Strata Florida Abbey
There are few more remote or beautiful locations than Strata Florida Abbey on the edge of the Cambrian Mountains in mid-Wales. In fact, the name Strata Florida is a corruption of the Welsh Ystrad Fflur, meaning Valley of (the river of) Flowers. It’s no wonder a community of Cistercian Monks settled here in the 12th century to live out their lives of austerity, prayer and reflection.
After it was founded, the Lord Rhys of Deheubarth, who left nothing to chance when it came to the afterlife, appropriated the Abbey and endowed large tracks of land in the hope the monks would pray for his soul after he died.
This association with the Lord Rhys and successive generations of Welsh princes and noblemen led to the Abbey becoming something of a paradox: the personal austerity of the earliest monks vs. the huge wealth of the abbey estate in later centuries; the monks’ quest for peace vs. the frequent conflicts with England caused by the monks’ strong allegiance to the Welsh cause.
The monk’s most important endeavours were peaceful, however. They created numerous manuscripts, which are considered by Welsh historians as among the most valuable records of Wales’ early history. Foremost is the Brut y Tywysogion (The Chronicle of the Princes).
With funding from the Wales Cultural Heritage Investment Project, Cadw appointed Imagemakers to improve intellectual access to Strata Florida Abbey and the monastic landscape.
We created a new visitor centre reception area, retail provision and interpretative exhibition, together with outdoor interpretation points and signage. Colour was an important consideration and we researched a medieval palette, uniting colours from the present landscape – stone ruins, rolling green hills – with activities from its past.
An illustrated mural depicting the Abbey’s heyday in medieval times and a giant map of the estate dominate the new centre and highlight the different activities that took place. Authentic objects on display include beautiful handmade tiles with important symbolic patterns, which visitors can replicate at a tile making station. Two touch screens provide an extra multi-media layer to the visitor experience with games, detailed explanations of key events in the Abbey’s history and links to social media.
“The Abbey ruins are so peaceful today that one of our challenges was showing how busy and prosperous it was in the past.” Charlie Curnow, Project Director, Imagemakers