November 24, 2008

County Wicklow: Mellifont Abbey

Our final day in Ireland was such a beautiful, though a tad rainy, day in Ireland. At least we knew to bring warm clothing to the Isles this time around. The second stop on our Celtic tour was Mellifont Abbey. We drove up and were met by this fabulous gateway:

The Abbey was the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland. It was founded by Irish and French monks but eventually the French left because of disagreements between the two. The fact that it was Cistercian made it the first "European" monastery in the country. Its establishment marked the beginning of a transformation over to the typical European way.

Visitors first see the ruins of the Abbey church, which was constructed in the typical cruciform shape. All that remains today are pillars and walls a few feet high. These give you an idea of what the church must have looked like. Within the floor of the old church are the graves of what were very important people. This is not unlike many churches Rocket Man and I visited while in Europe.

Past the Abbey ruins is the cloister, full of fabulously green grass. We are in Ireland, people. Located in the center of one end of the cloister is the lavabo, the hexagonal building where the monks went to wash up before meals. Beyond that are some of the buildings the monks utilized in their daily lives.

To the left of the lavabo is the very old chapter house, which was under restoration when we were there. This meant that it was under protective covering which made photos rather difficult. Inside, there were fine examples of floor tiles not unlike those found in Saint Patrick's Cathedral and Christchurch Cathedral. These are original to the monastery.

The pathways that surround the cloister were at one time covered by an arcade. Only a very small section of the beautiful and dainty-looking (compared to everything else, anyway) arches remains. It must have been very beautiful indeed. I imagine it was quite nice to walk around the cloister.

The main sight at Mellifont Abbey is the lavabo, an hexagonal wash-room. It was constructed so that lead pipes would bring water up from the nearby river. It has only been partially restored, but one can see why it draws such interest.

These days only four of its arches remain, and boy do they make for some good photography.

Do you know what else makes for good photography? Why, cemeteries, of course! No worries, graves were not the focus of our next stop. It was high crosses and round towers.

High crosses, headstones and towers, oh my!

You know you wanna see it, so stay tuned! Same bat(ty) channel, same bat(ty) time!

See ya tomorrow!

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