Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Blasted Past: Part Five

Strata Florida Abbey nestles between the mellow hills of Cardiganshire. The abbey, founded by Rhys Ap Gruffydd, one of the mightiest of the Welsh Princes, the body of Dafydd Ap Gwilym, one of the best known Welsh poets, is supposed to be buried there, but he is also supposed to have been buried at Talley Abbey, just over the border in Carmarthenshire. One of these has to be wrong, since, to the best of our knowledge, Dafydd Ap Gwilym was never divinded, before or after death, in spite of his deplorable tendency to pay court to other men's wives. Dafydd Ap Gwilym is known for his poetry, most notable among his verses a meditation upon the looks of the young ladies he saw while he sat in the church at Llanbadarn Fawr, outside Aberystwyth.

Accordingly, old Dafydd would probably have been most happy to meet Lady Sylvia, for she was as pretty as the proverbial picture, as she stepped through the magnificent Romanesque arch that would once have led into a magnificent abbey church. But he has been dead for a good many years, and may not even be buried there, so the fact is probably less than material. But the temptation to mention him is too great, so he sneaked in.
Lady Sylvia paused, taking in the magnificent view. She drew in breath deeply, looking up to the magnificently wooded hills, above the ruined walls.
"Did you know that there's a legend the Holy Grail was brought to this place, just before the monasteries were dissolved?"
A male voice, close by, caused Lady Sylvia to start. She turned to see a man in a brown trenchcoat and flat cap, hands in his pockets, a scarf wound around his face, eyes concealed by driving goggles.

"So what happened to it, then?" Lady Sylvia smiled sceptically.

"The grail passed into the hands of the Steadman family." The man spoke softly, not rising to the bantering tone in the young aristocrat's voice. "They bought the abbey and built the house that stands alongside this church. The grail was kept for the use of pilgrims, who believed that it contained a healing virtue. When the Steadman line ended, the cup, and the abbey, passed into the ownership of the Powells of Nanteos, though marriage to the last of the Steadmans. That cup remained at Nanteos until the 1960s. It is now kept in a bank vault in Aberystwyth."
"But you're kidding!" Lady Sylvia laughed out loud, covering her mouth. "The Holy Grail, here...?"
"It may be just a legend," the figure in the trenchcoat nodded, "but the cup exists. And it is gone from the bank vault. It vanished the same day that Sparrowhawk was taken from the nursing home."

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