go to home page go to byland abbey pages go to fountains abbey pages go to kirkstall abbey pages go to rievaulx abbey pages go to roche abbey pages
The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

Text only version

About the Project






Contact Us

Cistercian Abbeys: ABBEYKNOCKMOY

Name: ABBEYKNOCKMOY Location: Abbeyknockmoy town County: Galway
Foundation: 1190 Mother house: Boyle
Relocation: None Founder: Cathal Crovderg O’Conor, king of Connacht
Dissolution: 1542 Prominent members:
Access: Accessible to the public

Abbeyknockmoy was founded in 1190 by Cathal Crovderg O’Conor, king of Connacht. The first monks arrived from Boyle and it seems that two or three decades passed before the community commenced construction of the permanent buildings. The abbey was situated on a particularly desolate terrain, lying in an open valley exposed to the winds sweeping eastwards from the Connemara Mountains. Much of the surrounding land was little more than heath or bog. Cathal Crovderg O’Conor spent his last days as a monk at Abbeyknockmoy and died in the abbey in 1224. He was buried in the grounds of the monastery, as was his wife seven years before. The abbey thereafter became a mausoleum for several generations of the O’Conner family. In 1240 the abbot was disgraced for allowing a woman to wash his head. The house was never a rich one. In the taxation of 1302-06 the income of the house was valued at £42 and in 1411 the abbot complained to the pope that his house was so poor that he could not maintain his community properly and one of his monks was granted licence to serve a parish church. By the end of the sixteenth century the house was fairing little better: the inquisition of 1584 put the income of the house at just £78.

In the later Middle Ages the house fell under the control of the O’Kelly family. Elaborate mural paintings can be found on the arch which covers the tomb of Malachy O’Kelly, lord of Ui Maine (d. 1401) and his wife Fionnuola (d. 1403). The mural portrays the crucifixion with four attendant figures; this was characteristic of Gothic religious art and was a common way of decorating such recesses in England. On the wall to the east of the O’Kelly tomb was another mural divided into two registers. The first shows three living subjects encountering three dead, a reminder of impending judgment; the other shows Sebastian, a saint frequently invoked against the plague. These wall decorations provide the best illustration of what must have been a fairly typical scheme of late gothic painting. In 1542 Hugh O’Kelly, abbot in commendam, surrendered the abbey to the king’s officials but successfully defended his possessions by acknowledging the supremacy of King Henry VIII. In return he was granted the abbey and his lands for life. Following the Dissolution, a form of secularised monasticism seems to have continued at the abbey. Today a substantial portion of the church and claustral buildings survive although they have suffered damage from grave-digging around the site. Abbeyknockmoy is one of the most impressive Cistercian monuments in Ireland and can be accessed by the public at all times.