Bective Abbey was founded in 1147 for the Cistercian Order by Murchad O'Maeil- Sheachlainn, King of Meath. It was Ireland's second Cistercian Abbey; a daughter house to Mellifont Abbey in Louth. The Cistercians had been founded to recapture the original simplicity of monastic life; this was reflected in their restrained buildings.
Bective became an important monastic settlement. The remains now visible at the Abbey date mainly from the 13th to 15th centuries. They include the church, chapter house and cloister. The cloister ruins are particularly well-preserved and feature pointed and decorated gothic arches typical of Cistercian architecture.
The abbey was suppressed following the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII in 1536. The lands were then rented, and the monastery began to be used as a fortified house. It passed through a number of families before it came to the Boltons, who held it for several centuries. In the early 19th century the Boltons built the nearby Bective House.
Today, the ruins of Bective Abbey provide a maze of passageways with dead ends and interrupted staircases, all asking to be explored. Archaeological excavations led by Geraldine and Matthew Stout in 2009-2012 uncovered the remains of a large medieval barn, providing vital information on rural monastic life and farming methods in medieval Ireland.
Due to the attraction of its medieval ruins, Bective Abbey has been used three times by Hollywood producers: in 1955 for Captain Lightfootstarring Rock Hudson, the 1995 blockbuster Braveheart and most recently in 2020 by Ridley Scott for his medieval epic The Last Duel, starring Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer and Ben Afleck.
Listen to some wonderful audio on Bective Abbey - part of the Boyne Valley Drive:
Bective Abbey is free to visit and there is a visitor carpark.
For more on the history and archaeology of the abbey, see the video by the National Monuments Service below.