When a group of Cistercian monks were expelled from France in the early 1800s, they travelled to this barren wilderness at the foot of the Knockmealdown mountains in County Waterford, and built Ireland’s first post-reformation monastery. Over the years, they transformed the rough and rocky landscape into one of abundant farmlands. They erected an impressive abbey, replete with stone church and several outbuildings.
These days, the monks practice a way of life that is rare on our planet – focusing on quiet prayer, worship, and work in the service of their community. They welcome visitors, and run their retreat house in the hope that people will come and experience a revitalized faith after sharing the liturgy and spending time in silent reflection.
In addition to the daily schedule of liturgical observances in the Abbey Church, visitors are encouraged to explore three other sites:
The Repository features a nice selection of items valuable for Christian living, such as rosary beads and statues, and a large selection of books – indeed, a small library houses many medieval Irish manuscripts.
The Heritage Centre offers a visual presentation of the monks and their everyday life within the monastery. Photos, images and a slide show explain the philosophy and theology of their lifestyle in detail. Tearooms are currently under construction and will soon be ready to provide refreshments for visitors as they enjoy the scenic views.
The Retreat House has simple rooms for quiet, personal prayer. Advance arrangements must be made, as these are not tourist accommodations but offered especially for the purpose of religious sanctuary. Don’t miss the lovely Grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes, accessible on the road up to the monastery, and open for prayer 24/7.
Mount Mellary lies about 10km north of Cappoquin, Co. Waterford, on the Clogheen / Cahir road. Cappoquin is located on the N72, east of Fermoy and west of Dungarvan.