Mothel Abbey, Waterford, Ireland

Mothel Abbey is situated 5kms south of Carrick-on-Suir in County Waterford. Though the remains of the site are minimal its ecclesiastical history is lengthy. It is believed that the first monastery was built at Mothel in the 6th  century by St. Brocan/Brogan the scribe, who was then succeeded by St Cuan. There is a well named St Cuan’s Well, 2 kilometres to the northeast of the abbey and this may have been the original site of the first monastery.  The abbey was refounded sometime after 1140 by the Augustinian Canons Regular, but the structure that remains date mostly from the 13th century. The abbey was suppressed as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, with the last abbot Edmund Power surrendering the abbey on the 7th of April 1540. The abbey was occupied once more in the 17th  century by the Cistercian abbot Thomas Madan who was convinced that Mothel was a Cistercian foundation. A conflict developed between Madan and Patrick Comerford, the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore and also the Vicar General of the Order of Canons Regular of St Augustine, it was only prior to Madan’s death in 1645 that he accepted the Augustinian origins of the abbey.

All that remains of the abbey today is the west gable and part of the south wall. There are some interesting stones dotted around the graveyard, including an inscribed grave slab of a Richard Power who died in 1483 and the decorated side panels of a tomb near the south wall.   

There is a wealth of recorded folklore surrounded Mothel Abbey and the well nearby in the 1930s Dúchas folklore collection, including stories of two trouts who were caught in the well but couldn’t be boiled in water as they were spirits of the two saints Brogan and Cuan! There is another story that repeats many times around Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland, of course its historical truth/accuracy is questionable it is interesting to see how much it features in local folklore, the following tale was told by a Patrick Cusack who was 56 at the time, “During the penal times Cromwell came along that way and he beheaded all the monks except one He threw the heads into a little stream flowing down by Mothel creamery and the place is now known as Ath na gCeann or ford of the heads. The monk that escaped was caught in Grays farm of Ballinacurra and killed. A priest saying mass appears where the monk was killed every hundred years.“

GPS: 52.29842, -7.41855

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