Right in Dublin's city centre just off Capel Street you can find the well hidden St. Mary's Abbey. Discovered by an amateur archaeologist in 1976 underneath a bakery, the Abbey was hidden and almost forgotten for over 400 years.
Built in 1139 by Benedictines, this Abbey was one of the largest and wealthiest Cistercian Abbeys in Ireland. In 1303 the building was almost completely destroyed by fire but rebuilt shortly afterwards to its former glory.
St. Mary's Abbey was historically a place where state affairs were discussed. In 1534 "Silken" Thomas Fitzgerald started his rebellion against King Henry VII here at a meeting in the Abbey. The Abbey was then dissolved by Henry VII in 1539 and the building was later used as a military arsenal before it was almost completely demolished in the course of time. It is believed that stones from the Abbey were plundered and used at other building sites in Ireland and Britain.
Due to the demolition over the last centuries, only the chapter house with its simple chamber and gothic windows remain.
With the help of a trust set up by Office of Public Works, Trinity College and Dublin's Archaeological Society, the Abbey is maintained along with an interesting exhibition about the history of the Church.
There are no guided tours of the Abbey, however, individual tours can be arranged by phone prior your visit. A short leaflet with all relevant information in English and Irish is also available at the entrance.
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