The Cistercian Abbey of Strata Florida was founded in 1164 by the Lord Rhys, Prince of Deheubarth, as a major center for Welsh cultural and political identity in resistance to the expansion of the English feudal state. Though it dates from the twelfth century, it was constructed on an ancient site of regional Iron Age and Celtic importance. Many of the key early literary and historical texts in the Welsh language were created at Strata Florida, and the most famous of all medieval Welsh poets, Dafydd ap Gwilym, lies buried in its churchyard. It is known as the “Westminster Abbey of Wales,” with 11 members of Rhys’ royal dynasty buried at the site. Today it remains a powerful source of Welsh cultural identity. The site is currently split across several owners, including: Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service, which cares for the monument; the Parish Council and Pantyfedwen Strata Churchyard Trust, which own the car-park and graveyard; the Strata Florida Trust, which recently acquired the farmyard, seventeenth-century gardens, and gentry house that originally served as the monastic refectory; and neighboring farmers, who own and manage the surrounding land.
Reviving an ancient complex
In 2016, World Monuments Fund and WMF Britain announced a partnership with Strata Florida Trust to conserve the ancient buildings and implement activities to create a sustainable community asset. In 2018, Strata Florida was selected by The Prince’s Foundation as one of a number of heritage projects to be supported in celebration of Prince Charles’ 70th birthday. Continuing work includes the development of a conservation management plan, structural emergency repairs to the abbey farm buildings, renovation of the cattle sheds, research, archaeological excavation, and oral history documentation.