Capturing the world with Photography, Painting and Drawing

Kilcooley Abbey

Kilcooley Abbey 4
All images using a Sigma SD15, 15-30mm lens, iso 50
A sense of place, Kilcooley Abbey, county Tipperary
Irish Landscape Photography : Nigel Borrington

Kilcooley Abbey, County Tipperary

Kilcooley Abbey is a Cistercian Abbey close to the Village of Gortnahoe,in Co Tipperary, located within the grounds of the Kilcooley Estate. This abbey dates from 1182 when Donal Mor O’ Brien granted lands to the Cistercians, to build an abbey here. The abbey which is a sister house to both Jerpoint Abbey and Holy Cross Abbey, is considered to be a hidden gem,tucked away in this remote corner of Co. Tipperary. The Abbey is found inside a walled estate.

The main part of the abbey consists of the Entrance Chamber, the Church, the Tower and the Sacristy. The Entrance Chamber has a well carved baptismal font on its south wall. The nave of the church is still roofed but the rest of it is out in the open. The church has two large carved windows on its east and west side. The chancel contains two stone tombs and a stone altar. One of these tombs is that of the knight Piers Fitz Oge Butler. His tomb records his death as taking place in 1526 and has some beautiful carvings of 10 apostles on the side of it carved by Rory O Tunney who is also noted for his work in Jerpoint Abbey. On top of Butler tomb there is the effigy of a knight with a dog curled up at his feet. The knight though hasn’t fared well through the years and most of his face has been chipped off. The Sacristy is entered through a magnificent carved archway which has many carvings such as a scene depicting the crucifixion and more bizarrely a mermaid holding a mirror which was meant to depict vanity. Roger Stalley suspects this screen wall may represent the entrance to a private Butler chapel, as two Butler shields are depicted. The east end of the nave is notable, because seats for the officiating clergy have been carved into the crossing piers. The work here is very fine, but does not have the sculptural finesse of nearby Holycross Abbey.

Kilcooley Abbey 6

Outside the abbey there is also a beehive shaped ruin. It isn’t known whether this was used as a Columbarium to store ashes or a dove-cote for pigeons. But most probably it was a dove-cote since there is a 3-foot (0.91 m) wide hole in the ceiling from which they would have entered and left. Also outside the abbey is the Infirmary which is still in a fairly good condition although access to the roof of it is blocked.

The Cloisters of the abbey are long gone with only one column still remaining. The path of the cloisters though still remains with a pebbled walkway around the grass square. The centre even has a large tree growing in it. Beside the Cloisters the Parlour and Chapter House are still there. Also the Calefactory (Warming room) still remains but without a roof. And on the south side of the Cloisters the Monks Dining Hall still stands. The dining hall although it has no roof still has a spiral staircase but this sadly has been barred up because of an ever increasing Irish-to-American(sue-happy)society. You’ll also find all the second floor rooms such as the Monks Dorms and the Main Tower locked up by a certain Office of Public Works and for some reason the Parlour, Chapter House and Calefactory are also barred. But don’t let this deter you from visiting one of the most comprehensive abbeys in Ireland.

Kilcooly Abbey was also used in the making of the film by John Boorman “Excalibur” based on the tale of King Arthur and the knights of the round table. There is an interesting pyramid structure on the grounds of the abbey.

Gallery images

Kilcooley Abbey 2

Kilcooley Abbey 1

Kilcooley Abbey 6

Kilcooley Abbey 3

Kilcooley Abbey 5

Kilcooley Abbey 7

Kilcooley Abbey 8

23 responses

  1. artscottnet

    Fascinating history – if walls could talk. All fantastic captures, Nigel. I particularly like the window shot (first in the gallery).

    July 5, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    • Hello Scott,

      Yes can you images the stories they could tell, I have visited many times it’s about 20km from home.

      I would love to get some moon light shots, but hum – can you imagine being there overnight. I think your imagination could be working overtime that night !

      July 5, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    • artscottnet

      That would be fantastic to get some night shots there; You could take sweet Molly with you to growl at any remaining darkness. I wonder if the estate allows anyone behind the walls at night…

      July 6, 2013 at 3:38 am

  2. Oh I just love these old abbeys of Europe. This one is amazing! Such fascinating history and it’s great that you shared it, Nigel. The pyramid is odd….the entire place makes me want to visit again and see more! Thank you!

    July 5, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    • Hello Sharon.

      Yes I think this is a very interesting place I will do more post on this area.

      The Pyramid is clearly a tomb but considering its a big church and abbey area and that most other tombs a grave around have at cross above them its very fascinating.

      kinnitty here, has another grave in this form.

      The Tomb at Kilcooley abbey was for a family, the bakers and contained five people’s remains.

      I think much more digging, hum? around is needed, but I think it’s fascinating πŸ™‚

      July 5, 2013 at 5:58 pm

  3. P.S. – Moonlight shots here would be *amazing* ;). Also, I wonder which parts of Excalibur this was used in…..Morgana’s lair, perhaps? Great movie.

    July 5, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    • I will have a go when the evenings draw in, I think I would feel much happier at 6pm than Midnight !

      Yes, I may do some you tubing to see if I can find anything πŸ™‚

      July 5, 2013 at 6:01 pm

  4. Really lovely!

    July 5, 2013 at 3:54 pm


    July 5, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    • Hello Jerry.

      Thank you, very pleased you enjoyed them, πŸ™‚

      July 5, 2013 at 6:58 pm

      • I really did, especially the first photo.

        July 5, 2013 at 7:11 pm

  6. I’m feeling the pull of Ireland.

    July 5, 2013 at 5:27 pm

  7. noelgreene

    Very nice Post and very informative

    July 5, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    • Hello Noel

      Thank you and really pleased you enjoyed the post and found it helpful !!!!

      July 5, 2013 at 11:15 pm

  8. Great package of story and images, Nigel.
    As always some beautifully rendered monos. I must ry to visit here next time we visit Dublin.

    July 5, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    • Hello Smithie

      Thank you!

      Its a bit of a drive, but well work it. the local area has lot’s of other things to do and see πŸ™‚

      July 5, 2013 at 11:16 pm

  9. Vicki (from Victoria A Photography)

    Now that…… one ruin I’d really love to explore. Looks very interesting.

    July 6, 2013 at 2:34 am

    • Hello Victoria,

      Yes absolutely, it’s a fascinating place, I will post much more as I just love being there.

      Thanks Vicki πŸ™‚

      July 6, 2013 at 11:00 am

  10. My favorites are the first and last shot in the gallery – the lancet window and the brooding walkway. I, too, think you should shoot at night. In the meantime, I’ve added this to my “countries to visit a second time.”

    July 6, 2013 at 11:49 am

    • Hello Theresa πŸ™‚

      Thank you for commenting and letting me know πŸ™‚ , Brilliant you would enjoy even more I hope πŸ™‚

      July 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm

  11. Pingback: canons ashby and priory, northamptonshire england | Sunearthsky

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.