West Vale Catholics - Covering the areas of Llantwit Major and Cowbridge in South Wales.
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Within our parish are a number of churches whose sites date back to Celtic times. The churches at Llanmaes and Pendoylan are dedicated to St. Cattwg (Cadoc), and those at Llantrithyd and Llanharry to St. Illtyd.

Llandough was probably the site of a small Celtic monastery founded by St. Dochau, Llanfrynach is dedicated to St. Brynach, and Llysworney to St. Tydfil. None of the churches, however, retain any of their pre-Norman fabric, although some house 9th and 10th century stone crosses.

With the coming of the Normans, some churches were re-dedicated to saints favoured by them. Thus the church at Llanwerydd was re-dedicated to St. Donat and St. Blethian to John the Baptist. Existing churches were re-built and many other churches were established, including those dedicated to the Archangel Michael (Llanmihangel, Colwinston and Flemingston), and to Our Lady: St. Mary's at Monknash, and Bonvilston. Marcross was dedicated to the Holy Trinity, Wick to St. James, and St. Hilary.

The earliest parts of some of these churches date back to Norman times, and mention of most is found in various documents from the 11th century on. Holy Cross was not built to the 13th century when Cowbridge gained its charter. During that and the following century many of the churches were extended and embellished.

From relics in the churches we can picture Christian worship in the Vale during Medieval times. Holy water stoups at the entrances, great Roods reminding the congregation of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross, wall paintings illustrating scenes from Scripture and the lives of the saints, niches that once contained statues of favoured saints, damaged piscinas (for purifying the sacred vessels) indicating the existence of side altars, and squints to enable all to see at the most holy point of the Mass, the elevation of the Host.

So the small agricultural settlements focussed on their church with the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments, and the same church saw their journey through life, from baptism, to Sunday Mass attendance, to marriage, to the baptism of their children, and finally burial in the grounds of their church.

The more affluent had altars or chapels endowed where Mass would be said for the repose of their souls.
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