Kilcooly Abbey Church




N 52° 40' 15.4"   W 007° 34' 16.7"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

S 29051 57797

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Sunday 30 May 2010

GPS Accuracy (m)

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The view over the abbey and the dovecot.

This amazing and wonderful Cistercian abbey is in the Kilcooly estate. It was founded in 1182 by Donal O'Brien, King of Munster, in honour of the Virgin Mary and St. Benedict. Its mother-house was Jerpoint Abbey.
In 1445 the abbey was almost completely burnt down by armed men and major works took place to rebuild it. In the reconstruction the church lost its two aisles but gained a new north transept and a tower.
Before you reach the abbey, you'll find a dovecot, a building where the monks held the pigeons as a source of meat. It may resemble the
Ballybeg priory in county Cork, even if this dovecot isn't as fine as the other one.
The entrance to the abbey is on the north side of the building and the abbey boasts many wonderful features.
First of all the chancel and the sacristy still have their roof in place and maybe this is the only medieval abbey in Ireland still roofed.
The east window in the chancel has a magnificent Flamboyant decoration and surprisingly it's still intact. In the same chancel there are two nice tombs, a grave slab and a stone altar.
The finest of the two tombs is the burial place of the knight Peter Fitzjames Og Butler who died in 1526. At his foot there's the carving of a curled dog. All around the tomb there are the wonderful carvings of 10 apostles carved by Rory O'Tunney.
The grave slab next to the knight's tomb depicts the abbot Philip Lennon, who rebuilt the Abbey about 1450.
To the right of the entrance are two seats used by the clergy during the religious functions. One was for the abbot and is wonderfully decorated with two Butler shields, the other seat was for the prior and is rather simple and plain.
Opposite the entrance there's the sacristy that is accessed through a magnificently decorated archway. In the sacristy there are many carved panels such as a scene depicting the crucifixion, saint Christoper with the Christ Child, an abbot and a mermaid holding a mirror which was meant to depict the sins of vanity and lust.
The nave is roofless and rather plain in comparison with the chancel and the sacristy.
The cloister is completely gone and only one column of the walkway still survives. In the centre of the grass square a large tree grows.
Outside the abbey, on the south side, there's a large and massive building that was used as an infirmary for sick people and monks.
The overwhelming sense of peace and quiet that we felt while we were here has never been rivalled so far.

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