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Holycross (Abbey)

also known as: Sancta Crux, Mainistir na Croiche

Order: Cistercian

Holycross Abbey, Co. Tipperary, is one of the most interesting examples of late Irish Gothic. The abbey was restored from a ruined condition in the latter half of the twentieth century, and is now in use as a Roman Catholic church. The name of the church derives from the relic of the True Cross, said to have been presented to Muirchertach O’Brien, c. 1110 by Pope Pascal II, and was granted to the abbey by Donal O’Brien, along with other endowments.show more...

Name of Foundation: Holycross
Dedicated to: St Mary, St Benedict and Holy Cross
Affiliated to: Daughter house of Monasternenagh, Co. Limerick (f. 1148)

Barony: Middlethird (An Trian Meánach), Éile Uí Fhógarta/ Eliogarty
Civil Parish: Holy Cross (Mainistir na Croiche)
Townland: Holy Cross ((Mainistir na Croiche))
Access: The site is currently in use as a Roman Catholic church. Information on the times of services is available at www.holycrossabbey.ie. This site is a place of worship. It is generally open to the public, to facilitate access to the historic site. When visiting a monastic building still in use as a place of worship, it is important to: Not interrupt services Pay for leaflets provided: there is often a small charge Be mindful of people using the church for individual worship Be sensitive to the use of certain areas of the church – for example, the altar and chancel are often restricted.

Main events in the history of this site

1180Foundation - Arrival of the Cistercians at Holycross – the site had previously been in use as a Benedictine establishment, according to some sources. A parchment, formerly held at Clairvaux, gives the date of 1213, which suggests that it may have been recolonized at some point. (Med. religious houses, Ire., 1988, p. 134). 
1182 - 1186 - Grant by Domhnall O'Brien, King of Limerick, to the Abbey of Holy Cross, of Cealluactair Iamudin, and other lands, between 1182 and 1186 (NLI MSS D. 6) 
1195 - 1199 - Grant by John, Lord of Ireland, to the Abbey of Holycross, of the lands of Cealluachturlaumun, etc., which Domnall O'Brien, King of Limerick, gave them. (NLI MSS D.16) 
1217 - Grant by R. (Robert Travers), Bishop of Killaloe, to the church of Holycross of the lands of Lestiakardin, Kilcomyn and Balmacroy, 1217. (NLI MSS D.61) 
1227 - The abbey appeared to have experienced some hardship at this point due to bad management, as provision was made for its union with Abington, if the general chapter had come to the conclusion that it could not subsist on its own revenues (Med. religious houses, Ire., p. 134).  
1228 - Visit of Stephen of Lexington to Holycross, where he found that it had 30 – 40 ploughlands, and could well maintain a separate existence. He arranged for a monk from Dunbrody to go to Holycross to help with the administration there (Med. religious houses, Ire., 1988, p. 134).  
1228 - Following the riots at Monasternenagh, Holycross was affiliated to Margam in Wales. At this time, two of the Holycross monks were granted permission to become hermits. (Med. religious houses,Ire., p. 134). 
1233 - Henry III confirmed John’s previous charter, and took the abbey under his protection in 1233 and 1234. (Med. religious houses, Ire., p. 134). 
1234 - The abbey was affiliated to Furness. (Med. religious houses, Ire., 1988, p. 134). 
c.1263 - 1285 - Agreement between T., abbot of Holycross and Theobald Walter (le Botiller) by which he lets to Theobald land in Culletti lying between the river of Culletti and the lordship of Ardmayle. (Between 1263 and 1285), (NLI MSS D. 200) 
1267 - – The former bishop of Killaloe, Isaac O Cormacain became a monk at Holycross, having resigned his bishopric. (Med. religious houses, Ire., p. 134). 
1270 - 1283 - Grant by Geoffrey le Bryt (Bret) to Holycross Abbey of the parsonage of the church of Dounnemonet (Donamona, Barony of Tulla), between 1270 and 1283. (NLI MSS D.211) 
1275 - The abbot of Holycross, David O Cussigh, became the bishop of Emly. (Med. religious houses, Ire., p. 134). 
1278 - – Holycross was once again affiliated with Monasternenagh, but made subject to Mellifont in 1289. (Med. religious houses, Ire., p. 134). 
1302 - 06 - The monastery was valued at over £17 (Med. religious houses, Ire., p. 134) 
1361 - Grant by Thomas Stapiltun, Lord of Ferten, to the Abbot and Convent of the B.V.M. of Holy Cross of the right to go and return through Ferten with horses, carriages, etc. September 20, 1361 (NLI MSS D.1053) 
1364, December 12 - Grant of liberties by James, Earl of Ormond, to the Abbey of Holy Cross, December 12, 1364 (NLI MSS D. 1096) 
1364, March 23 - Grant by William Haket to the Abbot and monks of Holycross, of the rectory of the church of Burgagenefarne (Borrisnafarney, Co. Tipperary). Letter informing the Bishop of Killaloe (Thomas O'Cormican) of this presentation, March 23, 1364. (NLI MSS D.1086 - 1087) 
1375, 4 July - The abbot of Holycross was charged with collecting 100s from his diocese in order to halt the rebellious activities of one Breen (formerly Obreen) and his accomplices. According to Patent Roll 49, Edward III, Breen, ‘an Irishman and K’s enemy, in confederation with Oconghir of Connacht and very many others of his adherence and covin, both English and Irish, enemies and rebels, seeks day by day to go forth with all his men and destroy the faithful people of the K.’s said land and to make a general conquest of the same, and especially Munster.’ (CIRCLE 2012) 
1381, 18 August - It is recorded in Patent Roll 5 Richard II that the abbot of Holycross was elected as collector of the £10 granted to the bishop, clergy and abbots of Cashel. This sum of money relates to a previous record, 167, of the same Roll. This reports on a decision taken by the prelates of the counties of Kilkenny, Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Kerry to find the cost for 15 men-at-arms and 150 archers for half a year beginning on the Assumption following [15 Aug. 1381], in defence of those counties. (CIRCLE 2012) 
1409, 6 January - In Patent Roll 10, Henry IV, John, abbot of Mellifont, is noted to have letters of general attorney under the name of Dionisius, abbot of Holycross, as well as for John, abbot of Inislounaght. (CIRCLE 2012) 
1429, 1452 and 1486 - The churches of Ballycahill, Rathkennan and Glenkeen were appropriated to the abbey. (Med. religious houses, Ire., p. 134) 
1429, March 2 - Grant of pardon to Fergal O'Hyffernane, abbot of Holycross by the Earl of Ormonde as Lord of the Liberty of Tipperary, March 2, 1429. (NLI MSS D. 1622) 
1448 - Abbot Odo O’Grady resigned, perhaps to become abbot of Kilcooly, after a visitation by Abbot Patrick of Inislounaght and Dermit O’Heffernan, monk of St. Anastasius, Rome, was dispensed to replace him as abbot of Holycross. (Med. religious houses, Ire., p. 134) 
1455, 23 October - A letter was sent to the Archbishop of Cashel from St. Peter's in Rome, on the matter of a report given to Nicholas V by Matthew Omubeeayn, a Cistercian monk of St. Mary's, Abington. According to this report, Dermit, the abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Holycross de Wochtarlamond, had committed homicide and dilapidated and alienated many of the goods of the monastery. Furthermore, having been excommunicated on account of non-payment of fruirs due from him, Dermit continued to take part in divine service. The letter ordered that Dermit be summoned, and should these claims against him be found to be true, to deprive him of the monastery, and to make provision to Matthew there. Moreover, the letter records that Dermit had no entitlement to the abbacy of Holycross, as he immediately succeeded his father, whose illegitimate son he was, without any canonical dispensation. While another monk at Holycross, Odo Ograda, was recorded as holding the abbacy, this letter states that he held it 'only momentarily and not for a whole natural day. (CPL, 11 1455 – 1464, p. 199) 
1464, May 3 - A letter was sent from Siena by the court of Pius II to the archbishop of Benevento, the archbishop of Cashel and the abbot of Bernard without the walls, Valencia. This letter was a mandate causing William Omulwardayn, alias Obrot

