Chwilio uwch

Abbot Siôn ap Rhisiart of Valle Crucis, fl. c.1455–80

Although there is no surviving poetry by Guto for Abbot Siôn ap Rhisiart, his patronage certainly lies behind both Syr Rhys’s satire on Guto (poem 101a) and Guto’s reply (poem 101). No doubt Guto praised the abbot, yet those poems have not survived in the manuscripts. It seems that his chief poet was Gutun Owain, who composed at least seven poems for him:

  • five poems of praise, GO poems XXI, XXII, XVIII, XIX, XX; CTC 99, 101, 103, 110, 118;
  • a poem to request a horse from Siôn on behalf of Maredudd ap Gruffudd, GO poem VIII; CTC 108;
  • an elegy, GO poem XXIII; CTC 119.

There are two other poems for Siôn:

  • a poem of praise by Dafydd ab Edmwnd, DE poem L; CTC 105;
  • an unnamed poem to request a horse, CTC 106.

It is argued in CTC that the unnamed poem to request a horse was composed by Gutun Owain, for the poet mentions the fact that he is related to his patron: ei gâr ef … / O du ei fam ydwyf i ‘I’m his relation on his mother’s side’ (CTC 106, lines 35–6). As is shown below, it is likely that Gutun Owain was Siôn’s nephew, therefore a link with Siôn’s mother is likely to be irrelevant in his case. On the basis of style, the poem is unlikely to be the work of Guto, therefore the question of authorship remains unanswered. Contrary to what is stated in DE 160, Tudur Aled did not receive Siôn’s patronage.

Even though Siôn was from [b]renhinoedd vric ‘kingly stock’ (GO XX.27), it does not seem that his lineage has survived. The poems addressed to him are full of references to his ancestors, and Gutun Owain mentions the fact that they were closely related (ibid. VIII.17–22):

Vn waed rrieni ydwyf,
Nai i chwi o’r vn iach wyf,
Maredydd, o Rvffvdd rym,
O’n tadav keraint ydym,
Ŵyr Ednyved a Ierwerth,
O vlodav Nannav a’i nerth.

‘I’m of the same blood through my parents,
I’m your nephew from the same lineage,
Maredudd from solid Gruffudd,
we’re kinsmen through our fathers,
descendant of Ednyfed and Iorwerth
from Nannau’s flowers and strength.’

This information is supported in HPF iii: 386, where it is noted that Gutun’s mother was Siôn’s sister. Both Gutun’s name and his father’s have survived in the genealogies, yet his mother’s identity is unknown (WG1 ‘Iarddur’ 1). Many of Siôn’s other ancestors are named by Gutun:

  • Edwin, GO VIII.5, XIX.8, XXI.6, XXII.4;
  • Idwal, XIX.8;
  • Awr, XIX.9;
  • Gwên, XIX.9;
  • llwyth Trevawr ‘Trefor’s tribe’, XIX.10;
  • Sanddef, XXI.6;
  • Elidir, XXI.7;
  • Kvneddaf Wledic, XXII.6;
  • Einion Yrth, XXII.7.

Furthermore, Dafydd ab Edmwnd calls him wyr … / jenn goch ‘Ieuan Goch’s grandson’ and associates him with both rywallon and adda (DE 101–2; cf. GO XVIII.1, XX.26, XXII.35).

The genealogical table below is tentatively based on HPF iii: 385–6, GO VIII.17–22, DE 101 and WG1 ‘Iarddur’ 1. Following Dafydd ab Edmwnd, Ieuan Goch is identified as Siôn’s grandfather even though Gutun Owain describes him as a ŵyr ‘grandson’ to Ednyved and Ierwerth (see the citation above). In all likelihood, ŵyr in Gutun’s poem is meant as ‘a younger relation/descendant’, for Siôn is also described as wyr … Edwin ‘Edwin’s descendant’ in another poem (GO XXII.4).

