Athassel Abbey

Augustinian Priory

This Priory was one of the largest in Ireland. It was built in c.1200 for the Augustinians by William de Burgo (Burke) and was dedicated to St Edmund, who was the martyred King of East Anglia. De Burgos were the main benefactors so it's not surprising that Walter de Burgo, 1st Earl of Ulster and his son Richard, AKA the Red Earl, were both interred here. The monastery is situated on the west bank of the River Suir. In the 14th century the priory was burned twice, firstly by a brother of Lord Maurice FitzThomas in 1319 and then by Bryan O'Brien in 1329. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries 1536-1541, the abbey was surrendered in 1541. In 1557 the property was granted to Thomas Butler, 10th Earl of Ormond and Ossary.

Much altered gatehouse

Gatehouse, east side

A short walk across farmland leads to a 13th century bridge built over, a now dried up, river/mill race. Across the bridge stands a 13th century gatehouse that was originally protected by a portcullis. Another short walk takes you the abbey church. The entrance to the nave is completely broken out, see image above. The north and south walls of the nave survive, but the aisles are missing. The 37 metre long nave is now used for burials. A beautiful four-ordered doorway decorated with nail-head ornament, provides access to the crossing tower.

The crossing-tower from the nave

Four-ordered pointed doorway

Cusped ogee-headed light

Carved head

The chancel was lit by tall lancet windows, they are still present in the north and south walls but the ones in the east gable, pictured above, were replaced in the 15th century with a three light traciered window. A small number of floor slabs are present.

Attached to the east gable of the chancel is the 14th century floor slab, pictured above left, it bears an effigy of a man and a woman. It has been suggested they may represent St Augustine and his mother St Monica. The man, on the right, has short hair with curls and is wearing a tunic, the woman, who is wearing a veil, is holding a floriated cross. Standing against the south wall is an effigy of a nobleman wearing a long gown, the head is slightly skewed. next to him is a damaged stone sculpture, taken from a recess in the abbey. I suggest you visit the south transept where there is a stunning view of the impressive crossing tower. High above the enormous arch the gargoyle, pictured below right, juts out from the south wall.

Crossing-tower, south wall

Gargoyle on the south wall of the tower

There are side chapels on the west side of each transept and a sacristy is attached to the south side of the south transept. The cloister is situated to the south of the nave. The cloister arcade was comprised of cusped ogee-headed lights on the exterior side, within round headed embrasures on the interior, see below. The chapter house and a number of vaults lie to the west of the cloister. The refectory stands to the south. I would have liked more time to explore this part of the priory, as I missed a few medieval graveslabs due to a change in the weather. I am already looking forward to a return visit in more clement weather.

Cusped ogee-headed lights

South range building containing the refectory

Situated: From Cashel head west on the R932 to Golden. After Baurstookeen Castle take the first left. The Priory is about two kilometres down here on your left.

Discovery Map 66: S 0113 3641. Last visit Aug 2019.

Longitude: 7° 58' 60" W

Latitude: 52° 28' 45" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey.

Ref: Cochrane, Robert. “Notes on the Augustinian Priory of Athassel, County Tipperary.” The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, vol. 39, no. 3, 1909, pp. 279–289. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25514011.

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