The ruins at Abbeyshrule are only a small portion of what would have been a far larger community of buildings during its peak. Built in 1150 and funded by the O’Farrell family this was the first Cistercian site in Longford. It was colonised by monks from Mellifont which was the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland, St Malachy of Armagh had requested the Cistericans to come to Ireland in 1140 after meeting them on mainland Europe. The Cistercians believed highly in education and taught the locals more advanced methods of agriculture also building corn mills on the River Inny nearby. At the pinnacle of its existence the abbey grounds are believed to have spread over 6000 acres. The abbey was first sacked and burnt down by English forces from within the Pale in 1476, and sacked again later in 1550 by Hugh Roe O’Donnell. The Abbey was suppressed during the reign of Elizabeth I and passed into the hands of Robert Dillon, Earl of Roscommon
The church left on the site dates from the 13th century, it contains traces of a cloister and evidence of a south transept. To the south east corner of the plot stands a post reformation residential tower completely covered in ivy. Some changes were made to the church in the 15th and 16th century, with the central dividing wall being blocked up and three small vaulted chambers added, a double bellcote was also constructed. An 8th century High Cross used to stand in Abbeyshrule but has recently been removed to the sacristy of the local Catholic Church.
On the day of my visit a beautiful local pet dog followed me around the entire site, constantly dashing past me as I wandered around the beautiful old graveyard with its unique and varied stones.
GPS: 53.57978, -7.65814