e, a canon of Ossory, to be received as a monk in the Cistercian monastery of St. Mary the Virgin, Kilcooly, in the diocese of Cashel, and to receive his profession.

Another letter, issued on the same day, was sent to John Falcus, abbot of the monastery of St. Bernard without the walls of Valencia. This also took the form of a mandate. The pope, having learned of the voidance of the Cistercian monastery of St. Mary the Virgin, Kilcooly, by the death of Philip Omulwardayn, alias Obroth, granted the monastery to Malachy Omulrian, a Cistercian monk of Holycross. Malachy, however, resigned this grant to the pope on the same day that the grant was made, and the monastery was void as before. Therefore, the pope recapitulated his previous mandate to cause William Omulwardayn alias Obrothe to be received as a monk of St. Mary and ordered John Falcus, the recipient of this letter, to make provision to him of that monastery (Kilcooly). In this letter, it is noted that William Omulwardayn had lately been dispensed by papal authority on account of illegitimacy as the son of Philip, the recently deceased abbot of Kilcooly, and an unmarried woman. This letter concludes with the pope granting William Omulwardayn indult to be blessed by any Catholic bishop and to rule the monastery. 
1488 - Abbot Matthew Omubceayn was succeeded by William O’Dwyer, clerk. (Med. religious houses, Ire., p. 134) 
1536 – 1547 - At the suppression of the monasteries, the abbey was changed into a provostship, with the abbot Philip Purcell being appointed Provost, (Med. religious houses, Ire., p. 134) 
1581, January 15 - Account of John Archdeacon to Thomas Earl of Ormonde of the rents of the late Abbey of Holycross, Co. Tipperary, Jan. 15 1581. (NLI MSS D. 3017) 
1613, December 31 - Grant by the Earl of Ormonde and his feoffees to James Butler, son of Lord Dunboyne and Piers Fitzjames Butler of Kells Priory, Holycross Abbey, Athassel Priory etc. to the use of the Earl and Countess, December 31, 1613. (NLI MSS D.3557) 
1613, March 3 - Lease by the Earl of Ormonde and his feoffees to Richard, Maurice and Patrick Kearney of the dissolved abbey of Holycross, Co. Tipperary, for 21 years, March 2 1613 (NLI MSS D. 3521) 
+ 24 minor events. Show minor events

