The site of a great monastery, where Llywelyn the Great died
The town of Conwy guards the broad estuary of the river from which it takes its name. Today it is distinguished by the wonderfully preserved medieval walls and castle, which were begun in 1283 by the English king Edward I after he had conquered Gwynedd. These were built in part, it is thought, with masonry taken from the great Cistercian Abbey of Aberconwy, which once stood on the site occupied by the modern town.
After his victory Edward moved the monks of Aberconwy to Maenan Abbey, a few miles down the valley, and used the extensive monastic buildings as his own operational base while his castle was being built. All that survives of Aberconwy Abbey today is Conwy’s parish church of St Mary and All Saints. Buttresses on the east and west ends, and segments of the north wall, once formed part of the original 12th-century building. The rest of the current church was constructed and extended at various times between the 14th and 20th centuries.
Aberconwy Abbey was completed in 1186 and Llywelyn the Great became an enthusiastic patron. Around 1200 he granted the monks over 40,000 acres of land to farm throughout Gwynedd, and he maintained a close relationship with them throughout his life. It was at Aberconwy Abbey that, having suffered a stroke in 1240, he spent his last days. He may even have taken holy orders himself shortly before his death.
Llywelyn was buried at Aberconwy, and when the monks moved to Maenan they took his body with them. It was moved again after Maenan Abbey was suppressed by Henry VIII in 1547, and today Llywelyn’s (empty) sarcophagus can be seen at the church in Llanrwst. A statue of Llywelyn stands.
in Lancaster Square, Conwy and you can discover more about him and our other native princes at the Princes of Gwynedd exhibition in the Muriau Buildings which also houses Conwy Tourist Information Centre.