Monastic Ireland.

Letter from Stephen of Lexington to the Abbot of Trois Fontaines (Letter 28)

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 28

To the Abbot of Trois Fontaines, greetings.

We do not hesitate to write with great confidence to Your Prudence concerning the matters of Ireland, so regretted by everyone, because you have received proof of their enormities and ignominious crimes through the evidence in part of your close associates and in part of your own eyes. Venerable Father, immediately after the departure of the abbot of Froidmont the aforesaid sinful race and worthless seed rose up on all sides against his orders; they treated with derision and spurned the decrees and punishments he had imposed on those who violated their duty and day after day they rashly heaped crime upon crime. Consequently, many monasteries claimed to be under no obligation to receive a visitation through him, but united in evil, they completely rejected the visitor sent to them, claimed that he had no juridical power whatsoever. Indeed, as late as last winter they also inflicted the greatest injuries on the abbot of Owney, whom the aforesaid lord abbot of Froidment had appointed as his representative in these parts. His horses were secretly stolen, his cattle plundered, and some of his servants were killed, and it is said that this was done at their instigation out of hatred of and reproach to the visitors.
Furthermore, when the abbot of Baltinglass, who was the only one appointed from the other people (1), returned to the monastery on the day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, he was thrown from his horse in a disgraceful manner by his own monks and lay-brothers in front of the gates of the monastery, and his seal was violently snatched from his belt and he was shamefully expelled in the midst of a great commotion; nor did he succeed afterwards in returning except in a throng of armed men. The abbot of Bective, who is also of the other language and people, just succeeded, through the fear and terror of Lord W. de Lacy, in remaining in his own house until our coming. (2) Consequently, no one could describe within the space of a letter the labours and sorrows as well as the mortal dangers we are continuously exposed to for the honour of religious life and the laws of our fathers. Therefore, to only give a brief summary here, we have confided what remains in connection with the matter of the Irish and the changes we have made there on the advice of prudent men to the lips of the bearer of this letter, to be reported at greater length to Your Sincerity. Accept them, highly recommended, if it please you, and give a favourable hearing to their supplications. In addition, your zeal and religious devotion will not allow you to refuse to speak in the Chapter for the cause of the Order and the aforesaid matter, above all when it has been especially through your counsel and advocacy that the burden of the aforesaid labours, heavy and exceeding the measure of our strength, has been imposed on our shoulders, and has been accepted by us.


1 – Note in text: The French-speaking Anglo-Normans in Ireland.
2 – Note in text: The abbot of Bective, appointed by the visitors in 1227, had previously been a monk of Beaubec in France: Letter 59.

Stephen of Lexington, Letters from Ireland 1228 - 1229, translated and with an introduction by Barry W. O'Dwyer (Cistercian Publications Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan) pp. 70 - 71
These extracts are reproduced with the kind permission of Liturgical Press:

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