Monmouth Priory was founded in 1070 AD by Benedictine monks, and is one of the most historic buildings in Monmouth. Completely renovated a few years ago, the Priory offers very modern facilities for a variety of gatherings, within the walls of a unique, 900 year old building. The Priory is ideal for:
- Wedding Receptions
For full details about the many weekly activities at Monmouth Priory, visit its website here.
An archaeological investigation had revealed some “tesserae”- fragments of and important mosaic floor. This indicated that a high status Roman building had been on the site, perhaps the place where the legion’s standard were housed.
6th – 7th Centuries
Above the Roman layers was evidence of occupation in the 6th or 7th centuries when St Cadoc, one of the earliest celtic saints was active in this region. St Cadoc, often associated with Roman settlements (as at Caerleon), was responsible for setting up the first church in Monmouth about this time- quite possibly on this site.
11th – 12th Centuries
The Priory was founded by Withenoc (Gwethenoc) in 1080. Importantly, he was a Breton appointed by the Normans. The Priory was dedicated in 1101. There were clear Breton influences in the area and it is probably this background that led to the compilation of an important manuscript, “The Lives of the Welsh Saints” by the monks, now housed in The British Libraray. Such learned writing was a feature of the Priory for the next 60 years or so.
There were also many archaeological finds to show that the Priory was a hive of activity in the 11th and 12th centuries. Plenty of fossilised animal and fish bones along with pottery fragments indicated that the monks were enjoying “the good life”.
At this time, the land in front of the Priory sloped steeply and directly down to the River Monnow. On the left, the castle with FitzOsbern’s new stone tower would have been visible on slightly higher ground.
13th – 15th Centuries
Moving on to the 13th and 14th centuries, we read that the monks held extensive lands and buildings and the Priory dominated the life of the community. In the 14th century, when the Black Death caused great upheaval, the people flocked to the church for help. The Priory Church itself became a primary source of infection and the monks were greatly reduced in number. The beautiful oriel window overlooking the Monnow was built in the late 15th century.
16th Century- Suppression of the Priory
The influence of the Priory gradually diminished. The 1530s witnessed its suppression on the orders of a Cromwellian supporter, Dr John Vaughan, and the departure of the last priory and the sale of its contents.
18th – 20th Centuries
From the 18th century up until 1973, the Priory was the site of a school. From 1973 it served as a Youth Hostel and Parish Room. By 1999, when the Youth Hostel had closed, the Priory building was badly in need of attention. The vicar of St Mary’s, the Reverend Canon James Coutts, decided to launch an appeal for an ambitious restoration scheme with the aim of making the Priory a place that could be used for events to serve the whole community.
Source for this page: “Stitches and Stories” by Eira Steggles, available for £1 from Monmouth Priory Office.