CONG ABBEY

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Cong Abbey is a historic site located in the village of Cong in County Mayo, on the Mayo / Galway border. Cong Abbey, also known as the Royal Abbey of Cong, is the ruins of a former Augustinian abbey that dates back to the 12th century. It is considered to be one of the finest examples of medieval ecclesiastical architecture in Ireland, with its intricate carvings, arches, windows and cloisters.

The history of Cong Abbey goes back to the 6th century, when a church was built on the site by Saint Feichin, a missionary who founded several monasteries in Ireland. The church was destroyed by fire in 1114, but was soon rebuilt by Turlough Mor O’Connor, the High King of Ireland, who reformed the abbey as an Augustinian settlement in 1138. It was one of the earliest Augustinian foundations in Ireland, following the example of Armagh, which was established in 1126.

The abbey was closely associated with the O’Connor dynasty, who ruled as kings of Connacht and Ireland. In 1198, Ruaidri Ua Conchobair (Rory O’Connor), the last High King of Ireland, retired to the abbey after abdicating his throne. He spent the last 15 years of his life at the abbey, where he died in 1198. He was initially buried at the abbey, but his remains were later exhumed and re-interred at Clonmacnoise, another important monastic site.

The abbey was also connected with the O’Duffy family, who served as archbishops of Connacht from 1097 to 1501. One of them, Muireadhach Ua Dubhthaigh, died at Cong in 1150 and his name is inscribed on the famous Cross of Cong, a processional cross that was made to enshrine a relic of the True Cross. The cross is now displayed at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

The abbey suffered several attacks and raids throughout its history, but was always restored and rebuilt. In 1203, it was attacked by William de Burgh, a Norman knight who later became the founder of the de Burgh dynasty in Ireland. In 1307, it was reconstructed and dedicated to St Mary. The abbey continued to function until the 16th century, when it was suppressed by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The last abbot was Patrick Prendergast, who served as parish priest of Cong until his death in 1829.

Today, Cong Abbey is a national monument that is open to the public. Visitors can admire the impressive ruins of the church building, which features a Romanesque nave and a Gothic choir. They can also explore the cloisters, which are decorated with floral motifs and animal heads. One of the most interesting features of the abbey is the monks’ fishing house, a small stone hut that stands on a bridge over the River Cong. The hut has a trapdoor that allowed the monks to fish from inside.

Cong Abbey is a place that offers a glimpse into the past and a chance to appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship of medieval Ireland.

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Cong Abbey

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