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Ballintubber Abbey Church
 

County

Mayo

Coordinates

N 53° 45' 24.1"   W 009° 16' 59.2"

Nearest town

Castlebar

Grid Ref.

M 15414 79314

Map No.

38

Elevation a.s.l. (m)

22

Date of visit

Saturday 8 September 2012

GPS Accuracy (m)

3
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The remains of the cloister seen from the northwest.


Sometimes it's known as Ballintober Abbey, but it's just a variation of the same name. It was built in 1216 by the King Cathal Crovdearg O'Connor, King of Connacht. He was a member of the O'Connors family, notable patrons of the arts. The Cross of Cong, one of Irish national treasures, was made for his father, Turlach O'Connor. Before ascending to the throne he fled from the vengeance of Turloch's queen and found shelter in Ballintubber where he worked for a man named Sheridan. Cathal was well treated by Sheridan, and for thanking it for his kindness he had this church built.
The church was destroyed during the Protestant Reformation and left roofless, but it was used anyway by Catholics. It was restored in 1966 and it is said that this is the only church in Ireland still in use since its foundation.
Outside the church there are the ruins of a cloister and an older building. Some of the pillars of the cloister have nice carvings of human figures, floral motifs and animals.

The visit inside the abbey itself was impossible this time. The church was in use for a wedding while we were here.

This abbey is among the very few places where we went the most. This was our fourth visit here, the other visits were on December 8th, 1995, April 27th, 1997, and May 5th, 1998.

UPDATE: June 10th, 2019 - During this new visit to the abbey we were granted the permission to see the small chamber behind the altar site. In this chamber, usually not open to the public, there's a memorial to the son of Grace O'Malley. The memorial is a massive altar with a decorated arched canopy. The base has some carvings of saints, other figures are missing due to the destruction brought by the English army during the 17th century. They thought a treasure had been hidden in the tomb and started hammering it to pry it open, but they only found solid rock and gave up.
On the altar there are two fragments from a grave slab of an abbot with the date 1651.

The first twelve photos in this page are from the visit in 2012, the remaining six are from the visit in 2019.


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