Monday, May 25, 2009

The Massacre of Abergavenny Castle-William de Braose and the Darkest Hours Murder and Mayhem

I am indebted for much of the post connected with Abergavenny Castle for the scholarship of Frank Olding, who has written an excellent history 'Abergavenny Castle-A History'published and sold at Abergavenny Museum (housed in the keep of the Castle. This is a far more detailed account than given here. I had tied Geoffrey of Monmouths account of the Welsh 'Revenge'. The account of William de Braose's life and dealings with King John and the murder of Arthur of Britanny, true heir to Richard I I researched from the internet sources and the peerage history.


I have already explained, in earlier posts that Gwent/Monmouthshire was obtained by the Normans, from Saxons who had newly run over the land. William the Conqueror wished to concentrate on all his problems in the North of England and promised some of his most powerful barons they could build castles on the border and keep any lands they contained. Because the local Welsh Lords squabbled among themselves, gradually by allying themselves to fight against one and then the other, they were able, gradually to take the Monmouthshire lands. The overall Lord was Hamelin de Ballon who died 1103 and was born in Ballon, Maine France. His wife was Agnes de Ballon. Hamelin received thelands of Over Monnow from William Rufus (1087-1100) and was granted the Castle at Bergavenny, and was named Lord of Overmonnow.Hamelin first gave the money for the building of the Bourg. The only remains of this early castle are the motte (on which the Keep-Museum is standing)and a length of Norman bank under the East Tower. The first castle seems to have been made of wood-a typical Motte and Bailey with wood palisade and a flying bridge to the North.

William de Braose

Eventually the land came into the hands of the Braose family. William was a great favourite of King John and was also Lord of his Main seat at Bramber (1144-9th August 1211) Lord of Gower, Abergavenny, Brecknock, Builth, Radnor, Kington, Limerick, Glamorgan,Skenfrith, Briouze in Normandy, Grosmont, and White Castle Gwyn, and so owned all three Norman Castles in the area.William was very powerful.
He married Bertha de Pitres, the daughter of Miles Fitzwalter Earl of Hereford, then Maud de St Valery.

His Rise to power

In spite of his later misdeeds, Williams early life was spent making a name for imself. Being a third son he had to make his way in the world. 1192, he was made Sheriff of Hereford, a post he held until 1199 and 1196 was made Justice Itinerant for Staffordshire.

King Richard the Lionheart of England
William accompanied Richard to Chalus in 1199 and the King was mortally wounded there.

King John

He then supported King John's claim to the throne of England, supported the new king in making various royal grants and was in attendance with John in Normandy at the time of Arthur of Brittany's death in 1203. Arthur was John's nephew and was seen by many as the rightful heir to the English throne. He was the son of Geoffrey,his uncle who was the son of Henry II. Richard, believing John would be an unwise and incompetent king, had designated Arthur as his successor. In 1203, for some reason, Arthur was put in charge of William. William had personally captured Arthur in 1202 at the Battle of Mirabeau. Arthur was caused to disappear and to die and so the ob stacle to John’s Coronation was removed, although no concrete evidence ever came to light. There is somewhat better evidence that he at least knew the truth of the matter, which made it important for John to reward him well.

William was ruthless. He became fed up with the constant onslaughts of the Welsh under Seisyll am Dyfnwal-(s-eye-slith am Duvun-wath-approx ) The Chronicle of the Princes records the deed. Pretending to want to make peace, William invited Seisyll and his men to the castle and prepared a sumptuous meal before the parley. At the height of the meal, a signal was given during scene of joy and merrymaking , the Normans fell upon the Welsh and killed every one.There was no escape. This burned in the Welsh people as the worst betrayal ever. Worse was that the French made for Seisyll’s court and seized his wife Gwladys and slew his son, too young to fight.The Welsh chronicle continues ‘from that time forward , after that treachery, none dared place trust in the French.’

The Aftermath of the Massacre

Gerald of Wales describes the aftermath, while travelling through Abergavenny trying to raise men to take the Cross in 1188 with the Archbishop of Canterbury.
dow Burning with revenge, they concealed themselves in the overgrown ditches of Abergavenny Castle, which they had occupied while the Castellan was away. The previous day, a man called Seisyll the son of Eudas, had said to the constable as if warning him, but apparantly more for a joke and and a laugh than seriously :’This is where we shall climb tonight’. As he spoke, he pointed to the corners of the wall, where it seemed to be lower than elsewhere.

The Constable and his household stayed on guard all night, refusing to take off their armour and remaining on the alert until first light. In the end, tired out by their vigil and feeling safe now that day had dawned,they all retired to bed. Thereupon their enemies dragged the scaling ladders, which they had prepared to the precise corner of the walls which Seisyllt had pointed out.The Constable and his wife were captured and so were most of the men. A few escaped, finding refuge in the Keep. The Welsh occupied the castle and burnt the whole place down
.(Welsh Chronicle of the Princes)

The possibility was that even then in 1182, the keep was a stone building with a thick oak door.


