Thursday, 15 October 2009


St David Lewis was one of nine children of Margaret Pritchard and Morgan Lewis. Margaret was a devout Catholic and Morgan, the Headmaster of Abergavenny Grammar School, was a Protestant. Morgan Lewis brought David up in the Protestant religion. Other than Morgan Lewis, David was the only Protestant in that household. All David’s siblings, four brothers and four sisters, had been brought up as Catholics.

As a Protestant, David would have attended services in St Mary’s Priory Church, Abergavenny. The Priory was established at the end of the eleventh century by Hamelin de Ballon. It supported a prior and twelve monks. The present church dates from about the 14th century. By the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Priory had only four monks and a prior. The Lords of Abergavenny had close connections with the Tudors and so this Benedictine Priory was spared. Up to that time, St John’s had been the Parish church but at the Dissolution, the Priory became the Parish Church and St John’s became King Henry VIII Grammar School. King Henry VIII Grammar School, though on a different site, exists to this very day.

St Mary’s has many beautiful and historic treasures, not least its Jesse. Its Baptismal font is located at the back of the church, near the entrance. David Lewis would, as a Protestant, have been baptised in this font, the bowl of which dates from the 12th century. The bowl, with its 12th century rope design around the base, was discovered buried in the churchyard during restoration in the late 1800s. It is thought to have been buried during the Commonwealth, sometime between 1649 and 1660. At this time infant Baptism was objectionable and, in 1652, a five hour public debate on the subject took place in St Mary’s.

As a young man David Lewis spent some time in Paris. While there he converted to Catholicism and, eventually, became a Jesuit priest and a Catholic Martyr – the last Welsh Martyr.

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