Old Mellifont Abbey
On the bank of the River Mattock, about six miles from Drogheda, are the remains of Old Mellifont Abbey. Mellifont was the first Cistercian abbey to be built in Ireland, in the year 1142.
Founded nearly 900 year ago by St Malachy, the Archbishop of Armagh, by 1170 there were over one hundred monks and three hundred lay brothers inhabiting the Abbey. So successful was it, all other Cistercian abbeys that came after followed the same basic design and style of French architecture.
Consecrated in 1157, Mellifont became the main abbey in Ireland, allowing the Cistercian order to spread throughout the nation, until it closed in 1539. Moving into the early 17th century, the abandoned Abbey was converted into a fortified house, eventually being used as a military headquarters by William of Orange while preparing for the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
These days, all that can be seen of Old Mellifont Abbey is the chapter house, where monks used to gather for meetings and scripture readings, that dates back to the 14th century and the unusual, octagonal lavabo, where the monks would wash their hands before meals, said to be from the 13th century.
There are also a few Gothic arches left surviving and, although the walls and rooftops have disappeared, the foundations and remaining lower parts of the old walls are still visible, which enables visitors to see, quite clearly, the scale and layout of Old Mellifont Abbey.
The Mellifont Abbey Visitor Centre, that can be found on site, can arrange tours, contains some rescued carvings from the Abbey’s remains, and houses an exhibition on medieval stone masons and their work.