Sunday, August 30, 2009

Catholicism in Mediaeval Wales-Part II-Catholic words in Welsh

Religious Terminology of the Welsh

Valuable evidence as to the nature of early Welsh religion may be gathered from a brief examination of the religious terminology of the Welsh people.

The late Professor Huw Williams , a great authority on the early British Church, writes:
The Faith in Britain was the Faith of Western Europe generally; its Church had the same organisation of ministers. in which Bishops and presbyters became Sacerdotes , the Lord’s Table, an altar. To these Sacerdotes belong the power of binding and loosing. Behind all was the wonderfully powerful force of Monachism.’

And again:
‘Throughout the west one language universally prevailed in religion. Gildas quotes a Latin Bible, and the literature he read was Latin. Long before Gildas, even St Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, though a Welshman, wrote in Latin.’‘The native language it would seem, was only used for preaching to the people. The result of this close contact with the Latin world- if one may thus describe the early ecclesiastical situation – was that out religious language has become steeped in Latin’

The following short list of the principal Welsh religious and ecclesiastical terms will illustrate this; and though the list may be dry reading to some of my readers, it is desirable that the point should be made clear before proceeding further.

eglwys ecclesia
offeriad,offrwm, offeren Eucharistic sacrifice
baglawg baculus ecclesiastic entitled to carry a crozier
Periglor Parochus, Parish Priest
Trindod,or trinted Trinitas
Bedydd Baptismus
Senedd Synodus
Clerigwr Clericus
Pregeth Praedicatio
Cardawd Caritas
Gosper vesper
Gras gratia, grace
Crệd credo
Erthygl articulus
Crysfad chrisma (Old Welsh name for Confirmation)
The second Sacrament, says Canon Griffith Roberts in his ‘Grammadog Cymraeg’.’is the Bedydd Esgob a clwir Crysfod.’
Cablyd,Difiau Cablyd capillatio

(The monks were tonsured on this day, Maundy Thursday)

Calan Caledoe

The calong par excellance was January 1st,, but we also have calan mai and calan Gauaf)
Ynyd initium(dydd Mawrth Ynyd= Shrove Tuesday)
Cabidwl Capitulum cathedral chapter
Urdd ordo
Garawys Quadragesima Lent
Segyrffig (now obsolete) sacrificium
Ystwyll Stella (star)Epiphany festum stella
Pgiol vial
Paeol holy water stoup
llện legend
elusen eleemosyna
y fall malus the evil one,
naf numen
pader paternoster
gwers versus
benedith benediction
Merthyr martyr
Llith lectio
Nadolig natalis
Paradwys paradisus
Pechod peccatum
Addoli adoro
Achub occupo
Arawd oratio
Ysbryd spiritus
Plygain pulli cantus;(night song)
gwỹl vigilio
swyno meaning ‘bewitch or charm’
(means makingthe sign of the Cross Signo- to bless
dwfr swyn holy (blessed ) water
sagrafen sacramentum
allor altare
ysymmuno ex-communio
uffern inferna
dofydd domitor, divinity
cappan cope
cappa;cymun communion
cyffes confession
mynach monachus
mynachlog monachi locus
Lloc locus part of Welsh placenames.( A notable use of its use as signifying a monastery is contained in the Black Book of Camarthen.
Ni phercheist ti creiriau,Na lloc na llaneu
You have not respected relics, nor monastery nor churches.
It also survives in the word ‘llech’(sometimes erroneously interpreted in Welsh Place names such as ‘stone’ or ‘slate’) eg Llechgenfarwydd, Llechydwr, Llechgomer, Caellech, Penllech)
Cil, Cill Cella
Columba was called Columncille- thedove of the cell)
Kilmuine St David’s Cell (Kilmynyw)
Disart,disserth from desertum, lonely place, monk’s retreat
Caregl calyx, chalice
cộr chorus
clas classus,clausum old cathedral chapter
clos (cognate word) Cloister, close monastery-clausus
syber superbus
Abad I’w glosydd rhwng bedw gelision’.

We could go on indefinitely with the list of Welsh religious terms derived from Latin, but these examples are enough to prove how largely we have borrowed from the parent language of Welsh Christendom. So that, apart from the evidence of Welsh history, we have the clear evidence of language .The Welsh word for ‘religion’ crefydd is a notable instance of this. The word crefydd in pre reformation times meant, with scarcely an exception , not what it means nowadays, the abstract principle of religion, vague enough to incorporate any kind of religious belief, but the definite profession of religion in the monastic sense. It meant the religious life, consecrated and followed under the organised discipline of the Catholic Church. Crefyddwr meant those who were under religious vows. In early Welsh literature crefydd was of the masculine gender, but in modern Welsh it is feminine. In fact it represents in its change of Gender the evolution of religious faith from the dogmatic and definite to the undogmatic and indefinite.

The Puritan,’a good man in the worst sense of the term’ may be said to have changed the meaning with the change in gender.

Crefydd Gwyn e.g. meant The Order of White Monks,-crefydd being the specific term for a religious order.This is the invariable meaning attached to it in our oldest Welsh literature , such as the Welsh Laws,The Chronicles and the San Greal and others.
The old monastic or Catholic connotation of the word passed away with the supression of the Welsh monasteries.

Dr Hartwell Jones, the author of Celtic Britain and the Pilgrim Movement-throws a flood of light on the Catholic Character of early and mediaeval Welsh religion-writes as follows:

It is difficult to conceive that Catholicism at one time permitted Welsh habits of thought ; that its beliefs were jealously cherished; that its theological terminology is woven into the very warp and woof of the Welsh language. Indeed from the third century to the sixteenth, Wales adhered to the old Faith as rigidly as Spain or Italy at the beginning of the nineteenth. This revulsion of national temperament and reversal of a national bias is one of the strangest psychological phenomena of English history’.

After quoting the evidence of foreign writers in the sixteenth century, to the effect that this country was strongly and avowedly Catholic, he goes on:

‘Catholicism appealed to the poetical temperament of the Welsh. Underneath the surface, there lies in the Welsh nature a vein of mysticism which three centuries of Puritanism have not succeeded in eradicating. A love of symbolism also, an eye for the artistic aspects of the Christian religion, a fervid imagination, and an impressionable temperament, would naturally find expression in the Catholic Creed and Catholic ritual; in the stately aspect of the Christian year, the unbroken round of services, the religious acts by which Christian truths were expressed, and in the warm colouring of Catholic ceremonial. Many instances might be cited from modern Welsh literature by the pens of writers who would repudiate any sympathy with Catholic belief or practice, yet betray and instinctive harmony with the Catholic spirit.

A more scientific study of Welsh history, and the renaissance of genuine interest in archaeology and antiquarian lire, have led a new generation of Welsh people to grasp the truth that the heroic period of Welsh history and the golden age of Welsh literature sprang from the heart of the Catholic spirit

And specially prominent in this ancient literature is the spirit of loyalty to the See of Rome, deep even passionate devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the Holy Mass.
And this evidence is not limited to any particular period; it is true not only of mediaeval Wales, but of early Wales as well. Of this early period of Welsh exxlesiastical history, Stephens, in his Literature of the Kymry writes:

“The Church had become powerful in Wales, as well as over the rest of the civilised world. Papal theology possessed and directed the human understanding , and gave its impress to all opinions. We have one striking instance of this in the Awdl Fraith which is evidently an ecclesiastical production of the romance era. This might have been inferred from the tone of the composition, its allusion to the afrilat cyssegredig and its Latinised diction.

