Tintern Abbey, County Wexford

Tintern Abbey, County Wexford

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Situated on the west shore of Bannow Bay in Co. Wexford, Tintern Abbey was one of the most powerful Cistercian foundations in the South East until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536. The first Cistercian foundation in Ireland, at Mellifont, Co. Louth in 1142 was part of sweeping reforms which took place in the Irish Church in the12th Century.

The early Cistercians, who had their origins in the monastery of Citeaux in France, were dedicated to a simple life of prayer and manual labour. By 1169, when the Anglo-Normans arrived in Ireland, there were already 15 Cistercian houses in Ireland.

In 1200, William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, set sail for Ireland on his first visit as Lord of Leinster. Threatened with shipwreck, he vowed to found an abbey wherever he could safely land. On reaching safety in Bannow Bay, he redeemed his vow bequeathing about 9000 acres of land for a Cistercian abbey. Consequently, Tintern Abbey, sited on a gentle south-facing slope overlooking Tintern stream, is sometimes called Tintern de Voto “Tintern of the vow”. Once established, the abbey was colonised by monks from the Cistercian abbey at Tintern in Monmouthshire, Wales, of which Marshal was also patron.

Following its foundation, Tintern acquired large tracts of land in Co. Wexford and at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, appears to have been the third richest Cistercian abbey in Ireland (after St. Mary's in Dublin and Mellifont). Shortly after, Tintern Abbey and its lands were granted to Anthony Colclough from Staffordshire, an officer in Henry VIII's army.

The Colclough family extensively modified the abbey church, converting the crossing tower and later, the nave, chancel and Lady Chapel to domestic quarters. In the 18th century Sir Vesey Colclough built many of the fine battlemented walls seen around the abbey today.

Conservation and consolidation works started at Tintern in the early 1980s and archaeological excavations between 1982 and 1994 exposed many of the features of the original Cistercian abbey. Constructed to the standard Cistercian plan, the abbey church was located to the north of an enclosed cloister garth which was surrounded on all sides by covered walks and a sequence of domestic buildings.

Check out our blog for more places to visit in Wexford - Top 10 things To do in Wexford......

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