Pretty Ruins Now, but What's the Truth Behind the Medieval Monasteries ofWales? the Religious Houses of medievalWales: Small, Remote, Inward-Looking - or Were They?

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 23, 2010 | Go to article overview

Pretty Ruins Now, but What's the Truth Behind the Medieval Monasteries ofWales? the Religious Houses of medievalWales: Small, Remote, Inward-Looking - or Were They?


Byline: JANET BURTON;DR KAREN STUBER

DR KAREN STUBER IF we ever think about medieval monasteries at all, we tend to conjure up images of seclusion, of monks or nuns in silence and prayer, cut off from the outside world and deeply immersed in their own spiritual lives.

We tend to think of the religious houses of medieval Wales as peripheral, not just in the geographical sense, but also in the sense of their remoteness from the rest of medieval society.

And we tend to think of ruins - picturesque ruins, that is.

Turning off the A48 on our way to the Severn Bridge, for example, we pass the spectacular remains of the Cistercian abbey of Tintern. And normally, this is just what we do: we pass them, impressed, perhaps, by their grandeur, which is all the grander on account of their remoteness.

But if we pause for a moment and think about what these places were like in their heyday, some 800 years ago, we will come to realise that far from remote and inward-looking, Tintern Abbey and the other 40-odd abbeys and priories of Wales during the Middle Ages were vibrant institutions that were really very much part of medieval society. …

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