Sunday, January 25, 2009
The Llan of St Non , Saxon Monastery of Diuma,then Our Lady and St Michael and All Angels, Llantarnam
Above,photos of the remains of the old Cistercian Abbey to Our Lady and St Michael, partly concealed in the undergrowth. Also photographs from the present church, within the octave of Christmas.
Today I have made another visit to an ancient Llan and Church of Llantarnam.
During restoration work in 1921, in this Mediaeval church, the remains of an earlier Celtic Church were discovered, a Celtic church built long before the next door Abbey was founded. During the Norman times after 1066 –and 1091 saw South Wales fall,) this church was altered or replaced (since the Welsh were fiercely defending Gwent)with a wall so thick , that like so many of the Crusader churches in the Holy Land, it could have served for purposes of defence as well as a place where the Holy Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours could be sung.
Links to the old Welsh Tale
Idris Davies, who prepared the excellent guide book advances another theory.The story of Teyrnon is related in the early British story of Pwll , Prince of Dyfed in the Mabinogion. He was a man of resounding moral stature and Lord of Lower Gwent Iscoed.. The Glen in which the church stands may have originally been named after him, even though Nant Teyrnon was in Gwynllwg.Terynon, in battle was like a roar of the tidal waters (Severn Bore) in Battle.So at its earliest times Nant Teyrnon became Llantarnam. However, it is possible that the same important site was used as a holy place by St Non and subsequently by the Irish St Diuma.
Founder of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady and St Michael, Llantarnam
Sir Hywel ap Iowerth founded the original next door Abbey at Llantarnam, with a Cistercian Order, and the Abbot ofMargam referred to it in 1244 as ‘Vallium’ (Our Lady of the Valley’ very apt as theproperty extended along the river valleys of central Gwent.
Early names give the dedication to St Diuma
The Next door was called the ‘Abbey of Dewma’ and the Bishop of Hereford’s register for 1449 calls the monastery ‘Dewma’ . The Peniarth manuscript of ‘Plwye Dewma’ in the sixteenth century .In an ode to Sir William Morgan (a Catholic layman who bought the land at Llantarnam) , the poet Dafydd Benwyn refers to it as ‘mynachlog Ydeyma’ Frederick van der Meer in ‘Atlas de l’ordre Cistercian’ has as an entry for the Welsh Abbey , ‘Llantarnam filiation de Clairvaux….Pays de Galles , Co Monmouthshire,d Llandaff ND ET ST DEWMA.’
Saint Diuma-Irish Saint from Iona!
The fact that the Welsh people called the Abbey ‘Dewma’s Monastery’ means the question arises. Interestingly there is no Welsh saint called Dewma, but there is an Irishman . The Venerable Bede confirms that St Diuma was a missionary saint of Irish origin, sent to Iona to preach among the pagan Saxons in Mercia , and that in 655 , he was made Bishop of Lichfield. His connections with South Wales are not established , but the mutual influence of Iona and Glastonbury was such, that perhaps Diuma established a monastic llan here before travelling on to Glastonbury.
The Importance of Caerleon
The Key town in this is nearby Caerleon-City of Legions. This was the link with the British Kings too, Caractacus, Ynyr Gwent, Iddon, Woolos, Cadoc (also a Saint) Morgan Hen, Griffydd and others. Other wise , Joseph of Arimathea came here as an honoured guest, and to trade for tin under the Emperor Vespasian, and later, when sent by St Philip with his family as missionaries and refugees after the Crucifixion of Our Lord.. The guide book suggests, as this was so very old, it may have been a first mud and wattles daughter Church of Glastonbury . Together with London and York, they founded the first three Bishoprics after the Council of Nicea in325 (Mansi vol 11 467 to 477.)
Saint Non and her son, Blessed St David of Wales
Llantarnam may actually have been older even than St Diuma. St David , blessed Sacred Saint of Wales, originally had a hermitage at Llanthony, (still in existence as part of the parish church) was called to defend the Arian heresy of Pelagius at Llandewi Brefi and had reluctantly gone there and been acclaimed the new Bishop.He was ordained in Jerusalem as Archbishop along with Teilo and Padarn,as Bishops then returned to Caerleon after working in Jerusalem for a while for the Patriarch. David’s new home at Caerleon was difficult for him, but it is highly likely his mother, Saint Non established an original small llan here which was abandoned when David moved his whole church organisation to Menevia , in Pembrokedshire, where he was born. LLAN-TOR-NON (The Church on the Hill of Saint Non) . StNon was educated at Porth Mawr , (which Latinised becomes Magna Porta), the name of the extensive manor next to the Abbey Estate .It is possible when her son came to Caerleon she moved to a small llan near her former school.
British Bishops made pilgrimages to Rome and Jerusalem and attended the Council of Nicea, Basle, Arles, Pisa, Constance and Sienna.St Cadoc made 7 pilgrimages to Rome!
It is significant that St Dubricius and then St David, with the Bishops of London and York attended the Councils at Pisa, Basle Constance and Sienna . It may be because of St Joseph of Arimathea’s success in heralding the Gospel of Christ to the Britons. The Church was later in the power of the Saxon King INA when the Saxons had overrun Gwent and was then taken over by the Saxon Missionaries of St Augustine when he had completed the Christianisation of the Saxons. The present name of St Michael and All Angels is a Norman one, as it is a favourite Norman dedication.So it is interesting that the persisting dedication to both Church and Monastery was to St Diuma.
St Non’s Well
I understand there is a well here at the site of St Non and later Saint Diuma in Saxon times. I have not yet seen this nor the Norman Crypt-but will do so soon, hopefully. I recently attended a wedding here and there was not time.
I will go into more detail about Llantarnam Abbey later on , when I visit the Cistercian Abbey sites in Gwent and Glwyssing.(South Hereford)
The Church has an existing Easter Sepulchre, not destroyed at the Reformation, possibly overlooked as it was used for a different purpose.