The priory on both occasions had to officiate over the burial of many persons, and we cannot quite imagine what it must have been like to have been holy priests overseeing such a thing. Likelihood was that there was a mass grave somewhere close. We can only imagine what the private thoughts of those monks and the Prior they buried the corpses, intoning the De Profundis of the Funeral Service. The Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) had come and gone for them, and how fervently did the monks pray for the repose of the souls. William de Braose’s reputation for removing obstacles by violence and murder was vindicated, especially in the murder of a young innocent son.

End of de Braose and the Castle

Finally de Braose’s ambition and violence made him a problem for King John. Perhaps William, swollen with power and ambition tried to blackmail King John for more lands and money, and John considered that he was a threat. But soon after this William de Braose fell out of favour with King John of England. King John publicly cited overdue monies that de Braose owed the Crown from his estates. But the King's actions went far beyond what would be necessary to recover the debt. He distrained de Braose's English estates in Sussex and Devon and sent a force to invade Wales to seize the de Braose domains there. Beyond that, he sought de Braose's wife Maud who, the story goes, had made no secret of her belief that King John had murdered Arthur of Brittany. Gerald of Wales describes Maud de St. Valery, as a 'prudent and chaste woman' who bore her husband three sons William, Giles and Reginald de Braose.
De Braose fled to Ireland, then returned to Wales as King John had him hunted in Ireland. In Wales, William then allied himself to the Welsh Prince Llywelyn the Great and helped him in rebellion against King John!

Death and Disgrace for a Murderer-and the Murder of Maud and William

In 1210, William de Braose fled Wales in disguise as a beggar, to France. His wife and eldest son were captured, and he died the following year in August 1211 at Corbeil, France. He is buried in the Abbey of St. Victor in Paris by a fellow exile and vociferous opponent of John of England, Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury. His hopes to return alive to Wales and a burial in Brecon were to be unfulfilled. William's wife, Maud, and eldest son, William, once captured were murdered by King John, possibly starved to death incarcerated in Windsor Castle and Corfe Castle in 1210.

The Castle and Llewellyn ap Gruffydd

In 1215 Reginald de Braose joined Llewellyn in the struggles against King John and re captured the castle from royal troops. In 1233 the castle was comletely destroyed in a battle between Henry III and the Earl of Pembroke. Reginald and Owen ap Gruffydd gathered a huge army and attacked Monmouth and burnt it and made a big slaughter of the king’s men defending it.They went on to destroy Cardiff, Abergavenny,Pencelli, Blaenllyfri, Bwlchdinas and razed them all to the ground except Cardiff.


The Royal Court of Edward I comes to Abergavenny

1295-1319 Castle was in the possession of Edward I, who was anxious to subdue Wales once and for all. The castle was rebuilt in stone and most of the houses.1291 Edward called a grand meeting to hear a dispute between the powerful de Clare family and Humphrey de Bohun of Herefore and a great council of clergy and barons met at Abergavenny Castle. The whole royal court were at Abergavenny for three weeks.

Hastings Family

The Hastings familyJohn (1292) and his son, also John were the local lords responsible and got grants of money from the crown. This younger brother of John was Stephen and took the cross, becoming a Templar at Garway or Kemys Commander and later in Kent. Both brothers were devout. John was responsible for the reform and renovation of St Mary’s Priory in 1320. His recently restored tomb stands in the North transept and also a wooden effigy.

Owain Glyn Dwr

1401 was the last attack by Owain Glyn-dwr. May 12 1401, the villeins of Abergavenny rose against their lord, William Beauchamp.They released 3 criminals convicted to hang and killed the Sheriff of Herefordshire.1403, William said he was ruined by the revolt and claimed his soldiers could not travel beween Hereford and Abergavenny without being killed The town was beseiged in 1404 and Henry IV being a kinsman of William had him rescued. It did not fall.1486-1489 it was inherited by Jaspar Tudor , and then settled on Henry, Duke of York (The Future Henry VII) This may be one reason why the monuments of the chapel were not destroyed by Henry VIII –as they were his ancestors.

Civil War

The Castle was finally destroyed in the Civil War, when it obviously held out for the King Charles I under Colonel Herbert Price royalist governor of Hereford. It was then taken by the Roundhead governor of Gloucester for operations against Raglan and the Worcesters. Lord Herbert led a force from Raglan to try to take it back, but it failed. August 1646, Raglan surrendered and that was the end both of Royalist cause in Monmouthshire and protection for local Catholic priests by the powerful lords.
Much of the information here was thanks to the leaflet available at Aberganny Castle by eminent historian, Frank Olding.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Feast of the Ascension ! The Sunday Feast !

Crown Him with many crowns!The Lamb upon His throne
Hark how the heavenly anthem drowns all music, but its own
Awake my soul and sing of Him who died for Thee
And hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity.

Crown Him the Virgin's Son, the God Incarnate born
Whose arm these crimson trophies won which now his brow adorn
Fruit of the Mystic Rose as of that rose the stem
The root whence mercy ever flows the Babe of Bethlehem!

