Today all that remains of St. Mary's Abbey is the 40m high east wall of the tower known as the Yellow Steeple. The diocese of Trim was comparatively small and the Bishop of Trim often served as the Abbott of St. Mary's. The abbey had many incarnations over the centuries but the ruins today are from the abbey built in 1368 and operated by the Augustinian order.
St. Patrick founded Ireland's first great church at Trim. The church was destroyed at least twice by attacking forces and it has long been believed that St. Mary's Abbey was founded on the site of the church ruins. In fact the church of the new abbey continued to serve as the parish church. St. Malachy introduced Augustinian rule to the Abbey between 1140 and 1148.
The church burned down again in 1368, however shortly after the fire, the abbey erected a statue of the Virgin Mary. The statue known as ‘Our Lady of Trymme' became famous for its curative powers and healing miracles. Trim became a major pilgrimage destination for Irish Rebels and English soldiers alike. Indeed, such was the statue's fame in the fifteenth century that some have referred to Trim as “the Lourdes of Ireland” at that time. Unfortunately the statue met its end during the Reformation with the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. The statue was publically destroyed. Although local legend suggests that the statue survived a lot longer than Henry VIII would have liked (See Myths and legends).
The abbey itself was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell. It is believed that the Yellow Steeple was actually used as a garrison against Cromwell's troops until the tower was destroyed. The Yellow Steeple is generally considered the only remains of the Abbey but there is some evidence that indicates the nearby manor house, Talbot's Castle, may have been the abbey's refectory before being converted into a private residence.
Did you know?
- Ireland's greatest mathematician, Sir William Rowan Hamilton (1805–1865), grew up with his uncle James Hamilton in Trim, in one of the former St. Mary's Abbey buildings beside the Yellow Steeple. He was educated in his uncle's school in St. Mary's Abbey and quickly show his potential. William had a successful scientific career, most famously discovering the algebra of quaternions while walking along the Royal Canal in 1843.
Listen to some wonderful audio about Trim Castle - part of the Boyne Valley Drive
The tower derives its name from the fact that when the sun shines on it the stone appears to have a yellow hue, hence the locals named it the “Yellow Steeple.” In 1649, a large portion of the Yellow Steeple was deliberately destroyed to prevent the tower falling into the clutches of Cromwell`s soldiers.
Head east on Kells Road towards Dublin. Turn right onto Circular Road. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Railway Street. Continue onto R161 until you arrive in Trim. Turn left onto R154. At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto Castle Street. Destination will be on the right.
Via M1 Motorway or Drogheda:
Take the M1 (this road is tolled) coming from Belfast. At junction 10, take the N51 exit to Drogheda (North)/Navan/Collon. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto N51 for Slane. Continue on the N51 to Navan. Turn left onto Kells Road heading towards Dublin. Turn right onto Circular Road. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Railway Street. Continue onto R161 until you arrive in Trim. Turn left onto R154. At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto Castle Street. Destination will be on the right.
Take the M3 (this road is tolled) headed for Cavan. At junction 6, take the R125 exit to Dunshaughlin/Trim. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto R125. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit ontoR125/R154. Continue to follow R154 until you reach Trim. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Castle Street. Destination will be on the right.
St. Mary's Abbey is now a private residence.
No public access.