Monasterboice & Mellifont abbey

Myself and John went for a drive today in what was the first real day of summer, at last. I had not expected to even get out of the car, much less take photos, but the best laid plans of mice and men and all that. I took these images with my phone, and the two places we visited brought me back to about thirty years when we last were at these sites with our sons. There has been some welcome developments, new and larger car parks for example, but with Covid restrictions, most of the amenities were closed. However, it was well worth the trip as it brought back some wonderful memories, and it also served to remind me of how much time had passed since I was last there, a slightly sober moment..

The historic ruins of Monasterboice are of an early Christian settlement in County Louth in Ireland, north of Drogheda. Founded in the late 5th century by Saint Buite (who died around 521), it was an important religious centre until the establishment of nearby Mellifont Abbey by the Cistercians in 1142. The settlement was captured by invading Vikings in 968 AD, who were then comprehensively expelled by Donal, the Irish High King of Tara.

On the site, visitors can discover an old graveyard, two churches and a sundial but Monasterboice is most famous for its spectacular high crosses. Inside the ruins stands the impressive Muiredach’s High Cross (5.5 metres high), regarded as the finest high cross in the whole of Ireland. It features biblical carvings of both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible and a copy is held in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Mellifont Abbey was the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland. St Malachy of Armagh created it in 1142 with the help of a small number of monks sent by St Bernard from Clairvaux. The monks did not take well to Ireland and soon returned to France, but the abbey was completed anyway and duly consecrated with great pomp.

The monks at Mellifont hosted a critical synod in 1152. The abbey was central to the history of later centuries, too, even though it was in private hands by then. The Treaty of Mellifont, which ended the Nine Years War, was signed here in 1603, and William of Orange used the abbey as his headquarters during the momentous Battle of the Boyne.

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