He even considers that the immortal Arthur himself, the religious hero, the greater part of whose memorials were found in convents, is partly, at least, a being of monastic creation.

‘The Catholic Church’ he adds,’was now in its glory and at the height of its power ;and now, as at all times, was most studious to conform itself to the improvements of society. It mingled with all things without excluding any; and in Wales, theological modes of thought, feeling and expression were everywhere displayed.

‘The Mabinogi’ of Taliesin is replete with theological expressions.’

He attributes the spirit of the old Welsh romances not to the lay bards, but to the inmates of a monastery:

‘Of the fine and high tones sentiments which breathe through the Mabinogion, we have no traces in the works of the bards;they must therefore have emanated from the clergy.’

This , it may be added, is specifically true of the tales of the San Greal, which was supposed to be the cup out of which our Lord is said to have drunk before his crucifixion, or which contained His blood.

Our earliest Welsh literature, in spite of its mythological background and martial atmosphere is by no means lacking in definite evidence of a Catholic age. Scattered phrases and sporadic allusions, as well as explicit references to Catholic truths, all point steadily in the same direction.

The ‘Book of Taliesin’ e.g. one of the ‘Pedair Cainc y Mabinogi’(4 ancient books of Wales)contains very distinct allusions to the religious beliefs of the age.

The Eucharistic Sacrifice (Holy Communion) is designated as the Urddol Segyrffic, the honoured Sacrifice of the Mass.And the Awdl Fraith the ‘Ode of Varieties’, attributed to Taliesin, the Holy Eucharist as Stephens says is referred to as the afrllad cyssegredig.

Again in ‘Air y Mynydd’, a fantastic imaginative poem of great antiquity, preserved in te Red Book of Hergest, the Holy Communion is mentioned in Connection with Confession which is regarded as an essential principle of the religious life.

The end of alle thing in Confession for the sayke of God, make a full confession.
Again the Blessed Sacrifice is desired by the writer as a shield of salvation against the dread decree of the Day of Judgement-
Rhag gormeil golaldydd brawt’

Llywarch Hện , a sixth century prince and poet, and probable priest as well, writes:

Before I was a fair priest Kyn bum kein vaglawc
I took part and made prayerful compassion Bum kyffer eiryawe
Before I was a fair priest Kyn bum kein vaglawc
I was bold Bum by
I was entertained in the convent house Am kynnwysit yg kyuyrdy
Of Powys, Paradise of Wales Powys Paradwys Cymru

The title in connetion with Llwywarch (hện) refers, in the opinion of Professor High Williams, the author of Opera Gildae, to his ecclesiastical status-senior.

But apart from the external corroboration,the words of the poem itself show that the author was a priest.

In consequence of this ecclesiastical significance of hện , he quotes Pawl Hện , the Welsh name for Paulinus, but it is doubtful if this is a true parallel. Pawl Hện seems to be merely the Welsh form of Paulinus with the Latin terminal lopped off. In fact, there is on the borders of Cardigan (Dyfed) and Camarthen , a church dedicated to Paulinus called Capel Peulin. Paulin or Peulin could easily become Pawl Hện, in which ‘Hện’ is, of course a mere phonetic addition.

In the Book of Taliesin (xvii) we have the following lines:-
There will be no priest ‘Ne byd effeiriat
The wafer bread will not be consecrated Ny bendieco afyrllat
The perverse will not know Ny wybyd anyguat
The seven faculties(=Sacraments) Y seith lafanad’

The primary meaning of llafanad is ‘intellect’ or ‘interllectual faculty’ hence its meaning of faculties in the sense of means of grace, Sacraments.

Anygnat is an early Welsh form of anynad from an and ynad,unreasonable contentious, perverse.

A poemin the Black Book of Carmarthen attributed to Meigant a bard and saint of the sixth century, contains a curious proverbial saying:
Ni chenir bwyeid ar ffro’
Mass is not sung on a retreat

In the Book of Aneurin a sixth century document, we have an interesting collection of phrases , referring to different religious subjects, but which, if taken together, point to a decided Catholic environment. They are taken at random:

The Trinity in Perfect Unity
The shaft, heavy as a crozier of the principal priest (Bishop)
They went to the Llan for penance.
A Llanfawr full of desire for Baptism

In spite of their meagreness, the beliefs and customs of the Catholic Church in early Wales peep out quie clearly between these ancient lines.

The last quotation in particular seems to point to a period of high antiquity, when the country was being gradually from Druidic paganism to the Christian faith.

The process of conversion from Paganism was always expressed in Welsh literature as ‘desire for Baptism’.

The following conception of S Peter at this very early period is a convincing tribute to the antiquity of the Catholic tradition among the Welsh:
I love to praise Peter Caraw voli Pedyr
Who can bring Peace! A vedir tag tew!(Skene)
‘Tag’ seems to be an early form of ‘tanc’ assuming the reading to be a correct transcription- and tew is a form of taw tewi.

Oret y Duw buw budyeu Pray to the Living God
Am byd ryd radeu for benefits.through the
Drwy eiryawlseinhau (i.e.seintiau) Intercession of the Saints.

The influence of the Latin on early Welsh phraseology is well illustrated by the first word of this verse-‘oret’ from oro.In fact the Latinized diction of the ancient Welsh bards is quite noteworthy.

We have, unfortunately, very few relics of pre-Norman Welsh script to fill up the long gap between the age of Taliesin and Gildas. And the literature that blossomed forth under Norman influence or at least in Norman times. But even the Welsh glosses and verses on the Cambridge ‘Codex of Juveneus’ (ninth century) which probably came from the monastery from Llancarvan, contain englynion of a highly religious character. The text as we have it is sadly imperfect , but evidence is made to the Tindaud, Bedit, and Mab Mair: The Holy Trinity, Baptism and the son of Mary.

If we had the full text ,we should doubtless have ample evidence of the ancient Faith and its liturgical and devotional forms among the old Kymry

Catholicism in Mediaeval Wales-Part I-J.E.Hirsch-Davies

The subject of the religious beliefs of the Welsh people in the Middle Ages is one that has not been adequately presented to the modern Welsh mind. Were it not for the industry and zeal of our antiquarian societies , it is doubtful whether the student of Welsh history would succeed in passing the charmed barrier of the Purital era, which to most Welshmen has been hitherto the terminus a quo of all that is greatest and most fruitful in Welsh History. It has not yet quite dawned upon the ordinary Welsh student that the Puritan era, on the other hand, and for weighty historical reasons , may be quite truly viewed as the terminus ad quem of a golden period of our national history.The deeper we delve into the records of the past, the more we perceive the profound character if the religious change that took place after the Reformation-rapidly in England, but slowly in the principality of Wales.

In the following pages, the main facts bearing on the religious life of the Welsh people in pre-Reformation times are placed before the reader . It is not pretended that these facts are being put on record , for they are already perfectly well known to the historical student.

The writer merely claims that the facts are put in their proper setting. Within the natural limits placed on a modest brochure of this type it is not possible to go into details: in fact one of theproblems that the writer finds himself obliged to solve at every turn it,not what he must put in, but whathemust leave out Welsh mediaeval literature is a very difficult field of research, and it is by no means an easy task to present the results of ones investigations in the form of a summary. This is particularly the case with religious belief , where the evidence is often so elusive and impalpable , so hard to tabulate and classify.