Lineage of Abbot Siôn ap Rhisiart of Valle Crucis

One Siôn ap Rhisiart ap Madog was found in the genealogies, who was descended from Tudur Trefor and Sanddef and who was closely related to the Trefor family of Bryncunallt (WG1 ‘Tudur Trefor’ 14). He may have been related to the family of Nannau through Ieuan, his father on his mother’s side, yet it is unlikely that he was known as Ieuan Goch. Furthermore, this Siôn married one Mawd, with whom he had six children. He is associated with Haghlton in Maelor Saesneg. Despite his lineage, therefore, it is unlikely that he was the same man as Siôn ap Rhisiart, abbot of Valle Crucis.

His career
The earliest reference to Siôn’s abbacy in Valle Crucis is dated 4 October 1456 (CTC 362–3), but Williams (2001: 142; 1971: 203) suggests that he may have been appointed abbot in 1455 with the help of one Siôn Puleston, probably Guto’s patron, Siôn ap Madog Puleston. In Llst 28, 10–16, Gutun Owain wrote a treatise on poetry where he quotes from his own poem of praise for Siôn (Williams 1929: 212; GO XX.75–80). As the manuscript was written between 1455 and 1456, it is highly likely that Siôn had by that time secured his place as abbot. Indeed, in his poem Gutun twice calls for Siôn to be appointed bishop of St Asaph, and no doubt he would not have done so if Siôn had not been abbot for at least a few years (ibid. XX.11–12, 33–4; cf. Williams 1962: 261). Davies (CTC 363) argues that Siôn was abbot as early as c.1450, for it is likely that the abbacy of his predecessor, Richard Mason, came to an end in 1448. However, someone named Dafydd may have been abbot in 1450 (Williams 2001: 298). Another consideration is a note by Robert Vaughan in Pen 287, 55 (1538–67), which states that Wiliam Trefor ap Robert Trefor of Bryncunallt was appointed Siôn’s siaplen ‘chaplain’. If the appointment happened before Wiliam’s father died on 27 October 1452 and was buried at Valle Crucis, Siôn may well have been abbot at that time, although it’s also possible that Wiliam was associated with the abbey after the death of his father.

Williams (ibid.) suggests that Siôn’s abbacy came to an end in 1461, yet he concedes that he may have been abbot until 1480 (ibid. 58–9). The latter is the most likely date, for in his elegy for Siôn, Gutun Owain states that he was succeeded by Abbot Dafydd ab Ieuan, and the earliest reference to Dafydd’s abbacy occurs in 1480 (GO XXIV.1–8; CTC 363; Williams 2001: 298). According to CPR 1461–7, Siôn was abbot on 7 July 1461, when he was appointed as one of the king’s attorneys in the lordship of Chirk to receive a commission, along with six other men who were Guto’s patrons, namely Dafydd Cyffin, Rhosier ap Siôn Puleston, Siôn Hanmer, Siôn Trefor, Siôn ap Madog Puleston and Robert ap Hywel (45.49–51n).

According to Gutun Owain, Siôn hailed o Rywabon ‘from Rhiwabon’ (GO VIII.14; cf. HPF iii: 386). He is described as iôr y Bryn (GO XVIII.53) and arglwydd y Bryn (ibid. XIX.7, XXI.9), both meaning ‘lord of Bryn’, yet the location of this place is unclear. Williams (1962: 385), followed by Williams (2001: 58–9), mentions rebuilding work at Valle Crucis, and although there is little in the poetry to support this, Siôn certainly restored the abbey’s renown following a period of neglect at the hands of his predecessor, Richard Mason (ibid. 59; Williams 1962: 384; cf. 101a.46n). When Edward IV was crowned in 1461, Siôn was appointed to collect payments in the lordship of Chirk (Williams 2001: 59), in light of which Williams (1962: 261) describes him as a ‘staunch Yorkist’. Williams (ibid.) argues that Siôn had his eye on the office of bishop of St Asaph between 1461 and 1471, yet Gutun Owain’s poem (see above) shows that he and others believed that he was worthy of the honour as early as c.1455.

Williams, D.H. (1971), ‘Fasti Cistercienses Cambrenses’, B xxiv: 181–229
Williams, D.H. (2001), The Welsh Cistercians (Leominster)
Williams, G. (1962), The Welsh Church from Conquest to Reformation (Cardiff)
Williams, G.J. (1929), ‘Gramadeg Gutun Owain’, B iv: 207–21