04 September 2021
Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
98, Dunbrody Abbey, Co Wexford
Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting in these ways:
1, photographs of a church or place of worship;
2, the day’s Gospel reading;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.
My theme this week is Benedictine (including Cistercian) foundations. My photographs this morning (4 September 2021) are from Dunbrody Abbey in Co Wexford.
Dunbrody Abbey, near Arthurstown, on the Hook Peninsula, Co Wexford, dates from 1170 and a grant of land by Herve de Montmorency, Strongbow’s uncle. It was founded in 1182 and completed ca 1220, although additions continued for some time.
Herve de Montmorency offered a grant of the lands to the Cistercian monks of Buildwas in Shropshire. But the Abbot of Buildwas turned down the offer, and the property was then offered to Saint Mary’s Abbey, Dublin. The Cistercians of Saint Mary’s sent a community to the site in 1182.
John O’Heyne was sent as the first abbot with 12 monks from Saint Mary’s, and the abbey was confirmed by Pope Lucius III (1181-1185). However, two or three decades passed before the monks began building the church in stone.
The abbey was dedicated to Sain Mary the ever-Blessed Virgin, and Saint Benedict, but was also known as the Abbey of Saint Mary de Port, for its status as a place of sanctuary and refuge. Herve de Montmorency died at Dunbrody Abbey in 1205 at the age of 75, and was buried there.
The spacious, cruciform, early Gothic church was built ca 1210-1240, and the tower was added in the 15th century. The church was 59 metres in length and one of the longest in Ireland.
The abbey flourished for several centuries, but not without problems. In 1355, the Abbot of Dunbrody, William de Ross, and Adam and Hugh Barry, monks, were indicted for imprisoning Thomas Herlyn, a monk of Tintern, and stealing two of his horses worth 40 shillings. They also expelled Thomas de Wiggemore, Abbot of Tintern, and robbed him of three horses to the value of eight marks. However, they were acquitted.
David Esmond, a commissioner of Richard II, sent to investigate extortion in Wexford, was captured by the monks of Dunbrody in 1390 and imprisoned for 16 days. He was released after swearing he would not prosecute any of the monks for these proceedings.
Thomas Comerford of Waterford was involved with John Ball, Thomas Sutton, Nich[olas] Furlong, William Roberston Sutton, and William Davidson Sutton of Co Wexford, ‘with divers others unknown’ in capturing Thomas Hore, Abbot of Dunbrody, Co Wexford, in 1449, on the night before he was due to travel to Parliament. They took the abbot as a prisoner to Waterford, and captured his goods and chattels valued at £40.
The cruciform church has a nave, side aisles, north and south transepts, and choir. Each transept has three chapels, and apartments were formed in the roofs over the chapels in the transepts.
The nave was separated from the aisles by an arcade of five bays. In the north aisle are four large buttresses. The nave was lit by a row of clerestory windows and also three lights that formed the large west window.
The abbey’s decline started during the Tudor Reformation. Alexander Devereux, the last Abbot of Dunbrody, became Bishop of Ferns in 1539 and in 1542 he granted to the king, his heirs and successors, the abbey and all its possessions. The abbey was then plundered, and the lead from the roof was melted down, using the wood from the roof.
The lands and abbey then came into the possession of Sir Osborne Etchingham, who converted the abbey into a Tudor mansion in 1546-1547. A century later, Jane Etchingham, the heiress, married Arthur Chichester, 2nd Earl of Donegall, and their descendants inherited the lands.
In the 1640s, Patrick Everard, a Waterford Cistercian, was appointed titular Abbot of Dunbrody in a bull issued by Pope Urban VIII. That appointment was entrusted to him by Patrick Comerford, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore.
However, it is unlikely Everard ever managed to take physical possession of Dunbrody – it remained with the Etchingham family, while Everard served out his days as Parish Priest of Ballyhack, Co Wexford, where he was visited by Cardinal Rinucinni, and died of the plague in neighbouring Duncannon in 1650.
Dunbrody House was built by Lord Spencer Stanley Chichester (1775-1819), a younger son of the 1st Marquis and 5th Earl of Donegall, who inherited Dunbrody, as we all as extensive family estates in Staffordshire that included Fisheriwck and Comberford Hall, along with 20,000 acres in Co Donegal.
His gambling debts soon caught up on him, and in 1801, he sold part of his lands in Lichfield, Alrewas, Whittington, Wichnor, Comberford, Coton, Tamworth and Hopwas, to the Lane family of King’s Bromley. By 1805, he was seeking legal opinion on his title to the Manor of Comberford and Wigginton. Eventually, he was forced to sell Fisherwick, where the great house was demolished, and Comberford Hall.
It is surprising how the family managed to hold on to Dunbrody in Co Wexford. Lord Spencer Stanley Chichester built Dunbrody House as a country house, and at times it has been known as Dunbrody Park or Harriet’s Lodge, named after his wife, Lady Anne Harriet Stewart. He had built Dunbrody House before he died in Paris 200 years ago on 22 February 1819.
The south arcade of Dunbrody Abbey and the wall of the south aisle fell in a storm on Christmas Eve 1852. The Chichester family transferred the abbey to the Office of Public Works in 1911, and it continues to be maintained by the OPW.
Dunbrody House was renovated in 1999-2001 and is now a luxury boutique country house hotel, owned and operated by Kevin and Catherine Dundon. What remains of the Dunbrody Estate is, however, still owned by the present Lord Donegall, who lives at Dunbrody Park within the estate grounds. The visitor centre at Dunbrody Abbey has one of only two full-size hedge mazes in Ireland.
Dunbrody Abbey gives its name to the Dunbrody famine ship on the Quay in New Ross, one of the major tourist attractions in Co Wexford, and this in turn gives its name to the eye-catching Dunbrody Inn on the Quay.
Luke 6: 1-5 (NRSVA):
1 One sabbath while Jesus was going through the cornfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. 2 But some of the Pharisees said, ‘Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?’ 3 Jesus answered, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?’ 5 Then he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.’
The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (4 September 2021) invites us to pray:
We pray for dialogue and compassion in Brazil as political divisions continue to cause conflict and discrimination.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org