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Cistercian Abbeys: MONASTEREVIN

Name: MONASTEREVIN Location: Monasterevin town County: Kildare
Foundation: 1178/1189 Mother house: Baltinglass
Relocation: None Founder: Dermot O’Dempsey
Dissolution: 1539-40 Prominent members:
Access: Nurses training college – access prohibited

Monasterevin was founded by Dermot O’Dempsy, king of Offaly, and colonized with monks from Baltinglass. The abbey was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and St. Benedict. The foundation date cannot be verified; Dermot’s charter is dated 1178 and the Cistercian tabula gives 1189. It has been suggested that the abbey was founded in 1178 for Benedictine monks who wished to become Cistercian, but that their affiliation was delayed until 1189. However, this argument has been refuted by Stalley who believes that the dedication of the abbey to St. Benedict is misleading.
The abbey was situated on the site of an early Irish monastery founded by St. Evin in the seventh century. The abbey’s Latin title, ‘Rosea Vallis’ meaning ‘the blooming valley’, was adapted from the old place name, Rosglas, meaning green corpse. After the ‘conspiracy of Mellifont’ the abbey was made subject to Fountains. In 1297 the abbot was accused of harbouring Irish felons, murderers and thieves, but the jury found he had not done so voluntarily and he was fined half a mark. In 1427 the abbey had been almost completely despoiled of all its goods and at the time of Dissolution the annual income of the abbey was valued at just £20. The abbey was suppressed some time between 1539 and 1540.

Following the Dissolution the property passed to George, Lord Audley, who assigned it to Adam Loftus, Viscount Ely. The site was eventually acquired by the Moore family, earls of Drogheda. They were responsible for building the town of Monasterevin and much of Dublin. In 1767 the sixth earl pulled down the old abbey and used the stones to build a parish church, which has now been replaced by the church of St. John’s. He replaced the abbey with a neo-gothic style mansion known as Moore Abbey. Preparations for a sunken garden, in 1846, exposed a mass of skeletons on what was presumably the site of the abbey cemetery. In 1924, John McCormack, the world famous operatic tenor, leased the house from Lord Drogheda. In 1938 the Sisters of Charity of Jesus bought Moore Abbey where they now have a training school for nurses of the mentally disabled. Today there are no visible remains of the monastic buildings. However, a decorated manuscript survives from Monasterevin abbey. It is an Ordinal that was written in 1501 by Donatus O’Kelly, a monk of the abbey. Apparently it was made at the behest of Abbot Thomas MacCostelloe, and was written in the monastery at Mellifont, presumably to make to use of the library there. It is now housed in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.