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Cong Abbey

St. Fechin was the abbot-founder of several Irish monasteries. One of which was a monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary which he founded in Cong during the 6th century. Both the church and monastery were rebuilt in 1120 for the Augustinians by Turlough O'Connor and now lie within Ashford grounds.

Turlough O'Connor(1088-1156), in Irish, Toirdelbach Ua Conchobair, King of Connaught (1106-1156) and High King of Ireland(1120-1135; 1141-1149), generally acknowledged as the greatest Irish high king of the 12th century. The Abbey , which was endowed and supported by royal families of this era, is considered to be one of the finest examples of early architecture in Ireland.Examples of the wonderful craftsmanship is still very much in evidence today with the Abbey's Gothic windows, Romanesque doors and windows, clustered pillars, arches, standing columes and floral capitals. Three thousand cenobites resided within its walls and cloisters. The Abbotts themselves were excellant scholars in History, Poetry, Music, Sculpture and the illumination of books. they were also skilled craftsmen in metal work, engraving, inlaying and designing in bronze, gold, enamel, woodcarving and harp making. The Royal Abbey is one of Cong's most beautifully stricking treasures.


On entering the abbey by a beautiful doorway, which is thought to have been made up some years ago of stones taken from another arch in the northern wall. Here we find ourselves in the great abbey church, one 140 feet long, entirely paved with tombstones; facing the east window, with its three long, narrow lights, and having in each side wall of the chancel a slender window looking north and south. The chancel walls are perfect, but the northern wall of the nave no longer exists. Underneath the chancel window the guides and village folk maintain that Roderick O'Conor was buried, when, after fifteen years' retirement within this abbey, he died here in 1198. But this we know from history to be incorrect, for the Donegal Annals distinctly state that "Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair, King of Connacht and of all Ireland, both the Irish and English, died among the canons at Cong, after exemplary penance, victorious over the world and the devil. His body was conveyed to Clonmacnois, and interred to the north of the altar." But, although Roderick himself was not buried here others of his name and lineage were. Thus we read that in 1224, "Maurice the Canon, son of Roderick O Conor --the most illustrious of the Irish for learning, psalm-singing and poetical compositions, died--and was interred at Cong." It is probably his tomb which is pointed out as that of the king. "A.D. 1226, Nuala, daughter of Roderick O'Conor, and Queen of Ulidia, died at Cunga Feichín, and was honourably interred in the church of the canons." And in 1274, Finnuala, daughter of King Roderick, died at, and was probably buried at Cong. But although the dust of the last monarch is not beneath our feet, that of chieftains, warriors, and prelates remains and especially that of the abbots, down to the days of James Lynch, whose decorated tomb is dated 1703; and even later, for the Rev. Patrick Prendergast who was always styled "The Lord Abbot," was interred here in 1829.
Several of these ecclesiastical flags are decorated with crosses, fleur-de-lis, chalices, and ornate croziers, etc.; and here are a few Latin inscriptions in raised letters, but with one exception no Irish writing can be discerned anywhere within the confines of the abbey. In the south wall there is a recess, with a circular arch, probably the tomb of the founder, or some munificent endower; there are also in this south wall piscinae, and other minor details of church architecture, unnecessary to describe; and lower down the same side is the small chapel-tomb of the Berminghams, once so powerful in Ireland, and who so identified themselves with their adopted country, that they dropped the Norman name, and assumed that of Mac Feorais.They became Lords of Athenry, and acquired great possessions in Connacht.
During the clearances recently made, a few objects of interest were discovered, and among them a stone, bearing portion of an incised cross. It is too narrow to have been a monumental flag, the longest arm of the cross being but thirteen inches; it was probably one of the terminal crosses that marked the boundaries of the ancient sacred enclosure.

The Monks' Fishing House. Near the Abbey was built in the early 12thC Christian period, this ingenious little stone structure stands smack in the middle of the river. Inside, there is a square hole in the middle of the floor. On cold, rainy days it is said the monks used to light a fire in the hearth and catch their dinner by lowering their line and bait through this hole and into the water.

Monk's Fishing House


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