1207 – Duiske Abbey, Graiguenamanagh, Co. Kilkenny

Irish Builder and Engineer

Irish Builder and Engineer “IN our last number we gave a sketch of the ruins of St. Mary’s Church, in the Abbey of Duiske, Graigue, County Kilkenny. These ruins are an admirable specimen of the early English Cistercian work in Ireland, and stand out in strong contrast to the lighter and more decorated remains of French Cistercian architecture, such as may be seen at Bective or Mellifont. Built in the end of the Transition Period, the Abbey of St. Mary showsin its ruins traces of the change through which all church building was then passing for, although we have the arches of the aisles pointed, and also the middle windows of the great western triplet, yet all the other windows, as seen in the sketch, are round-headed. The whole building, in truth, is a mixture of the early Gothic and the departing Ro manesque.

The abbey was founded by William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, the elder, in 1207, and was richly endowed by him, and by successive benefactors. It was a great and extensive pile. Up to the time of the suppression its history presents nothing remarkable. There are, during this period, numerous allusions to it in Clynn’s and Grace’s Annals. At the Reformation, Charles McMurrough Kavanagh — a man of an unhappy celebrity — was the last abbot. By his measures the abbey and its lands were secured for his kinsman, James, the ninth Earl of Ormonde. From the Ormonde family the abbey passed into the hands of the Butlers of Galmoy, who were descended from the house of Ormonde. Excepting the period of the Cromwellian usurpation, the Lords Galmoy kept possession until the Williamite confiscations, when the abbey and lands were sold, and were purchased by the Agars of Clifden, in whose possession they now remain.

So remarkable were the ruins that they attracted the attention of the curious and learned in antiquities and architecture. Ledwich, in his notes to Grose, says that “The building was of great extent, and the architecture and sculpture, even in its present ruined state, excite our admiration;” while Trotter, in his Pedestrian Tour, writes:— “I do not except the celebrated Abbey of Tintern, in Monmouthshire, when I say that nothing could be found more venerable and beautifully-interesting in the empire than Graignamanagh Abbey.”

The Domesday Book of Ireland, completed by King John, was kept in this abbey; and the Annals of Duiske, long since lost, were compiled by a monk of this house in the beginning of the 16th century. All the abbey charters fell into the hands of James, the ninth Earl of Ormonde, who was the firstly proprietor, and they are still preserved in thebMuniment Room in Kilkenny Castle.

The beautiful octagon tower, similar to the one which was at Tristernagh, County Westmeath, fell down in 1744. At present, the court of the abbey is traced with great difficulty, and, except the site, which is well known, there are now no remains of the splendid Chapter House.”