Penrhys (or ‘the floating estate’ as I have affectionately named it) is a curious place of contrast. One the one hand it is a somewhat notorious housing estate set on top of the mountain connecting the Rhondda Fawr and the Rhondda Fach, yet, as a place of pilgrimage (still walked on the Cistercian Way today), it also boasts of a fantastic monastic history (…that rhymed) including the iconic statue of Mary.
Our Lady of Penrhys is a statue of the Virgin Mary, and as the old Welsh tale goes, it mysteriously appeared among the trees on the site many hundreds of years ago, perhaps in the 1200’s. Although the original statue didn’t survive Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1538, this larger replacement was put on the holy site, 500 years later in 1953 (better late than never) and is very well known throughout the Rhondda.
After you’ve driven up Penrhys from Ystrad (the pilgrim’s cheat route) there are some lovely views of Tonypandy and Llwynypia looking out from in front of the statue. On a clear day, it’s a helpful and peaceful place to come and think or even pray. Also, if you want a laugh then go and look at the rather unfortunate choice of pattern on the gates of the nearby cemetery. Thankfully Mary’s gaze is averted.