Tuesday, July 14, 2009


The first picture shows Cluny. Cluny had one of the strictest types of Benedictine Monastery and Glastonbury was its main Abbey in England-Montacute House was once the Abbey of Montacute and also an offshoot of Cluny, and also had a small cell or priory at Malpas. Cluny was destroyed during the French Revolution but a copy is to be seen at Worcester Cathedral, which is an identical architecture of Cluny, or at least similar.

The crosses and monuments lower down show the tributes to the Morgan Family of Tredegar House. The Morgans were originally a recusant family.____________________________________________________________________________________________________


Bassaleg Priory

Monastery Clas Church of St Gwladys and St Cadoc's Foundation

There was almost certainly a settlement or Christian place of worship here for a long time before the Normans arrived and before this priory cell was built.
Gwladys his most holy wife and a most chaste woman, being devoted to the Catholic religion would remain close to the habitation of the holy Gwynlliw not farther off than one furlong. And departing to the Lord and succeeding she came to the banks of the River Ebod (Ebbw)where she dwelt and created buildings which most were necessary for both God and man. They both lived religiously and abstemiously and fasted all the time appointed for the purpose . The following penance was enjoined upon them , first that they should wear a hair cloth, and partake of barley bread and ashes with water, mixed therewith a third part in quantity ,every ninth hour and the fountain sedge was be to be for sweet pot herbs but they were most sweet because they led to rewards. The countenance of both of them became pale, as if they suffered from illness ; it was not weakness for health strengthened them inwardly; they were accustomed to restrain the desires of the body by bathing in the coldest water, and they did not more seldom wash themselves in the frosty season of winter tather than the heat of summer, they rose from the bed in the middle of the night and after a bath returned to the coldest apartment and put on their clothes and visited the church praying and kneeling before the altars until it was day. Thus they led an heremitical life , enjoying the fruit of their labour and taking nothing which belonged to another.

Mentioning these and such like things St Cadoc exhorted his mother to leave the place of her residence and admonished by the advice of her son she departed, leaving there to serve God seven nuns consisting of nuns and chaste women. Lives of the British Saints of the fifth and sixth centuries

It lasted as St Gwladys' Church for some time. When Robert de la Haye took it over-it went to the Clunaic Abbey at Glastonbury, this being England's holiest shrine.

This is part of the original charter:

Cartae ad Prioratum de Bassalech in agro Monemutensi spectantes

Carta Roberti de Haia de Ecclesia de Bassalech

Ego Robertus de Haia et sponsor mea Gundrede concessu domini mei Roberti filii Hamonis et sponsor suae Sibiliae , pro salute animarum nostrarum, de antecessorum nostrorum, damus Deo et sanctae Mariae ecclesiae Glaston, ecclesiam de Bassalech in elimonsam, in perpetuam possidendam, liberam et quitam ab omnibus geldis, donis et auxiliis……in bosco , in plano, in aquis, et in omnibus omnino locis, et hoc pro beneficiis tantum et orationibus congregationis facimus. Concedimus etiam ecclesiae Glastoniensi ecclesias……..de Bassalecheum decimis et elemonsinis omnibus, et defunctorum corporibus, quae ad parrochiam de Bassalech pertinent, scilicet ecclesiam de Mahhayn, et ecclesiam de Bedewas,et ecclesiam de Menedwiscleluyn, et ecclesiam de Mapmoil et capellam de Coittarnen et capellam de Pulared…..

St Cadoc's Pool on the Ebbw at Bassaleg

The very name of the water system below ,where a stream ran into the Ebbw was known as Cadocs Pool (Radokes Pulle ‘ in Anglo Saxon). That the Lord of Gwynllwch’s saintly son should be remembered thus affectionately for many hundred’s of years . could mean the church’s original dedication may have been to St Gwladys, his mother, before her marriage a consecrated Virgin , a would-be nun, who carried off by Gwynlliw to be married against her will and produce many sons, including Cadoc Cadoc himself.may have been the dedicatee. When the Normans arrived, these saints were unknown to the French monks, who asked for the protection and inspiration of St Basil. St Gwladys was not a canonised saint, there was little formalised canonisation before the 11th century. Both the Holy David and Dyfrig (Dubricious) were, however consecrated by Rome and Jerusalem and canonised. There is no doubt Gwladys was a good , pious and holy woman.The story o the conversion of St Gwynlliw has already been told in the Chapter ‘The Age of the Saints..St Gwynlliw’s was an important early Minster or Celtic Cathedral Church. There are many posthumous miracles ascribed to him. The church was not, however the most important church in the area. Bassaleg was. By 1146, Bassaleg’s dedication had been lost, when the present dedication to St Basil the Eastern Saint appears. It is possible that the earlier buildings of wood or mud and wattle had been burned by Saxons when they invaded conquered Gwent under Harold before the Norman Conquest. Knight tells us in ‘The Early Church oin Gwent’ that the name came from the Latin word ‘Basilica’, He tells us that the Church stands at the point where the Roman road from Caerleon to Cardiff crossed the Ebbw, probably by means of a bridge , for the Pontis de Bassalech was already there in the twelfth century.

