databas cerddi guto'r glyn

Tradition and culture

An ecclesiastical procession to show the month of April in a calendar in the 'De Grey Book of Hours', NLW MS 15537C, f.4 (Digital Mirror).
Ecclesiastical procession
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The references in the works of the poets to what was happening within the walls of these abbeys during the fifteenth century are extremely valuable. By this period, the abbeys had become part of the life of their surrounding communities and opening their doors to poets meant that they, too, became involved with the customs, traditions and culture of the monasteries.

The poets were fond of referring to the knowledge and learning of their patrons (see Noblemen’s interests: Learning and knowledge) and, evidently, these abbeys had their own collections of books or manuscripts which were stored in their libraries. Guto’r Glyn mentions the learning and good books at Valle Crucis abbey (poem 112.29, poem 113.14), as do other poets such as Gutun Owain. Guto’s description of Abbot Thomas of Shrewsbury suggests that the abbot educated those who resided at Shrewsbury abbey:

Daly tŷ, gwneuthur adail teg, 
Dysgu’r mydr, dasg ramadeg. 
He upholds a house, makes a fair building,
teaches metrics, grammar work.

(poem 77.29-30)

Latin was the main language of learning in this period and it is likely that Abbot Thomas taught through the medium of Latin, with Latin grammar books, at Shrewsbury abbey. The same can be said of Abbot Dafydd ab Owain of Strata Marcella who also taught grammar at his abbey (see poem 115.23-4). Discussing such subjects was probably one of the main activities in these abbeys, and surely Welsh history, culture and religion would also have been common topics of conversation between an abbot and his companions.[1]


[1]: See further K. Stöber, 'The Cistercians and the Bards - Praise and Patronage in Fifteenth-Century Wales', in B.J. Lewis, A. Parry Owen ac D.F. Evans (goln), ‘Gwalch Cywyddau Gwŷr’: Essays on Guto'r Glyn and Fifteenth-Century Wales (Aberystwyth, 2013).
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