Holycross Abbey

Tradition presents a picture of a visit by King Donal Mór O’Brien with a retinue of bishops and chieftains to his place.

Holycross Abbey

Founding Of Holycross Abbey

The Holycross Abbey (Mainistir na Croise Naofa) in Tipperary is a restored Cistercian monastery in Holycross near Thurles, County Tipperary, Ireland, situated on the River Suir.
It takes its name from a relic of the True Cross or Holy rood. The fragment of that Holy rood was brought to Ireland by the Plantagenet Queen, Isabella of Angoulême, around 1233. She was the widow of King John and bestowed the relic on the original Cistercian Monastery in Thurles, which she then rebuilt, and which was thenceforth thereby named Holycross Abbey.

Tradition presents a picture of a visit by King Donal Mór O’Brien with a retinue of bishops and chieftains to his place, where there was already a monastery or hermitage following a Celtic rule of life. The Cistercian Rule, having spread throughout Europe with amazing rapidity had been introduced to Ireland some forty years previously by St. Malachy, Archbishop of Armagh, and now King Donal proposed to endow a Cistercian monastery with large tracts of land here by the Suir in the country of the O’Fogartys, his mother’s people.
The group of monks who founded (or ‘colonised’) this monastery came from Monasteranenagh (Mainister, near Croom, Co. Limerick). Monasteranenagh had been colonised from Mellifont and Mellifont from Clairveaux in France, whose abbot, St. Bernard, was a friend of St. Malachy. The first Cistercians, aiming at a hidden and silent life, drew up a simple Rule. The monasteries were to be in remote places and the monks were to be self-supporting through working the monastic lands themselves, hence a sizeable estate was needed.

The Cistercian plan grouped the building in a square with the church on the North side, an East range including the sacristy, chapter house and parlour, the kitchen and refectory (dining hall) on the South side, and in the West Range, the cellars and foodstores. In the centre was the cloister garth, a grass-covered square with a roofed-in walk around it. On the first floor in the East Range was the dormitory for the choir monks while the dormitory of the lay brothers was similarly provided in the West range.
Life was austere and silent, devoted to prayer and work. Community prayer was distributed over seven periods each day, beginning at 2 am, and consisted of the chanting of the Divine Office (psalms and readings); there was also the Conventual (community) Mass. The abbey church was bare and plain, with whitewashed walls which reflected light coming mainly from the windows on the North side.

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Contact Name: 
Fr. Tom J. Breen
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