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Strata Florida (Ystrad Fflur)

Strata Florida, Wales
To reach Strata Florida, drive south out of Aberystwyth on the A487 and branch off at Southgate on the B4340. Follow the winding, mountain road through Trawscoed (Trows coid) to Pontrhydfendigaid (Pont h'reed Vendig ide) where you will see the signs pointing to the ruined abbey. It can also be reached via the B4343 from Tregaron.

The unusual name Strata Florida is a Latin form of the Welsh "Ystrad Fflur" (Uh strad fleer: Wide valley or plain of flowers). The Abbey was founded by the Cistercian Order in 1164 though there is evidence of an earlier Cluniac settlement nearby. Local Welsh chieftain Rhys ap Gruffydd is responsible for the existing church, though parts of the present day ruins date from later centuries. In addition to its prestige as the religious and educational centre of all Wales in the 12th and 13th centuries, the Abbey, considered wholly Welsh in character, was also the country's political center for a short time.

The year 1238 saw an assembly of Welsh princes at Strata Florida swear allegiance to Prince Llewelyn's son, Dafydd. The meeting marked one of the high points of Welsh resistance to English domination before the tragic events of the Edwardian conquest. Despite this claim to fame, however, after experiencing great wealth and influence during the later centuries (mainly due to its extensive flocks of sheep and skillful management of the wool trade), the abbey was abandoned during the rebellion of Owain Glydwr. The Dissolution that followed shortly after left only a grass-swept ruin.

Among the clutter of 18th century farm buildings that now cover most of the Abbey's original site stands a fine Celtic-Romanesque west door that has a series of remarkable embellishments including triskel motifs. What makes the site so sacred, however, are not the scant remains of the Abbey, but the fact that much of the "Brut y Tywysogion" (Britt uh Two iss Ogion: Chronicle of the Princes) was written here. Of equal importance is the Abbey's grounds, which contains the reputed burial site of the greatest of all Welsh love poets, Dafydd ap Gwilym (Dahvith ap Gwilum).

At the time of Chaucer in England and just following that of Dante in Italy, Wales had its own "world-class" master of the poetic art. Many modern writers see Dafydd (1320-70) as the greatest Welsh poet of all time, and certainly the most distinguished of medieval Welsh poets. Dafydd created poetry that fully equaled that produced in either England or the continent. As exemplified by his works, the period was one of the most glorious times in Welsh literary history. It is thus fitting that Strata Florida occupies a place of honor among our sacred places of Wales.

You will now continue on your way to Brecon through some of the most delightful scenery in the British Isles -- the wild, mostly uninhabited countryside around Mynydd Epynt (Munith Epp int) and reaching the borders of Brecon Beacons National Park.

Next Stop: Brecon Beacons National Park
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