ANNAGHDOWN ABBEY OF ST MARY

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The Abbey of St Mary at Annaghdown is a ruined monastery in the townland of Annaghdown in County Galway. The abbey, also known as Annaghdown Priory, was founded by Turlough O’Conor, the High King of Ireland, around 1140 and dedicated to St. Mary, the patron saint of sailors and travellers. The abbey was also called the Abbey of St Mary de Portu Patrum, meaning “of the harbour of the fathers”, because it was located near a port where many Irish missionaries departed for Europe in the early Middle Ages.

The abbey was home to a community of Arroasian canons, a reform movement within the Augustinian order that followed a strict rule of life and liturgy. The canons were involved in pastoral care, education and charity in the surrounding area. The abbey also had close ties with the nearby Annaghdown Cathedral, which served as the seat of the bishopric of Annaghdown until it was merged with Tuam in 1484.

The abbey survived several attacks and raids over the centuries, but was eventually dissolved after the Reformation in 1562. The lands and buildings were confiscated by the crown and granted to various English settlers. The abbey fell into ruin and neglect, and some of its stones were used for other constructions.

Today, the abbey is a National Monument. The remaining ruins include a church, a cloister and living quarters. Some of the architectural features are remarkable, such as the east window of the choir, which is in the transitional style from around 1200, blending Romanesque and Gothic elements. The window may have been moved from the abbey to the cathedral at some point, or vice versa, as they are both of a similar period and style. The cloister arcade has some finely carved capitals depicting animals and foliage. The church also has some interesting carvings on its walls and pillars, such as a cross with a human face and a sheela-na-gig, a female figure displaying her genitals.

The abbey is a testament to the religious and cultural heritage of Ireland, and a place where you can immerse yourself in the past and admire the beauty of nature. The Abbey of St Mary at Annaghdown is a hidden gem where you can learn about the history of Ireland, marvel at the craftsmanship of medieval builders, and feel the presence of centuries of faith and devotion.

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53.386942, -9.072701

Annaghdown, Abbey of St Mary

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