Ghosts and Legends in Wales – Tintern Abbey

Hunting for haunting stories in Wales brings us to Tintern Abbey, a Cistercian Abbey on the Welsh bank of the Wye River

Via Magic Carpet Journals. Story and Photos by M. Maxine George
Tintern Abbey in the Wye Valley, Monmouthshire, Wales
Tintern Abbey in the Wye Valley, Monmouthshire, Wales

Our bus moved along the winding road through Monmouthshire, passing forested hills and peaceful meadows enroute to the beautiful Wye Valley. As we came over the crest of a hill, the soaring ruins of Tintern Abbey came into view. This spectacular ancient ruin, on the Welsh bank of the River Wye, was the source of inspiration for poems written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson and William Wordsworth. Tintern Abbey was also the inspiration for several paintings by the famous artist J. M. W. Turner in 1795. It wasn’t the poetic or artistic inspiration that I was looking for though, it may have been the inspiration for Tennyson’s words, “full for me of its bygone memories.” Did Tennyson feel the presence of the spirits who lived there in bygone days? I was interested in learning about the spirits that may be haunting Tintern.

The elegant arches in Tintern Abbey in the beautiful Wye Valley, Monmouthshire, Wales. There is beauty even in the skeletal remains of the once elegant Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire, Wales

Founded in 1131, this abbey is said to be haunted by knights in shining armour and some of the many monks who once lived there. I wouldn’t blame the ghosts for hanging in there; the place and the setting are truly awesome! Local folklore is that the Devil used to preach from a rocky outcrop, attempting to lure the Abbey’s Monks away from their faith. The Devil could not have been totally successful though as at least one monk is said to frequently be seen praying near one of the arches.

I wonder which arch the spectre of the monk prays near. The beauty of Tintern Abbey proved irresistible to photographers

In its prime Tintern Abbey, a Cistercian monastery, may have been home to as many as 400 monks and abbots. For many years the monks appear to have lived a life of idyllic bliss. They may have believed they were in the abode of the angels living in the tranquil Wye Valley. However, many of those holy residents are believed to have come to untimely sudden deaths, when the plague, the Black Death ran rampant thought-out the land decimating the population of the British Isle. This left them with fewer people to maintain the Abbey and its lands. Then the tides of religious persecution under Henry VIII forced the closing of this and many other religious refuges. It was abandoned in 1536, 400 years after it was founded. Is it any wonder the picturesque Tintern Abbey is believed to be haunted?

A hair-raising legend has also come down from the locals. A group of young men visited the site intent on searching for antiquities. They employed some local men to dig in the grounds nearby. Instead of antiquities they turned up two ancient skeletons. Far from being creeped out, the men were pleased with their find. They stopped within the Abbey ruins to celebrate their discovery, with possibly a little food and libation. In moments, the day turned nasty, dark ominous clouds threatened, flashes of lightening and roaring thunder claps disturbed the previously peaceful day. Mist shrouded the ruins, but suddenly light seemed to illuminate an armour-clad knight, with his visor up, his piercing eyes looking right at them. Hazy figures of monks and abbots began to appear and closed in all around them. As the ghostly specters stared at them, the horrified men fled in terror. However, on this sunny March day, we Canadians leisurely roamed through the peaceful site undisturbed by any of the legendary ghosts said to haunt the place.

Continue on the Quest for Ghost and Legends in Wales to:
Queen’s Head Hotel

Story and pictures by M. Maxine George

Last updated December 27, 2020 by Matthew George – Webmaster

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