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Cistercian Abbeys: ERENAGH

Name: ERENAGH Location: nr Downpatrick County: Down
Foundation: 1127 Mother house: Savigny
Relocation: None Founder: Niall Mac Dunlevi
Dissolution: 1177 Prominent members:
Access: No remains

Erenagh Abbey, also called ‘Carrig’, was founded in 1127 by Niall Mac Dunlevi, king of Ulster. It was the first abbey of an order, recognized by Rome, to be established in Ireland after 1111. The abbey was in the diocese of Down which meant that it came under the jurisdiction of St. Malachy, and must therefore have been approved by him. It is thought that Malachy visited the Savigniac community at Tulketh (before its removal to Furness) in 1126-7 and made arrangements with the abbot in lieu of a foundation in Ireland. Upon his return to Ireland he persuaded Niall Mac Dunlevi, who was killed in 1127, to be the founder of Erenagh. A colony of monks arrived in the same year, although it is not known whether they arrived from Tulketh or came directly from Savigny.
In 1147 the order of Savigny was united with the house of Citeaux, and the community at Erenagh joined the Cistercian Order as a daughter house of Furness. When Evodius, the first abbot of Erenagh, was dying he asked the brethren to bury him at Inch, foretelling that his abbey would be there after Erenagh had been destroyed. His predictions were correct: in 1177 the abbey was destroyed by John de Courcy on the grounds that it was fortified against him. In the 1180s Courcy rebuilt a monastery at Inch, which appears to have been among the endowments of Erenagh abbey, as a way of making amends for his actions.