Emerald Isle

Ballintubber Abbey

Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales and Legendary Places in Ireland

Great the faith of the people of Ireland

The extraordinary Ballintubber Abbey, known as Tobar Padraic in the Annals of the Four Mastersm is almost a thousand years old, having been built by King Cathal Crobdearg Ua Conchobair - whose father commissioned the beautiful Cross of Cong - in 1216. It has survived ages and centuries of persecution and fire, providing a place for people to visit and seek solace in their Faith. Cathal was the true son of King Turlough, but his mother-in-law decided to keep the throne for herself, so he fled into hiding.

While he hid, Cathal worked for a kindly old man called Sheridan, whose generous treatment and courtesy Cathal swore he would always remember. When Cathal eventually became King, he visited his old benefactor and asked if he needed anything. No, replied Sheridan, he was fune, athough the old church was falling to bits! Cathal said there and then he would build a new and better one, and ordered it done.

But when he returned some years later, Sheridan lamented loudly that the King had gone back on his work, and no church had been built! Baffled and confused, Cathal looked into the matter, and discovered that a church had indeed been built - in the wrong place! His men had done the work in Baile tobair Bhrighde, Roscommon, instead of Baile tobair Phádraig, Mayo. Well, the King was mortified I can tell you, and he said he'd build a church seven times more magnificent for Sheridan! And that he did.

Only fifty yaers after it was built a terrible inferno raged through the building, and the damaged sections were restored in Gothic style beside the existing Hiberno-Roman architecture five years later.

According to tradition, only men of noble birth were accepted into the Canons Regular, the secular priests who lived there under St Augustine's rule, which explained the substantial estates that the abbey came to hold in later years.

Cromwell's jackals howled outside its walls in 1653, destroying the abbey so thoroughly that only only the stone vaulted roofs of the chancel, the four sides of the chapels, and the old sacristy remained intact. Several renovations and restorations were attempted throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, reinforcing the walls, setting stained glass windows back in the frames, rebuilding the roof, tiling the floor and raising new oak roof beams.

Incredibly, it is said that mass has been held there every Sunday without interruption since the foudnations of the building were laid. Not fire nor lead shot nor grim judge nor rusty manacle dissuaded the great faith of the pople of Ireland, and neither did the cold wind and rain for centuries. There are even photographs of pople kneeling in the grass from 1865, showing that this tradition is more than mere rumour.

Ballintubber Abbey can be found on the map below!

Legendary Places in Ireland

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