Moor Abbey, Tipperary, Ireland

Moor Abbey is situated on the banks of the Aherlow River in the picturesque Glen of Aherlow. Its name is derived from ‘Mura na mBrathair’, the Friar’s Enclosure. An initial priory was established in the 13th century by the Franciscans under the patronage of the King of Thomond, Donough Cairbreach O’Brien. The structure that we see today dates from 1471 and may have been built by a descent of Donough known as Aunfum MacBriain (O’Brien). Only one year after being built the abbey was burned for reasons unrecorded. It was re-established soon after and unusually continued to serve as an abbey for a few years after the Reformation provided they paid annual rent of four pence to ‘John of Desmond’, the lands had been granted to John Fitzgerald, brother of James Fitzgerald, 14th Earl of Desmond in 1541. The friar’s remained in the area but in dwindling numbers.

In 1569 during the Desmond Rebellion while James Maurice Fitzgerald hid his troops in the woods of the Glen of Aherlow English forces under Sur Humphrey Gilbert, half brother to Sir Walter Raleigh burned the abbey. The Friars returned and in 1570 Lord Deputy Henry Sidney burned the abbey, and three friars were killed, a priest writing in 1617, Fr Donagh Mooney’ described the incident, “The English soldiers suddenly came and surrounded the place, so that there was no way for the brethren to escape. The holy man went up into the bell-tower of the church with his two companions…The soldiers made a fire to burn the church and tower; then the holy man, so that he might save the church, freely descended..the soldiers loaded him with blows and wounds, and at length struck off his head. Then a marvel was seen: for when his head was cut off no drop of blood flowed from his body. When the soldiers saw this, they cut his body to pieces, yet no blood flowed”. The Friars returned to the area in 1645, and were expelled by Cromwellian Forces soon after. It was 1658 before reoccupation of the abbey began, and the Franciscans remained there until 1748 until a dispute caused them to move to Mitchelstown.

There was an attempt to destroy the Abbey by the Royal Irish Constabulary by detonation in 1921 no doubt due to the large support for the IRA in Tipperary during this period, the infamous 3rd Tipperary Brigade of Dan Breen and Sean Treacy one of the most active units of this period were in operation in the area, but this detonation failed and what remains is the haunting sight Moor Abbey is today.

GPS: 52.40246, -8.27808

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