,
but once within the Abbey,
the clever use of high stone walls blocks
most of the view of caravans.

This is probably the best preserved Abbey in Wales.

Remember you can click on the pictures
if you want to look more closely.

The front wall of the Abbey church, as seen from inside.
To give you an idea of the scale of the buildings,
see the wooden benches either
side of the door - each would seat 3-4 people.

The large fishpond, behind the Abbey,
is the last remaining monastic fishpond in Wales.
There were so many days in the year on which
meat could not be eaten,
that most religious houses had a fishpond
to supply them with fresh fish.

The main doors into the church, shown below,
are about 10 feet tall, and are set into a wonderfully
carved arched doorway.
Soft stone was used for doorways and windows,
as it was much easier to carve.
Unfortunately, this also means it weathers more quickly,
and carved detail is lost over the years

Some old carved stones have been re-used in the buildings,
as shown here in this part of the abbey, built in the 1500s.

There is a display of carved stones in the abbey ,
this is a lovely example.

Look at the detail in the hinges of the abbey church doors.

Also the detail of the keyhole and handle mounting.
(handle is only on the inside of the doors)

This is a view of the chapter house,
where all the monks gathered each day
to listen to a chapter of the bible being read.

This is quite a small room,
and probably would only hold 30 people at most,
compared to the Abbey church,
which would have had the capacity
to hold several hundred peop

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Gwydir Chapel

Gwydir Chapel is near Gwydir Castle,
just outside Llanrwst, north Wales.
It was once a place of worship for the Wynn family,
who owned and lived in the castle,
but is now in the care of Cadw
(the Welsh Assembly Government's historic environment service).

It has a plain and simple exterior,
which gives no clue about the treasures hidden inside.

The door into the chapel has a stone carved
with the date the chapel was built -1673.

The chapel interior is richly decorated with slightly
naive paintings of angels, clouds, stars and suns.

The colours are fabulous, still vibrant after over 300 years.
The ceiling designs were inspired by Italian baroque designs of the time.

This inscription reminds us of our own
mortality - 'watch for ye know not ye day or how'

Below is the gallery and ceiling at the back of the chapel.

Part of the downstairs of the chapel,
showing the imposing coat of arms of King Charles II.

The stained glass windows of this chapel
appear relatively plain from a distance,
just showing a little pastel colour.

However, when you look more closely,
in addition to the Tudor rose shown above,
there are small painted panels dotted all over the
windows - the paintings are of animals and birds.

This is a beautiful building, and well worth a visit.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Dyffryn Ardudwy burial chamber

Dyffryn Ardudwy is a small town on the north west coast of Wales between Barmouth and Harlech. It has a picturesque old church and graveyard on the on the shore, and hidden away behind the victorian primary school buildings, it has an ancient burial chamber. Thus chamber was built somewhere around 3,500 BC, and the upright stones acted as portal (doorway) stones with the cap stone acting as a roof. All the stones were put in place by sheer effort and human strength.

The smaller stones lying all around them would once have covered the large stones, and earth would have been piled over the whole thing. This 'building' served the same purpose as churches have done for the last 2000 years or so. The cremated remains of people from pre-history were kept safely inside, along with ceremonial offerings of broken pottery.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Talley Abbey

Talley Abbey is about 7 miles from Llandeilo. It is located in a small but attractive village in a lovely valley. I suppose some of the pretty houses nearby have been built from some of the stone originally used in the Abbey.

It is hard to imagine from the photo just how high those arches are, but I would estimate that the large arch must be 30 - 35 feet, and the smaller arch around 20 feet tall. It must have been quite majestic when first built.

Sadly, like most abbeys and monasteries, it fell into disuse and disrepair following the dissolution of the monastries by Henry VIII in the 1500s...