There are documents in Welsh history in which the verbal references to definae religious beliefs and customs are of the scantiest; and yet if we divest ourselves of the legal conceptions of evidence, we often rise from the study of such documents with a most definite conviction of the real character of the religious system that stands behind it and reveals itself through it. It is difficult to know how anyone that is even moderately acquainted with welsh historical records Can fail to arrive at a clear conclusion as to the character of the old religion (y hen fydd) of the Cymry.And yet the following quotation from Mr Willis Bund’s Celtic Church of Wales

Nonconformity comes closer to the old tribal law than anything else. A Welshman, who studies his country’s history sees that there is nothing so near the old Welsh Religious System than Nonconformity.This is one of those strange historical judgements that take one’s breath away. Some of our leading Welsh historians are apparently afflictedwith colour blindness ,for, however real their sympathy for the Protestant Principle, this vision of a primitive non-conformity established around the altars of the Romano British Church , and offering the Sacrifice of the Mass, is not one that has been vouchsafed to them. It is hard to understand in what cryptic sense modern non-conformity can be made to resemble the religion of the old Cymry;but, as the argument has now been put forward with all the apparatus of historical learning the best way to dispose of this primitive anachronism is to produce afresh the evidence of history.

It may be mentioned in passing that the antithesis between the Celtic and the Latin type of Christianity has been greatly over-exaggerated. It is quite legitimate to talk of a Christian type of Christianity and a Latin type , both ancient and modern. Celtic civilisation with its political, social and legal institutions , differed in some important respects from Latin civilisation , and had a character of its own. But these differences, however important in the eyes of a historian , cannot reach a point where they are likely to affect the essential character of Catholicism They are purely external, incidental, subsidiary.

Those internal varieties or aspects of the one great whole, due to the national ethos, do not touch the question of the unity and the Homogeneity of the Catholic Body. The tribal idea of Christianity was in no respect inconsistent with the institutions of the Catholic Church. The Laws of Hywel dda were framed for a tribal of society. But the Catholic Church , with its long, established institutions was the living centre of that society- the soul that dwelt serenely and fruitfully in the tribal body.

A Welshman who studies his country’s history without blinding himself with preconceived notions will look in vain for historical evidence of the idea that early Celtic religion was a kind of Protestantism ‘born out of due time’.

The religious history of the mediaeval period is not so well known to the general public as the earlier-the age of the Saints; and yet Welsh Mediaeval literature reflects very fully and unambiguously the inner life of the Catholic church and the religious devotions of the Welsh people.

Much of this evidence is contained in our bardic literature so much of which is fortunately preserved in that great corpus of Welsh literature, both poetry and prose- the Myfyrian Archeology.

Welsh Bardic literature from the eleventh to the sixteenth centuries is full to overflowing with the most definite and spontaneous testimony to the religious faith of our forefathers.

Catholic allusians in Welsh Bardic Literature

The Sacrifice of the Mass the invocation of saints. The doctrine of purgatory, auricular confession, penance, fasting, the Blessed Virgin Mary, extreme unction , the supreme authority of the See of Peter- these are the constant and essential elements in the religious as well as the secular poetry of mediaeval Wales.

Dr Rhys Phillips . in his book on The Romantic History of the Monastic Literature of Wales, says that ‘a close examination of the literature of the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries reveals most of the bards as pious Catholics, working in unison with, and receiving much of their information from, the monks who had generously espoused the Welsh national cause, and suffered for it’.

The scores of poems to ‘Mair’(Mary) , ‘the Virgin’, to the saints, and to the various abbots of contemporary monastic houses,form a library of Roman Catholic poetry, probably unequalled in any country of the same size at that era. The Elegy of St Cunedda is in the Book of Taliesin ; while addresses, odes,or cywyddau to SS Beuno, Brigid, Cadoc, Cawrdaf, Collen, Curig, Cynhafel, Cyntog, David, Dwynwen, Einion, Gwenfrewi, Illtud, Mair Magdalen, Margared, Mihangel-next to Mair in popularity- Teilo and others, have been copied and recopied into a large number of manuscript collections.

Welsh literature, in fact,owes its noblest and earliest achievements to the old Welsh monasteries. This fact is at last becoming increasingly evident to the student of Celtic literature, but for the sake of those who are not students in this particular branch, this must be emphasised afresh , for it is very closely connected with the subject of this treatise.

The literary activity of the Welsh monasteries covers the whole period from Gildas to the dawn of the Tudor period.

Welsh Laws of Hywel Dda

It is true that the courts of the Welsh princes were to some extent centres of literary life. This is evident from the testimony pf the Welsh Laws of Hywel Dda. But this qualification must be added: that the literary interest was probably confined to the two departments of (1) bardic lore of a somewhat restricted and professional kind and (2) genealogical records.

Welsh Monasteries as Centres of Culture

The monasteries were undoubtedly the principal centres and courses of culture. The Celtic literature that influenced Europe came from the inmates of the monastery.

The very earliest writings that have survived, such as the De Excidio Brittanicae of Gildas, which is in a sense our first Welsh history, and Nennius’ Historia Britonum both hail from some monastery in Glamorgan.

It is unfortunate that the early devotional literature of the Cymru survive in such attenuated form. We would gladly exchange a whole library of the ponderous and dreary Genevan theology for a few copies of a Welsh Missal.

These were, of course, the first objects of attack by the iconoclastic bigots of the Dissolution period.

Not only did the monasteries produce a very considerable portion of our early literature such as the ‘Lives of the Saints’ the ‘Romances’ and the Chronicles, but they also preserved and transcribed old documents which would otherwise have perished.

Writers such as Gerald the Welshman (Giraldus Cambrensis) Caradoc of Llancarfan, and the compiler of the Liber Landavensis,(Book of Llandaf) had access to ancient records, which they adapted to suit new literary and historical theories, or to meet new ecclesiastical circumstances.

The basal document of all Welsh history is the Annales Cambriae . This is supposed have been compiled by St David’s monastery, a conclusion which is drawn with some confidence from the strong local colouring of some of the entries contained in it. From the Scriptorium of Llandewi-Brevi- memorable for the great council with which the name of St David is connected-came the valuable Llyfr Ancr-The book of the Anchorite.

Camarthen Priory

Perhaps the most interesting literary document in connection with Welsh history os the Black Book of Camarthen the oldest extant manuscript in the Welsh language. It was written in the twelth century by a Welsh Augustinian monk in the Priory of Camarthen.
From the same corner of Wales emanated the famous Black Book of St David’s.

Margam Abbey

Margam Abbey is well known for its Annales de Margam a chronicle that covers the period AD 1147-1232.

Many of the treasures of this old abbey are preserved in the British Museum, still unpublished. These include a twelfth century copy of the Domesday Book, the Gesta Regum and the Novella Historia of William of Malmesbury, and the History by Geoffrey of Monmouth.

The Margam Collection of charters and deeds contain probably the most complete original series in existence relating to one monastic establishment. It was at this famous abbey that the Red Book of Hergest was first heard of, which contains so many exquisite old Welsh romances. It was from this source that Lady Charlotte Guest translated the Mabinogion.

Llandaff Cathedral

The mother church of the diocese, Llandaff, rejoices in being the source of the gospel of Teilo , cometimes called the Book of Chad ;also of the LiberLlandavensis which is one of the most valuable ecclesiastical documents in Welsh history.p 12.

It was compiled early in the twelfth century, but it contains very much older material of unequal value.

Neath Abbey

Neath Abbey, one of the first Cistercian houses in Wales, has lost nearly all its literary treasures. But in the fifteenth century the monks had a copy of a manuscript called the Grail. This was said to be the great San Greal, the romance of the Holy Grail.To this abbey is also attributed the Welsh version of the Parvum Offerium Beata Mariae.

