Monastic Wales.

Event detail for site: Cardigan

pre 1538: Pilgrim centre

On the eve of the Dissolution Cardigan Priory was a popular pilgrimage centre.

Crowds flocked to the church to visit the miraculous image of the Virgin holding a taper that allegedly burned continually for nine years until one ‘foreswearing himself upon it’ caused it to go out.
In 1538 Prior Thomas Hore of Cardigan was questioned by the royal commissioners about the false taper of Our Lady there. The prior affirmed his belief that this was indeed a holy relic and explained how it had been found burning on the R. Teify and duly taken to the church of Christ Church, Cardigan, where the present church of St Mary’s was later built:

'The image [of Our Lady] that is now situated in the church of Cardigan, which is used for a great pilgrimage to this present day, was found standing upon the River Teify being an arm of the sea and her son upon her lap and the same taper burning in her hand. … the taper burning in her hand for nine years without wasting until the time that one foreswore himself on it. And then it extinguished and never burned again. Since it stopped burning the taper was enclosed and regarded as a great relic and so worshipped and kissed by pilgrims and used by men to swear by in difficult and hard matters whereof the profit amounted to great sums of money and in times past was paid annually to the abbot of Chertsey, a pension of twenty nobles'.
[Prior Thomas Hore, 1538, Pritchard, Cardigan Priory, pp. 70-1]

The commissioners condemned what they deemed ‘idolatry’ and duplicity which had caused the people to worship ‘a piece of rotten old timber’, and to compile an inventory and destroy all other such objects and items of clothing that could be passed off as relics.

Bibliographical sources

Printed sources

Heale, Martin, The Dependent Priories of Medieval English Monasteries, Studies in the History of Medieval Religion, 22 (Boydell and Brewer: Woodbridge, 2004) p. 223

Pritchard, Emily M., Cardigan Priory (Olwen Powys, 1904) pp. 69-73

Archival sources

British Library, 'Visitation of monasteries.', (Document),f. 18 (View website)

Other events in the history of this site

c.1115Foundation - Gilbert fitz Richard, earl of Clare (d. 1115), granted the church of the Holy Trinity at Cardigan to the monks of St Peter's, Gloucester, c. 1110 x 1115. [1 sources]
c.1165Change of affiliation - By this time ownership of Cardigan had passed from Gloucester to Chertsey Abbey, Surrey. [1 sources]
c.1291Wealth - At this time Cardigan held 240 acres of arable. [2 sources]
1322Custody - By the fourteenth century Cardigan was impoverished, a consequence of warfare, ‘scarcity and other such matters', and was accordingly taken into royal custody. [1 sources]
1534Act of Supremacy - Prior Thomas Hore acknowledged royal supremacy. [3 sources]
c.1535Wealth - According to the Valor Ecclesiasticus the priory’s gross income was £32. [2 sources][1 archives]
1537 (December)Affiliation - Cardigan Priory was granted to Bisham Priory, Berkshire, a former Augustinian house which had just been re-founded as a Benedictine monastery.  [2 sources]
pre 1538Pilgrim centre - On the eve of the Dissolution Cardigan Priory was a popular pilgrimage centre.  [2 sources][1 archives]
1538Dissolution - Cardigan was dissolved with its mother-house (Bisham) on 26 June 1538.
At this time there were two monks. [3 sources]
1540 (February) Ownership - Following its suppression Cardigan was granted to William Cavendish and his wife, Margaret, for £769 8s 4d and duly converted into a mansion. [1 sources]
1922Conversion - The former priory opened as Cardigan District and Memorial Hospital.