Saints and Stones: Inch Abbey

Inch Abbey is a large, ruined monastic site on the north bank of the River Quoile northwest of Downpatrick. The site was originally on an island in the Quoile Marshes. The pre-Norman Celtic monastic settlement there, known as Inis Cumhscraigh, was in existence by the year 800 A.D.. In 1002 and again in 1149, it was plundered by the Vikings.

It was established as a Cistercian house by John de Courcy and his wife Affreca and was erected as an act of repentance for the destruction of the Abbey at Erinagh, three miles to the south) by de Courcy in 1177. It was colonised directly by monks from Furness Abbey in Lancashire in 1180, along with some of the monks from Erinagh.

The Cistercian precinct was enclosed by a bank and ditch extending north and south from the parish graveyard to the river and east to west up the valley sides. The buildings are mainly of the late 12th Century and the 13th Century. The 170 foot long church was built about 1200 in the Cistercian cruciform plan with a low tower at the crossing, an aisled nave to the west, and two projecting 27 foot square transepts each with a pair of chapels. Only the impressive east window remains. The chancel wall has three well proportioned pointed windows, the middle one being 23 feet tall. There was an altar in each of the rib-vaulted transept chapels, and in the north transept is a door out to the monk's cemetery (no longer visible) and a tower with broken stairs in the north-west. On the stone plinth of the north transept's exterior north wall a number of incised symbols can be seen, which are mason's marks. The high altar was under the east windows and in the south wall are the remains of triple sedilia (seats for the priests) and a piscina for washing the altar vessels.

The church is north of the cloister, divided in use between the monks to the east and lay brothers to the west. The cloister was surrounded by a series of rooms for meetings, work, sleeping, eating, and storage. The foundations of the refectory and kitchen are along the south side of the cloister. The cloister walks to the south have disappeared, but foundations of the east and south ranges remain, as well as outlying buildings toward the river. These include an infirmary and a bakehouse with two ovens and a well nearby.

About Inch Abbey

Discover Northern Ireland: Inch Abbey
Wikipedia: Inch Abbey
Wikipedia: Cistercians

Journey to Inch Abbey

Inch Abbey is located off the A7, the main Belfast-Downpatrick road, less than a mile northwest of Downpatrick in County Down in Northern Ireland.

Map Reference: J4745

Visitors Information

Visitors information for Inch Abbey may be found at the website. General tourist information may be found at the Discover Northern Ireland: County Down website.

Additional Photos of Grey Abbey (Mainistir Liath)

Inch Abbey Sign
Approaching Inch Abbey
A Closer View of the Abbey
The Presbytery Dominated by the Lancet Windows, Inch Abbey
A View of Inch Abbey from the West
Wall Sculpture, Inch Abbey
Column Remains, Inch Abbey
Remains of a Column, Inch Abbey
Remains of Outlying Buildings
Remains of Outlying Buildings

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