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Cistercian Abbeys: ABBEYLARA

Name: ABBEYLARA Location: Abbeylara village County: Longford
Foundation: 1210/14 Mother house: Dublin, St. Mary’s
Relocation: None Founder: Richard de Tuit
Dissolution: 1540 Prominent members:
Access: Accessible to the public

Abbeylara was founded by an Anglo-Norman lord, Richard de Tuit, not far from his castle at Granard. Richard was killed by a stone falling from Athlone Castle not long after he made his foundation. It seems that the original foundation was made in 1210 but there was a lapse of four years before the community actually arrived from St. Mary’s, Dublin. It is likely that this was due to a delay in the preparation of the site. Once the monks had arrived at Abbeylara another year or two passed before they turned their thoughts to the erection of the permanent buildings. The community remained faithful to the English cause for some time after it settled at Abbeylara. In 1318 the monks, along with those of Inch, were accused of hunting the Irish with spears by day and singing Vespers in the evening. However, the abbey had lost its English affiliations long before the Dissolution. By the fifteenth century the community had fallen under the control of the O’Farrells, the dominant local family. The abbey was extremely poor. In the taxation of 1302-06 the annual income of the monastery was valued at just £4. By the sixteenth century the community was made up of just six monks and it seems that communal life was on the verge of extinction. The effects of the Dissolution barely reached Abbeylara, being as it was protected by a powerful local family. The royal commissioners refused to go near the monastery considering the neighbourhood too dangerous to enter. Instead they listed the property whilst staying at Tristernagh, eleven miles away, and depended upon the abbot and prior for information. At the time of Dissolution the church was reported to have been almost demolished and although the tower was preserved and probably adapted as a fortified residence. All that remains of the abbey today is the central tower and adjacent walls; the conventual buildings, now completely demolished, are represented by bumps and hollows in a field to the south of the tower. The ruins can be accessed at all times.