The Monks of Caldey Island
Monks first came to Caldey in the 6th Century. Pyro, the first abbot is remembered in the island's Welsh name, Ynys Byr. Pyro was followed by St Samson, from the Celtic monastery at Llantwit Major. Viking raids may have ended this settlement in the 10th Century.
In the 12th Century Benedictines from St Dogmaels, Pembrokeshire, set up a priory on the island. They remained until the Dissolution in 1536. Much of their medieval priory is still standing.
In 1906 pioneering Anglican Benedictines purchased Caldey and built the present Italianate style abbey which now towers above the village. They were received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1913. Their stay was relatively short, financial difficulties forcing them to sell in 1925.
The present monks of Caldey Abbey are Cistercians, a stricter, contemplative offshoot of the Benedictine Order. They came from Scourmont Abbey in Belgium in 1929, re-establishing the strong Cistercian tradition in Wales. (13 monasteries before 1536).
For many years they strove to establish themselves and overcome the inherent difficulties of farming an island. The development of the perfume industry and tourism eventually brought them financial independence.
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The community has remained spiritually strong throughout, even when their numbers became dangerously low in the early eighties. Following that lean period there was a steady stream of new vocations, and the community began to grow again. In more recent times however, some of the older members have passed away, and vocations have been fewer, leaving the numbers once more quite low. Although somewhat reduced in numbers, the monks continue to practice their vocation of cheerful faith and rubust prayer and to thrive in their spiritual and community life.
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