Dunbrody Abbey, Wexford

Just where the Suir, the Nore, and the Barrow enter the harbour of Waterford, is situated DUNBRODY ABBEY, a venerable and extensive monument of antiquity in the county Wexford. It was founded, according to the best authorities, about the year 1182 by the celebrated Hervey de Montmorency, marshal to Henry II., who was amongst the first of the English adventurers that obtained a footing in Ireland. Hervey was related to Strongbow by marriage, being uncle to the lady Aliva de Montmaurisco, the earl's first wife. No less distinguished for his prudence than for his courage, he was made Constable of Ireland by the English monarch, and obtained from Dermot MacMurrogh, the traitorous king of Leinster, extensive grants of land in this county.

Dunbrody Abbey, Wexford

Dunbrody Abbey

When Strongbow found it necessary to repair to England, to remove the political jealousy of Henry, by surrendering formally all his Irish acquisitions to the royal disposal, he appointed Hervey de Montmorency Seneschal of Leinster, and committed to him the command of the English forces. On Strongbow's return to his government, he made a pretext for quarrelling with Hervey, of whose increasing influence he began to grow jealous, in consequence of which the insulted chieftain quitted the army, and restored to Strongbow all the lands allotted to him, except a small portion in the barony of Shelburne. Here he erected and endowed a religious establishment, in which he settled monks of the Cistercian order, and, retiring from the stormy scenes in which he had been long engaged, assumed the cowl, and became the first abbot of the noble abbey he had founded. Dunbrody Abbey was originally dependent on that of Buildwas, in Shropshire; an old poem with which we have met, after enumerating the several townships bestowed by the constable Hervey upon this religious house, concludes with the following couplet:—

"These lands de Montmaurisco gave

To Buildwas shrine,—his soul to save."

Subsequently Dunbrody became an independent abbacy, and its abbot sat in parliament as a spiritual lord, until the dissolution of monasteries by Henry VIII., when it was granted to Sir Osborne Itchingham. The edifice, though considerably injured by the tooth of time and the hands of barbarous despoilers, is still one of the most perfect and interesting specimens of the ecclesiastical architecture of its age to be met with in the kingdom. It is situated upon the verge of an extensive bay or arm of the river, near the confluence of the Suir with the Nore and Barrow, about five miles below the city of Waterford. This bay is so shallow, that at the recess of the tide a vast unsightly mud-bank is left exposed; but at high-water, when the bank is overflown, the venerable ruins of the abbey, unsheltered by a single tree, and standing in naked and solitary grandeur beside the flood, present to the mind of the spectator a solemn image of fallen and deserted greatness.

Visitors enter the building by an arched doorway at the western end; the workmanship of which, as well as that of the unique window above it, has been pronounced "magnificent" by every person who has seen them. The interior of the abbey, viewed from the entrance, is singularly striking;—before us lies the great aisle, divided from the cloisters by a double row of arches, supported by massive square pillars; the inside of these arches is adorned with a moulding, springing from beautiful consoles. In the centre of the edifice, sustained by noble arches, fifty feet in height, rises the great tower, whose grey battlements afford shelter to a community of daws, whose sable plumage and mournful cawings might suggest to the mind of a Brahmin the idea that the souls of the old monks who once paced these dim cloisters inhabited the bodies of these birds, and still lingered around the haunts they loved so well. Some curious tombs of the early benefactors of the abbey existed formerly within its walls, but they have long since been overturned and destroyed by the country people in digging for hidden treasures, which popular tradition says are concealed amongst the ruins.


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