Crown Him, the Lord of Love, behold his hands and side
Rich wounds yet visible above in beauty glorified;
No angel in the sky can fully bear that sight.
But downwards bends his burning eye at mysteries so bright!

Crown Him the Lord of Peace whose power a sceptre sways
From pole to pole that wars may cease absorbed in prayer and praise
His reign shall know no end and round His pierced Feet
Fair flowers of Paradise extend their fragrance ever sweet!

Crown Him the Lord of years, the Potentate of Time
Creator of the rolling spheres ineffably sublime!
Glazed in the sea of light, whose everlasting waves
Reflect His form, the Infinite,who lives and loves and saves!

Crown Him the Lord of Heaven one with the Father known
And the blest Spirit through Him given from yonder triune throne!
All hail Redeemer hail! For thou hast died for me!
Thy praise shall never never fail throughout eternity.


And this beautiful poem dedicated to Mary on the Ascension

Why is thy face so lit with smiles, O blessed Mother, why?
And wherefore is thy beaming look so fixed upon the sky?
From out thine overflowing eyes brght lights of gladness part.
As though some gushing fount of joy had broken in thy heart.

Mother how canst thou smile today, how can thine eyes be bright?
When He, thy Life, the Love, thy All has vansished from thy sight?
The feet which thou hast kissed so oft, those living Feet are gone;
And now thou canst but stoop and kiss their print upon the stone.

Yes he hath left thee Mother dear, His Throne is far above;
How canst thou be so full of joy, when thou hast lost thy Love?
Ah no, thy Love is righful love from all self-seeking free
The change that is such gain to Him can be no loss to thee.

Tis sweet to feel Our Saviour's love to feel his Presence near
Yet loyal love His Glory holds a thousand times more dear
Oh never is our love so true as when refined by pain,
Or when God's glory upon earth
Finds in our loss its gain. Father Faber +1863 London

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Priory of Our Lady at Abergavenny and Templar Echoes

The First picture is of a man carrying a rosary-missed by despoilers. The second is of LE MANS CATHEDRAL (formerly Abbey Church)in the Loire, Mother Abbey of Abergavenny Priory.


Benedictine Priory of Our Lady and Bergavenny, Abergavenny

The Church of St Mary, Abergavenny, is not an ordinary Church, having been originally the Church or Chapel of the Priory and the monks settled there. This Priory was a Monastery of Benedictine or Black Monks, founded in the reign of Henry I (1100 – 1135) by Hameline de Balun, or Baludun, the first Norman Lord of Abergavenny, and was therefore intimately connected with the Lordship. a prior and 12 monks from the French Abbey of St Vincent and St Lawrence in Le Mans.(See below some details of the Mother House) Little remains of the original structure and most of the present church dates from the 14th century.

The Norman Castle

was built at the same time as the Priory. It was meant to serve the Norman Lords with French Clergy and provide civil backups and records for the Castle.Hamelin gave the proceeds from the Priory to the Abbey he had founded at Le Mans, dedicated to St Vincent and St Lawrence.We can imagine the day of its opening and first Mass. The great lords from roundabout, the clergy from Le Mans and the twelve monks and prior who would be administering the Church and priory, the people in holiday mood, the speeches, the Mass in the great Abbey Church and then the feasting. It was a very happy day.This followed the pattern of Jesus and the Apostles.

The walled Town of Abergavenny was the Capital of the Lordship,. The ancient Church of St John stood within the walls, the Priory and its Church being outside the town, by the East Gate. At the Dissolution the Establishment consisted of a Prior and four Monks. . The Church was cruciform, with a central Tower, eastward of which (or beneath which, as some authorities fancy) was the Monks’ Choir, with its twenty-four stalls, twelve on each side, of carved oak of the XIV Century, which remain to the present time.

The Monuments tell the history of the Priory-Connections to the Templars
Tombs: The tombs are mostly of the lords and ladies of the castle who arranged for the monks to pray for them after death. These figures provide a catalogue of changes in costume and armour over four centuries. But it is very unlikely that there was any attempt at portraiture. A knight was always shown in full armour and in the prime of life; only the addition of heraldry on shields or cloak would identify the person. Many were damaged by Puritans and all have lost the bright colours which once covered them. Some of the monuments are detailed below.

John de Hastings

The material, style of armour and posture of this magnificent wooden figure, tell us that this is Sir John de Hastings II who died in 1324 and not George de Cantelupe, the tenth lord of Abergavenny who died in 1273, as once thought. John de Hastings rebuilt the priory and his tomb would have stood at the centre of the choir. Depressions on the side once held brightly enamelled heraldic shields. The cross-legged posture was a fashion popular before 1330-1340, and had nothing to do with involvement with the Crusades. His feet rest on the lion, a symbol of courage and strength. Animals figure largely in medieval sculpture but some, like elephants and lions, were inaccurately portrayed because few European artists would have seen such animals.

