St Mary's Augustinian Priory

Cahir Abbey was founded in c.1220 CE, for the Augustinian Canons Regular by the Norman Knight Galfrid (Geoffrey) de Camville. The last Prior Edmund Lonergan was made Vicar of the parish church of the Virgin Mary of Cahir in 1540. He surrendered the church to Henry VIII in the same year. As it was deemed a parish church it could not be taken by the Crown during the dissolution of the monasteries. The remaining claustral building were granted to Sir Thomas Butler, who was created first Baron of Cahir in 1542. Thomas married Eleanor Butler, 5th daughter of Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond. Cahir Castle was their residence.

From the north east

Window in the north wall

The remains of the church consist of the chancel and a modified crossing tower. The nave was probably destroyed when the crossing tower was converted to a residential building in the 16th/17th century. From the west, my first view of the abbey, it has the appearance of a tower house. Beautifully decorated windows were added to the north and east walls of the chancel in the 15th century. These windows with superb masks carved as label stops were the highlight of my visit, see images below. In the east wall there is a fine double piscina and around the entrance to the chancel are some nice carvings, see below. An iron-gate leading to the interior of the tower was locked during my visit. Best time to visit is probably around mid-day during the summer months.


Entrance to the tower

Northside of the east window in the chancel

West side of the chancel window, north wall

East side of the chancel window, north wall

East window, Chancel

East window, external

Pictured above are some elaborate stonemason's marks with a superb knot carving in the centre. To the south of the church are the remains of the cloister and claustral building. These include the cloister, a residential building, the refectory and a vaulted chamber. There is no access to this part of the priory.

Residential building

Buildings to the south, fenced off

Caherabbey Upper Bullaun Stone

When you enter the graveyard from the gate to the east of the church, you find find a large bullaun stone resting, on a plinth, immediately to your left. It is a sandstone conglomerate, speckled with quartz. There are four bullauns present in the upper surface. Because of poor light that day three of them failed to show up well in my pics, you can just see a small bullaun, SW of the large one in the image below.

Situated: From the castle, cross over the bridge and take a right turn up R640. Then after about 200 metres take another right turn down a laneway, just beyond the railway line.

Discovery Map 66: S 0487 2532. Last visit Aug 2019.

Longitude: 7° 55' 42" W

Latitude: 52° 22' 46" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey.