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Strata Florida: Place of History and Landscape

A brief history of Strata Florida tells us that it is the site of a former Cistercian monastery which was of immense importance to Wales during the Middle Ages. Even today the place, its long history and landscapes have great significance for Welsh people and their culture.

The conserved ruins of its church and part of the cloisters are in the care of Cadw, the Welsh Government's heritage agency, and can be visited by the public. It is also the location of the Strata Florida Project being carried out by the University of Wales Trinity St David under the direction of Professor David Austin which is giving a greater understanding of the site with more now, and in the coming years, to visit and appreciate.
Reconstruction painting of the whole precinct of Strata Florida as it might have looked in the mid-13th century, viewing it from the east.  The painting is by Chris Jones-Jenkins,
Reconstruction painting of the whole precinct of Strata Florida from the east
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The project has two primary elements: the Strata Florida Research Project, co-directed by Quentin Drew, Dr Jemma Bezant and Professor Austin, which aims to increase our knowledge of the site's long-term history and of its place in the landscape; and the Strata Florida Centre, which seeks to acquire, restore and develop an adjacent set of historic buildings to serve as a venue for activities related to the place's long history. One of these key activities is the interaction with schools and young people through the Abbey School, set up by Gaenor Parry and Professor Austin.

The ruins lie just to the east of the village of Pontrhydfendigaid, near Tregaron in Ceredigion, on the western edge of the Cambrian Mountains in mid Wales. Post code: SY25 6ES. OS grid reference: SN 7467 6569. A key aim of this web-site is to assist you in enjoying you in visiting Strata Florida and its landscape.

The Cistercians chose the place to worship and contemplate God because of its solitude and isolation in a beautiful enclosed valley in the fold of the mountains.
This aerial photograph, taken by Toby Driver in 2012, shows the area of the Abbey precincts looking eastwards up the valley towards the Cambrian Mountains.  The precinct is well picked out by the green fields in the middle of the photograph.  These are some of the best agricultural fields in the area, still drained by the monks' engineering of the Afon Glassffrwd running on the edge of the Abbey Wood on the right (south) of the precinct.
Aerial view (looking east) of the valley in the Cambrian Mountains where the abbey was eventually built
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Their order also required the monks to provide the means of living by the work of their own hands and were involved in building, farming, lead mining and quarrying, woodland and water management, but they also practised the quieter skills of writing and copying manuscripts.

Indeed many of the central texts of Welsh culture, religious, historical and literary, were worked on here. This included the first history of Wales in the Welsh language, the stories of the Mabinogion and Welsh poetry. The most famous of all the Welsh medieval poets, Dafydd ap Gwilym, also has a strong claim to have lived, died and been buried within this community of monks.

The Abbey also played a part in the great events of Welsh independence in the Middle Ages with connections to important people, especially the Lord Rhys (Rhys ap Gruffydd) the Prince of Deheubarth (south-west Wales), Llywelyn the Great of Gwynedd in the north and Owain Glyndwr. A visitor to Strata Florida in its heyday would have seen impressive buildings reflecting the wealth, significance and power of the Abbey.

Although the Abbey was dissolved in 1539, its impact can still be seen in the modern landscape and it is well worth exploring this peaceful valley and its history. Visitors say the place has a special magic.



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