Stephen de Hastings (1286)

Stephen, whom we know was born in Abergavenny, however, is recorded as an important Templar Knight and is buried at Hastings. (Complete Peerage Vol V pp156-157) So Steven may have been the uncle or the Father of John, who may have taken the cross after the death of his wife. There are definately Templar connections to the family.Stephen may have been the Templar Commander who either gave the land at Kemys Commander nearby, to the Templars, or established it as some sort of reception centre for the many who had taken the Cross during the 1188 tour of Wales by the Knights and the Archbishop of Canterbury Baldwin, who was accompanied by Gerald the Welshman and visited Llanthony, Monmouth, Abergavenny, Usk and Newport before moving off to Cardiff. The headquarters were to the north at Garway. Anyway, more of the Templars anon.

Sir William ap Thomas and his wife Gwladys:

He is the ancestor of the Herbert family. When his wife, daughter of Sir David Gamm, died in 1464, three thousand knights, nobles and weeping peasants followed her body from Coldbrook House to the Priory. The alabaster tomb is truly one of the most beautiful in the Abbey church.

Sir Richard Herbert of Coldbrook and his wife:

In the battle of Edgecote (1469) during the Wars of the Roses he was supposed to have killed 140 men with his own poleaxe before being captured and executed.

Sir Richard Herbert of Ewyas:

He was the natural son of Sir William Herbert and the grandson of Sir William ap Thomas. During restoration work the figure was removed to reveal a black, hooded monk called the beadsman which was hidden again when the effigy returned to its niche. A replica can be seen in a wall plaque by the side of the monument.

Richard Symonds,

in his Diary states that, at the time of his visit, in 1645,(about a hundred years after Henry sold the abbey) there was ‘A very faire rood loft and old organs’. The Transepts were extended eastward by the erection of aisles opening into the Choir, and these aisles seemed to have been used as burial places, first of the Lords of Abergavenny, and subsequently of other notable personages of the district.

Henry VIIIforces the closure of the Priory

After the Dissolution of the Priory, in 1543, Henry VIII founded the Grammar School, which he endowed with some of the revenues and possessions of the suppressed priory and granted the Old Parish Church of St John for the school building, and in lieu of it, the Priory Church to the parishioners for their Parish Church.

Current Owner

The Possessions of the priory were granted to James Gunter, of Breconshire, and continued in his family till the beginning of the last century, when Mary, daughter and heiress of James Gunter, of the Priory, married George Milbourne,(Recusant Catholic family) of Wonastow, and so conveyed the Priory and its Estates to him. They, together with Wonastow, descended to their son Charles, who married Lady Martha Harley, daughter of the Earl of Oxford, and their only daughter and heiress, Mary, carried them to her husband, Thomas Swinnerton of Butterton in Stafforshire, whose daughter and co-heiress, Elizabeth, married Charles Kemeys Tynte, Esq., of Cefyn-Mabli, conveying the Priory Estates to him.
His son, Charles Theodore Kemeys Tynte, Esq., of Bridgwater in Somersetshire, is the present owner of the property and Lay Rector.

In Anglican times, The South Aisle acquired the name of the Herbert Chapel, and the North that of the Lewis Chapel. The Choir and Chancel are of great length, and it is possible that there may have been a Lady Chapel beyond the High Altar, seeing that the Church was dedicated to St Mary the Virgin. At some period there must have been a violent and systematic destruction of the Tombs, Canopied Images, and Brasses. At some period, perhaps in 1828, when very extensive alterations and repairs were made, or subsequently, such of the fragments as could be found seem to have been collected and fitted together, so as to make up the tombs again, and it is difficult to determine whether the various parts so refitted really belonged to the, or formed a portion of the Reredos, perhaps of the Lady Chapel, as many of the figures of Saints and holy persons have special affinity with the Holy Mother.

Civil War

The stained glass in the windows, displaying sundry coats of arms etc was destroyed or lost much about the same period. The most probable time of this destruction was the period of the Rebellion, in which sad destruction of Monuments and other objects in Churches was committed by soldiers of Oliver Cromwell throughout the land.Horses were stabled in the Priory church and the beautiful mediaeval windows knocked out. Raglan Castle,a Catholic Recusant stronghold, who kept and protected the many priests who came from across the channel, fell. It had been held by the famous Marquess of Worcester, and was one of the last to fall to General Fairfax, whose soldiers, during the long siege, were quartered in and around this town and did more damage than anyone else, desecrating the church.

Royal Links

In the ‘Diary of the Marchings of the Royal Army’ in 1645, kept by Richard Symonds, who accompanied King Charles I in his visit to Monmouthshire in that year, we have a more detailed account of the monuments and stained-glass windows. Richard Symonds’ .. The Monuments were all standing undisturbed in 1646, and since that date we have no record of them, and it neither seems to be known at what precise time the Monuments were destroyed, nor when they were repaired.

More recent Restorations

.In about the year 1828 extensive alterations were made to the Church, both externally and internally, the money being raised by a loan from the Exchequer Loan Commissioners on the Church rates and by the sale of pews.The alterations to the Nave were startling, and are perhaps best described by Sir Gilbert Scott, who in 1874 reported, from a survey of the Church which he then made, as follows:

Few Churches have suffered from decay and injudicious repair than this … The most outrageous treatment has, however, been reserved for the interior of the Nave. Early in the present century the Nave and its North Aisle were thown into one, by the destruction of the ancient arches and columns which separated them. A new roof, covering the two, was added, galleries were erected, running round the four sides of the parallelogram thus formed: a Pulpit and reading desk placed at the West End, the pews facing westwards, and the Arch leading eastward into the Chancel filled with drapery.’

