East Ireland | County Louth
Mellifont Abbey is located about 10km east of Drogheda, in County Louth. It was the first Cistercian foundation in Ireland, established in 1142 by Saint Malachy of Armagh, with the help of a handful of monks sent by Saint Bernard from Clairvaux in France. The name Mellifont comes from the Latin "Font Mellis", which means "Fountain of honey". The abbey church was consecrated in a great ceremony in 1157, which was attended by many significant guests. Mellifont was a huge success from its earliest stages and grew rapidly. In 1170 congregation had 100 monks and 300 lay brothers. More than twenty daughter houses were established by Mellifont's monks, including Bective Abbey, Baltinglass Abbey, and Boyle Abbey. The monastery was burned in the early 14th century and, as result, much of the nave of the church was rebuilt in the 14th and 15th centuries. At the end of its operation, just before the dissolution by Henry VIII in 1539, the number of monks had shrunk to just 21. After the dissolution, Mellifont Abbey was granted to Edward Moore and transformed into a fortified mansion, where his descendants lived until 1727. Not much left of the buildings from the heyday of the abbey, mostly just foundations. However, it gives the image of how impressive it was in the time of its glory. Remains include the early-thirteenth-century octagonal lavabo (originally there was a fountain where monks washed their hands before the meals) and chapterhouse, the late medieval gatehouse, and a section of the Romanesque cloister arcade, which was re-erected in 1955.