Wednesday, 3 February 2010


I think I might have jumped the gun a bit in my last post. I said now that the snow had gone we could get out and about again. When I got up the next morning, there was a light covering of snow on the ground! So, I am making no further comment on weather conditions! I will continue though with a blogging trip in the footsteps of our patron, St David Lewis.

In the time of St David Lewis (1616-1679) Penal Laws were in force and it was considered High Treason to be a Catholic priest and to say Mass. Priests risked being hanged, drawn and quartered, the usual punishment for treason, and Catholics who sheltered or helped them risked fines, imprisonment and, in some cases, even death. In Wales, the authorities, for the most part, were sympathetic to their Catholic neighbours, friends and families, and were somewhat lax in enforcing the laws. However, there were some, particularly John Arnold, an M P and Justice of the Peace, who were determined to stamp out Catholicism by making sure that the laws were rigidly enforced. The evil Titus Oates, with his fabricated Popish Plot, was a boon to men like Arnold, and the authorities, sympathetic or not, were forced to act.

Despite the dangers, there were many, up and down the country, who were willing to provide safe houses for priests and places where Catholics could gather for Mass and to receive the Sacraments. The Morgans of Llantarnam were one such family. They had a chapel in their home and Fr Lewis, who was a nephew of Lady Frances Morgan, lived there for a time, saying Mass and ministering to the Catholics of the area. In 1670 John Arnold and several others informed the House of Lords that "At Llantarnam, an eminent papist's house in Monmouthshire, there is a room fitted up chapelwise for saying of Mass where Fr David Lewis, a popish priest, hath said Mass for many years past". Today Llantarnam Abbey, pictured above, is a convent of the Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy.

With the increased persecution brought about by the Popish Plot, Fr Lewis, not wishing to put the Morgans in danger, moved out of Llantarnam Abbey and into a cottage opposite. This cottage was next to the Blacksmith's Shop and it was here, on 17th November 1678, that the priest was arrested. It was early on a Sunday morning and Fr Lewis was about to celebrate Holy Mass when the arresting party, including armed dragoons, arrived. On 17th November 2007, a plaque was unveiled at the site of the arrest, now a private home.

Opposite the Blacksmith's Shop, and running beside the Church of St Michael and All Angels, is an ancient public footpath which leads to Llantarnam Abbey. This footpath is still in use. One wonders if the holy Jesuit walked this path on his way to say Mass. It is certainly very likely.

In November 2008, to commemorate the 330th Anniversary of the arrest of St David Lewis, a tree was blessed and planted in the little Garden of Remembrance at the site of the Saint's arrest at Llantarnam. A large group, led by Fr John Edwards S J, gathered to pray and give thanks for the life and example of Fr David Lewis.

At Llantarnam Abbey, where he once lived and worked, the memory of St David Lewis burns bright. His portrait hangs in a place of honour and the Sisters treasure a relic of the Martyr. Every November, the Abbey hosts a special day of remembrance in honour of St David Lewis. Watch your local press for notification of this event. (I know, I'm a bit early with the plug! I will remind you again next November!)



  1. Hello Breadgirl - what a lovely blog. The pictures are beautiful!

  2. Hello Mother of this lot
    It is nice to hear from you and I thank you for your kind comment. I started this blog because Saint David Lewis is a wonderful saint but he gets little recognition outside this area. I just want to spread the word about him and I thought that blogging is a good way to do it. Thanks again and God bless you.

  3. Breadgirl, I have never heard of this saint before...perhaps I never would have if I had not come across your blog. Just wanted you to know I'm still reading about this beloved saint. )

    As an American, I also don't have much knowledge of the historical facts of "illegal" Catholicism. I can't imagine it.

  4. Hi Cheri
    Thank you so very much for your comments. You have given me encouragement because my only reason for starting this blog was to try and spread knowledge of St David Lewis. For some reason, he is little known outside his own area. He is a wonderful saint and he deserves to be better known & loved. If you get time, go into my blog archive & read some of the early posts from October & November. You will find quite a bit of history in them. Perhaps it is time I reposted some of the early ones. Anyway, I hope you will look in often. Thanks again & God bless you.

  5. Hiya, not trolling, check the comments on this post, re 17/11/10:


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