Holy Cross Abbey

Coordinates: 52°38′21″N 07°52′05″W / 52.63917°N 7.86806°W / 52.63917; -7.86806
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Holy Cross Abbey
Mainistir na Croise Naofa
Holy Cross Abbey on the River Suir
Holy Cross Abbey is located in Ireland
Holy Cross Abbey
Holy Cross Abbey
Location within Ireland
52°38′21″N 07°52′05″W / 52.63917°N 7.86806°W / 52.63917; -7.86806
LocationHolycross, County Tipperary, Ireland
DenominationRoman Catholic
Religious instituteCistercians
StatusActive as parochial church
Founded1169 (855 years ago) (1169)
Founder(s)Domnall Mór Ua Briain
Heritage designationNational Monument
DioceseRoman Catholic Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly
View from 1841
The ruined interior, 1841

Holy Cross Abbey (Mainistir na Croise Naofa) was a Cistercian monastery in Holycross near Thurles, County Tipperary, Ireland, situated on the River Suir. It takes its name from a relic of the True Cross or Holy Rood.


A supposed fragment of the True Cross was brought to Ireland by the Plantagenet Queen Isabella of Angoulême,[1] around 1233. She was the widow of King John and bestowed the relic on the original Cistercian Monastery in Thurles founded in 1169 by King Donal O'Brien of Thomond, which she then rebuilt.[citation needed]

With time, Holy Cross Abbey and the sacred relic of the True Cross became a place of medieval pilgrimage, and with the Protestant Reformation, also a rallying-point for victims of religious persecution. As a symbol and inspiration of the Catholic Church in Ireland, resistance, and allegedly of the struggle for Irish independence, it drew a complaint by Sir Henry Sidney, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, to Queen Elizabeth I in 1567.[citation needed]

Furthermore, one of the most celebrated of the 24 officially recognized Irish Catholic Martyrs, Blessed Dermot O'Hurley, the fugitive Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cashel, went on pilgrimage to Holy Cross Abbey in September 1583,[2] shortly before his arrest by the priest hunters and 1584 execution by hanging outside the city walls of Dublin.

The Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland records a 1601 pilgrimage to Holy Cross Abbey by Irish clan chief Hugh Roe O'Donnell, Lord of Tyrconnell. True to his clan's coat of arms and the Constantinian motto of the House of O'Donnell (In Hoc Signo Vinces) and, in anticipation of the coming Battle of Kinsale, O'Donnell venerated the relic of the True Cross at Holy Cross Abbey on St. Andrew's Day, 30 November 1601. By that period, the Abbey had become a rallying point for resistance to the religious persecution of the Catholic Church in Ireland and for the rising of the Irish clans as part of the ongoing Nine Years War. From there, O'Donnell sent an expedition to Ardfert, to win a quick victory and successfully recover the territory of his ally, Thomas Fitzmaurice, 18th Baron Kerry, who had lost it and his 9-year-old son to Sir Charles Wilmot. It was to be O'Donnell's last victory before the defeat at Kinsale.[3]

The Holy Rood was last exposed for public veneration in 1632 and following the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, Holy Cross Abbey fell into ruins. Local people used the roofless ruins as a burial place after 1740. It became a scheduled national monument in 1880, with orders that the ruins were, "to be preserved and not used as a place of worship".

Special legislation in the Dáil for the founding's 500th anniversary, 21 January 1969, enabled Holy Cross Abbey to be restored as a place of Catholic worship, exceptionally for a national monument. The Sacristan of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican provided an authenticated relic of the Holy Cross, and the emblem of the Jerusalem Cross, or Crusader Cross, has been restored for the Abbey.[4]

Two crosses were stolen, including the cross containing the relics of the true cross, in a robbery on the Abbey on 11 October 2011. A portable angle grinder, hammer, and screwdriver were used by the masked raiders to remove the relics.[5] In January 2012, it was announced that the relics had been recovered by An Garda Siochana, relatively undamaged, and returned to the Abbey.[6]



The Thurles to Clonmel via Cashel bus route serves Holycross.[7] The nearest railway station is Thurles railway station approximately 6 km distant.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Holy Cross Abbey from The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, 1 June 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor
  2. ^ D. P. Conyngham, Lives of the Irish Martyrs, P.J. Kennedy & Sons, New York City. Page 65.
  3. ^ The Life of Hugh Roe O'Donnell, Prince of Tyrconnell (Beatha Aodh Ruadh O Domhnaill) by Lughaidh O'Cleirigh (original Gaelic manuscript in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin), translated with notes by Rev. Denis Murphy, S.J., M.R.I.A., and published by Sealy, Bryers, & Walker, Dublin, 1893 (pages 304-307)
  4. ^ Holy Cross Abbey, by Thomas Morris, Irish Heritage Series, no. 55, published by Eason & Son Ltd, Dublin 1986. ISBN 0-900346-75-2
  5. ^ "Artefacts stolen from Holycross". The Irish Times. Irish Times Trust. 12 October 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  6. ^ "Stolen 'True Cross' relic recovered". RTÉ News. RTÉ. 17 January 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  7. ^ "Bernard Kavanagh & Sons LTD. :: Home".

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