One of Wales’ hidden gems – Ewenny Priory Church – is celebrating its 900th birthday this year with a series of events culminating in a festival weekend.
Tucked away at the end of a country lane outside Bridgend – Ewenny Priory Church is acknowledged as the best-preserved example of a Norman priory church in South Wales.
It has many unique features, such as fortifications, the only surviving Romanesque wall-painting in Wales, and the 21st century Pulpitum Screen by Alexander Beleschenko, soon to be complemented with a glass entrance door by the same artist.
Although the exact date of the laying of its foundation stone is unknown it is believed to be between 1111 and 1120, when it replaced an earlier Celtic church. Hence 2015 has been chosen as a suitable year to celebrate its 900th anniversary.
The main festival weekend will run in the summer on the weekend of July 11 to 13 to coincide with the festival day on the Saturday of St Benedict, the founder of the Benedictine Order, to which Ewenny belonged as a Priory of St Peter’s Abbey, Gloucester.
Over this weekend a flower festival will be held in the church with local organisations, such as WI, Mothers’ Union, community councils, and schools having been invited to submit flower displays on the theme of 900 years of Ewenny Priory.
The main Ewenny 900 celebration service will be on Sunday, July 12, at 11am when the preacher will be the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan. St Donats Chamber Choir, conducted by Wendy York, will be providing the music for the service.
The following Saturday, July 18, a Medieval Fayre, organised by Ewenny Community Council, will be held on the Priory House grounds. This will be a fun day out for all the family, with medieval re-enactments, stalls, games, music, food and a special Cwrw Ewenny, being brewed by a micro-brewery in Llantwit Major.
Priest-in-charge and Archdeacon of Margam, the Venerable Philip Morris said, "Ewenny 900 gives an exciting opportunity to celebrate the place of the Priory Church in the heritage of Wales. The imaginative events planned provide something for everyone, so come along and enjoy the architecture, art and history of Ewenny Priory."
The first event of Ewenny 900 is a multi-media presentation of the history and life of the Priory Church – 1115 and all that. This will take place in the church on Wednesday 11th and Thursday 12th March at 7.30pm and features film, music and a talk.
Tickets are £5 and available from Ewenny Pottery (01656 653020). The Pottery is making a limited edition reproduction of the medieval tiles in the Priory Church, and also has Ewenny 900 shopping bags for sale.
Rediscovering the Past is an exciting project for children particularly of Key Stage 2 age.
In June, Year 6 of St Brides Major Church in Wales School will be visiting Ewenny Pottery and the next door Glass Workshop and meeting a stone-carver to learn about medieval crafts, and then visiting the Priory Church to see the craft work there. All this will be filmed to make a DVD and on-line resources for other schools, who will be invited to Ewenny in the autumn for similar visits. A work-pack and teachers’ handbook will also be available.
The Diocesan Childrens Committee is organising Monkee Business in the Priory Church on Saturday, June 13, when children when have the opportunity to dress up as monks.
In addition to the main Ewenny 900 events, a number of concerts have been arranged to take advantage of the wonderful acoustics of the Priory Church. Details on www.ewennyfestival.co.uk.
The Priory Church is open to visitors everyday from 9.30am to 5.30pm. For further information about the Priory Church go to www.ewenny.org.uk.