Baltinglass Abbey, Co. Wicklow

View of the south aisle of the Cistercian Abbey at Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow.

Travelling along the N81 road between Blessington, Co. Wicklow and Tullow, Co. Carlow the road passes part of the way through the valley of the River Slaney and through the town of Baltinglass with its bridge across the river. It was here in 1148 that Diarmait Mac Murchada, King of Leinster, founded a Cistercian Abbey with monks brought from the Abbey at Mellifont. The Abbey was completed by 1170, the year before Mac Murchada's death and the assumption of the Lordship of Leinster by the Anglo-Norman Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke. Mac Murchada also built the Romanesque church at Killeshin, Co. Laois. The Abbey is situated on the east side of the river and is at the end of a cul-de-sac reached via a left turn from Blessington Main St. At its dissolution in 1537 Baltinglass was one of the richest Abbeys in Ireland and had lands throughout the region.

The Abbey now consists of a nave and chancel church with two transepts. The oldest part, built in the 1150s, is the east end of the church which has a square presbytery and a pair of transepts from which small chapels project. The church nave was built in the 1160s. The east windows and tower were built in the nineteenth century. The south aisle of the church is joined to the choir by a twelfth century doorway. Part of the original cloister, to the south of the church, has been rebuilt. The church also has thirteenth and fifteenth century additions. The church is considered to be a good example of Irish Romanesque architecture. The church has carved human and animals figures and the church nave has alternating cylindrical and square piers and the bases are decorated with a range of Irish Romanesque designs.

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GPS coordinates 52.943673,-6.710243

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