Kilcooley Abbey

Kilcooley Abbey

The Kilcooley Abbey was founded for the Cistercians in 1182AD when the lands were granted to them by Donal Mor O'Brien. It became one of the three great Abbeys in the area, the other two being Jerpoint and Holy Cross. It would have been in use at least until the dissolution of Abbeys in the 1500's and it now sits hidden away on the lands of the Kilcooley estate. We were really looking forward to seeing these ruins although we were a little apprehensive about them being located on a private estate but as we approached we found the great gates of the estate open and a sign pointing toward a more modern Church also on these lands situated a short way down the driveway.We drove down taking a sharp right bend to avoid another set of gates leading directly to the actual estate house. The lane way narrows after the new Church and then you pass through another set of open gates. This is when you get your first view of Kilcooley Abbey. I have to say I was taken aback by how defined it looked against the backdrop of the trees.On the route across the meadow to the ruins you pass by a curious beehive shaped structure which may or not have been a dovecote or pigeon house used by the former monks. Also more mysteriously on the land adjacent to the estate house and opposite the new Church is a strange pyramid shaped structure set against what looks to be a gable end of an ancient Church.What significance it has is a mystery, a memorial perhaps?On reaching the Abbey we walked around the entire exterior which seemed to have a wire fence preventing entry but eventually we found an entrance gate which although closed over was unlocked with an open padlock dangling from it (We later discovered that the OPW leave this gate unlocked for likely visitors during as they say reasonable daylight hours.) From the moment we walked in we knew this was going to be something special. The Abbey consists of a large entrance hall, a church, a tower and a sacristy along with some residential buildings and an adjacent infirmary. In the entrance hall there is a nicely carved baptismal font and some amazing decorative ceiling design. As you look in from the gate the archways diminish into the distance giving great depth to the Abbey. Strolling around these ruins gives you a great sense of how it was in the daily lives of those stationed here The abbey being off the beaten path lay silent and we found ourselves wandering around alone. I found it to exude a very calm ambiance and even though we split up and I often found myself alone I never got any bad vibes such as those experienced in say Athassel Abbey where there was always a feeling of being observed. Parts of Kilcooley Abbey are still stone roofed, such as the nave most of the remainder are open to the elements. The Church has two great arched windows on either end and a remarkable tomb bearing the remains of the Knight, Piers Oge Butler (d. 1526AD). The image of the Knight with a faithful hound lying at his feet is marred only by the worn away features of his face. The carved design on the side of the tomb depicting ten of the twelve apostles are carved by the then well known Rory O'Tunney who is also recognised for his fine work on Jerpoint Abbey Between the sacristy and the south transept stands a wall with numerous interesting carvings including a depiction of the crucifixion. It is just amazing how much decoration is on display within these walls. irelandinruins.blogspot.com

853 14/04/2016 28
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