THE OLD PRIORY

The Old Priory and St Illtyd's Church, with its leaning spire, are among the oldest and most interesting buildings on Caldey. The Priory was home to the Benedictine monks who lived on Caldey in medieval times. It is built in an elevated position, close to the island's natural water source, beside the present day farmyard. It is constructed from limestone and sandstone indigenous to the island. The monastic buildings have been unoccupied since the Dissolution of the Monasteries, but St Illtyd's church is still a consecrated Roman Catholic church.

St Illtud's Church at the Old Priory

  The oldest part of the building is probably the Prior's Tower, (below left), thought to have been built as a fortified house by Robert Fitzmartin, to whom Caldey was given by Henry I.

Prior's Tower & St Illtud's Spire

 

Fitzmartin gave the island to his mother, Giva, who donated it in turn to the Norman Benedictine monks of St Dogmael's, North Pembs, originally from Tiron in France. Caldey became a cell of St Dogmael's and remained so until Henry VIII dissolved it in 1536.

Gateway to Priory Courtyard


Fitzmartin's house was extended and modified by the monks between the 13th and 15th Centuries, and the Priory buildings gradually took on their present shape. The monks' original vaulted stone chapel (below) now forms the sanctuary of the larger church, with the spire erected in the 14th century.

St Illtyd's interior with Pebble Floor

Ancient Vaulted Sanctuary, St Illtyd's Church

 

The Priory is believed to occupy the site of the original 6th century Celtic monastery. The Caldey Stone (right) was excavated in the grounds and is now displayed in the church. The stone is inscribed in the Celtic Ogham script and also in Latin.


The Caldey Stone

St Illtyd's Church, with its ancient stone walls and pebble floor worn smooth by time and generations of worshippers, is imbued with a unique atmosphere of peace and prayerful serenity.

Old Priory and Nedieval PondPriory Courtyard

Visitors are welcome to explore the church and external areas of the Priory. While much of the history and evolution of the Priory buildings and the monks who lived in them is unknown, many visitors experience a sense that the faith and quiet prayerfulness of those early monks lives on in this special place.

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