The Charter of Roger de Berecheroles gives the dedication as St Basils and mentions the bridge.1146

Sciant tam praesentes quam future, quod ego, Rogerus de Berecheroles, assensu
Be it known, that I Roger de Berecheroles, present for the future with the assent and

et consilio Ceciliae uxoris meae , Willelmi et Roberti filiorum meorum, dedi et
counsel of Cecilia , my wife, William and Robert, my sons, I give and concede and

concessi , ac praesenti carta mea confirmavi Deo et ecclesiae sanctae mMariae
present my charter confirmed to God and the church of the Blessed Mary of

de Glastonia,et ecclesiae sancti Beselii de Bassalech , omnem terram quae Glastonbury and to the Church of St Basil at Bassaleg , all the land, which my father

Willelmus pater meus eisdem ecclesiis et monachis ibidem Deo servientibus olim William gave , the same churches and the same monks serving God in those very

Dederat…. Qui incipit a capite pontis de Bassalech , et directa jacet usqueplaces….which begins at the top of the bridge of Bassaleg continuing all the way to


In the ‘Monasticon, John Leland wrote there was a bridge of timber ‘over Ebowith caullid Pont Bassaleg and over this bridge lyeth the highway from Newport to Caertaphe’(Cardiff) Knight goes on to say there is no need to look for an important Roman building in the area because the Irish Scholar Charles Doherty has shown that in early Ireland the term basilica was used –rather as it is today in Rome as the site of a very important Church, which has the bones of the bones and other relics of its founder. Bassaleg seems to have had a ‘grave chapel’ such as that St Woolos (original Llanfair Church built by Gwynlliw which houses his remains, and that of Father Issui (Pater Issui)at Patrishow.

In Archdeacon Coxe’s Tour of Monmouthshire (as Knight points out) is a drawing by Colt Hoare of the Grave Chapel and he also says ‘Sir Stephen Glynne wrote On the south side of the church and quite detached is a small perpendicular chapel of plain character , with an east window of three lights and the roof ribbed in the shape of an arch ‘ Archeologica Cambrensis is quoted by Knight as the ‘obituary of the Chapel’ A small isolated Chapel of perpendicular architechture has lately been destroyed ….it has been used as a school’ . Knight concludes ‘Here then was the perpendicular Church of the relics’.

Relics of St Gwladys of Newport

The details are revealed in the ‘Life of St Gwynlliw’.This account was written for the monks of St Peter’s Abbey, Gloucester, so they could be aware of the status of the Church and its property.(Knight) This was important as Glastonbury also had a claim to it

Knight believes that St Gwladys is, without doubt the lost first dedicatee of Bassaleg Church and early Celtic Priory. There is also mention of another foundation actually on the banks of the river where perhaps the holy women went when they were old.He also gives a further indication because in 1186 an accord was signed between Picot and the Benedictines of Bassalech as to where their boundaries were to be.(suggesting both churches had originally been one parish (parrochia) It mentions a church of St Gladewis which Laudomer built on the banks of the Ebbw.

By the twelfth century there were two minster churches in the area within two miles of each other. Gwynlliw and Gwladys were still together.Knight suggests the reason that St Woolos became more senior and important, was because Gwynlliw was also the ruler of the Land, a King like Cadoc his son.The parrochia of Bassaleg he says, persisted into the 12th century, when its affiliated Churches included Machen (Magheyn) Bedewas, Menethistelon (Mynyddislwyn), Risca, Henthles (Henllys) St Brides and Koithernau (Coedkernew) All these were only chapels of Bassaleg amd Knight points out further ‘ as late as 1291 the greater part o the Deanery of Novus Burgo (Newport) is summed up in the taxation return as ‘Bassalec cum capel’. This was already a thing of the past. Churches were being built locally by landowners all over Europe and these chapels were built at that time in stone to serve a local area, and the parish system as we know it was coming into being.

We have heard how Queen Gwladys, St Gwladys chapel was destroyed. Here is a similar one, at St Melangell’s Church in Powys. Excavations revealed the footings of a twelfth-century apse built as a cell y bedd, or grave chapel, above the grave of the eighth-century female saint to whom the church is dedicated. The apse has been restored. Might the foundations of our cell y bedd looked like this?

St Gwladys, like many of our Welsh saints had all the hallmarks of a holy Christian woman. She was beautiful, had wante to be a nun, but was carried off by Gwynlliw to be his wife. She ‘tamed the wild beast’. She brought up their children to great holiness, Cadoc was consecrated bishop in Jerusalem. Maches, her daughter, became a nun and was sadly martyred after being martyred by the Saxons at Llanvaches.Gwynlliw and she bathed in cold water and went for long walks beside the Usk. Their son Cadoc took great care of them both, and there is more about him and Gwynlliw in the Chapter on St Gwinlliw (WQoolos) of Newport. There is no doubt that her son read to her regularly from the Bible and she often frequented the Sacraments.

Her faith gave her great joy and she joined the many holy matrons who looked after the poor and fulfilled the Commandments of the Gospel. Gwladys will have been made a saint by popular usage and acclamation as was usual at the time. Canonisations such as those of St David, (who so valiantly defended the teaching of the Catholic Church against Pelagius at Llendewi Brevi ) and St Dyfrig ,Dubricius canonised much earlier. They were well known having taken part in Catholic Church Councils in Asles.

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