People associated with this site

Matthew (Muirges, Muirgheas, Matthaeus, Mauricius) O'Heney (Ua hEanna, OhEanna) , Archbishop of Cashel

Bibliographical sources

22 Printed sources

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Archival sources

National Library of Ireland, 'Account of John Archdeacon to Thomas Earl of Ormonde of the rents of the late Abbey of Holycross, Co', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland, 'Agreement between T. Abbot of Holycross and Theobald Walter (le Botiller) by which he lets to Theoba', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland, 'Grant by Domnall O'Brien, King of Limerick, to the Abbey of Holy Cross, of Cealluachtair Iamudin an', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland, 'Grant by Geoffrey le Bryt (Bret) to Holycross Abbey of the parsonage of the church of Dounnemonet (D', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland, 'Grant by John, Lord of Ireland, to the Abbey of Holycross, of the lands of Cealluachturlaumun etc.,', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland, 'Grant by R., (Robert Travers), Bishop of Killaloe, to the church of Holycross of the lands of Lestia', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland, 'Grant by Thomas Stapiltun, Lord of Ferten, to the Abbot and Convent of the B.V.M. of Holy Cross of t', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland, 'Grant by William Haket to the Abbot and monks of Holycross, of the rectory of the church of Burgagen', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland, 'Grant by the Earl of Ormonde and his feoffees to James Butler, son of Lord Dunboyne and Piers Fitzja', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland, 'Grant of liberties by James, Earl of Ormond, to the Abbey of Holy Cross, Dec. 12, 1364', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland, 'Grant of pardon to Fergal O’Hyffernane, abbot of Holycross by the Earl of Ormonde as Lord of the L', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland, 'Lease by the Earl of Ormonde and his feoffees to Richard, Maurice and Patrick Kearney of the dissolv', (Document), (View website)

Royal Irish Academy, 'Notes, made by John O'Donovan, for the Ordnance Survey, written from Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, concern', (Document), (View website)

Related articles on Monastic Ireland

Letter from Stephen of Lexington concerning the new affiliation of houses involved in the Conspiracy of Mellifont (Letter 78), Extract from Stephen of Lexington, Letters from Ireland 1228 - 1229 (translated and with an introduction by Barry W. O\'Dwyer), Cistercian Publications Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1982
Letter from Stephen of Lexington giving permission for two monks of Holycross, Isaac and Jacob, and Flan, a lay-brother, to become hermits (Letter 10), Extract from Stephen of Lexington, Letters from Ireland 1228 - 1229 (translated and with an introduction by Barry W. O\'Dwyer), Cistercian Publications Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1982
Letter from Stephen of Lexington to the Abbot and Community of Holy Cross (Letter 5), Extract from Stephen of Lexington, Letters from Ireland 1228 - 1229 (translated and with an introduction by Barry W. O\'Dwyer), Cistercian Publications Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1982
Letter from Stephen of Lexington to the Abbot of Dunbrody (Letter 11), Extract from Stephen of Lexington, Letters from Ireland 1228 - 1229 (translated and with an introduction by Barry W. O\'Dwyer), Cistercian Publications Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1982
Letter from Stephen of Lexington to the Abbot of Furness (Letter 15), Extract from Stephen of Lexington, Letters from Ireland 1228 - 1229 (translated and with an introduction by Barry W. O\'Dwyer), Cistercian Publications Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1982
Letter from Stephen of Lexington to the Abbot of Shrule (Letter 55), Extract from Stephen of Lexington, Letters from Ireland 1228 - 1229 (translated and with an introduction by Barry W. O\'Dwyer), Cistercian Publications Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1982
Letter from Stephen of Lexington to the Council of Abbots (Letter 22), Extract from Stephen of Lexington, Letters from Ireland 1228 - 1229 (translated and with an introduction by Barry W. O\'Dwyer), Cistercian Publications Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1982
Stephen of Lexington to the Abbot of Clairvaux (Letter 24), Extract from Stephen of Lexington, Letters from Ireland 1228 - 1229 (translated and with an introduction by Barry W. O\'Dwyer), Cistercian Publications Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1982

Images of this site

Holycross Abbey

Holycross Abbey

Holycross Abbey cloister carving


Holycross Abbey, Nave, S doorway, L capital

Holycross Abbey, Tomb

Holycross Abbey, Tomb


Holycross Abbey, carving in cloister

Holycross Abbey, cloister arcade

Holycross Abbey, drawings of shrine


Holycross Abbey, exterior

Holycross Abbey, interior

Holycross Abbey, surviving medieval wall decoration


Holycross Abbey, vault

Holycross Abbey, view of reticulated tracery, east window

Holycross Abbey, exterior

Tipperary, OSI Grid:S0896854212