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Durrow Abbey in County Offaly.

Durrow Abbey.

(Oak plain.)

Little remains of this abbey founded in 553 by St Columba, or Colmcill. The Venerable Bede referred to it as 'a noble monastery known as Dearmarch, the field of oaks because of the oak forest in which it stands' It was plundered and burnt several times during the dark ages, all that remain are it 9th or 10th century high cross and a number of early gravestones. The cross is carved with scenes from the bible although it is weathered and indistinct these include the sacrifice of Isaac, the crucifixion and soldiers guarding the tomb of Christ. It was from Durrow that the 7th century illuminated manuscript the book of Durrow (Illustrated right) came. It is now in the library of Trinity College Dublin.

It would appear there was considerable rivalry between the various religious houses, for the souls and minds, and perhaps the purses of the local inhabitants. It appears that in 764 Durrow and its neighboring Monasterie Clonmacnoise were in conflict, resulting in a battle in which Durrow suffered two hundred dead. In the early days of Christian Ireland Monasteries were set up in wild bleak locations, and monks lived a life of extreme austerity. This seemed eventually to fall from favour, new houses being established in the more fertile areas, often at the behest of a local chief or King, this practice proliferated to a great extent after the Norman conquest.

In 1186 the Anglo Norman lord of Meath, Hugh de Lacy, was killed here by a workman, de Lacy was overseeing the demolition of the abbey to build a castle on the site, the workman was so enraged that he cut off de Lacy's head with an axe, de Lacy was buried in Dublin, in 1195 his body was exumed and buried at Bective Abbey in County Meath.

Read about Durrow from Samuel Lewis' Topographical Directory of Ireland 1837