Originally built in 1147 as Ireland’s second Cistercian abbey, after the success of nearby Mellifont, Bective Abbey is located roughly fifteen minutes south of Navan and sits overlooking the River Boyne.
Due to the standing of its abbot at the time and his place in the Parliament of the Pale, Bective Abbey was considered one of the country’s most significant religious establishments, important enough to be chosen as the burial place for Hugh De Lacy prior to his remains being moved to Dublin.
Most of what remains today was built at various points through the 13th to 15th centuries, before the Abbey was suppressed by King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. The land was rented out and the Abbey became a manor house, gifted to civil servants for loyal service.
The Abbey was also fortified while it was a manor house, at which point the tower was added. The Abbey now resembles a castle so much that Mel Gibson used it as a location in his 1995 film Braveheart.
The church, chapter house and cloister all still remain today, despite a fire in 1991 that badly damaged the eastern section. After ten years of restoration, the Abbey was reopened in 2001. Its typical Cistercian features include the wonderful gothic arches of the cloister, yet the whole Abbey represents a restrained design characteristic of the simple monastic life.
What is left today is a grand example of bygone architecture, with ruins that beg to be explored. The Abbey’s passageways have decayed over time, leaving behind a labyrinth of dead-ends and dark places to get lost in.