When I was passing through Baltinglass I always admired the view of the surrounding hills of the area –Baltinglass Hills, Baltinglass Abbey and St Mary’s Church – Baltinglass Church of Ireland across the River Slaney. So I decided to visit the picturesque ruins of Baltinglass Abbey and the Church nearby.
Baltinglass Abbey is a former Cistercian abbey situated on the east bank of the River Slaney on the North side of Baltinglass town, in a valley of the Wicklow Mountains which was a strategic mountain pass between the north and south parts of Leinster.
The Abbey was founded in 1148 by Dermot McMurrogh, King of Leinster. Dermot McMurrogh brought Cistercian monks from Mellifont.
Baltinglass Abbey was established as a daughter house of Mellifont Abbey, a Cistercian abbey near Drogheda. Diarmait gave it the Latin name Vallis Salūtis, meaning “Valley of Salvation”, and granted it eight parcels of land in the region as an endowment.
The first stage of building was completed by 1170, it became the mother house of Jerpoint Abbey in 1180 and in 1228 it is recorded that there were 36 monks and 50 lay brothers living at Baltinglass.
In the early 16th Century Baltinglass abbey was one the richest abbeys in Ireland until the the reformation by Henry VIII which saw the dissolution of the order.
The Abbey was occupied for nearly 400 years until it was shut down by the 1536 Dissolution of the Monasteries and granted to Edmond Butler, 3rd/13th Baron Dunboyne. A Church of Ireland church was built within the abbey itself in 1815, but it closed in 1883.
Fragments of the Church and traces of the cloister still stand to this day. The church consisted of the nave with aisles, chancel and two tapestries. The stonework at the abbey shows carved human and animals and a combination of Cistercian and Irish Romanesque architecture. The decoration on the capitals is similar to that at its daughter house Jerpoint. The six beautiful Gothic arches on either side of the nave, supported by alternate round and square pillars, are a noteworthy feature of the ruins.
Adjoining the abbey is a great pyramid-style granite mausoleum, built in 1832 as a tomb for the Stratford family.
Baltinglass Abbey is today a National Monument of Ireland.
Location of Baltinglass Abbey:
Below my photos taken in September 2021.
Below some photos of Baltinglass town, taken on the way to Baltinglass Abbey.