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Cistercian Abbeys: ABBEYLEIX

Name: ABBEYLEIX Location: Abbeyleix town County: Laois
Foundation: 1183/4 Mother House: Baltinglass
Relocation: None Founder: Connor O’More
Dissolution: 1552 Prominent members:
Access: Accessible to the public

Abbeyleix was founded by Connor O’More in 1183 although the first monks did not arrive from Baltinglass until a year later. The site was on the banks of the River Nore, over thirty miles upstream from Jerpoint. The name of the abbey derives from the Latin name of the monastery ‘Lex Dei’. The fifteenth and sixteenth-century revenue was exceedingly low: the annual income was approximately £3, although its potential value in 1551 was estimated at £31. The abbey was surrendered to the king in 1552 and in 1563 the lands were granted to Thomas, Earl of Ormond. Following the Dissolution the abbey remained in use, often with former monks as parish priests. The nave was used for over 200 years until the crumbling fabric was replaced by a Protestant church. The abbey was left to fall into ruin, eventually leaving no trace of the buildings. During the eighteenth century the old village of Abbeyleix was replaced by the planned village of the Viscount de Vesci. During construction many stones of the old abbey were found. The only relics to have survived are the effigial tomb of Malachy O’More (1502) and a grave slab in memory of William O’Kelly (1531). The site of the abbey now lies within the demesne of Viscount de Vesci, probably within the vicinity of the nineteenth-century Protestant church. The relics are now preserved in a walled garden within the demesne.