The editor of the Welsh historical Manuscripts Report is of the opinion that the Book ofTaliesin one of the Four Ancient Books of Wales came originally from Neath.

Strata Florida

Strata Florida, the Westminster Abbey of Wales in the Middle Ages, was famous for its learning. It was here that Brut y Tywysogion,the Chronicle of the Princes, was compiled. It appears that the monks of Strata Florida compared notes at regular intervals with the chroniclers of the Abbey of Aberconway, so as to ensure a correct account of historical events. ACodex of the Annales Cambriae is also attributed to these monks, as well as parts of the Red Book of Hergest.

Valle Crucis-near Ruabon

Valle Crucis is perhaps the most picturesque of all the ruined abbeys of Wales. It was known for its generous patronage of men of letters. Its praises have been sung by the most prominent bards of the Middle Ages, such as Gutto’r Glyn and Guttyn Owain,whose history and bardic compositions are closely associated with the annals of Valle Crucis. Here lie the mortal remains of Iolo Goch, the Bard of Owain Glyndwr: and Iolo’s hymns were chanted in the monastery choir. It appears that a White Book once belonged to this abbey, but is now lost or burned.

Strata Marcella

Strata Marcella, Ystrad Marchell, A Cistercian house in Powys is supposed to have been the source of the thirteenth century Life of Gruffydd ap Cynan.

There in the British Museum is a fine collection of Welsh poetry, of which Dr Gwenogfryn Evans writes that ‘judging by the orthography, its original was written in the thirteenth century, inferentially at Strata Marcella, by the scribe who wrote the Book of Aneurin’.
The Dream of Rhonbury is supposed to have been, in its present form, written at this abbey; also the Mabinogion of the White Book of Rhydderch.

The Black Book of Basingwerk is an echo of the literary activity of the abbey of Basing. This is a copy of the Brut of Caradog by Gutyn Owain who brought the record down to his own day.

And so we could go on indefinitely; but this brief list of some of the principal monasteries of old Wales, and their literary labours, is enough to convince the reader that Welsh literature owes an enormous debt to the monastic houses, and that it was generously fostered by the Church.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sunday's (30th) Pilgrimage at USK and Martyr St David Lewis

St David Lewis, SJ Priest M (RM)

He was born at Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales, in 1616; He died at Usk, August 27, 1679; beatified in 1929; He was canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. David was the son of a Protestant school master and a Catholic mother. Amazingly enough, he was the only one of the nine siblings to have been raised as a Protestant--but that did not last for long. After studying law at the Middle Temple in London, he accompanied a nobleman's son to the Continent as his tutor. While visiting Paris, David was converted to Catholicism.

By 1638, he was studying for the priesthood at the English college in Rome. Two years after his ordination in 1642, he joined the Jesuits, who sent him to the English mission for a short time, then recalled him to Rome to serve as the spiritual director for the English college.

'CHARLES BAKER' his alias and the CWM

In 1648, David was sent to Wales, where he used the alias Charles Baker and a farmhouse at Cwm (Monnow Valley) in southern Wales as his headquarters for the next 31 years. This same inconspicuous building was the College of Saint Francis Xavier, the centre for Jesuit missionary activities in western England and Wales. When the persecution of Catholics was unleashed by the liar Titus Oates' fictitious Plot, David escaped Cwm but was betrayed by a servant and captured at Llanfihangel Llantarnam, preparing for Mass betrayed by six disgruntled parishioners, who had been intimidated. Llantarnam was a former Cistercian House and a centre for recusant Catholics. It is now occupied by the Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy and remains as a monstery.

Following a two-month imprisonment at Monmouth, he was tried at Usk and then interrogated in London.He returned to Usk and was imprisoned in a former Franciscan house, which had become the gaol. Although no evidence could be found to link him to the conspiracy, he was convicted of being a Catholic priest,to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. The love local people had for him, however, was not confined to Catholics.The hangman disappeared and the blacksmith engaged as executioner was intimidated to disappear. A Protestant held the hand of the 63 year old Father David 'The Father of the Poor'(Tad y Tlodion) as he was known and refused to let him go until he was dead. There being nothing gained from further cruelty, with relief the mayor ordered him to be buried and Father David was taken on a bier and carried with reverence to the priory Church in Monmouth, where his body was found earlier this century as an extension was made to the priory church, a former Benedictine nunnery,whose last superior was Mother Ellen Williams. He was buried with great honour as the local saint in Usk just outside the endtrance to the church and fresh flowers are left there most days.

There is a prominent grave stone giving the details of his canonization in Latin and English. The annual, well-attended pilgrimage to Usk, which begins with Mass at St David Lewis and St Francis Xavier, with a processional Rosary to Saint David's grave The Catholic Church was built close to the site of the martyrdom, near the toll house at the poster shown above.


(Tune Hyfrydol)
Holy Martyr, David Lewis,
Monmouth Countys glorious Saint.
Father of the Poor they named you,
When you lived and toiled in Gwent.
Priestly work was undertaken,
Danger-fraught from dawn till dusk.
Gladly still you served your people,
Till you died for them at Usk

From your capture at Llantarnam,
Through your time in Monmouth Gaol,
Threats and tortures could not shake you,
For your faith would never fail.
Bravely then you faced the gallows,
Crudely fashioned for your death,
Further torment someone spared you,
Till you drew your latest breath.

Great and glorious David Lewis,
Staunch and steadfast in the strife,
Bless your people here in Monmouth,
Those for whom you gave your life.
Help us to be strong, courageous,
Loyal to our loving God,
To Him then will glory flourish,
In the places you have trod.

Composed by:
Sister Canisius. Llantarnam Abbey


Lord, we thank you for the gift of Saint David Lewis as our local Saint and Martyr. He was faithful to Christ even to the point of accepting martyrdom for His sake. Help us to do all we can to promote devotion to him. Increase our own faith, and by his prayers, grant us the courage to follow his example of love and the grace of conversion for all who seek the truth. This we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
Saint David Lewis, pray for us.
Saint David Lewis, pray for Wales

TOMORROW's PILGRIMAGE BEGINS AT 3pm at the Catholic Church, St David Lewis and St Francis Xavier, at USK.Pilgrims will, after the Mass-this is the 330th year of the martyrdom, process to the tombstone at the priory church and then there are refreshments for all pilgrims back at the Catholic Church.(30-08-2009) These posts stay a long time and the date varies for different years. The Feast day is 27/08.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

This Sunday's Pilgrimage in Monmouthshire-MICHAELMAS INDULGENCE-Climbing the holy mountain and praying at St Michael's Church.


3pm at the Church of St David Lewis and St Francis Xavier.Walk to the old Priory Church of St Mary (now Anglican) which previous to 16th century was a Benedictine nunnery, and where Father Lewis was buried.
Followed by procession to his tombstone at the Priory Church.

St David Lews' remains were discovered during work to the the priory church by a previous vicar who reverently had them placed near the door of the church. The Jesuits and local Catholics placed a large tombstone there with his last words, that he was innocent of any crime and so he was being killed for professing Christ and it was an honour to do so.Tad y Tlodion, the 'Father of the Poor' was so loved by all the people, that Protestants held his hands when he was hung to spare him the barbaric drawing and quartering and his body thus remained whole and he ws transported to be buried at the Priory Church.

Flowers are placed on the tombstone every day.

