Boyle Abbey Monastery
Founded by Cistercian monks in 1161, Boyle Abbey Monastery has an unusual history. The Cistercian order was new to Ireland in those days, having only recently been discovered by the archbishop in Ireland. They were on a mission to reform the Irish church and set about building an Abbey in modern-day Connacht.
The Cistercians worked with some existing structures that were on the land, and completed the abbey in the year 1218. Up to this point, the Cistercians had moved across the region several times, but they were finally able to settle in here at Boyle – at least for half a millennia. Then dramatic changes swept through.
Boyle Abbey Under Siege
Beginning in the late 16th century, five centuries of peace and prosperity were snuffed out when British soldiers converted the abbey into barracks. The most extensive damage began a few decades later with the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. The latter was particularly savage. Invaders put the monks to death and set up a military garrison.
The invaders left the abbey in shambles. Even after they left, the villagers were unable to restore the structure, and so it remained in a state of increasing decay in the centuries that followed. With this in mind, today’s visitors can still see clear indications of the destruction that took place here.
A few of the abbey’s structures are still partially intact. The most impressive is the nave, which is part of the original construction. Those who know their architectural styles may note that one of the arches is clearly in Romanesque style, and the other in Gothic, as the abbey was built in a period of transition between these two architectural movements.
Portions of the abbey have been restored – particularly the 16th-century gatehouse. There’s an exhibition inside with information and historic artefacts related to the abbey. Other conservation projects are currently underway.