Powys Digital History Project 

The medieval church 5
Late renewal and monastic decline

A time of devastation
 During his period of revolt against the English crown Owain Glyndwr promoted plans for an independent Welsh church with its own archbishop which would take back possession of all those estates in the granted to English monastic houses. However the revolt itself brought devastation to many of the religious establishments in Wales. Glyndwr’s own forces showed little regard for church property and the forces of the English crown punished those establishments which gave support to the revolt.
Rood screen, Llananno churchThe Welsh economy was dealt a crippling blow by the effects of the revolt yet despite these difficulties there was a great deal of restoration done in the later fifteenth century and many rural churches - like Llananno (above) in Radnorshire and Partrisio and Llanfilo in Breconshire - had fine roodscreens or roodlofts built at this time. Control of the church was more firmly in the hand of the English crown however, and there seems to have been a more secular attitude among the clergy and many of them were poorly educated.

Lost ideals of the monasteries
The monasteries did not enjoy a similar period of recovery however, and numbers fell and cases of laxity and even criminal activity among the brethren increased. Most of their estates had been farmed out to lay tenants and many monasteries had placed their financial management in lay hands. Welsh monasticism had moved a long way from the ideals of the earlier medieval period.
Strata Marcella stonesBy the end of the medieval period the buildings, rituals and practices of the church in Wales had become part of a wider European pattern. Although native saints and traditions still survived among a proud clergy the organisation of the church and its laws and observances were those of the western church.

There are 5 pages on the medieval church in Wales. Use the box links below to view the other pages.