HOLYCROSS

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

HOLYCROSS, a parish, partly in the barony of ELIOGARTY, and partly in that of MIDDLETHIRD, county of TIPPERARY, and province of MUNSTER, 2 ½ miles (S. W.) from Thurles, on the road to Cashel; containing 2935 inhabitants. This place was distinguished as the site of a Cistertian monastery founded in honour of the Holy Cross, of which a portion is said to have been preserved here by Donogh Carbragh O'Brien, King of Limerick, who, in 1182, endowed it with lands constituting an earldom, and conferring the title of Earls of Holycross upon its abbots, who were barons of parliament, and usually vicars-general of the Cistertian order in Ireland. The grant was confirmed by John, Earl of Morton, in 1186; by Henry III., in 1233; and by Richard II., in 1395: and the monastery, which was originally subordinate to the abbey of Nenay, or Maig, in the county of Limerick, and in 1249 was subjected by a general chapter to that of Furness, in the county of Lancaster, continued to flourish till the dissolution, and was granted by Queen Elizabeth to Gerald, Earl of Ormonde, in capite, at an annual rent of £15. 10. 4.

The parish is situated on the river Suir, which is crossed by a bridge at the village, and is partly bounded by the river Carhane, which separates it from the parish of Ballycahill; it comprises 4080 acres, two-thirds of which are under tillage, and the remainder, with the exception of some exhausted bog, in pasture. The principal seats are Graignoe Park, that of C. Clarke, Esq., who has recently erected a spacious and elegant mansion on his estate; Bresfort, of — Wilson, Esq.; and Beakstown, of Major Ledwell. At Beakstown is a water-mill for grinding corn; and in the village an extensive distillery is now being erected by Mr. Power, of Cashel. Fairs are held on May 11th and Sept. 23rd, for cattle; and there is a patent for manorial and baronial courts, but none are held. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the diocese of Cashel, united to that of Rathkenan, and in the patronage of the Archbishop; the rectory is impropriate in C. Clarke, Esq.; the tithes amount to £242. 12. 5. The stipend of the curate is £100, of which £18 is paid by the impropriator, and the remainder from Primate Boulter's augmentation fund. The glebe-house was erected by aid of a gift of £450 and a loan of £50 from the late Board of First Fruits in 1812; the glebe comprises 20 acres, subject to an annual rent. The church, a handsome modern edifice with a tower, was built by a loan of £600, in 1821, from the late Board.

In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also the parish of Ballycahill, in each of which is a chapel; the chapel of Holycross is a handsome edifice faced with hewn stone. About 60 children are taught in the parochial school, which is aided by the incumbent; and there are three private schools, in which are about 230 children. The extensive and picturesque ruins of the abbey of Holy Cross contain many interesting details; they consist of the remains of the nave, choir, and transepts of the church, with a lofty square tower supported on four gracefully pointed arches opening into the choir and transepts; there are also several chapels, which with the tower are of marble and limestone and of much more elegant design and richer embellishment than the other parts of the structure, and the roofs are delicately groined; the nave is separated from the aisles by a series of four arches, and has a west window of large dimensions, and between it and the choir the space under the tower is beautifully groined. Among the tombs is one with a sculptured cross, but without inscription, ascribed by O'Halloran to the founder, and by local tradition to the "good woman" who brought the portion of the true cross to this place; and between two chapels on the south side of the choir is a double range of pointed arches and twisted columns, where the ceremony of "waking" the monks used to be performed. There are also remains of the cloisters, chapter-house, and conventual buildings, which being mantled with ivy and on the margin of the Suir, have a very romantic appearance.

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