I'd spotted the ruins of the Abbey from the harbour area earlier, and had expected to find an entrance on Abbey Street, as I'd spotted The Church of the Assumption (see previous tips), I'd decided to visit here, then find the entrance to the Abbey afterwards. I found the entrance, by following the road behind Abbey Street, that leads past the Garda house, and down to Harbour Road.
In 1042,Sigtrygg, King of Dublin founded a church in Howth. When this amalgamated with another church on Irelands Eye in 1235, it was replaced by another church - this being founded by Luke, Archbishop of Dublin. Around the late 14th (or early 15th) century, this church was demolished and replaced by the present building- which is St Marys Church, or Howth Abbey.
The church has two aisles, each of which originally had a gabled roof. As you can see from the photos, the church is open to the elements now!
During the 15th and 16th centuries, the church was further renovated and repaired.- The gables were raised, then formed into a singular gable a bell cote was added, and the porch and Southern doorway were added first, then in the 16th century the east window was added in the northern aisle
The Baron of Howth at this time was from the Lawrence family, who resided in nearby Howth Castle. Some of their family members were buried in the church. The Lawrence family donated money in the 16th Century, to enable some of this afore mentioned work, plus the construction of a private family chapel.
Christopher St Lawrence, the first Baron of Howth and his wife Anne Plunkett of Ratoath are buried in a tomb here. (The East end of the South Aisle) Apparently it is quite well preserved, and is thought to have been carved in 1470. On the top is an effigy of the knight and his wife. Surrounding the sides are carvings of scenes of the Crucifixion, St Michael and 2 angels, St Peter, holding keys, St Thomas of Canterbury and St Katherine, with a wheel as well as various Coats of Arms.
This part was behind a locked gate. (It is possible to gain access, but I didn't really have enough time) There was a wooden sign saying that the keys to the church were held by Mrs O'Rourke (pic 4)
The Church of St Mary, was a collagiate. This meant that that it was served by a college or house of learning. The clerics lived in a house to the south of the church.
I'm not sure of the date that the Church of St Marys became an Abbey though.
The church was in use until around 1630, when the congregation moved to another church near Howth Castle.
A sign in the grounds states that Howth Abbey is a "National Monument, which is under the care of The Ministry for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the islands on behalf of the state under the provisions of the National Monuments Act". This is responsible for its preservation. Defacing or causing damage to the Abbey is a criminal Offence and is severely punishable by law.
The small graveyard surrounding Howth Abbey is quite interesting, and has wonderful views over the harbour and to Irelands Eye. Sounds from the harbour and sea drift up to the Abbey, which adds to the atmosphere of the place.
I find graveyards quite interesting places, as they tell a bit of social history of the place- names of people, sizes of families, ages that people lived to, especially Victorian and earlier tombs. Some are grand reminders of the person laid there, (who maybe wasn't so grand while living!)
This grave yard had some interesting stones, as well as the crude wooden crucifixes. One had a teddy bear attached, presumably a young child or toddler (pic 2).
Placed in the center of the village, is difficult not to pay attention to this ruined Abbey, which dates from the 11th century. The construction is surrounded by an open to the public graveyard. The views of the village are simply fantastic from there.
Although the access to the Abbey itself is closed to the general public, it is possible to obtain the key by contacting with the Fingal County Council; the instructions are written in the access gate to the Abbey... mostly illegible, by the way (see picture). Anyway, you can still read the phone number of the council: 840-1979
Right in the heart of Howth lie the ruins of an old abbey. It was built on the same site where the very first church in Howth was built in 1042, under King Sigtrygg of Dublin. It is estimated that most of what remains of the abbey today dates back to the 15th century, when the St. Lawrence family of nearby Howth Castle donated money to restore the abbey where some of the family members had been buried. It remained in function until the 1630s, after which date the congregation moved to a small chapel built next to Howth Castle. The abbey was obviously left to fall into disrepair, but the graveyard that surrounds it is still an active one - even some of the old tombstones look very well taken care of. Also, because it is located just up the hill on Abbey Street, there is a very nice view of Howth Harbour and the island of Ireland's Eye from the graveyard.
Take a 24minute ride on the fun suburban rail system called DART, go to the north end of the line...just make sure you stay on until the 2nd and final Howth stop...then a nice harbourside walk will get you this...Howth Abbey. Time things well and it's just you. And the locals. Who generally will leave you quite alone. Unless they're feeling particularly restless. ;-O
A very old ruin, with no roof at all, ( sorry, I don't know the history) in beautiful setting, overlooking the harbour - this is the VERY FIRST stop I made in Europe that caused me to be "Shutter Happy," so it holds a special place in my memory. Also, I had great company of Karolin, from Frankfort. The graveyard is still in current use.
it's as if I had been here already! It was with a real sense of familiarity that I stepped through this gateway and ventured through the little abbey grounds. And that I was the only living soul present at the time, this was icing on the cake. Or words to that effect.
Just as I was ascending the steps back up *out* of this tranquil spot with such a splendid view of the harbour area below, I noticed a family plot, not so very old, with my own Irish surname on it. So I finally ran into some possible ancestors. ;-) And I saw how thoughtful families are, to provide comfy stone kneelers like this. Sheeesh, that'll keep the line moving, no stragglers here when you must kneel on cold granite.
From the plain where the Martello Tower is (the Martello Tower is very easily seen from the Pier - just walk back from the light house and look right in front of you), the Abbey is very easy to be seen. It's actually in ruins, but you can still visit the place. It has a kind of attraction to it that I can't describe, a certain je ne sais quoi, I guess :-)
Visiting it is still possible, just go to the entrance of the abbey, and follow the instructions (I think you need to ask the caretaker for the key, as my guide said).
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