Picture of Gerald of Wales

Gerald of Wales

places mentioned

Book 1, Ch. 4: Cantreds, royal palaces, and cathedrals

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How many cantreds, royal palaces, and cathedrals there are in Wales

South Wales contains twenty-nine cantreds; North Wales, twelve; Powys, six: many of which are at this time in the possession of the English and Franks. For the country now called Shropshire formerly belonged to Powys, and the place where the castle of Shrewsbury stands bore the name of Pengwern, or the head of the Alder Grove. There were three royal seats in South Wales: Dinevor, in South Wales, removed from Caerleon; Aberfraw, (9) in North Wales; and Pengwern, in Powys.

Wales contains in all fifty-four cantreds. The word CANTREF is derived from CANT, a hundred, and TREF, a village; and means in the British and Irish languages such a portion of land as contains a hundred vills.

There are four cathedral churches in Wales: St. David's, upon the Irish sea, David the archbishop being its patron: it was in ancient times the metropolitan church, and the district only contained twenty-four cantreds, though at this time only twenty- three; for Ergengl, in English called Urchenfeld, (10) is said to have been formerly within the diocese of St. David's, and sometimes was placed within that of Landaff. The see of St. David's had twenty-five successive archbishops; and from the time of the removal of the pall into France, to this day, twenty-two bishops; whose names and series, as well as the cause of the removal of the archiepiscopal pall, may be seen in our Itinerary. (11)

In South Wales also is situated the bishopric of Landaff, near the Severn sea, and near the noble castle of Caerdyf; bishop Teilo being its patron. It contains five cantreds, and the fourth part of another, namely, Senghennyd.

In North Wales, between Anglesey and the Eryri mountains, is the see of Bangor, under the patronage of Daniel, the abbot; it contains about nine cantreds.

In North Wales also is the poor little cathedral of Llan-Elwy, or St. Asaph, containing about six cantreds, to which Powys is subject.

Gerald of Wales, The Description of Wales (Oxford, Mississippi, 1997)

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