A picture is worth a thousand words… until you learn the story behind Baltinglass Abbey.
Late Morning Visit to Baltinglass Abbey, Ireland: Photo Gallery
It was foggy. The great, hardly transparent veil descended upon the city at the exact time when the sun was supposed to break through the morning darkness. The fog thickened, if it was even possible, when we left Dublin.
Locals say Ireland is notorious for this type of tantrums when days get wasted in misty plays conducted by the naughty weather.
Today’s itinerary was easy. At least I thought so. We would visit some historical places, including Baltinglass Abbey, just one hour away from the Irish capital. But there was also a big chance that this thick, foggy curtain would ruin all our travel plans.
Snugged down in my passenger seat on a tour bus that was heading to Baltinglass Abbey, I felt relieved. After a lot of consideration, I had picked the previous day to visit the famous Cliffs of Moher. Unlike today, the yesterday’s weather was glorious. Still cold, which was expected in late November, but sunny enough to showcase the Irish famed forty shades of green.
After forty minutes on the road, it was apparent that our visit to Baltinglass Abbey wouldn’t be as spectacular as we expected. The fog didn’t hurry to leave, blocking any attempt the sun was making to break through this thick veil.
The tour had to continue, though. Paying little attention to the gloomy weather, our bus was slowly approaching the town of Baltinglass. But then something unimaginable happened. As if by a wave of a magic wand, the weather cleared up just in time when the bus pulled over in the entrance to the medieval monastery.
Adorned with the late morning glow, the historical Baltinglass Abbey wasn’t taking any orders from the unpredictable Irish weather. Ruined, but not entirely demolished, it had to impress the new visitors with its opulent architectural style.
Story of Baltinglass Abbey
Six stunning Gothic arches on both sides of the nave, still intact, defied the time. Most of the ceiling was gone. Yet pillars that have supported the arches for centuries were still fulfilling their duty to the best of their abilities.
Baltinglass Abbey had been founded in 1148 by Dermot MacMurrough. An ambitious king of Leinster who aspired to become high-king of Ireland, MacMurrough chose an ideal location for the monastery. Nestled near the River Slaney in the Wicklow Mountains, Baltinglass Abbey overlooked the entire river valley.
The medieval abbey was establish for the Cistercians. Shortly after its construction, MacMurrough gave it to the Cistercian monks. Additionally, he granted Baltinglass Abbey eight separate parcels of land in the Wicklow area as an endowment. MacMurrough called the abbey and the adjacent land “The Valley of Salvation”.
As the historical chronicles show, 36 monks and 50 lay brothers resided in the monastery in 1228. And by the early 16th century, Baltinglass Abbey was one of the richest in Ireland. The dark times, however, descended on Baltinglass Abbey abruptly. In 1536 the abbey was suppressed.
The medieval structure has remained unoccupied ever since, except for the short period of time when a Church of Ireland church was built within the abbey in 1815. But already in 1883, it closed its doors.
The construction of nearby Saint Mary’s Church a year later ended the period of abandonment and solitude Baltinglass Abbey had endured for nearly three centuries.
The cruel time, however, did’t have any mercy on the historic structure. Years of disuse and neglect didn’t fail to leave their marks on the massive grey walls of the abbey. Yet a combination of the Cistercian and Irish Romanesque architectural styles was remarkable enough to pique the interest of some locals and authorities. Eventually, the abbey was proclaimed a National Monument.
Check out some of the tours I took or considered taking while in Ireland.
Baltinglass Alley: Visit Historic Monastery via Photo Gallery
On that late fall morning, the Irish weather cooperated with us long enough to finish our self-guided tour through Baltinglass Abbey. An hour later, when we reached Baltiglass’s city center, the large, grey clouds obscured the sky once again. They receded eventually, but the sun never poured its light on the Wicklow Mountains that day.
Nevertheless, that stolen “golden” hour was enough to admire and photograph the incredible architectural masterpiece that Baltinglass Abbey is. Today, I invite you to visit Baltinglass and its medieval abbey via this photo gallery.