About Llanthony Priory
9 miles north of the town of Abergavenny in south-east Wales is Llanthony Priory, a partly-ruined 900-year-old Augustinian priory. Sitting in the beautifully secluded Vale of Ewyas in the Black Mountains, Llanthony Priory is part of the Brecon Beacons National Park and provides a peaceful visit and exploration of Wales’ monastic past.
Llanthony Priory history
The first Llanthony Priory was built by nobleman William de Lacy in the early 12th century. While out hunting in around 1100, he reportedly took shelter in the ruined Celtic chapel of St David, and was so ‘overcome by devotion’ that he dedicated his life to solitary prayer and study.
He was accompanied by Ersinius, a former chaplain to Queen Matilda, wife of King Henry I, and soon after a church was built at the site which was consecrated in 1108. It was originally dedicated to John the Baptist, however in 1118 it was converted into a priory when a community of around 40 monks moved there from England. They formed Wales’ first Canons Regular – an order of priests living under a rule, most often the Rule of St Augustine, who were committed to public ministry of liturgy and sacraments.
Around 1135, the local ‘barbarous people’ forced the monks to retreat to Gloucester and Hereford, and completely destroyed the original priory. Endowed with land by Hugh de Lacy and enjoying royal patronage however, the spectacular priory that was rebuilt in 1217 still stands today and was considered one of medieval Wales’ greatest buildings.
In the 15th century, on a crusade to reclaim Welsh land from the English, Owain Glyndŵr attacked Llanthony Priory and forced the men to once again return to Gloucester and Hereford.
By 1504 there were just a handful of canons left at Llanthony, and like every monastic house in England, Wales, and Ireland between 1536 and 1541, the priory was closed in 1538 by Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. The site was sold for £160, the remaining canons were pensioned at £8 each, and in subsequent centuries the priory fell into ruin.
The land then changed hands a number of times from the start of the 19th century. Firstly owned by Colonel Sir Mark Wood and then by poet Walter Savage Landor, when the latter fell into financial trouble he was forced to leave, and the house that was built returned to ruin.
Llanthony Priory today
Today, Llanthony Priory is under the care of Cadw and is open to visitors. The architecture is a mix of Gothic and Norman styles, and even today the stunning arches and windows are a thing of beauty, giving visitors an idea of the grandeur of the original structure.
Situated in the peaceful Vale of Ewyas, the priory also retains a sense of solemn contemplation, and is surrounded by the very same nature that would have been enjoyed at its construction. If you are exploring the wider Brecon Beacons, a visit to Llanthony is a must for history lovers!
Getting to Llanthony Priory
Llanthony Priory is located in 9 miles north of Abergavenny in Wales, off the A465. The nearest train station is Abergavenny, however public transport is scarce in the area and the priory is therefore best reached via car. Parking is available at the site.