Remnants of Abergavenny Priory
Little now remains of the conventual buildings of the Benedictine priory which stood to the south of the nave, which is now the parish church. A late medieval tithe barn to the west of the church is now used as a visitors centre with a shop and exhibition area. Access to the monastery was seemingly via the east gate of the town known as ‘Monk Gate’.
St Mary’s Priory Church incorporates fourteenth-century remains of the former monastic church. Surviving remnants of the medieval fabric indicate that the Benedictine church was cruciform and the northern side of the nave was aisled. A central crossing tower still stands as well as the fourteenth-century choir stalls which occupied the east end of the church and accommodated twenty-four monks, twelve on each side. They are carved in oak and canopied; the prior’s seat is raised and marked by a mitre.
Most of the medieval remains date from the fourteenth century when the church underwent considerable modification but there are several interesting remnants of the Norman church that include a Norman font and an east window that was formed from a Norman arch.
Two chapels extending from the north and south transepts were primarily intended for the remains of the principal patrons of the priory and the lords of Abergavenny. Today the chapels house a number of impressive medieval memorials that date from the mid-thirteenth century. The Lewis Chapel radiates eastwards from the north transept and is a monument to David Lewis (d. 1584), a local man who rose to prominence as an advisor to Queen Elizabeth I and presided as the first principal of Jesus College, Oxford. Lewis had a distinguished academic career and following his death in 1584 his body was brought from London to Abergavenny for burial beneath a tomb that he had himself commissioned from the Herefordshire sculptor, John Gideon.
The Herbert Chapel extends from the south transept and houses the tombs of members of the lords of Abergavenny - including John of Hastings; as well as the renowned Welsh squire, William ap Thomas (d. 1445), who was known as ‘the Blue Knight of Gwent (Y marchog glas o Went) after his contribution at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. William’s second wife, Gwladys, their son, Richard Herbert of Coldbrook, and a grandson, Richard Herbert of Ewyas, are also buried there.
Read more about the monuments in St Mary’s Parish Church.
Monastic sites related to this articleAbergavenny, Monmouthshire(Priory)