This arrangement effectually separated the Choir and the Chancel from the Nave. Somewhere about this period the former, together with the Chapels, appear to have been used as a School; to this may possibly be attributed the wanton disfigurement of tombs and Choir Stalls by thoughtless youths carving their initials and names upon them.


In 1882, it suffered another Victorian restoration. In 1896, the Chancel, which had remained closed, was re-opened, the Vestry in the South Transept removed, the Transepts and the Chapels partly renovated, and the whole of the East End of the Church brought into use .

Modern Restoration

It contains some superb monuments and sculptures, said to be among the most important collections of any parish church in Britain.

Mediaeval Choir Stalls and Lady Chapel (Herbert Chapel): The monastic choir stall, and the medieval monuments and effigies in the Herbert Chapel have undergone a restoration programme. .The recent completion of the monuments' restoration programme has been hailed as a magnificent success.

Other restoration work still continues. The Lewis Chapel has been restored and an appeal has been launched to rebuild the organ.
The Priory Church has also bought back the neighbouring medieval Tithe Barn which the St Mary's Priory Development Trust, whose patron is the Prince of Wales.has redeveloped as a Resource for the town, a museum, Coffee Bar and Parish hall.(Open most days)


One of the Priory Church's main treasures is the huge 15th century wooden figure of Jesse, left, which originally depicted the lineage of Jesus Christ from Jesse, the father of King David. Only the base remains of the elaborate family tree. The whole figure probably formed the reredos - the ornament placed behind the altar. This is the only wooden figure of Jesse to be found in Britain. Carved from one piece of oak it was originally highly coloured and traces of this can still be seen in the folds.
The Jesse figure was transported to London in autumn 2001 where it was the centrepiece in the Tate Britain exhibition Image and Idol which ended in March 2002. It was also featured on the front of the commemorative brochure.

Tate Britain described it as "...the extraordinary Tree of Jesse, the largest and most impressive example of wooden sculpture surviving from the fifteenth century.
"This carved oak figure has been acclaimed as one of the finest medieval sculptures in the world but before now has never been seen outside its home, St Mary's Priory Church, Abergavenny."

The Abergavenny Tapestry is back on display

The Abergavenny Tapestry has been taken out of storage and is back on show at the Lewis Chapel in St Mary's Priory Church from
Mondays to Saturdays between 10.00am and 4.00pm and is to be exhibited in the newly restored Tithe Barn.

Abbaye S Vincent et S Laurance, Le Mans France The Mother House

The Abbey was originally built by Hamelin in a very devout area of France, with a wide range of good and devout priests. Gregory of Tours praised it in his time. It was showing signs of real decay in 1636, when it received its first rebuilding.
. Nothing remains of the first abbey founded before 572AD by Saint Domnolus, Bishop of Mans. The beautiful Gothic church also disappeared. Only the porch and abbey house remain of the first building, with a remarkable collection of parchments about economic and social history

In 1636, Benedictine Masons themselves decided to build a new abbey, but restored the cloisters in a mediaeval style.Ever since then they have continued.
Inside, the very beautiful refectory, blessed in 1733, there are two plaques by JW Parrocel, (The Miracle of the loaves and fish and the 'Miraculous catch of fish') which have adapted well, to the architecture and the function of the room . They tastefully restored the other western front with light clerestory windows, white marble. At the time of the French revolution, there was no time to finish the work. The very beautiful library, rich with some27.000 volumes in 1789 was destroyed by the mob. The Cloister and chapter room were destroyed, but have been rebuilt in recent times. A brilliant restoration has made it possible to rediscover a building which is one of most interesting traditional Benedictine buildings in France. It is a mostly nineteenth century restoration.1997-1998 the gardens were restored. It is now a boarding school.Before the Revolution, the arms of the Abbey showed the Fleur de Lys crossed, and so designated as a royal Abbey.

Next we will talk about the particular history of Abergavenny at the time of the Priory and Castle and a dreadful massacre!______________________________________

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Belmont Abbey Mary Procession of Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima

We arrive tonight quite early, and before it was even dark. The weather just drizzled down which was unfortunate but the several hundreds gathered all looked really happy to be enjoying themselves. There were Sisters of Charity, secular priests, friars and hundreds of people from as far away as Bromsgrove, Worcester, Gloucester, and in Wales from Pontypool, Cwmbrna to Port Talbot, Pontllanfraeth and St Davids. IT was a joyous occasion in spite of the weather, People congregated in the Great Hall, where refreshments and snacks were being sold. The book shop was open before hand with a fascinating range of books and sacramentals.

