Monday, 11 June 2018

Cardigan to Lampeter (Gerald’s Journey Through Wales 1188)

This is a series about the journey that Archbishop Baldwin and Gerald of Wales took in 1188 to preach the crusade throughout Wales. Gerald kept a detailed account of the journey and their surroundings, which he later published. The series began with some background posts about Gerald. If you want to read the series from the beginning, go here.
The party of Gerald and Archbishop Baldwin reached the bridge over the River Teifi into Cardigan and were met by Prince Rhys ap Gruffudd, his sons and a great crowd of people.  The preaching there met with great success. The response was so great that the townspeople decided to build a chapel on the exact spot where Baldwin stood to preach. Perhaps they had heard of the miracle of healing at Haverfordwest by Baldwin’s footprint.

Gerald tells the story of a woman so determined that her husband should not go on crusade that she dragged him backwards by his cloak and belt. She was divinely punished three days later when she accidentally smothered her new baby in the bed beside her. She made no more objections to him going on crusade, and even sewed the cloth cross on his cloak herself.

Prince Rhys honoured the travellers with entertainment and good food, and the next day he and his two eldest sons escorted them, turning the mission into a royal progress. They travelled along the north side of the River Teifi, bypassing Cilgerran Castle, where Gerald grew up. It may have been from here that Gerald’s notorious grandmother Nest was abducted from under her furious husband’s nose.
Gerald wrote a lot about the River Teifi as they travelled it’s banks. It was unique in still having beavers there, and also an abundance of salmon, who may have been leaping up Cenarth Falls to spawn as the travellers passed. By St Llawddog’s church and mill Gerald wrote there was,
… a most productive fish pool, long ago hollowed into the top of a rock by the hands of the saint himself. The waters of the Teifi, running down over this rock, plunge with a mighty roar into the depths below, while the salmon leap from the depths onto the top of the concave rock, a distance which equals the length of the longest spear.
Their leaps are quite amazing, and would seem miraculous if it was not the fish’s nature to behave in this manner … They have a special way of leaping, which is this. When fish of this kind, naturally swimming against the current … meet a difficult obstacle, they bend their tail forward towards their mouth: sometimes, indeed, they actually grip their tail with their mouth, so as to make a better jump. Then they suddenly jerk themselves out of this circular form with great force (like a bent-over bough suddenly springing straight) and thus they leap long distances from the depths to the heights, to the wonder of all beholders.
The party eventually reached Lampeter (Gerald used the Welsh name Pont Steffan) after a long ride beside the river and through the Cardiganshire hills. Here Baldwin, Gerald, and the abbots of Whitland and Strata Florida all preached sermons, and many took the cross.

[Adapted from A Mirror of Medieval Wales by Charles Kightly]

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at for monthly newsletters. 

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