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Boyle Abbey Church
 

County

Roscommon

Coordinates

N 53° 58' 24.6"   W 008° 17' 49.0"

Nearest town

Boyle

Grid Ref.

G 80564 02722

Map No.

33

Elevation a.s.l. (m)

52

Date of visit

Friday 6 June 2014

GPS Accuracy (m)

3
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The nave of the church with its eight arches seen from the window on the first floor of the gatehouse.


The Cistercian Abbey at Boyle was built from 1161 as a daughter house of Mellifont Abbey, which in turn was the first Cistercian Abbey in Ireland. It took about 60 years to be completed due to lack of resources and to wars and ransackings occured in 1202 and 1235.
The length of time spent on the construction led to some changes of design from Romanesque to Gothic.
It consists of a very long nave with a north aisle, a chancel, a massive crossing tower and two transepts. To the south there's a large cloister, today completely disappeared, and other buildings like the dormitory, the kitchens and the refectory.
Among the most beautiful features of the abbey there are the sculptured capitals of the piers. Most of them have been decorated with foliage patterns, but others have wonderful decorations of human and animal figures.
In the outer northwest corner of the nave, very high on the wall, there's a sheela-na-gig.
On one the capitals of the northernmost chapel in the north transept there's a strange carving, called the Green Man, a mask under which the dead monks were presented before the burial.
After the suppression of the monasteries under king Henry VIII the abbey was turned into a military garrison and much of the buildings was altered and adapted to this new function. At this time the abbey was known with the name of Boyle Castle.
Following this period the abbey was abandoned and it fell in ruins. It was later occupied by the soldiers of Cromwell's army in the 17th century until it was abandoned again a few decades later and before the end of the 18th century it was just an overgrown roofless ruin.
The gatehouse in the west wall was added during the 17th century, when the abbey was a military garrison. Today the gatehouse houses an exhibition.
The visit to this monument is absolutely worthy and it's a shame that we took 20 years to come back here. We were here for the first time on June 25th, 1994, we found our signatures on the visitors' book of that year!
Unfortunately the weather was cold and wet on both visits.
The coordinates for this page have been taken in the centre of the cloister garth.


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