Mellifont Abbey was the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland. St Malachy of Armagh created it in 1142 with the help of a small number of monks sent by St Bernard from Clairvaux. The monks did not take well to Ireland and soon returned to France, but the abbey was completed anyway and duly consecrated with great pomp.
The abbey imported it's formal style of architecture from the abbeys of the same order in Europe. It has several extraordinary architectural features, the foremost of which is the two-storey octagonal lavabo. The abbey imported it's formal style of architecture from the abbeys of the same order in Europe. The abbey was consecrated in 1157 and from this humble beginnings the Cistercian community spread out throughout Ireland founding other abbeys throughout the country with Mellifont being the model on which these abbeys were based. The most significant remains of Mellifont Abbey is the chapter house, the Lavabo where the monks would have washed their hands before meals and the impressive Gateway. The other parts of the Abbey are gone but small walls remain making it possible to make out how the Abbey would have looked.
The monks at Mellifont hosted a critical synod in 1152. The abbey was central to the history of later centuries, too, even though it was in private hands by then. The Treaty of Mellifont, which ended the Nine Years War, was signed here in 1603, and William of Orange used the abbey as his headquarters during the momentous Battle of the Boyne.
The Visitor Centre houses an interesting exhibition on the work of masons in the Middle Ages with fine examples of their craft on display. Access to site by stone stairway. The site is now fully accessible.
Guided tours are also available fin the summer months.
Did you know? By 1170, Mellifont had one hundred monks and three hundred lay brothers. The Abbey became the model for other Cistercian abbeys. It was the main abbey in Ireland until it was closed in 1539, when it became a fortified house.
Listen to some wonderful audio on Old Mellifont Abbey - part of the Boyne Valley Drive:
For more on what Mellifont and nearby Drogheda has to offer, watch the video below.
Devorgilla (often described as ‘Ireland’s Helen of Troy’), whose elopement with Dermot MacMurrough led to the arrival of the Anglo Normals in 1169 is buried beneath the chancel pavement at Mellifont.
Bus Route(s): Contact Bus Eireann, Travel Centre +353 1 836 6111
Recommended Clothing: Visitors are advised to wear suitable footwear due to uneven terrain.
Guided Tours Available: On request, maximum number is thirty five to forty. Duration is forty minsutes. Leaflet / guide booklet in English, Irish, French, German, Italian and Spanish
The site of Old Mellifont Abbey is now FULLY accessible.
Disabled Access: Access for people with disabilities to the visitor centre