Situated on the west shore of Bannow Bay in Co. Wexford, Tintern Abbey
was one of the most powerful
Cistercian foundations in the South East
until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536.
The first Cistercian
foundation in Ireland, at Mellifont, Co. Louth in 1142
was part of
sweeping reforms which took place in the Irish Church in the
The early Cistercians, who had their origins in the monastery of Citeaux
in France, were dedicated to a
simple life of prayer and manual labour.
By 1169, when the Anglo-Normans arrived in Ireland, there were
15 Cistercian houses in Ireland.
In 1200, William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, set sail for Ireland on
visit as Lord of Leinster. Threatened with
shipwreck, he vowed to found an abbey wherever he
could safely land.
On reaching safety in Bannow Bay, he redeemed his vow bequeathing
about 9000 acres of land for a Cistercian
Tintern Abbey, sited on a gentle south-facing slope overlooking
Tintern stream, is sometimes called Tintern de Voto
'Tintern of the
vow.' Once established, the abbey was colonised by monks from the
Cistercian abbey at Tintern in Monmouthshire, Wales, of
Marshal was also patron.
Following its foundation, Tintern acquired large tracts of land in
Co. Wexford and at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, appears to
the third richest Cistercian abbey in Ireland (after St.
Mary's in Dublin and Mellifont).
Shortly after, Tintern Abbey and its lands were granted to Anthony
Colclough from Staffordshire, an officer in Henry
The Colclough family extensively modified the abbey church,
converting the crossing tower and later, the nave, chancel
Chapel to domestic quarters. In the 18th century Sir Vesey Colclough
built many of the fine battlemented
walls seen around the abbey
In the 1790s, John Colclough converted the nave into a residence of
neo-Gothic style. He also established a flour mill,
the ruins of
which stand on the south bank of the stream close to the upper
At this period also, a thriving weaving industry had developed in
Tintern village, located across the stream south-west
of the abbey.
Following John's death, his brother Caesar inherited the estate and
shortly after 1814 built the village of Saltmills to
replace the old
village of Tintern which was then demolished.
The final member of the Colclough family to reside at Tintern was Lucey
Marie Biddulph Colclough who left in 1959,
a few years before the abbey
was taken into Government care.
Conservation and consolidation works started at Tintern in the early 1980s
and archeological excavations between
1982 and 1994 exposed many of the
features of the original Cistercian abbey.
Constructed to the standard Cistercian plan, the abbey church was located to the north of an enclosed
garth which was surrounded on all sides by covered walks and a
sequence of domestic buildings.