St David Lewis' shrine is to be found at St David Lewis and St Francis Xavier's Church in Usk, and a memorial at OLSM in Abergavenny.

Holy Mass was celebrated for the Catholics of Abergavenny throughout the dark days of cruel persecution. The spiritual administration of the district came into the care of the Jesuit Fathers, who had established a seminary and college at The Cwm near Welsh Newton. Saint David I,ewis S.J. (also known as `Fr. Charles Baker') was pastor for thirty-one years. He had been born in Abergavenny. He was assisted for a time by Saint Philip Evans S.J. (`Captain Evans'). Both were Martyred in 1679, following the false allegations of the liar Titus Oates: David Lewis at Usk, and Philip Evans at Cardiff.

Several other Martyrs for the Faith are known to have passed this way, and most likely celebrated Holy Mass when possible, namely, Saint John Lloyd (pastor of the Llanarth area), Saint: John Kemble, Blessed Philip Powell OSB, and Blessed Edward Powell. The Venerable Augustine Baker OSB was born In Abergavenny, and was converted to The True Faith in 1600.


It was to a great extent by his advice and exertions that the Congregation of English Benedictines or Black Monks, after being driven from their monasteries and almost completely suppressed under Edward VI and Elizabeth I, were able to avoid total extinction, and reform in exile with Papal approval, founding monasteries for exiles in such as Paris, Rheims, Dieulouard, Doua, St. Malo, Valladolid, Compostella, and Lamspring. The Pope commissioned these monks in exile "to work hand in hand with the secular clergy for the conversion of England, as new Augustines" , and so a stream of Benedictines were to take part in the secret provision of Mass and the Sacraments for their persecuted brethren in England and Wales, for which many of them lost their lives. Augustine Baker was a great mystic, and the author of `Santa Sophia'. He was also chaplain to the Benedictine nuns of Cambrai.(Father Tom of Abergavenny)


PILGRIMAGE TO OUR LADY, ST MARY OF TINTERN 6th September 2009 (Ecumenical, though catholic usage)3pm


Following the successful dedication of the New Statue of Our Lady at Tintern Abbey, there are exciting plans for a pilgrimage centre to be thrashed out by CADW and the Friends of OUr Lady of Tintern.Abbot Aiden Bellinger of Downside will preach the homily and laity and religious from all over Monmouthshire and surroundings will take part.


The statue, commissioned by the Cistercian Community at Caldey by Abbot Daniel (see the YouTube Video Living Stones of Tintern)was consecrated last year.

Come early and have a pictic lunch at this lovely spot.

VESPERS begins at 3pm.There is a small car parking charge to offset the cost of the day.

You should enter at the OLD abbey entrance (not the gift shop and tourist entrance).
Merchandise will be on sale to raise funds for the next phase.

Salve Regina is always sung and refreshments are in the Village Hall afterwards if required. Sunday 7 SEPTEMBER at 3pm

PLIGRIMAGE TO THE SKYRRID Yskyrrid Fawr-The Skirrid)28th September (if closest to St Michael's Day. Please check with Abergavenny Parish.

PILGRIMAGE TO SAINT MICHAEL'S MOUNT AT MICHAELMAS-Papal Indulgence for those who have attended confession and Holy Mass before hand.

I have written much about Monmouthshire's own Holy Mountain overlooking Abergavenny. In that Catholic worship was unbroken through some very cruel times of persecution, I feel the devotion to the Blessed Michael Archangel has been powerful and the people do well to do this annual pilgrimage. (Another up the mountain takes place on Good Friday)

Devotion to St. Michael the Archangel has been a feature of Catholic life in Abergavenny for many hundreds of years. A Chapel dedicated to him once crowned the eastern summit of The Great Skirrid; indeed, at the time of St. David Lewis, who led hundreds of Catholics there for the annual Michaelmas pilgrimage, the Altar was still intact amidst the ruins. Alas, only a couple of stones now remain, but the Pilgrimage still takes place on the Saturday nearest Michaelmas each year. We preserve a rescript of Pope Clement X which reads:-

"Pope Clement X grants a Pienary Indulgence to those who devoutly visit the Chapel of St. Michael on. the Skirrid Fawr on 29'" September -Michaelmas Day. Anyone making this Pilgrimage and wishing to gain the Indulgence is required, first, to go to Confession and Holy Communion; then, on the Holy Mountain itself, to pray for peace among Christian Princes, for the rooting out of heresies, and for the exaltation of Holy Mother Church. Given at St. Mary Major`s, Rome, under the Seal of the Fisherman, on 20th July 1676, and valid for seven years "

Father Tom OSB of Abergavenny.Please Check the date with him or with the Parish Diary on the website.

Belmont Abbey is also dedicated to st Michael the Archangel.

Monday, August 24, 2009

EWENNY PRIORY-NORMAN FOUNDATION -from St Peter's Abbey, Gloucester

Detail from Ewenny Priory Christ entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday

The priory was founded in 1141 by Maurice de Londres as a cell of the Benedictine abbey of Gloucester (now the Cathedral). The site appears to have been fortified from a very early stage, though this was probably for prestige rather than pure defence. Impressive walls, with gates remodelled about 1300, can be seen today. The austere eastern arm of the priory church, including the chancel and transepts, represents some of the finest surviving Norman work in Glamorgan. The south transept houses the founder's tomb. The nave, with its massive piers is represented above.

Ewenny lies just south of Bridgend, by the Ewenny River and Ewenny Priory and Church is the jewel of the village.

In 1141 the Church of Mihangel (St Michael) became the beginning of thewas the foundation of the Benedictine Priory of Ewenny which was granted to the abbey of St. Peter at Gloucester with the churches of St. Brides Major, St,Michael at Colwinston and the manor at Lampha.

Lord of the Manor was the Norman Knight Maurice de Londres, knight of Robert Fitzhamon and this priory is probably the finest fortified religious buildings in Wales 0r even all of Brtain. And if you look above you can see the strong crenelated walls and two gatehouses and four mural towers lie around the priory-even today. This priory is well worth a visit. It probably had wet ditches or a moat and one transept seems to have been used as a tower or keep. The 13th century development enclosed 1.56 hectares and incorporated the North transept of the Norman church (Romanesque style) on one section.There are simple Norman gateways in the passages.
There was ample parking, although the Abbey Church has dwindled into the local Anglican parish church, the Victorian style mansion still lies there, plus the farm, which would have accompanied the priory.

Going in through the main door of the church, the nave is arresting, a large glass screen supplying the rood screen area where the doom area would have been .This allows greater light to filter into the sanctuary and monastic end, through two heavy wooden doors. Going through this is to go through to the mediaeval section, although there is no colour and also only one beautiful window depicting St David.The piscina and the sedillia (priests chairs) have gone, but originally this area would have harboured the monks quire (seats)

The transept now contains a collection of Celtic Christian stones, tomb stones of the founders and priors of the Priory, and tombs and memorials to the Carne and Turberville families. Some of the tombs are in their original position, and others have been moved.

This old priory seems to still have the ruins of the monks' accommodation and this is quite rare to see. Also the old nave and sanctuary have a very distinctive atmosphere and really, like Nicholas Church at Grosmont, give a feeling of walking back into that era and seeing the life of the monks st tht time. The strong walls and gatehouses are really unusual still to see, so that more people should take the trip there to see it all.

