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Cistercian Abbeys: MIDLETON

Name: MIDLETON Location: Midleton town County: Cork
Foundation: 1179/80 Mother house: Monasteranenagh
Relocation: None Founder: Unknown
Dissolution: - 1573 Prominent members:
Access: No remains

Midleton, also called St. Mary of Chore, was founded some time between 1179 and 1180 and was colonized with monks from Monasteranenagh. The abbey was situated beside the river Owenacurra, just before it enters the waters of Cork harbour. It is thought that the Latin title of the abbey, ‘Chorus Sancti Benedicti’, was perhaps a play on the Irish word ‘cora’ or weir, taken from the name of the local river. It has been suggested that the founder was a member of the Fitzgerald family but Father Colmcille believes that the founder was almost certainly Irish, especially considering the native character of its mother house.
The abbey was heavily involved in the ‘conspiracy of Mellifont’ (1216-1228). In 1227 it became a centre of violent rebellion against the Cistercian General Chapter and the abbot was deposed by the abbot of Tintern. When he refused to submit the whole community was placed under interdict. Things soon calmed down and those monks who showed repentance were absolved. In 1278 the abbot of Midleton was deposed for not attending the Cistercian General Chapter for seven years.

Midleton was extremely poor; at the time of Dissolution when the annual income of the abbey was valued at just £3, with a potential peace time value of £23. The abbot, Philip FitzDavid Barry, managed to save Midleton from closure by obtaining a lease for twenty-one years. Some form of religious life may thus have survived for a time. In 1573 the property was granted to John FitzEdmond FitzGerald. The Brodericks, later earls of Midelton, founded the modern town in the area c. 1670. In 1825 a Protestant church was constructed on the site of the old monastery by which time most traces of the abbey had vanished.
Today there are no standing remains although a number of moulded stones are scattered around the graveyard, including a late medieval door head and a piece of circular shafting.