Finally the order was given and we all moved off towards the front lawn to pick up our Handles and lanterns, which were Lourdes style. People all croded around and we could not understand why they had not been distributed indoors because of the rain.But ours not to reason why..... Anyway, having got the candle we went to join the other pilgrims standing and sitting in the lawn area, Because of the rain the procession had been shortened. Hoever, everyone seemed genuinely happy to be in the rain! There were people of all ages, plus, hearteningly a lot of teenagers.Seeing peoples faces alight in the candleglow was lovely, Christmassy almost. The birds were singing and yu could sell the spring smell, even in the rain.The Abbot said this too had a message for us, life is not always easy.

The evening started with a hymn

This is the image of a Queen
Who reigns in heaven above
of her who is the hope of men
whom men and angels love
Most holy Mary, at thy feet
I bend a suppliant knee
in this thine own sweet month of May
do thou remember me.

Then began the first of the glorious Mysteries of the Rosary and we stayed seated for this.The Master of ceremony directed the pilgrims past the statie amd up into the gardens when the huge procession moved off. The night got much darker and a stillness descended on the proceedings and the words of the rosary seemed to reverberate around the abbey, The Abbot dedicated the rosary and procession to the cause of Life and the defence of life by Mary. They were very beautiful comments,

The giant procession moved off singing 'Immaculate Mary', first six verses. Then we progressed through the Second Mystery to more verses of this hymn.After the third decade we sandg

Holy Virgin by God's decree
You were called eternally
Then he could give his son to our race
Mary we praise you, hail full of Grace
Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!

Every time the 'Ave' sung in the preceding hymns,the people raised their torches high as a single person. The large numbers attending did testify to how much we loved God and Mary, said the monk introducing everything. After the fourth mystery,we sang the beautiful ymn, 'Hail Queen of Heaven' followed by the fifth mystery and

As I kneel before you
As I bow my head in prayer
Take this day, make it yours
And fill me with your love.
Ave NMaria, gratia plena
Dominus tecum Benedicta tu.

Finally there was a beautiful homily from one of the brothers, which the Father Abbot praised as it was full of catechesis and beautiful poetry. The abbot then intoned the litany of Lordeto. Following that, the Litano of Loreto was intoned and following

Bring flowers of the rarest
Bring blossoms the fairesr
From garden, from woodside, from hill and from dale
Our ful hearts are swelling
Our glad voices telling
The praise of the loveleiest
Flower of the vale.

O Mary we crown thee with flowers of today
Queen of the angels and Queen of the May
O Mary we crown thee

From garden from wodside, from
hillside and dale
O mary we crown thee with blessings today
Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May. 2009 Belmont

The Miracle of Fatima 1917

God blessed the world with the vision to the three children at Fatima in 1917. Here is a clip from the film.

Tonight's May ceremony on the Feast Day of the event, begins at 9.00pm at Belmont Abbey just south of Hereford, with a rosary torchlight procession and service in the Abbey Church.

Friday, May 8, 2009

NEXT WEDNESDAY-9pm BELMONT ABBEY & Other Monmouthshire Pilgrimages

Belmont Abbey used to be the Catholic Cathedral for Newport and next Wednesday, at Dusk, on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima, there is a torchlight procession, and various celebrations connected with honouring Mary. I understand 9pm to be the start of the proceedings. The procession will move from the grounds of the Abbey into the Abbey Church, where the Abbot will preach a homily, following other celebrations.

Our Lady, in the prophecies at Fatima did say that we are powerless against the forces against us in the world and that the most powerful thing we can do is to pray constantly, the Mass, the rosary meditations and prayers, Divine Mercy etc and this magnificent devotion to the human being that God most honoured to bring Christ into the world during the Month of May, month of new life will be colourful, joyful and give great glory to God.So if anyone wants to come along, it should be a wonderful occasion.

SUNDAY 12 JULY: Diocesan Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Glastonbury. 12am Mass, Benediction, Procession to the Abbey. Bishop Declan of Clifton.

SUNDAY 21 JUNE: Welsh Pilgrimages to St Winifride's Well, Holywell, near Flint.
BR Chester. Pilgrim's Hostel (£35per night)book online-next to the well.

SUNDAY 12 JULY: LATIN MASS Pilgrimage to St Winifride's Well.

TUESDAY 22 SEPTEMBER: Veneration of St Therese of Lisieux's relics at St David's Cathedral (RC) at Cardiff.

As I get details of other pilgrimages and events, I will post them here. Still to be confirmed

FEAST DAY ,Mass and Pilgrimage St David Lewis, Usk (date unknown as yet but late August)

FEAST DAY:Mass and Pilgrimage honouring St John Kemble at the Anglican Church in Welsh Bicknor, ust north of Monmouth.

