Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Priory of St. John the Baptist, Newtown, Trim, County Meath.

Situated very close to the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul in Newtown, Trim, Co. Meath are the remarkable ruins of The Priory and Hospital of St. John the Baptist. This site sits directly alongside the beautiful River Boyne and it is a superb site to explore. 

The Priory was founded in the early thirteenth century by Simon de Rochfort for the Order of the Crutched Friars (Fratres Cruciferi). As well as being a monastery and guesthouse for pilgrims, the site also served as a hospital. The Order of the Crutched friars were just one of a number of religious orders that were brought to Ireland by the Normans following their invasion. They also brought the Knights Templar, the Hospitalliers and Trinitarians, as well as strongly supporting the expansion of religious orders like the Augustinians, Benedictines and Cistercians who already had a foothold in Ireland prior to the Norman invasion.

The site was excavated by David Sweetman in 1984, he discovered the remains of a fifteenth century rood-screen that separated the nave from the choir, and a doorway in the gable end of the nave. He also found the remains of a tower leading to a room over the sacristy and part of the original domestic range to the north-east of the choir. Today you can still find the nave and chancel and a striking three-light window in the eastern wall. The large rectangular three-storey tower is 15th century, and was likely to have been domestic quarters.

You can still make out sections of the later 16th century enclosing walls that surround the site, and one small corner turret is still standing today in the western side of the field.

The priory was dissolved during the Reformation in 1541, and was converted to being a private residence.

This site is a wonderful place to explore, especially on a bright sunny day as it stands right on the banks of the River Boyne. The site is free to enter with a number of interpretation panels to help to explain the history of this remarkable site. The site is just a five minute walk from another spectacular site - St. Peter and Paul's Cathedral, Newtown, Trim (we have a blog post here about that site) and forms part of a wonderful River Walk that starts below Trim Castle in Co. Meath, a wonderful blend of natural beauty and history.

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View from the bridge adjacent to the Priory looking back towards Newtown Cathedral