Advent Calendar of Medieval Religious Institutions: December 14th: Dunbrody Abbey

Dunbrody1Dunbrody2Dunbrody3Dunbrody Abbey  in Wexford Ireland was founded at the instruction of Richard Strongbow in 1170 by Hevre de Montmorency who was his uncle. Montmorency made the grant of land for Dunbrody to the monks of Bildewas in Shropshire on the condition that they should establish a Cistercian monastery on them and that there should be sanctuary in the abbey for any malefactors.

The abbey was dedicated to St Mary and St Benedict. Montmorency became the first abbot of Dunbrody and when he died in 1205 he was buried there.

The church that remains is largely 13th century and is remarkably intact, there is less of the cloister remaining but you can still see where it was.

Dunbrody remained largely quiet and out of history until 1355 when the abbot and some of his monks were charged with taking up highway robbery. William de Ross, the abbot, and some of the monks were indicted for imprisoning Thomas Herlyn who was a monk from Tintern and stealing two horses worth forty shillings. They were also charged with expelling Thomas de Wiggemore who was the Abbot of Tintern and stealing three horses from him worth eight marks. The jury found the charges to be unfounded.

In 1522 the Abbot of Dunbrody Alexander Devereux granted the towns and villages of Battlestown, little and great Haggart, Ballygow, and Ballycorean for the term of 51 years with a rent of 22 marks to his relative Simon Devereux. Having disposed of one of the wealthiest part of abbey’s holdings to enrich his own family, he then abandoned being abbot, switched religions and became Bishop of Ferns.

In 1536 the abbey was dissolved as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries and was granted to the Etchingham family in 1545, they turned part of it into a residence.


Site visit 2015

Dunbrody Abbey booklet

Grosse, The Antiquities of Ireland, Volume I, Kilkenny: Wellbrook Press, 1982.

Chartularies of St. Mary’s Abbey Dublin

The photos are all mine