We have one more Benedictine Priory to see-that of the Priory of St Mary Magdalene and St Radegunde at Usk, which is now St Mary's Parish Church (Anglican) in Usk.This church contains the tomb of the last Blessed Welsh Martyr of Penal times, Father David Lewis-'Fatherof the Poor' Tad y Oedolion.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009



The rear of the ancient Church, with the pre Norman font and Devon Screen, ancient walls, oak beams and bell rope

We know, that during Earl Harold’s conquest of the Hereford and Gwent lands, prior to the Norman Conquest, it was possible that this peaceful community was scattered and fled to Britanny or France or Armorica as Gaul was then known. Constant warfare between the retaliating Welsh and English put an end to peaceful life. Generally, however, it is possible that the Saxons built an early wooden church on this site. Possibly the mud and wattle earlier buildings so popular with the Celts may have been destroyed. The late Dr Pickford pointed out that some of the stones are of older date than those put there by the Normans (Possibly Saxon?). Following the Conquest, William’s generals, his barons took large areas of the country to subdue.

In this area that Baron, as we have learned was primarily William FitzOsbern, who had his headquarters in Bristol (Bretueil) named after a place in Normandy. The late Dr Pickford also believed the monks accommodation would have been closer to the church than the castle.
So who were the Normans who supervised the building of the little Church of the Priory Cell?
Above Pre Norman font

The Church has recently been restored and saved by an organisation . It is only open every Sunday morning at 8.45 for a Church of England Service and every Sunday afternoon in August. Refreshments are available. It lies just on the road south of Belmont Abbey in studding countryside by the river.

Above note the early 14th Century Devon Screen, which the parish are hoping to have professionally restored There are four panels showing Our Lady and the Child Jesus. There are four panels altogether, which came from a ruined catholic chapel near Seaton Junction Station at Whitford . It was donated by the owner of the property to the newly restored French Urseline Nuns at St Monica’s Priory at Spittisbury. After a while the screen was sold and aquired for Llangua. It is perfectly in keeping with the church’s age and tradition.The Images are of the Virgin Mary, Our Lord, King Edmund, Martyr and a bishop.

It is described and illustrated by Frederick Bligh Bond and Dom Brede Camm in Roodscreens and Roodlofts Vol II pp 212-213.

Nave and Chancel of the Priory Church of St James. Unusual to see the chancel part on the same level as the nave, but it appears the floor has been raised several times to cope with flooding. Notice the barrel roof (although bosses are Victorian!)The Priory Church can only be lit by candlelight.

The manot and priory were given to the Abbey of Lyre before 1183. A cell of Benedictines (black monks) were placed here. The Abbey of Lyre was built in the beautiful Risle Valley in Normandy, which you travel over via a big viaduct on the Motorway to Le Mans.There is no knowledge of what the name means. However, there are some interesting stories to come out of Lire .

Abbaye de Notre Dame, Lire, Normandy

Lire Abbey, Risle Valley,Normandy, drawing and woodcut
Early Eighteenth Century
This was founded by Robert de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Leicester (1104 – 5 April 1168). The surname "de Beaumont" is given him by genealogists, in fact the only known contemporary surname applied to him is "Robert son of Count Robert". Henry Knighton, the fourteenth-century chronicler notes him as Robert "Le Bossu" (meaning "Robert the Hunchback" in French).

He was Justiciar of England 1155-1168.
Robert was very generous to his Abbey at Lire In addition to the abbey of St. Mary de Pré, in Leicester, the earl founded in England the Cistercian abbey of Garendon in 1133, the Fontevraldine priory at Nuneaton between 1155 and 1160, the priory of Luffield, and the hospital of Brackley. He refounded the collegiate church of St Mary de Castro as a dependency of Leicester abbey around 1164, after suppressing it in 1139. Around 1139 he refounded the collegiate church of Wareham as a priory of his Norman Abbey of Lyre.

His principal Norman foundations were the priory of Le Désert in the forest of Breteuil and a major hospital in Breteuil itself. He was a generous benefactor of the Benedictine abbey of Lyre, the oldest monastic house in the honor of Breteuil. The Breteuil was the name taken by the son of William FitzOsbern after this Knight’s untimely demise in Normandy! We have seen that Fitzosbern himself had a big part in the foundation of Chepstow Priory. By 1068 FitzOsbern had gifted six priories to Lire. The property belonged to Lire for almost a hundred years before the priory was built on the site of the earlier foundation founded by Ciwa.

According a charter (ca 1070AD), Lyre owned in Landaff's bishopric The manor of Larquewen(Llankywan) and the tithes of Grosmont's forest, half of the tithe of tollgate of Strigueuil, one half of the tithe of between Waie (Wye) et Ousche(Usk-), namely cows, pigs, feathers, fish, honey and cereals. So we can see here what was produced in the surrounding lands.

Eventually, I believe the area involved was too far from the established centres at Monmouth and at Abergavenny to make for easy administration from Grosmont. In addition the Lord of Grosmont, was happy to allow the small number of monks possibly only two achieve a stone building on the site of the present Church. The original Celtic Church buildings, possibly any Saxon building was built upon. The monks were useful for all sorts of reasons. They could supervise the fishing rights on the Monnow and administrate the Mill, collect the rents and tithes, make accounts and records.

Hilaire de Llankywan was the prior in 1196 Prior Peter Maunsell was the Prior in 1268 at the time of Henry III and Brothers Robert and Thomas Turberville and Gilbert Talbot were also the monks at that time and it is unlikely that there were ever any more than two or three. During Mediaeval times, there would have been considerably more people in the Llangua area, since most people were then involved in architecture.

Secret Catholic Associations,Recusancy and St James as a Mass Centre?

An early record of Llangua Church also mentions ‘a blocked priest hole.’ This is very important as the land was owned by one of the most extreme Catholic haters in the entire country. In the the chapter ‘Dangerous Times for Catholics’ you can see the terrible persecution of Catholic Christians that went on from the time of Elizabeth until the first of the Relief Acts.
Llangua Priory Church from the Mill
John Scudamore obtained the lands and priory building from Shene at the time Henry VIII seized the Abbeys and was anxious to keep them. He and John Arnold hunted down priests all over the county and were zealous in their desire to kill priests. There was a political dimension to all this too, but in the case of the three Monmouthshire and one Herefordshire Martyrs, they were simply the sons of local people who had been led by the spirit to train and minister in the ways of the faith from the time of the Apostles. David Lewis (linked with Llantarnam) John Lloyd (linked with Trivor ) and Philip Evans (linked with Abergavenny and the Gunter’s House) were the Gwent Martyrs . After the priory was attached to Shene and later sold to Scudamore, I suspect little was done to improve the fabric of the church. From the time of Richard Gwyn, (during the reign of Elizabeth I) young local boys went off to St Omer and Douai to train as priests and come back to be pastors to their flocks.

Two things happened to panic the general population:
1.A group of desperate young men, became terrorists and persuaded Guy Fawkes to try and blow up parliament, hoping there would be an end to the persecution with a change of King! It was an act of God that this did not happen , since Guy Fawkes had packed enough explosives into the cellar of the House of Commons to blow up half of London, and the loss of life would have been terrible. It was a disaster for the Catholic population as regards public relations.

