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Cistercian Monastery Ruins Near Kilkenny

Jerpoint Abbey photoAbbey ruins are the roadside attraction of Ireland. You’re likely to come across the moody wreckage of thousand year old stone work while diving through the countryside. Some are in the back yards of hotels (see Abbey Hotel Roscommon ) and even one behind a brewery in Kilkenny (see Smithwick’s Brewery Tour). Just south of Kilkenny, 3 miles from the town of Thomastown the ruins of the Jerpoint Abbey are one of the most detailed remains of monastic life. The present abbey was built in 1180 by Donogh O'Donoghoe, the King of Ossary to house the order of Cistercians he relocated from another site, replacing an earlier structure founded by Domnall Mac Gilla Patraic in 1158, who he succeeded, and probably an even earlier monastic enclave from date unknown.

Cloister Medieval Carvings Jerpoint Abbey photoThe Cistercians, also known as Trappist or White Monks were a strict order of Benedictines, originating in France (see Abbey Fontenay), who rejected the liberalizations of the Benedictines and avowed to return to literal observance of the Rule of St Benedict, devoted replicating life to austerity. The Cistercians supported themselves through Cistercian life focused on daily manual labor and self-sufficiency, with many abbeys supported themselves through agriculture and brewing (see Trappist Beer Belgium). The Cistercians grew very influential in medieval life and spread throughout Europe through their most noted adherent St Bernard of Clairvaux (see St Bernard's Miracle of the Milk) and his connection with the Templar Knights, with their order superceding many Benedictines.

Abby Structure stones at Jerpoint photoThe Jerpoint Abbey flourished in the middle ages with its own gardens, granary and watermills, set along on the River Arrigle. The oldest parts of the abbey are Romanesque transepts and chancel, later sections are early Gothic with pointed arches. On the walls are the faded remains of medieval painting reminiscent of illustrated manuscripts. The abbey was the site of burials of abbots and secular wealthy gentry alike over the centuries.

Bishops Effigy photoIn the year 1202 Felix O'Dullany the Bishop of Ossory, was interred. His tomb effigy remains in the 15th Century main tower, moved from its original spot. It was believed the pilgrims touching the bishops face could be cured of ills. Of the effigy today, the face is almost completely worn away, from the gentle touch countless fingers. Also of interest are the pieces of tomb pedestals surrounded by carved saints as weepers, each identified by their symbol. The ornately carved cloister is worth a close-up look at the figures of medieval imagery, knights and clergy, beautifully framing the mystic monastery often shrouded in foggy mist from the banks of the river. Stairs to the roof can be climbed for an upper view of the layout and surrounding countryside.

Kilkieren High Cross Jerpoitnt photoInside the visitor's center is a piece of a Celtic cross with serpent and swastika motifs from the 9th Century, the Kilkieren High Cross, one of four pieces found at the abbey, dating from the early Christian era, moved at some time in the long distant past from the graveyard of Kilkieran where the lower part of the tall shaft still stands. The cemetery outside the chapel of Jerpoint holds ancient moss and lichen covered gravestones of time obliterated names.

Weeper Saint Reliefs Jerpoint Abbey photoThe abbey’s monastic existence ended in 1541 with the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII, and the Holy order's lands granted to James Butler the 9th Earl of Ormand (see Kilkenny Castle). A small town of Jerpoint which supported the abbey pretty much died out by the 1700s and the property named a national monument as early as 1880. Jerpoint Abbey is next to the luxury hotel, golf resort and horse farm of Mount Juliet which occupies much of the land which once belonged to the abbey (see Mount Juliet), with a Trout Farm fishery and the Jerpoint glass works nearby attractions (see Jerpoint Glass Studio). The Jerpoint Abbey House B&B is across the street (see Abbey House Thomastown).

Visiting Jerpoint Abbey

Jerpoint Abbey is 12 miles south from Kilkenny off the N9 primary road, 2.5 km south west from Thomastown on Mill Street from Knocktopher Commons. The abbey has a visitor’s center with guided tours and audio guides available, open daily, from 10am to 5pm March to May and September to October, 9:30 to 6:30 in summer and 10 to 4 in November. The last guided tour is one hour befor closing. Admission is €2.75 for adults, €1.25 for Children & Students, €2 for seniors, with a family ticket available for €7. © Bargain Travel Europe

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