OBJECTID: 88638 Monument Identifier: LI02861 Classification: RHCI Irish Grid Easting: 0 Irish Grid Northing: 0 RMP_PROP: 1 County ID: 17 WebNotes: National monument No. 171. Cistercian Abbey described by Stalley (1987), as following: 'The rather dour ruins of Monasteranenagh lie in flat countryside beside the River Camoge, two and a half miles east of Croom and ten and a half miles south of Limerick. The monastery was founded in 1148 by Turlough O'Brien, king of Thomond, as a daughter house of Mellifont. It subsequently established three daughter houses of its own in Munster (Abbeydorney 1154, Midleton 1180 and Holycross 1180). With its O'Brien patrons, the monastery was the focus of resistance to Anglo-Norman influence and it played a major role in the conspiracy of Mellifont, having 'drunk from the chalice of Babylon' in the words of Stephen of Lexington. In 1228 the community attempted to thwart Stephen's visitation by turning the abbey buildings into a minor fortress. Later in the century the monastery fell heavily into debt, owing £209.6.8 to the Ricardi of Lucca in 1302. It was suppressed in 1539—40, but some form of religious life may have survived until 1580, when the abbey was the scene of a battle during the Desmond rebellion. The tale of forty monks being massacred after the battle by the victorious soldiers of Sir Nicholas Malby is not supported by reliable evidence.
The ruins consist principally of the church (C. 1170—1220) and early Gothic chapter house. The church was planned on a grand scale with three chapels opening off each transept, but these have been almost completely destroyed. Fragments of one chapel in the north transept show it to have had groin or rib vaults, as well as fancy arch mouldings. The square presbytery, lit by three inserted Gothic lancets, was covered by a pointed barrel vault which fell in 1874. The aisled nave has four plain arches on each side, then a long section of blank wall. The general austerity of the church is alleviated by a number of crisp foliage capitals. The building was subject to at least one major change of design, involving the enlargement of the western crossing piers, and its precise chronology is difficult to determine. At a late date it was drastically reduced in size, the transept arches blocked and a new west wall inserted after the second bay of the nave. In the later middle ages, possibly after the dissolution, a barrel vault was erected over the south transept, as part of a fortified tower. Either this or a crossing tower fell in 1807, soon after which the outbuildings were demolished by a Mr White of Manister, who used the materials for stables and yards. The layout of the cloister and conventual buildings are clearly visible in aerial photographs. West of the church lie the remains of a rectangular structure, the nature of which is unknown'. (OSL 1840, 114-21; Westropp 1889, 232-8; Power 1930 43-6; Leask 1960, 35-8; Gwynn and Hadcock 1970, 141).
The abbey was described by Harbison (1970, 156) as following; 'Founded by Turlough O'Brien, King of Limerick, between 1148 and 1151 for the Cistercians who colonized it from Mellifont. The buildings were possibly completed during the reign of Domhnall Mor O'Brien (1170-94). The remains of the long high church are reasonably well preserved, though the east and west windows have suffered much damage. One of the delights of the church are the well-preserved foliate capitals, particularly at the crossing, which, because they were almost blocked up for a long time, have retained much of the freshness which they had when first cut in the warm red sandstone. The screen which divided the church into two parts was possibly built in the 15th century. The Abbot of the monastery was a Lord of Parliament. In the first half of the 13th century the abbots were involved in a number of lawsuits, one involving an abbot who had sold land belonging to the monastery, another about the succession of abbots. In 1365 a great battle took place under the walls of the Abbey when Brian O'Brien and the Macnamaras combined to defeat the King of Thomond. The vanquished took refuge in the monastery, but the victors invaded it and demanded a large ransom. The monastery was dissolved in 1541, and in 1579, after it had been granted to George More, it witnessed another great battle. This time Sir Nicholas Malby, for the English, routed Sir John of Desmond and afterwards turned his cannon on the Abbey where some of the Irish had gone for shelter. As a result the cloister and the refectory were practically destroyed, and the whole of the surviving monastic community was put to the sword. It changed hands a number of times before Elizabeth Norreys was granted it in 1603. The belfry fell in 1807, and in 1874 the chancel vault collapsed, bringing with it much of the fine east window'. Compiled by: Caimin O'Brien
Date of upload: 24 April 2018 Zone Code: R120909 ITM Easting: 555003 ITM Northing: 640818 SHAPE: Point Att.: 5 Class: Religious house - Cistercian monks SMR No.: LI031-050004- Townland: MONASTER SOUTH Point: X: 555003.0 Y: 640818.0 Spatial Reference: 2157