Lions on the Garter arms in stained glass at Llanllugan

Llanllugan

A medieval nunnery with stunning stained glass.

Fragments of medieval stained glass at Llanllugan

Llanllugan is now a pretty little hamlet with an unassuming single-cell parish church - but inside the church is a reminder of its former importance. The east window is full of glowing medieval stained glass. The naked feet of saints jostle with rich draperies and architectural fragments. Hands uplifted in prayer, a book, a mailed and spurred foot, strange little suns and moons surround a powerful depiction of the Crucifixion. At the bottom of the window are the arms of the Garter and a very self-satisfied Cistercian abbess.

Technically, the Cistercian nunnery of Llanllugan was founded by the local ruler, Maredudd ap Robert, in the late twelfth century. It was always a poor foundation, but it had a reputation for high standards of discipline. In 1530, Katherine Dodd was given permission to leave the Augustinian canonry of Limebrook in Herefordshire and transfer to ‘a better and frugal life’ at Llanllugan. Some of the stained glass was probably given by Richard, Duke of York (father of King Edward IV), who held the lordship of Cydewain through his mother. The emblem of the house of York was the sun in splendour - and Richard was also a knight of the Garter. He obviously thought this little community of Cistercian women was worthy of his generosity, and that their prayers would benefit him.

Interestingly, it has also been suggested that the actual liaison with the abbey was the work of Richard's wife Cecily Neville, who was an important artistic patron.

There was an earlier, 'Celtic' religious community here. Was Llanllugan like Llanllyr (see under the Whitland to Llanllyr route), a community of Celtic religious women who opted for the Cistercian rule as the one nearest to their own standards of discipline and austerity? We may never know.

We do not even know exactly where the nuns’ buildings were. There are some projecting stones in the north wall of the church and a blocked door The nuns' cloister and buildings could have been to the north of the church - cold, penitential, but the side of the church traditionally associated with the Virgin Mary.

 

More about Llanllugan on the Monastic Wales site at http://www.monasticwales.org/site/37. Archaeological survey of the church on the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust web site. Specifically on the stained glass, http://stainedglass.llgc.org.uk/site/434 .

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