Mellifont Abbey

(Melli-fons, Honey Fountain) 

Ireland's first Cistercian Abbey, Mellifont Abbey was founded by St Malachy, Bishop of Armagh, in 1142. He brought the order to Ireland having  visited the Cistercian monastery run by St Bernard at Clairvaux. The order prospered,  becoming the head house of 20 monasteries and governing thousands of acres in Meath and Louth until its dissolution in 1539.


The monks who built Mellifont were remarkably advanced in engineering practices. Thirteenth Century lead piping was unearthed leading from a nearby spring to a lavabo where monks would wash their hands before eating. Much of the lavabo still stands. Sluice gates were built into the foundations of the chapel where fish were trapped when the river Mattock overflowed. An L-shaped safe was also built into the foundation where valuables were found upon excavation in 1953.

Post-1539 the Abbey was central to two of the most significant historical events leading to the North/South divide. In March 1603, it was in Mellifont's Chapter House that Earl of Tyrone, Hugh O'Neill finally surrendered to Lord Deputy Mountjoy, acting on behalf of Elizabeth I. O'Neill was both starved and duped into submission by Mountjoy (Elizabeth had died two days earlier). O'Neill's vast lands were redistributed in the Plantation of Ulster.

In 1690, Mellifont served as the headquarters of King William of Orange during the Battle of the Boyne. This was a decisive encounter in the Williamites' victory over James I in Ireland, which ensured British and Protestant supremacy in Ireland for over 100 years.

Monastic life was re-established in the area with the return of monks to New Mellifont in 1938.