Wednesday, 18 November 2009


St David Lewis was born in Abergavenny in 1616. He spent all but one year of his priestly life ministering to the people of Abergavenny and area where, despite persecution, fines and imprisonment, many Catholics held firm to the Old Faith. These Catholics were cared for by the Jesuits who had established a seminary and college at a place called the Cwm, near Welsh Newton. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Catholics worshipped in a barn and, later, in the secret attic chapel in the home of Thomas Gunter on Cross Street.

In 1687, Franciscan Friars took over the care of the Catholics in the Abergavenny area. In 1690, with a Catholic King, James II, on the throne, a new Catholic chapel was built in Abergavenny. Unfortunately, with the coming of William III and Mary, things again became difficult for Catholics. However, Abergavenny Catholics kept the Old Faith. By 1740, approximately half the Catholics in the country lived in the district of Abergavenny and it was necessary for the Franciscans to build a new church.

In 1857, Benedictine Monks took over from the Franciscans. The Benedictines sold the old property and built a new church in Pen-y-Pound. This church was opened on 15th May 1860. The Catholic Church of Our Ladye and St Michael, in Abergavenny, is still served by Benedictines.

The church is in possession of some exceptional treasures, including a medieval Holy Water Stoup, a collection of pre-reformation chasubles and copes, and chalice veils from the time of the Stuarts. A red velvet chasuble dates from the time of King Henry VII. Its beauty and craftsmanship suggest it would have been made by ladies of the Royal Court and it is believed to have been given by Queen Elizabeth, wife of Henry VII and mother of Henry VIII, when she visited Abergavenny near the end of the 15th century. Other vestments are gifts of Queen Katherine of Aragon. From time to time, these vestments are worn for important occasions and are exhibited occasionally.

Were any of these pre-reformation vestments worn by St David Lewis? I doubt if anyone can say for certain but, given the number of years the saint laboured in the area, it is more than likely that they were.

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