At the Black Abbey stand the ruins of a 13th century religious house founded by the Knights Hospitallers just a short distance outside Kildare Town and the nearby Grey Abbey. It is known as the Black Abbey due to the black habits the Hospitallers wore in the preceptory (marked with crosses in white), the Grey Abbey’s name deriving from the grey robes worn by the Franciscan order. The abbey is located in an area called Tully and it is ‘de Tuly’ which is first referred to in Papal Documents from 1212 when Pope Innocent II confirmed the church to Hospitallers. The Knights had founded their first and central priory at Kilmainham in 1174, with subordinate houses such as the one at Tully acting as preceptories. The Black Abbey stayed within the Knights Hospitallers control until the Dissolution of the Monasteries and an inquisition its lands n the 25th of November 1540 documented the possessions of the preceptory and mention the strong central tower that remains today as , ‘a castle or fortilage’. In 1569 Queen Elizabeth I granted Sir William Sarcefeld (Sarsfield) ‘the preceptory of Tully, county Kildare, the lands of Tully’, she also gave a large amount of the other lands held by the Knights to Sarcefeld. The lands appear to have been held by the Sarsfield’s until 1667 when King Charles II granted the lands to the Bishop of Kildare. Its uncertain when the abbey fell into ruin but Ordnance Survey letters from 1837 record that the abbey was ‘of a square form, and called Castle in common, as yet remains in the ruins’. The national monuments service mentions a sheela-na-gig carved into one face of some sandstone to the west of the church ruins however I was unable to locate it on the day of my visit.
GPS: 53.14529, -6.90403