Monastic Wales.

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Enoch , founding abbot of Strata Marcella

Active: c. 1170   

According to Gerald of Wales, Enoch founded a community of nuns at Llansanffraid and subsequently engaged in an illicit affair with one of the nuns who duly became pregnant. Enoch later repented of his wrongdoings. Gerald's account of Enoch's antics cannot be wholly relied upon and he may simply have intended the story to serve as a warning of the perils involved in looking after a female community; or he may have wished to entertain (Cartwright).

Gerald of Wales records the 'downfall' of an abbot (Enoch) in three of his works - the Speculum Ecclesiae, the Gemma Ecclesiastica and the Journey through Wales. Each of the versions varies and as Jane Cartwright argues, these discrepancies and inconsistencies undermine our confidence in Gerald 'as an historically rigorous record.'
The following account of Enoch's activities is given in the Gemma Ecclesiastica:

'There is a story about an abbot Enoch who gathered together in Wales during our own time a group of virgins for the service of Christ. He at length succumbed to temptations and made many of the virgins in the convent pregnant. Finally, he ran around in a comical manner, throwing off the religious habit, and fled with one of the nuns. After he had spent many years in the service of the devil, he at last returned to his Order and the mother-house from which he had fled. The monastery [he returned to] was called Whitland. He was taken back, not without great compunction, and performed his penance with fitting devotion, according to the rigors of the Cistercian rule.'
[trans. J. J. Hagen]

Sites associated with this person

, (founder)

Strata Marcella Abbey, Powys (abbot)

Bibliographical sources

Printed sources

Cartwright, Jane, Feminine Sanctity and Spirituality in Medieval Wales (University of Wales Press: Cardiff, 2008) pp. 263-266

Cartwright, Jane, 'Abbess Annes and the ape', in Monastic Wales: New Approaches ed. Janet Burton and Karen Stöber (University of Wales: Cardiff, 2013), pp. 191-207

Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis), Gerald of Wales, The Journey Through Wales / The Description of Wales (Harmondsworth, 1978)

Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis), The Jewel of the Church, a translation of Gemma Ecclesiastica (Lugduni Bavatorum: Leiden, 1979)

Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis), Giraldi Cambresensis Opera, Rolls Series, 21, 8 vols, ed. J. S. Brewer, J. F. Dimock and G. F. Warner (London, 1861-1891) vol. 2, p. 248; vol. 4, pp. 168–169; vol. 6, p. 59

Kerr, Julie E., Life in the Medieval Cloister (Continuum: London and New York, 2009) p. 141