Day of Pilgrimage, Anglican/Catholic to the Monestary at Capel-y-ffin near Llanfihangel Crucorney, when there was a Revelation of Our Lady at the monestary to choir boys. This was originally an Anglo-Catholic foundation and so the Catholic Church did not investigate it at the time, so is not an 'officially recognised' site. However, there have been seven sightings of our Lady in this place since the 11th century by a Norman Lady, and upon the death of the Anglican Abbot, the monks went to Caldey but later converted to the Catholic Church. Sadly their removal to Prinknash and financial problems made it impossible for the Church to administer in this place and it is now a private house. However the owners generously provide the refectory of the old monastery for tea after the afternoon ecumenical service at 3pm as without doubt Joseph 'Ignatius' Lyne was a very devout and holy man, not supported very well by his own church at the time. I have posted about the sighting two years ago, but will repost , if I manage to get there myself. It would be good to have a few more Catholics there if only to say the rosary together. Picnic lunch.
Capel y ffin is off the main road from Abergavenny to Hereford, get off at Llanfihangel Crucorney, turn left down the hill at the sign to Llanthony Abbey then drive six miles along the road (outstanding scenery) after the abbey turn left up the mountain and then park at Capel y ffin. Enter the little Church of St Mary, Virgin for the procession to the spot. The view from the monastery is outstanding.The church is ruined as there was no money to repair it. (LATE AUGUST)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Church of the Virgin at Panteg-a gift, St Cybi, the Miracle and the Well.

Apologies for he darkness of the pictures below. I took them in the evening and they are not as bright as I would have liked.

Scholars , such as W Rees who compiled the ‘Lives of the British Saints’ have placed the first reference to Panteg in the ‘Life of St Cybi’ where its early name was Llandaverguir., where the Blessed St Cybi himself left a small hand coloured bell. He left there to go to Menevia, city of St David and stayed there for three days.

Deinde Ethelic tribuit in perpetuo Sancto Kepio duas ecclesias, quarum una lankepi vocatur, altera autem Landaverguir , et ibi dimisit Kepius parvum digiti sui cimbalum varium. Tunc Sanctus Kepius benedicens Etherlic regem, egressus est inde ad vcivitatem Meneu Sancti David, et ibi moratus tribus diebus et tribus noctibus.Vita Sancti Kebii

The Church of St Cybi (same saint as St Cuby in Cornwall) is well known, but the parish of Panteg has an unknown patron (apart from the dedication to the Blessed Virgin, which was common to all churches )and is adjoining the parish of St Cybi and also of the land of the chieftain Ethelic.(who gave his name to Edlogan (Edelgynion) the Scholar A.r.Rees suggests the likely site to be the church parish next to St Cybi’s, that at Panteg. Llan is clear, but Da verguir -could point to an early tradition of the Saints name. Spellings were not standardised at this time, and mixtures of Welsh and Latin not uncommon as the Church at Pater Ishow's shows at Patrishow.Furthermore all services were held in Latin, and lay people instructed in the meaning of the Mass.Then there is Gwentian dialect as well, which altered spelling, so it is there to consider.

The Legend, the Miracle and the Holy well

We are told that when Cybi his monks and his soul friend, St Cyngar (of Llangefni)came to a small church where the church of Llangibby is now, he stopped travelling for a while with his companions , he laid a cloth on the floor and spread his tent. The Chieftain Ethelic saw them and sent a man down to find out what they were doing, and after finding out the man told Ethelic told him they were monks. Ethelic was furious and went to eject them from his land, but as he rode off in a temper he was thrown from his horse, and his horse immediately died, and worse , as a sign, Ethelic and all his men were struck blind. Then Ethelic prostrated himself on his face and gave his body and soul to God and to his servant St Cybi and he and all his men had their sight restored. Then St Cybi was given two extant Churches, the fair Church on the fair land Llandaverguir /Panteg and St Cybi, where a spring had sprung up on the site where Ethelic had prostrated himself before God. There follows the information that Cybi went from Panteg to St Davids (in Pembrokeshire) for three days and then sailed to Ireland.

Very Early catholic Catechesis?

This account by Iolo gives us more information still. That there were Church buildings here of some description from before the date of the visit of Cybi and his monks and the great miracle. This was probably the result of the missionary efforts of St Medwin (Medw of Michaelston le Fedw. Comments by Gildas and Tertullian attest to the fact that South Wales was Christianised from the very earliest times. (See the new scholarship:St Lucius of Britain by David J Knight.(2009)

