A Cistercian abbey connected to the princes of Wales
The remains of Cymer Abbey can be found near the village of Llanelltyd on the outskirts of Dolgellau. The abbey was an important part of the area’s community during the middle ages and is often associated with the Nannau family in history and folklore.
Founding Cymer Abbey
According to Brut y Tywysogion (Chronicle of the Princes), Cymer Abbey was founded in 1198. It was a Cistercian Abbey and the only monastery established in Meirionnydd. The remote locations of Cistercian monasteries reflected the strict restrictions on monks pursuing their learning in the middle ages.
It is believed that Cymer Abbey was founded under the patronage of two brothers, Gruffudd and Maredudd ap Cynan, grandsons of Owain Gwynedd. The relationship between European monasteries and important ruling families was close.
The life and demise of Cymer Abbey
Abbeys such as Cymer Abbey were expected to live self-sufficiently and were often thriving businesses. We know that Cymer Abbey used areas of Gwynedd and Powys for grazing cattle and would breed horses.
Following the conquest of Wales by Edward I, a large percentage of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s possessions were seized from the abbey, making it difficult to say what treasures were kept at Cymer Abbey.
By the time it was disbanded in 1537, as part of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, Cymer Abbey was regarded as a small and unimportant abbey.
Discovering the treasures of Cymer Abbey
In 1898, a ceremonial silver chalice was discovered hidden in Cwm Mynach. The chalice is believed to have belonged to the abbey. The chalice is now on display at the National Museum in Cardiff.