Mellifont Abbey

In 1140, Malachy the Archbishop of Armagh, also Bishop of Down, set off for Rome with some disciples. He was attracted by the fame of St. Bernard, so he turned aside to visit Clairvaux. He was so impressed by what he saw, he wished he could become a simple monk. When he arrived in Rome he asked the Pope if he could become a Cistercian monk, but the Pope disagreed. The Irish Church still required a bishop, so the Pope sent Malachy back to Ireland to continue as legate of the Holy Sea in that country. On his way home to Ireland, he once again visited Clairvaux. This time he left behind his four disciples to be trained by Bernard in the Cistercian life. On his return home, Malachy wanted to bring Cistercians to Ireland as quickly as possible, and asked the abbot to send two Irishmen back to Ireland, to prepare a site at Mellifont for the new community, from where the order spread rapidly - to Bective, Baltinglass, Monasternagh (Limerick), Boyle, Shrule and to 33 other places.




Mellifont was given special protection during the Norman invasion by HenryII. A disastrous fire engulfed the Abbey and it was rebuilt in 1225 A.D. In 1539 it was suppressed on the order of Henry VIII and used for Protestant worship. Its community of 150 monks were then banished. It was leased to Sir Gerald Moore descendant of the Earls of Drogheda in 1556 who resided in the church there. In 1727 the Moore family sold it to the Balfours of Townley Hall. However they did not occupy it, and allowed it to fall into ruins. It was shamefully used as a pigsty in 1832.

A Day in a Monastery.

Monks had to live according to strict rules. Prayers had to be said at certain times of the day. Those times were known as canonical hours. The prayers said at those times had special names. The monks' days were full. Their day during the summer months passed something like this.

(Summer) 2 a.m. The monks rose to recite matins and then returned to bed.

5-6 a.m. They rose again at the first hour of the day for lauds.

Dawn. Prime was recited.

Then a chapter meeting was held. Chapter was the name given to a gathering of the monks. Its name came from the practice of meeting to hear a chapter of the rule read out. That was followed by work, reading and study.

9 a.m. During the canonical hour which ended at 9.00 a.m. they recited terce. Terce was followed by High Mass.

12 noon. During the sixth hour sext was said.

Dinner came next, and after dinner there was siesta for one hour.

3 p.m. At some time between 3.00 and 6.00 p.m. nones were said.

Again they went to work.

6. p.m. Vespers were recited at evening time.

Sunset. Supper followed, and compline was the last prayer time of the day. After compline they went to bed.

Mellifont Abbey.

A selection of Monks. By Second Class.