Sligo Abbey

Be inspired by this enigmatic friary locally known as "The Abbey" (Mainistir Shligigh), this Dominican Friary was founded in the mid-13th century and served as both a religious center and community gathering space. The Convent of the Holy Cross was originally built in 1253 by the order of Maurice Fitzgerald, Baron of Offaly, who is also credited with being the real founder of Sligo.

Troubled history

The Abbey suffered great damages and many invasions. It was first destroyed in 1414 by a fire, ravaged during the Tyrone War in 1595 and once more in 1641 during the Ulster Uprising. The friars moved out in the 18th century, but the abbey was restored in the 1850s. In the 19th century, however, in a fit of rage, Sir Frederick Hamilton burned it to the ground.

Treasures from the past

Despite the Abbey's violent history, it still houses a wealth of carvings, Gothic and Renaissance tomb sculptures, well-preserved cloisters, and the only 15th century high altar to survive in any Irish monastic church. The church has a nave with side aisle and south transept. The lancet windows in the choir probably date from the earliest phase, but the east window, the altar, the rood screen, and the tower date from the 15th century. The transept was added in the 16th century. The sacristy and chapter-house to the north of the choir both date back to the 13th century, but the cloister and the other surrounding buildings belong to the 15th century.

Look for James

On the ground close to the cloisters, you will find a grave headstone marked with a single name: James. No one seems to know who James was, but they do know that the slab was erected by his mother. Later, though, all identifying marks except his name were chiseled away. Locals believe that James must have fallen out of favor with or seriously angered some of the officials who controlled the Abbey.

The origins of Dracula

In the Visitor Centre, discover a copy of Charlotte Thornley's Diary. Though her name might not register as familiar, her son's sure will. Charlotte Thornley was the mother of Bram Stoker, author of "Dracula." The two of them lived in Sligo during the cholera epidemic of 1832. In the diary, Charlotte describes the desperate conditions as "the living struggled to bury the dead." It is said that bodies were piled atop the towering 15th century high altar, the only sacred place in the area. The Abbey also appears in two short stories by William Butler Yeats: The Crucifixion of the Outcast, set in the Middle Ages, and The Curse of the Fires and of the Shadows describing its destruction in 1641.