The Benedictine Priory

Fore

Abbey

The Christian monastery at Fore was founded by St Feichin in 630AD. Prior to his death by yellow plague in the 660s, it is believed that there were as many as 300 monks and 2000 students in residence. Unfortunately, the only remaining pre-Norman building is St Feichin's Church, which was built around 900AD, on the foundation of an earlier structure. Between 771 and 1169, Fore was burnt at least twelve times. About 1180 Norman landlord, Hugh De Lacy built a Benedictine Priory on the facing hillside dedicated to Saint Feichin and St Taurin. Because of its relationship with a French abbey, Fore was regularly seized by the English authorities as "alien Property" when England was at war with France.

The priory was built around the cloister and courtyard. Three round-headed windows of the original chancel still stand. Unfortunately this part of the priory is now closed to the public, but you can tour the rest of the remains including the cloisters which still has some graceful re-erected arcading shown right. During the 15th century a fortified tower was built at the western end of the priory, shown in the image above, and another tower to the south which was more for residence. The defensive design of the tower is evident by the arrow slits and murderous layout of the gateway. The ruins of Fore Abbey are the only remnants of a Benedictine abbey in Ireland.
The domestic buildings around the abbey have been altered over the years. Pictured left is an archway over the southern entrance to the priory grounds. This is the way you would approach the priory from the Castlepollard Road. To the southeast a gatehouse, originally built in the 13th century, has been re-built at least four times and has served as a residence. The last Prior was William Nugent. He surrendered to Henry VIII in 1539 who spared his life and granted him a pension for the rest of his days. Troops pillaged the Abbey taking anything of value and left it to ruin.

St Feichin's Church

This small church was first erected as a simple rectangular building with antae. it had plain windows and a fabled lintelled west doorway, pictured right, that is decorated with a Greek cross. The lintel weighs about 7 tons and legend has it that it was raised into position by the strength of St Feichin prayers. Around 1200 a chancel with altar was added. An archway leading to the chancel was re-erected in 1934. The arch has a small carving on the north side. The east window was added in the 15th century. A font, seen in the image right, remains inside the church along with the altar and some early gravestones.

St. Féichín (aka St Féchín, Mo-ecca. ) is traditionally believed to have been born in Billa in the Parish of Collooney, Co. Sligo in the early part of the 7th century. He was educated under St Nah I of Archonry, before moving to Clonmacnoise. He founded several monastic houses around Ireland. The most notable was the foundation here at Fore. He also established monastic sites at Termonfechin in Louth, Cong in County Mayo, Ardoilén or High Island, Inismaan, and Omey Island in County Galway. He is venerated in Scotland where he is known by the Latin form of his name Vigeanus or St Vigeans. St Féichín died of yellow fever in c.665 AD.

Anchorites cell

Pictured left is the anchorite's chapel which is an extension to a stone cell which was occupied by hermits up until the 17th century. There is a small plaque inside the chapel that commemorates the last hermit in Ireland, Patrick Beglan, who occupied the Anchorite's cell in 1616. An anchorite is someone who lives a hermits life for religious reasons.

 

Crosses

Approximately 18 crosses were situated along the pilgrim trail within a 10 kilometre radius of Fore. Collectively known as the Fore Crosses, some are plain and others are carved. They are spread out along pilgrimage routes in fields and along roadways. Pictured left is a small cross with crucifixion which is situated in the centre of Fore. A number of the crosses have been badly neglected and others are missing. During the 18th and 19th centuries funeral processions would follow the line of these crosses halting at each one in turn for special prayers.

Doaghfeighin

On the right is an ash tree decorated with ribbons, coins and other traditional holy well offerings. It stands next to Doaghfeighin well. A box-like formation of 4 large stones surround the well. The name means St Feichin's vat or keene; it was once filled with water and it's said St Feichin knelt in it and prayed. This may have been an even earlier megalithic tomb. - there are a number of bronze age cist graves in this vicinity. This is one of two holy wells at the site. The other well is known as Tobernacogany.

Columbarium

(Dovecote)

Towards the north east of the abbey, up some modern steps is a Columbarium or Dovecote, a circular building originally standing about six to eight feet high with a circular wooden roof that was used to house doves/pigeons. The pigeons provided food for the community.ediev

Situated: From Castlepollard, County Westmeath take the R195 east, then take the third right. The Priory is a kilometre down this road on your left, St Feichins is on your right.

Discovery Map 41: N 5093 7053. Last visit October 2006.

Longitude: 7° 13' 44" W Car Park

Latitude: 53° 40' 55" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey.the surrounding fields.

Previous-----Home-----Next Page