St Mary's Abbey

Sitric or Sigtrygg, the viking King of Dublin, no doubt recognized the superb views of Howth Bay from this location when he founded the earliest church here in 1042. The church was replaced around 1235 by an abbey and amalgamated with the monastery on Ireland's Eye, and then rebuilt again in the late 14th century, the views from this location have remained spectacular. Although the views were still superb the abbey was in the shade due to the low winter sun. The name Howth is derived from the Old Norse Hofuth meaning promontory.

The abbey was served by a college or community of three or more priests, one of whom was responsible for liturgy and business matters. The church had two aisles, each of which once had a gabled roof but when the building was once more modified in the 15th and 16th c the gables were combined into a single, taller gable, a bellcote was built and a new porch and south door were added. The east window was most likely inserted in the 16th c. The St Lawrences of nearby Howth Castle also modified the east end to act as a private chapel wherein can be found a finely carved tomb with a double effigy of the 13th Baron of Howth, Christopher St Lawrence and his wife, Anna Plunkett of Ratoath. We were unable to gain access on this visit as the gate was locked. A key is available from a nearby residence. We will call back in the summer months.

South Door


Situated: From Dublin take the R 105 to Howth. At The end of the Harbour the Road turns sharp right on to Abbey Street. Take the next right turn. The Abbey is at the top of this road.

Discovery Map 50: O 2865 3922. Last visit Dec 2011.

Longitude: 6° 3' 58" W

Latitude: 53° 23' 15" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey and Deb Snelson.


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