Burning Suppression & Destruction

Preservation and Resilience of Ballintubber Abbey

Throughout the annals of Irish history, the abbey of Tobar Patraic has endured various trials, including instances of burning and suppression. These events have left their mark on the architectural and spiritual legacy of Ballintubber Abbey.

One notable episode is recorded in the annals of the Four Masters, dating back to 1265, when a portion of the Abbey suffered fire damage. Evidently, this unfortunate incident was limited to the nave of the church. Remarkably, reconstruction efforts in 1270 resulted in the restoration of the nave, though keen observers can still discern differences in architectural styles even today.

In 1536, legislation was enacted in Dublin, leading to the dissolution of monasteries. However, enforcing this legislation proved challenging beyond the Pale region. A similar challenge was faced during the reign of Elizabeth I. Subsequently, in 1603, James I seized all the lands belonging to the Abbey, effectively ending the presence of the Canon Regulars. From 1603 to 1653, the Augustinian Friars, a mendicant Order, may have assumed responsibility for the Abbey. Their stewardship came to an end with the devastating fire that consumed the Abbey in 1653.

The 1653 fire, instigated by Cromwellian soldiery, marks the second attempt to obliterate Ballintubber Abbey. However, the Cromwellian assault achieved only partial success. Monastic structures, including dormitories, cloisters, and domestic quarters, were utterly destroyed. Remarkably, the Abbey church narrowly escaped total destruction. Although the timber roof was consumed by flames, the internal stone-vaulted roofs of the chancel, the four side chapels, and the old sacristy remained miraculously intact.

Even amid the ravages of Cromwellian despoliation, divine worship persevered within the Abbey’s hallowed walls. Mass continued to be celebrated there, as it has been for nearly 800 years, a testament to the resilience and enduring spirit of Ballintubber Abbey.