Come along with me for a short stroll through the old Mellifont abbey.
Its about a ten minute drive to the abbey, and as we approach the car park we can see that the modern road runs parallel to the old pilgrim path .
Even before we get out of the car we can see that the abbey was a huge settlement … lets have a walk around and a look see.
The first thing that catches our eye is the impressive gate tower and entrance that lies along the pilgrim path signifying the importance of Mellifont . As we stroll along let me tell you a little about the history . The abbey was founded in 1142 on the orders of St Malachy , the archbishop of Armagh, so its a lot younger than Monasterboice. It was a Cistercian abbey that once housed one hundred monks and three hundred lay brothers.
As we walk around the site we can see its mainly in ruins, but we can get an understanding of the size and scale of the buildings that once stood here ; I think you will agree it must have been incredibly impressive all those years ago.
We have the whole place to ourselves ; all we can hear is the sounds of the river Mattock that flows right beside us , and the call of birds .. we are a long way from the main road, so not a sound of traffic .. its amazingly peaceful and calm.
The Abbey is laid out on the classical monastic style, with the basilica, the Romanesque arches, the remains of the cloister gardens, and the impressive octagonal lavabo. The lavabo was used for the monks to wash their hands before eating and was part of the purification ritual.
The abbey was dissolved in 1539 and a lot of the stone was removed at that time, but thankfully fragments remain for us to enjoy. The site was used by William of Orange as his headquarters during the battle of the Boyne in 1690 – the battle field is only a few kilometres away … we must go visit some day soon .
There is a real sense of monastic life from long ago here ; we can imagine the daily bustle of every day life and can get a real sense of what went on here long ago . I think that you will agree its a real privilege to be able to visit these sacred and historic places, and to have them to ourselves !
I hope that you enjoyed coming with me today, please take care until next time .