The Priory of Athassel, founded at the end of the 12th century, is a former Cistercian monastery. In 1319 and 1329, Irish troops destroyed the monastery because the Anglo-Norman family of Burgo supported the monks. Later rebuilt, the monastery was destroyed again in 1447, causing it to decline because apparently the roof of the church was not rebuilt.
Ireland was an important monastic centre during the early Middle Ages, famous for the education it provided. During the Viking raids and the occupation of England, which became Anglican in the 16th century, these monasteries closed en masse and many of them are in ruins today.
Muckross Abbey, founded in 1448 as a monastery for the Franciscan friars, is today in a state of ruin. Looted several times in its history, the monastery was finally burnt down by Oliver Cromwell's troops in 1652. Today, the abbey, although it has no roof on most of it, is relatively well preserved. One of its curiosities is its vaulted cloister, in the Norman Romano-Gothic style, organised around an inner courtyard which houses a large yew tree several hundred years old, as in the abbey of Jumièges.
Fore Abbey is an old abbey dating from the 630s. It was inhabited by Benedictine monks and Saint Feichin d'Evreux in Normandy. Between 771 and 1169, the abbey was burnt down on numerous occasions, notably because of Viking incursions. The structure of the heart of the abbey bears a striking resemblance to that of Mont Saint-Michel. In the surrounding area, there are still eighteen crosses which used to welcome pilgrims.
Bective Abbey is a former Cistercian abbey founded in 1147, before the Anglo-Norman invasion, as one of the first Cistercian monasteries in Ireland by the King of Meath Murchad Ua Maeil Sheachlainn as a daughter monastery of Mellifont Abbey and therefore belonged to the filiation of the primary abbey of Clairvaux. In 1537, the monastery was dissolved. No visible remains of the first building from the 12th century have survived. The nave still has walled arcades from the end of the 13th century.
Mellifont Abbey was founded in 1142 on the initiative of Archbishop Malachie d'Armagh and Bernard of Clairvaux as a filiation of the Clairvaux monastery. The architect, Robert, came from France. The abbey was built entirely in the Gothic style of northern France and was totally atypical for Ireland at that time. Mellifont Abbey became the model for other Cistercian monasteries in Ireland and remained the largest abbey in Ireland even after its sacking in 1494 until its suppression in 1539.
Jerpoint Abbey is a former Benedictine abbey, founded in the 1160s. In 1540 Jerpoint, like all British abbeys, was closed when the monasteries were dissolved. Jerpoint was then one of the wealthiest Cistercian abbeys in Ireland, but comparable in size to the smaller Cistercian establishments in England. Thanks to the passive attitude of the owners after the dissolution, the monastery was in a relatively good state of preservation until the 19th century. Jerpoint Abbey is notable for its 15th century stone carvings of animals, plants and figures. The best-preserved part of the building is the east wing.
Corcomroe Abbey is an old Cistercian abbey from the 13th century. The English Reformation led to the dissolution of Catholic monasteries in England and Ireland. In 1554, the abbey was given to the Earls of Thomond. The monks continued to cultivate the fields and maintain the abbey when circumstances permitted, but the political climate led to a steady decline. The last abbot, the Reverend John O'Dea, was appointed in 1628.