2.In the time of Charles II, Titus Oates told terrible lies and stories against Catholics, particularly priests. The fear of Spain could no longer be used to turn people against Catholics This was the time when the Anglican Church itself was under attack by Puritans and Presbyterians following the legacy of Cromwell. .The people were ‘spooked’ by these lies about ‘foreign spies’. Evidence shows that Charles II never believed any of it, especially as he remained a secret Catholic all his life, although living as an Anglican. Titus Oates was later found to be lying and was executed, but not before 120 priests had perished by hanging, drawing and quartering as well as many lay people , By the seventeenth century perhaps the Scudamoresno longer took a very great interest in the church, because to have a priest hole in the church itself meant that the Holy Mass must have been offered there, in the Church for many years by priests willing to’ lay down their lives for their sheep’. To be fair many Anglican clergy were becoming uncomfortable about the treatment of Catholics and Catholic priests and faithful.They often buried Catholics at night in their churchyards after their Requiem Masses. St Maugham’s Church was not far away and two Catholic priests were buried there-Francis Dormer (who died in 1770) and John Williams (died 1793).Perhaps they offered secret Mass at Llangua in later years, whilst Father Kemble or Fathers Lewis,Evans or Lloyd must have at one time

What other changes did the monks make?
The Gwent Saint Iago Shrine!!St James the Apostle

Well it seems they actually rededicated the Gwent Shrine to the Apostle James. We know St James as being in the inner circle of Christ. He was one of the the first disciples that Jesus called after Peter and Andrew with his brother John. Jesus called them ‘Sons of Thunder’ so perhaps they were a bit loud and bombastic but also courageous. James is there throughout Jesus life but takes no special role and does not become an intimate friend of Jesus like his brother John, yet receives some great insights. James is there at the Transfiguration. Jesus went up to a high mountain and sood there praying and suddenly he becomes completely filled with a bright light, the glory of God. This frightens the disciples, but they see, once and for all the Divinity of Christ. One minute he is walking and eating with them , the next he is shown to them as God. Next to him appear Elijah and Moses, Old Testament prophets who have been promised in personal contacts with God that they will see the Saviour

Above:.This statue,beautifully crafted, is of St James, himself dressed as a pilgrim on the way to Compostella. He wears the shell pilgrims badge on his hat and carries the pilgrim’s staff. St James would not have been carrying a Bible of Course, as he could not read and the Bibe was not written for some time after Jesus death. He was carrying a lantern, however, a symbol of Light, the Light of Christ.

Again, James is present at the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. These events absolutely convince the Apostles of Jesus claim to be God and remain with them for the rest of their lives. There are also James and John were present at the healing of Peter's mother-in-law (Mark1, 29), and at the raising of Jairus's daughter (Mark 5, 37; Luke 8, 51). They are described in private conversation with Jesus on the mount of Olives (Mark 13, 3) There are some letters in the Bible written by James in the New Testament. In the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke in the New Testament, he attended the ‘Council of Jerusalem’ when all the Disciples, Apostles and Peter and Paul met to discuss whether non Jewish (Gentile) converts to Christianity needed to conform to Jewish Law such as Circumcision, where Peter and Paul argued forcefully against this. (This was the first of the many Councils of the Church)

Their mother Salome - or they themselves - asked Jesus to accord them places on his right and his left when he came into his kingdom (Matthew 20, 20-28; Mark 10, 35-45), when they also declared themselves ready to drink from the same cup as Jesus - i.e. to accept martyrdom. Finally, the sons of Zebedee are specifically mentioned as present at one of the post-resurrection appearances (John 21, 2), on the lakeshore of Tiberias; and among those gathered in the upper room after the ascension (Acts 1, 13). The only certain fact recorded of James afterwards is his martyrdom (Acts 12, 1-2) at the hands of Herod Agrippa I (r. 41-44 A.D.).

He is known as James the Great to distinguish him from James the Less, or James the brother of the Lord (also called by Eusebius James the Just) who became a pillar of the Jerusalem community, and is thought to have been the first bishop of Jerusalem (Galatians 1, 19 and 2, 9).

After the Martyrdom of James for details of this pilgrimage A cathedral of Ammonite Catholics marks the spot where his body fell and these brothers say they have the remains and relics there. But there is also a different story-that at least part of his body or relics were taken to Galicia in Spain. This was said to have been done by the inspiration of an angel. The relics were taken inland to Isla Padron and then disappeared out of sight.

According to tradition there were miracles all along the way. Life was still dangerous for Christians during the various persecutions and the secret guardians hid his relics well. His relics were much travelled.. In the7th and 8th century documents (i.e. prior to the discovery of the tomb) refer to the belief that James spent a number of years preaching in Spain before returning to Jerusalem, and martyrdom.

His followers are believed to have carried his body down to the coast and put it into a stone boat, which was carried by angels and the wind beyond the Pillars of Hercules (the straits of Gibraltar), to land near Finisterre, at Padrón, on the Atlantic coast of northern Spain. The local Queen, Lupa, provided the team of oxen used to draw the body from Padrón to the site of the marble tomb (Arca Marmorica), a little way inland, which she had also provided. The saint was believed to have been buried with two of his own disciples, Athanasius and Theodore.

St James of the Field of Stars (Compo=stella)

The site of his tomb was forgotten for some 800 years. Then in the ninth century he was discovered by a hermit Pelayo, who saw strange lights in a field and when he went to the location, he found a stone box with the relics of Saint James , identified by its markings. The field where the box was found is called ‘Saint Iago(James) in the Field of Stars.’ When the Apostles divided the known world into missionary zones, the Iberian peninsula fell to James. There is nothing intrinsically implausible about this: Spain was already a well-established part of the Roman world, and Paul, writing in 56 or 57 (Romans 15, 24 & 28), is clear about his own desire to make a missionary journey to Spain. (On the other hand, Paul was generally reluctant to visit places that had been evangelised by others, preferring to found churches of his own, so his reference might be taken as evidence against James having preceded him to Spain ... )

The local Bishop verified them as the bones of St James. A huge 12th century Cathedral was built over the Field of Stars and every year many thousand people travel the route, through France and the ‘English’ route from Bordeaux to arrive at Compostela on St James Feast Day, the Day of his martyrdom -25th July. A book was produced at the same time as the Cathedral was built Liber sancti Jacobi-(Hymns and songs of St James and his, liturgy )Pilgrims from the Middle Ages carrying the Staff and wearing the scallop shell. Pilgrimage is the idea of freeing the body spiritually.. Modern pilgrims want the same thing. Over 100,000 people make the this pilgrimage every year . Friendships and companionships are made.

St James (Iago) of Compostella in Northern Spain
-Welsh starting point of a pilgrimage

People come off the treadmill of modern life. Pilgrims come from 90 different countries all around the world. The route is legendary and pilgrims are not drawn not just from religious people, but also people who want purpose in their life and who try to find their faith-they ‘knock on the door’ by doing this pilgrimage. Which is an ancient Channel of civilisation. They walk on average 20 miles per day, stopping at the shelters. Volunteers work there to help the pilgrims and offer-breakfast and help with blisters . Support of other pilgrims on the route is special, and necessary because many people embark on the pilgrimage , having no experience of walking! People may ride, or cycle or even come by wheelchair, but not by car.Christians make such a pilgrimage as a symbol of our journey through life to heaven and the spiritual insights received,bringing them closer to God and away from the concerns of the world. It is the descendant of the ‘White Martyrdom’ of the Celts, which is why there should be some discomfort! Many pilgrims say that St James himself has helped them and appeared to them along the way urging them on.

