Cymer Abbey, North Wales

Of the seventy five Cistercian houses founded throughout England and Wales, Cymer is ranked as one of the smallest and poorest, despite it being located on an important thoroughfare during the middle ages.

Founded at the end of the 12th century with a colony of monks from Abbey Cwmhir, this site was among those that suffered quite severely during the various Welsh wars. This fact may have been partly responsible for the financial difficulties it encountered which, among other things, appear to have prevented the abbey church from being completed.

Evidence suggests that the small, plain, rectangular church was originally intended as the nave only of a much grander building scheme that was apparently abandoned. All that survives is part of the north arcade and the east end gable, where three lancet windows outline the austerity of the Cistercian rule. The cloister remains but little else, the ruins now encompassed within a working farm. Some of the claustral buildings along the east range have been converted to provide storage sheds and shelter for livestock, but there is no evidence of the west range. The farmhouse is believed to have been part of the abbot's accommodation and guest house, and still incorporates some medieval architecture.

Following the Dissolution in 1537, Cymer Abbey was left to deteriorate for nearly 400 years, being systematically excavated for building materials. Typically situated in a remote area at the head of the Mawddach estuary, this lonely but picturesque site has probably changed little in the last four centuries.

Although Cymer Abbey was not an important house in medieval times, it certainly has a haunting timelessness about it today. The simplicity, the tranquility and the remoteness of Cymer Abbey can easily conjure up monastic scenes from the 14th century. An experience not to be missed.


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