The Old Mellifont ruins are those of the first Cistercian Abbey erected in Ireland. St. Malachy, the Archbishop of Armagh, founded the Abbey and monks from France inhabited it in 1142. It was consecrated amid great ceremony in 1157, with many archbishops and even the High King of Ireland in the audience. The Cistercian Order was successful in its mission to infuse a greater sense of discipline into the lax Irish church. Forty more monasteries were built after Mellimont. In 1539, King Henry VIII suppressed all of them following his break with the Catholic Church. Old Mellifont Abbey is also said to be the site of the beginning of the end of the ancient Gaelic civilization. In the early 1600’s, Hugh O’Neill surrendered to Mountjoy here after being defeated at the Battle of Kinsale. In 1689, the abbey served as the headquarters of William of Orange during the Battle of the Boyne – whose victory is still celebrated each summer by Northern Ireland’s Protestant community. Visit this site in the valley near the River Mattock today and you’ll see a few structures still standing, including the square gatehouse. The Chapter House, built in 12th century English-Norman style, was once a place for daily meetings of the monks. Today it contains an exhibit of glazed tiles that date back to medieval times. There are only fragmented ruins of the original monastery visible, including a few arches from the Romanesque Cloister House, and an octagon-shaped lavabo (washing place) from about 1200, that still displays basins and water jets. A visitor’s centre and architectural museum tell the story of the abbey’s construction and the extraordinary craftsmanship involved.
The Abbey is located about 10 kilometres to the northwest of Drogheda, just off the R168 route between Drogheda and Collon, where it is well signposted.
Mellinfont Abbey by Ramon