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Cistercians Abbeys: CYMER

Name: CYMER Location: nr Dolgellau County: Gwynedd
Foundation: 1198/9 Mother house: Cwmhir
Relocation: None Founder: Maredudd ap Cynan
Dissolution: 1536/7 Prominent members:
Access: Welsh Historic Monuments – open to the public

Cymer Abbey nave from the east
© Stuart Harrison
<click to enlarge>
Cymer Abbey nave from the east

Cymer abbey was founded in either 1198 or early 1199, under the patronage of Maredudd ap Cynan, lord of Meirionydd, and his brother Gruffyd. It was colonised by a community of monks from Cwmhir Abbey in Powys.(1) This monastery was one of the later Cistercian foundations in Britain. It is situated at the confluence of the rivers Mawddach and Wnion; it is for this reason that the monastery was given the full title of Kymer deu dyfyr, which means ‘the meeting of the waters’. Although the community was situated on an important thoroughfare (the lowest fording place of the estuary) it remained small and unimportant and was nearly always in a state of poverty.(2) However, Cymer did possess a very large and fine silver gilt chalice and paten, which must have been hidden on the mountainside at the Dissolution. These objects were rediscovered in the nineteenth century and are now in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff.
By 1388 the monastery was home to no more than five monks and it seems that there was a marked decline in the standard of religious observance. In the survey of 1535, the annual income of the house was valued at little over £51 and the abbey was dissolved with the smaller monasteries in 1536-7.(3)

Today the site is in the care of the Welsh Historic Monuments. Remains of the church and of the cloister layout can be viewed by the public. The adjacent farmhouse was the late medieval abbot’s house, and retains its fifteenth-century roof.(4) Some medieval belongings of Prince Llywelyn the Last (d. 1282) have also been found at the site of Cymer abbey.