NEWRY Location: Newry town County:
Down Foundation: 1153 Mother house:
Mellifont Relocation: None Founder: Maurice
MacLoughlin Dissolution: 1538/1550 Prominent members: Access: No remains
Newry was founded in 1153 by Maurice MacLoughlin, king of Ireland,
and was colonised by monks from Mellifont .
The abbey was
dedicated to the Blessed
Virgin, St. Patrick and St. Benedict.
Apparently Finan O’Gorman, abbot of Newry, succeeded O’Dubhin
(d. 1148) as bishop of Kildare and assisted in the synod of 1152.
on this evidence it has been suggested that there may have been
an earlier monastery at Newry, which did not become Cistercian
1153. However, this argument has been refuted by Stalley who believes
that the dedication to St. Benedict has misled some scholars.
Latin name of the abbey, Viride Lignum, meaning ‘the
green tree’, was derived from a yew tree which was said
to have been planted by St. Patrick himself. In 1162 the abbey
and the yew tree were destroyed by fire. In 1215-16 the abbot was
threatened with deposition for not attending the Cistercian General
Chapter and in 1227 the abbot was deposed for participating
‘conspiracy of Mellifont’. In 1536 abbot John of Newry
conducted a visitation of Holycross Abbey
and was extremely critical
of what he found. He drew up a list of nine regulations to be closely
followed in the future, some concerning the conduct of services,
others the moral behaviour of the monks. These are regarded as
a valuable insight into the daily life of an Irish Cistercian
the eve of Dissolution.
At the time of Dissolution there were only three monks living
at Newry and the annual income of the abbey was valued at just £35.
In 1538 Newry was converted into a secular college, and thus managed
to evade closure for a few years. The abbot took the title of provost,
or head. In 1550 abbot John Prowle voluntarily surrendered Newry
to the Crown. Two years later the property was granted to Sir Nicholas
Bagenal, marshal of the royal army in Ireland. A chapel survived
on the site until c. 1744 at which time the abbot’s
house had seemingly been converted into a private residence. The
towards the end of the eighteenth century in order to make way
for the construction of the modern town of Newry. Today there
visible remains of the abbey, although a stone carved with a cross
in low relief is built into the walls of McCann’s bakery,
which lies on part of the site. Several streets are named after
the monastery, for example, ‘Abbey Yard’.