Bective Abbey is another fantastic heritage site located in the valley of the River Boyne. It was founded in 1147 by the King of Meath, Murchad Ua Máel Sechnaill and given to the Cistercian Order. Bective was the 'daughter house' of Mellifont, the first Cistercian foundation in Ireland. Unlike many other Cistercian foundations which typically sought out wilderness and isolation, Bective was positioned on superb agricultural land, and quickly rose to prominence as an important ecclesiastical centre. Indeed Bective was high status enough, that the powerful Norman Lord of Meath, Hugh de Lacy had his remains interred at Bective for a while before he was eventually finally reburied with his wife at (the now demolished) St. Thomas's Abbey in Dublin.
By the sixteenth century, the Cistercians of Bective Abey had become wealthy from rents, tithes and donations. At the time that Bective was dissolved during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the middle of the sixteenth century, it was recorded that the estate of Bective contained 1580 acres valued at £83 18s 8p. The Abbey and its possessions were purchased in 1552 by Andrew Wyse, but he seems to have come into financial difficulties soon after and Bective changed hands a number of times, before becoming transformed into a manor in the early seventeenth century. It came into the hands of the Bolton family, and was eventually donated to the State in 1894.
The extensive ruins that you can explore today at Bective tell the story of both the Cistercian monastic site and the private home. The cloisters are superbly well preserved, and you may recognise them featuring in the Mel Gibson film Braveheart.
The site is a great place to visit and is part of a densely packed medieval landscape – close to Trim Castle, The Priory Hospital of St. John the Baptist and The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul.
It is free to enter all year round and is very easy to find, as it is well signposted from the R161 between Trim and Navan in County Meath. The Office of Public Works have installed a small carpark and path at the site so it is very accessible. The have been a series of excavations conducted at Bective Abbey by Geraldine and Matthew Stout, and you can read all about their fantastic discoveries on their blog http://bective.wordpress.com/ which also gives you a nice insight into the on-site life of an archaeologist in Ireland.
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All photographs © Neil Jackman / abartaaudioguides.com