Iago is Spanish for ‘James’and the Invasion of the Islamic Moors

The Hostel de St Marcos in Compostella was used to house the Spanish Order of Benedictines of St James. The Order was charged with protection of Christian Pilgrims against the Moors. This is politically incorrect today but the Moors were aggressors and they were being invaded and there developed a sacred struggle against Islam, until the advent of ‘El Cid’ and the struggle of Ferdinand and Isabella , which pushed them out again. When pilgrims arrive at Compostella, they place their hands on the Pilgrims Hand on the doorway and then go to meet the Apostle behind the altar. A huge crozier with incense swings in the Abbey Church (originally to cope with the smell of the pilgrims!) This , from all who have done it, has been one of the most special and beautiful journeys of their lives.The Image and Symbol of the Journey is a powerful tradition of the earliest years after our Lord had ascended into Heaven. When pilgrims reach Compostella, they go further to the end of the land at Cap Finisterre and burn their clothes as a symbol, that they have been inwardly changed, born again and resolve to do better, before the long and uncertain trip home. When they return home is when their new life, the inward journey begins.

The Image of St James at Llangua is of wood and would have been brightly coloured. It shows St James, himself traditionally garbed as a pilgrim to Compostela holding the pilgrims staff and wearing the typical straw hat. In his right hand he holds the book of the gospel (even though of course, none of the Apostles or disciples had Bibles and he could not read anyway)It is the pilgrims dress he wears and may have been brought back by a parishioner who had done the Camino Walk to Compostella , perhaps the best known pilgrimage in the world, others being Rome, where many Welsh people went. Cologne in Germany (Shrine of the Magi) and Jerusalem, where at least three of our Welsh saints were consecrated as Bishops, David, Teilo and Padarn. The original statue was made to hold a lamp, but looks extremely good quality. On his head, he wears the hat with a scallop shell.

Next:A word about the Abbey of Lyre!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


The picture of St Kew, taken from St Kew's Church in Cornwall is from David Hunt Nash's excellent site, which is a treasure trove of Celtic Christian information. You can take a look by cutting and pasting this link into your browser.

Ciwa (St Kew) with her bear in the beautiful stained glass window in Cornwall. She is holding her church of St Kew, not Llangua.

The photos below show a variety of scenes of Llangua Church and also th site of the mill excavation on the nearby Monnow. It is an exceptionally pretty site. Please leave a donation if you go, although there is no entrance charge. Tea and cakes are served during the August opening hours.Belmont Abbey is nearby and you can book at the refectory for a superb and moderately priced Sunday lunch. The Abbey Church is currently being refurbished.Belmont is only a mile or so from Llangua-turn right to the Belmont Golf Club. The Abbey also has a bookshop with religious goods and lovely gardens.


Today and intriguing article about the little Priory of Llankywan, known in Welsh as Llangua. Whilst the land is in the diocese of Cardiff (Belmont Abbey lies a mile up the road and used to be the Cathedral for Newport)it has somehow come into the diocese of Hereford and has been restored in recent times, so this little former Benedictine cell at least lies close to a larger Benedictine Abbey.

Later this week I will discuss its Mediaeval story, the St James features we see inside the church and the superb statue.

What I want to discuss today, is this little priory cell, which was there to administer the surrounding lands, collect tithes and serve the churches up the hill at Grosmont Castle and St Nicholas,with priests. It was here long before the Norman overlords arrived. William FitzOsbern, William the Conqueror's strongest henchman, (who did not last long as I explained in my post on the Benedictine Priory of Our Lady at Chepstow)endowed many of the religious foundations in East Monmouthshire under his Knights to whom he granted lands.

ST CIWA and the LLan or Celtic monastic settlement at Llangua

The earliest we know for certain about the little Priory of Llanciwan is that it was a ‘clas’ church and was doubtless a monastery in Celtic and Saxon times. The circular nature of the wall of the churchyard gives credence to this and Dr Piper, a historian and friend of the church was convinced that the larger stones used in the building of the Priory Church dates to earlier times.

I have already talked about the Catholic church in Celtic times, so it is possible that small wooden or mud and wattle buildings were on the site and were taken over in later times by Saxons who may have put up a stone church before The tub front of the church is Norman and the interior porch doorway is round-headed. There are a number of unrestored perpendicular windows, and a blocked priest hole. The tower is half timbered with a row of turned balusters below the pyramidal roof with a gold weather cock.

Saint Ciwa, Saint Kew(also called Ciwa, Kuet, Kywere,Kywan) Foundress-Llangua and St Kew (Landow)

So who was St Kew? If you’ve been to Cornwall (Kerniw) you probably will have seen the village and church of St Kew on the A 39 Atlantic Highway.Her brother St Docheu of Docco(of Llandogo near Tintern)would have nothing to do with her until she tamed a bear, though more recent tradition says that she inspired the locals to hunt it down and kill it).

Ciwa was thus allowed to build herself a small hermitage and chapel near her brother's, but she wisely chose to go further away to a site more protected from wildlife attacks.

She died on 8th February (year unknown)ibn the sixth century and was subsequently remembered more fondly than Dochau. The present village of St. Kew in Cornwall grew up around her church. She may have founded Llan-ciwa as her first foundation, as no doubt she died at the one at Llanow. Her monastery at St Kew was de-spoiled by King Edgar in about 958-975AD during the Saxon invasion of Cornwall.

As so many Welsh saints, she was a traveller and no doubt after her first years at Llangua,she perhaps travelled closer to her brother, down to Cornwall and took over her 'llan' at what is now St Kew, and formerly had been her brothers'foundation.It is also possible, that, as Saxons began to attack the Welsh borders, she travelled to Cornwall for safety's sake.

ST DOCHAU of LLAN-DOGO-Also Docco and Oudecaus-later Bishop-nephew of St Teilo

St Dochau was a hermit monk doing his ‘Green Martyrdom’ at 'Llan-Dogo' and in ancient writings said that St Ciwan came to visit him there , whilst doing her own ‘white martyrdom’. (Travelling to do the will of God wherever it took her) Dochau would not receive her until ‘he sawe a wild boar miraculously obeye her’.

We learn from Dochau that he found she had become such a pattern of goodness, humility and gentleness that she became to be revered and accepted as a saint by the local communities at Llangua and St Kew, and it is fitting that her monastic foundation in Wales is still there in the village's name to this day..

St CIWA's FEAST is on 8th February

In the Welsh Calendars, St Ciwa’s feast is on 8th of February. This is one feast day which should be remembered by the people of Llangua, and St Kew, (which used to be known for her brother in Cornish-Llandow) The little Welsh girl who came to both remote places to love and serve the Lord, where she could be at peace and grow in Christ's will, not being distracted by the ways of the world. No doubt she attracted others who felt likewise.

For fuller information on the Celtic monasteries and clas churches and Celtic Catholic traditions, please go to the blog on St Cadoc on the links to 2007 below on the left hand column.

On visiting the Church you can see that the floor of the church has been raised several times, possibly because of flooding. The Celtic Catholic religious who first built the site, would have been aware of the holiness of St Kew and would have
been inspired by her example.


The dedication to St James seems to have been much later-possibly in Mediaeval times, as even when Henry the VIII men came to seize this little priory,it was called the Pryorie of Llankywan in Monmouthshire. So Ciwa's name has prevailed in the name of the nearby village - Llan-gua (ciwa).

My Visit

This church has been restored by the 'Friend of Friendless Churches' and is only open one Sunday of the month for an Anglican Service at 8.30am. It is open during August every Sunday afternoon and it is an idyllic church in an idyllic spot and some very friendly people provide refreshments in the church, which is next to the river, where the monks mill site has been recently excavated.

This little church has one enormous secret, and one of which Catholics should be proud- but I'll go into that in a subsequent post!

Next: Llangua (south of Pontrilas south of Hereford on the river)