St Mary’s Abbey


in North of the Liffey

Where now the glories of Babylon? All that remains of what was once Ireland’s wealthiest and most powerful monastery is the chapter house, so forgotten that most Dubliners are unaware of its existence. It has been closed since late 2015 pending the upgrade of an exhibition put together by Heritage Ireland, the Dublin Archaeological Society and the History of Art Department at Trinity College, and it won't reopen until at least 2020.

Founded in 1139, this Cistercian abbey ran the show when it came to Irish church politics for much of the Middle Ages, although its reputation with the authorities was somewhat sullied when it became a favourite meeting place for rebels against the crown. On 11 June 1534 ‘Silken’ Thomas Fitzgerald, the most important of Leinster’s Anglo-Norman lords, entered the chapter house flanked by 140 horsemen with silk fringes on their helmets (hence his name) and flung his Sword of State on the ground in front of the awaiting King’s Council – a ceremonial two-fingered salute to King Henry VIII and his authority. Fitzgerald's abbey antics feature in the 'Wandering Rocks' chapter of Joyce's Ulysses.