Located about 6 km / 4 miles from Trim Castle, and used as a location for Mel Gibson's 1995 movie Braveheart, Bective Abbey on the River Boyne dates to the 12th century. Although the ruin consists only of walls and architectural features (no interior rooms remain), these are remarkably well preserved compared to many other abbey and castle ruins from that period.
The abbey was rebuilt and fortified three times during the middle ages; nothing of the very first abbey remains. Today it arguably resembles a castle more than a monastery. The site also contains numerous stairways and undergrounds passages although the more dangerous areas are securely off limits. Visitors can also still see the 15th century cloister (a covered walkway for contemplation and prayer), a figure holding a crozier, and a few intricately carved arches.
The abbey is set in the middle of a large field, a portion of which was purchased from the state from a local farmer to create a car park. A walkway joins the car park to the building. At the site, two information panels give details of the abbey's history and features.
Nice personal touch to this short video of Bective Abbey and its surroundings
Bective Abbey was founded by the King of Meath, Murchadh O’ Melaghlin (Moor-kahd Oh-Meel-a-klin), in 1150. It was a Cistercian Abbey, an outgrowth of nearby Mellifont Abbey.
In 1195, the headless body of Hugh de Lacy, Lord of Meath who built nearby Trim Castle, was buried at the Abbey. His head and body were later reunited and buried at St. Thomas's Abbey in Dublin.
Bective Abbey was important and powerful abbey in the middle ages. It abbot was entitled to a seat in Parliament, where he was considered one of the "spiritual lords".
The Abbey was rebuilt in the 12th or 13th century, with a more significant reconstruction (and reduction) in the 15th century. As part of this remodelling, a large defensive tower was built above the south range of the abbey.
The Abbey was dissolved under Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries Act in 1536. Its possessions were turned over to the British Crown -- they included about 1600 acres of land, a water mill and a fishing weir on the Boyne.
It was then leased to prominent civil servant Thomas Agard, who converted it into a fortified mansion. From then on, the abbey passed on to several different owners, eventually falling into ruins.
Open all year.
Bective Abbey. Image by Alanah McKillen