This Cistercian monastery, built in the late 12th century, is one of the finest monastic heritage sites in all of Ireland because it is so remarkably well preserved. The intact worship areas and living quarters reveal an authentic glimpse into the ways of medieval monastic life.
Built by Donal MacGillapatrick, King of Ossory, for the Benedictine order, the abbey was taken over by the Cistercians in 1180. The complex formed a complete community, with a variety of outbuildings and facilities including kitchens, stables, gardens, and a cemetery where the local citizens are still buried to this day.
Situated on the Banks of the River Arrigle, near Thomastown, the huge 15th century tower and battlements are visible from a distance. Once you enter the complex, there are guided tours available at the visitor’s centre that chronicle the history of the buildings and point out an interesting array of medieval artistic treasures.
The buildings display a well-preserved collection of medieval artifacts including ornately carved 16th century tombs and an abbey church with a beautiful Romanesque north nave. There is also a remarkable sculptured cloister arcade. Medieval wall paintings and carvings depicting saints and other figures of the times adorn many of the interior walls, and the detailed secular and religious carved figures accurately portray the armor and clothing worn during 15th and 16th century Ireland. Particularly interesting are the smiling and weeping bishops, monks and knights, and a memorable carving of a woman in a long and pleated skirt.