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Cistercian Abbeys: ABBEYSHRULE

Name: ABBEYSHRULE Location: Abbeyshrule parish County: Longford
Foundation: 1200 Mother house: Mellifont
Relocation: None Founder: O’Ferrall family
Dissolution: 1592 Prominent members:
Access: Accessible to the public

Abbeyshrule was founded in 1200 by the O’Ferralls, the Irish chieftains of the district. The abbey was situated on the side of the river Inny, four and a half miles east north-east of Ballymahon, on the borders of Longford and Westmeath. The official Latin name was derived from the location of the abbey: ‘Flumen Dei’, the river of the god. By the later Middles Ages the abbey was completely under the control of the Ferrall family. When Abbot Gilbert died in 1430 Kenan O’Ferrall unlawfully took possession of the abbey and was to be removed. However, Kenan was still abbot in 1455 when he was accused of misrule by a monk of St. Anastasius.
There are no surviving sources concerning the revenue of the abbey, but it is reasonable to assume that Abbeyshrule was never prosperous. In 1476 it was recorded that the abbey had been burnt by English forces, although we do not know the extent of the damage. In 1540-1 it was reported that ‘long before the dissolution’ the goods and of the monastery had been carried off and consumed by the O’Ferralls. It is thought that, even if monastic life had survived until 1540, it is unlikely that it continued beyond this date. In 1569 the site and possessions were granted to Robert Dillon and the abbey was officially suppressed by Queen Elizabeth in 1592.
The abbey church survives relatively intact but all the other monastic buildings have vanished from sight. The church, parts of which date back to the thirteenth century, is now covered in vegetation. At a very late date, possibly in the seventeenth or early eighteenth century, a chapel was built within the presbytery. A solid stone screen with three vaulted compartments was inserted and this remains the chief architectural feature of the ruins. The discovery of bones and skulls outside the east wall of the church has led to mythical tales of the monks being slaughtered en masse. The only other ruins are of a post-Reformation tower house which stands approximately 100 feet to the south of the church.