St Cybi of Llan-gybi-Some biographical details
Cybi was one of the great Cornish saints, the son of St Selevan of St Levan in Cornwall. Selevan is a Welsh / Cornish version of ‘Solomon’. St Cybi(nicknamed ‘The Tawny one’ also has a holy well at Duloe .He was born near Tregony , or Callington(now called ‘St Cuby’) but claims are made for Duloe near Looe, of whose church he is the original patron. He studied the Christian faith avidly in youth and at the age of 27 he made a pilgrimage to see Pope Symmachus at Rome, who was made a saint, because of his support, financial and spiritual for the northern Italians, who were being constantly attacked by Germanic tribes, and the amount of aid he sent with Christian brothers who took food and clothing to the African tribes, who were also being attacked and killed by Pagan tribes of Germania at the time. Following this Cybi visited the Patriarch Helliah I (494-516) at Jerusalem, an amazing journey at that time, yet many saints travelled to these places from this time onward. A surprising number of people went to Rome and Jerusalem at this time and we know later, under the Laws of Hywel Dda,in the Gwentian code, a criminal could remove a death sentence for a terrible crime and return to the community, if he made a pilgrimage to Rome and confessed it there. It must have been a huge undertaking, but it was Welsh Law. Cybi however, received more teaching and scholarship and then went on to visit Hellian, in the last century before it was overrun by Persian tribes.
Upon his return to his native Cerniw (Cornwall) Cybi began his Christian evangelisation in earnest. he made his ‘Martyrdoms’ constantly putting himself in the hands of God, travelling from Cornwall in his case. He travelled from one monastic settlement to another, baptising and creating new monasteries. Under the laws of ancient British hospitality, each llan was in duty bound to provide food and accommodation for such travellers, free of charge. From the moment he walked into a village with his coloured bell, rung to announce his arrival, (the arrival of a holy man) he would begin to tell people about the amazing plan of Salvation of God and the sacrifice of Christ. In Cybi’s case, he travelled from Cornwall to Wales and Ireland.
He established the Church at St Cybi (Llan-cybi-Llangibby) and has been called one of the MAKERS OF CHRISTIAN WALES. He established his largest monastery at Holyhead (Caer-Cybi—Caergybi)where he was Abbot.

Llandavergui llan da vergui (The Church of the Virgin? (Da Verga)/ Panteg

Panteg, or as shown on older maps Panteague, means "Fair Hollow". I found the church at the end of a long lane off the main road through the village of New Inn, and found it with part of its Welsh form of the Circular churchyard, which was the border of the place which was holy and separated it from outside world. It really is a beautiful place.

We presume it continued as a small Welsh Church, possibly built in stone in Saxon times .The next mention comes in the ‘Taxatio’ of the Pope Nicholas n 1254. This little church was considered too poor to pay tax to Rome , as it was rural (and still remains so today)It was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and in Welsh would have been Llanvair under the Normans. The Normans will have extensively rebuilt the church and later, in the fifteenth century, a large square tower was built, possibly a defensive action at that time , to protect the people and goods against the constant onslaughts of Owain Glyndwr, who had attacked many religious establishments in the County, which they considered the property of the hated Norman usurpers. Goldcliff Benedictine Priory had been sacked as indeed had Llandaff itself, Llanthony and many other places. Weapons and food would have been placed in the tower.

The monk, Adam of Usk was the distinguished Parish Priest here for a while in later Mediaeval times.

Panteg Church changes

In the troubled times of the 16th century, it became an Anglican Church. TheRood screen was removed along with any works of art and statues.

Catholic Worship in Penal times

Catholic Mass continued to be provided from this time onwards at the Llangibby Public House, the White Hart Inn while the local priests had to keep a very low profile and people kept watch. There is still a priest’s hiding place in the Pub.(see photos at the bottom of this blog) This became the Mass Centre for the area.

The Church given to St Cuby became known as St Mary’s Parish Church.
St Mary's, which has been greatly rebuilt and refurbished in the ensuing 450 years and and comprises a western tower, a nave, chancel, south porch, north aisle to the nave, a clergy vestry and choir vestry. There are 3 bells in the tower - all hung for full-circle ringing and there is no better sound as you approach for Sunday Service or a wedding, than to hear the bells ringing out as you walk through the beautiful old churchyard.

Inside, the walls are plastered, with a timber frame roof and there is an arcade of octagonal piers to the north aisle (a most unusual feature). There are plain wooden pews seating just over 200 people, a stone font with wooden cover, a wooden altar rail and pulpit all dating from the Victorian era of mid to late 1800s. A wooden choir screen was added in 1935 whilst the organ chamber was built around 1879. There are stained glass windows to the north aisle with a painted tryptych screen alter below a wonderful east window designed / made by O'Connor and Taylor. The enlargement of the church was completed in 1876 and one more bell added. In 1935 the Chancel screen was added to the Church.

Tithe Barn
There is a tithe barn nearby , it was probably a grange belonging to Usk or Abergavenny Priory-more more research needs to be done. The Tithe Barn became a school in the nineteenth century . A Reverend James confirmed a great many people in the church. He and his wife built the school at Pontymoile as well during the 14 years he was there as clergyman, with his wife. He was greatly esteemed andd the great stained glass window was erected as a tribute to his memory by his friends.

Disestablishment of the Anglican Church 1920

Changes to the governance of the Church came in 1920 with the Disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Wales (before we had been part of the Church of England). The Diocese of Monmouth was newly formed and Panteg became one of its parishes.
Throughout its history, St Mary's has seen many changes and welcomed many people to worship. There have been many changes through all sorts of trials and tribulations, through financial crises and the development from a strictly rural area to that on the fringe of an industrial new town of Cwmbran. In its quiet and tranquil surroundings it remains loved and cherished by its congregation. I experienced some of that welcome when I arrived to take photographs during an evening when two friendly ladies were polishing every pew of the church and we had a warm conversation, while someone outside was mowing the lawn and tending the grounds.
The site has continued since the second century as a place of the worship of Christ and that is a survival story.