St. Mary’s Abbey – Chapter House – Cistercian Monastery

The ruins of one of the largest and most important monasteries in medieval Ireland.

Founded in 1139, St. Mary’s Abbey was one of the largest and most important medieval monasteries in Ireland. There are few visible remains of the Abbey, and of the original buildings only the Chapter House and Slype remains.

Nothing survives of the church. The Chapter House was the most important room in the monastery after the Church. Here the monks gathered after morning mass. After prayers, a passage from the Rule was read out followed by comments and spiritual advice from the abbot. Then came prayers for the dead and the ceremony terminated with public confession, each monk in turn speaking openly in front of his brothers.

The Chapter House was the conference room of the monastery and as such merited special architectural treatment. The Slype was the corridor which linked the privacy of the cloister with the open area to the East, where the infirmary was usually situated. The Chapter House in St. Mary’s Abbey was also used as a meeting place for the Council of Ireland. It was during a Council Meeting in this Chapter House that Silken Thomas renounced his allegiance to Henry VIII and started his rebellion in 1534.

Source and image credit: Heritage Ireland OPW