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Strata Florida Abbey

A Scheduled Monument in Ystrad Fflur, Ceredigion

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.2752 / 52°16'30"N

Longitude: -3.8382 / 3°50'17"W

OS Eastings: 274682

OS Northings: 265703

OS Grid: SN746657

Mapcode National: GBR 92.YZL5

Mapcode Global: VH4G8.F28P

Entry Name: Strata Florida Abbey

Scheduled Date: 15 December 1919

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 241

Cadw Legacy ID: CD001

Schedule Class: Religious, Ritual and Funerary

Category: Abbey

Period: Medieval

County: Ceredigion

Community: Ystrad Fflur

Traditional County: Cardiganshire

Description

This monument comprises the remains of a medieval Cistercian abbey. Founded around 1184, Strata Florida is situated in an area of generally flat meadowland bordering the banks of the river Teifi.

The site housed a church; monk’s choir; presbytery; cloister; chapter house; vestry; book store and dormitories. The church was by far the most important and the most used building within the entire monastery. In design, Strata Florida followed the classic Cistercian (white monks) ‘Bernardine’ plan, which had become fully developed by the mid-twelfth century. It was a cruciform, or cross-shaped, building aligned east to west. And, apart from the proportions and mass, the particularly distinctive White Monk features included the square-ended presbytery at the east, and the side-arm transepts with virtually square eastern chapels. At Strata Florida there were three chapels to each transept, when frequently – at abbeys in both Britain and France – there were two. Overall, the church measured some 65m east to west by 35.7m across the transepts north to south.

As with Cistercian churches in general, Strata Florida was built to serve two almost entirely separate communities: the lay brothers (conversi) who used the nave or western half and the choir monks – who followed a much stricter regime – and whose lives were regulated around long hours spent in their choir stalls towards the east end of the building. The area to the east of the choir is referred to as the presbytery. This was the site of the high altar at which the daily community Mass was celebrated.

The monastic buildings – those structures where the community slept, where meals were prepared and eaten, where business was conducted and where the brothers took some relaxation – were situated to the south of the abbey church. They were grouped around three sides of a square or court known as the cloister. The greater part of the cloister can still be seen, though the southern end lies buried within the confines of the seventeenth-century Stedman house. The central court would have been surrounded on all four sides by walkways each covered with a lean-to roof. On the east side of the cloister, a long two-storey range of buildings ran southwards projecting from the line of the south transept. The upper floor of this range was occupied by the choir monks’ dormitory.

On the ground floor, the space immediately beside the south transept housed the abbey’s book store (armarium) and vestry. The Rule of St Benedict stressed the importance of divine reading in the life of a monk, and time was set aside during the Cistercian day for this purpose. The larger room to the east, with a doorway directly into the church, served as the vestry (vestiarium) or sacristy, the place where the vestments and liturgical vessels used in the services were stored in safety. There is the base of a lancet window in the east wall, and the pit nearby represents part of the burial vault for the tomb in the south transept chapel. Outside the three main ranges of the cloister, probably lie the sub-surface remains of the infirmary (which was ruinous by the dissolution) and the abbot’s lodgings.

The fortunes of the abbey dwindled as time passed, so much so, that by the dissolution the community was reduced to just seven monks and their abbot. Strata Florida was finally closed in February 1539.

This monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of medieval religious and, in particular, monastic practices. The scheduled area comprises the remains described and an area around them within which related evidence may be expected to survive.

Source: Cadw

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