History of Sligo Abbey

History of Sligo Abbey

Known locally as "The Abbey," this Dominican Friary was founded in the mid-13th century and served as both a religious centre and community gathering space, especially as a refuge for displaced landowners. In the 19th century, however, in a fit of rage, Sir Frederick Hamilton burned it to the ground, after it had already suffered great damage from earlier invasions. Given the abbey's violent history, much of it has survived and houses a wealth of carvings, Gothic and Renaissance tomb sculptures, well-preserved cloisters, and the only 15th century high altar to survive in any Irish monastic church.

On the ground close to the cloisters is a grave slab with the name clearly marked: James. No one seems to know who James was, but they do know that the slab was erected by his mother. Later, though, all identifying marks-except the name-were chiselled away. Locals believe that James must have fallen out of favour with or angered some of the officials who controlled The Abbey.

A Visitor Centre contains a copy of an unusual document: Charlotte Thornley's Diary. Though her name might not register as familiar, her son's would raise an eyebrow or two. Charlotte Thornley was the mother of Bram Stoker, author of the infamous, now classic, "Dracula." The two of them lived in Sligo Town during the cholera epidemic of 1832. In the diary, Charlotte describes the desperate conditions as "the living struggled to bury the dead." During many epidemics, bodies are piled atop other bodies when rooms runs out. In Sligo, it is said that bodies were piled atop the towering 15th century high altar, the only sacred place in the area.

Open March to October, 10:00 - 6:00. (For other times or group bookings for tours, email sligoabbey@opw.ie or call T: 087 270 4032

Admission: €2 adults, families €5, children, €1

How to get there:

From Dublin: N4 to Sligo Town (214 km).

From Belfast: A6 to Derry, then A5 to Lifford, N15 to Sligo Town.

 

Address:

Sligo Abbey

Sligo Town, Co. Sligo

Email: sligoabbey@opw.ie

 

Written by Joy Davis - Summer of Travel 2007

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