Valle Crucis Abbey

Last updated on August 23rd, 2023 at 01:22 pm

Valle Crucis Abbey, LlangollenThe ruins of medieval abbeys and monasteries are found the length and breadth of Britain; but why on earth would you want to visit one?  Well, no reason at all – except to wonder at the achievement, think on a time and lifestyle that was so very different to ours and bask in the beauty of some of these places.

Valle Crucis Abbey, valley of the crossValle Crucis Abbey was built by the Cistercian order, which was founded in Citeaux, Burgundy, in 1098 (‘Cistercium’ is Latin for Citeaux).  The Cistercians chose secluded locations to build their abbeys and, even now, Valle Crucis is an evocative spot.  With a little imagination, you can picture the white-robed monks quietly going about their business of prayer and contemplation in this beautiful valley, and, if you listen carefully, hear their long-gone voices raised in song.  In 1201, when work started on the building, they must have felt that they had found an idyllically isolated position.

Valle Crucis AbbeyIn fact, like many abbeys, Valle Crucis found itself at the heart of political events.  Not only was it blighted by a serious fire, but it was also damaged during the Welsh wars against the English.  At its height, it probably sustained about 60 monks, including 40 ‘lay brethren’, who did most of the manual work.  Cistercian establishments set out to be self-sufficient, and were renowned for extensive and highly productive agriculture.

Valle Crucis was one of 86 Cistercian houses in Britain.  The number of brethren was greatly reduced by the ravages of the Black Death in the 14th century (see When death walked the land for more about this) and, by all accounts, though still wealthy, the Abbey was in decline when it was dissolved by order of King Henry VIII in 1537.

Valle Crucis AbbeyThe abbey gets its name – “Valley of the Cross” – from Eliseg’s Pillar, probably originally a cross, which is just up the road to the north and was erected by the King of Powis in the 9th century in memory of his grandfather, Elisedd ap Gwylog and as a statement of Cyngen’s right to rule.  Inscriptions on this, now illegible, celebrated British (Welsh) achievements against the Anglo-Saxons (English).  They also apparently supported entries in the Historia Brittonum, the History of the Britons, attributed to 9th century monk, Nennius.  The work cannot be wholly relied on, but is one of the few written sources we have on the Dark Ages – including for the legendary King Arthur.  Eliseg’s Pillar underwent a detailed archaeological investigation in 2012.  The photo below was taken on a wet day in 2021.

Eliseg's Pillar, Powys

Back to Valle Crucis Abbey.  It is situated on the A542, just a few miles north of Llangollen adjacent to a farm and camp site.  There is parking, but it’s a bit of a pain – you might need to be patient…

Valle Crucis Abbey

18 thoughts on “Valle Crucis Abbey”

  1. Janie Ridley Bice

    This is my first visit to your blog…wonderful photos and commentary. We visited Valle Crucis in September of 2007. I found it very enchanting and took a few gorgeous photos myself. The architecture of these old abbeys are simply amazing! We also loved the Abbey at Jedburgh, in Scotland. We live in Texas and are dying to come back.

  2. HEY! You thought by getting a new blog you could get rid of me! HA! No chance.
    I find love to see these Abbey ruins, the old stone must look differently depending on the time of day, when the light falls upon it from different angles.

    1. Yeah – people are thinking I’ve gone AWOL! Sorry for lack of visits/comments – can’t do much about it for a couple of weeks, but will resume normal service ASAP 🙂

  3. Wales, you know I’m in Wales quite often but it’s quite a distance from where I go so it might have to be an overnighter. Looks a great place to visit with all it’s history

  4. A beautiful reminder of the quiet, persevering faith in God those people had amidst difficult circumstances, poverty, sufferings of all sorts. I love the abbey and priory ruins. I’m so glad they’re not bulldozed under to put up a Walmart. Great post, Mike, and wonderful photos, of course!

  5. There is so much more of this abbey than the one I visited, Hailes Abbey. The audio tour we had when we visited that one included the songs in the background. Made it quite eerie. Thanks again for another enlightening post.

A Bit About Britain welcomes visitors. What do you think?

Scroll to Top