Mellifont Abbey

Mellifont Abbey

AKA Old Mellifont Abbey

An Mhainistir Mhór is the Irish name for Mellifont Abbey, meaning The Big Abbey. Founded in 1142 by St Malachy, Archbishop of Armagh, it was the first Cistercian abbey to be built in Ireland. By 1170 the abbey had become the model for other Cistercian abbeys in Ireland. At that time there were 100 monks and 300 lay brothers present and the abbey had also established six other daughter houses - Baltinglass, Bective Abbey, Boyle, Monasterenanagh, Newry and Abbeyshrule.


Lavabo and Cloister Arches

By the early 13th century standards at Mellifont had started to decline and the main assembly of Cistercian monks at Clairvaux in France sent representative monks to address the problems. The Irish monks resented their interference and blocked them from entering the abbey. This became known as the Conspiracy of Mellifont and spread to other Cistercian Abbeys in Ireland. Mellifont had become too powerful. By 1230 the Abbots had been removed from the affiliated monasteries and were replaced. Some of the replaced abbots were sent to monasteries in England and France and groups of Anglo-Norman monks were also placed in the monasteries. Mellifont once again prospered and became of the richest monasteries in Ireland before Henry the V111 dissolved the abbey in 1539 and seized all it's treasures. Today the abbey lies in ruins. The most impressive features are the 13th century Lavabo which was a place to wash before prayer, the 14th century Chapter House, which was unfortunately closed on my last three visits because of restoration work, the splendid gateway and the remains of a romanesque archway that formed the cloisters. During the summer months a small visitor centre is open at the site.

Situated: From Drogheda take the R168 north west towards Collon. Then take a left turn for Mellifont (Signposted). The Abbey is at the end of this road.

Discovery Map 36: O 0119 7810. Last visit April 2010.

Longitude: 6° 27' 58" W

Latitude: 53° 44' 34" N

Google Map.

Photos: Jim Dempsey.


Previous-----Home-----Next Page