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Augustinian Abbey

Heritage > History & Archaeology


The monastery at Mayo, became a part of a European wide Movement of reform, during the twelfth century, and came into the light of history during a time of Church expansion and consolidation (see Diocese of Mayo). Mayo Abbey was located in the territory of Ciarraighe, and the main subdivisions of the district included Tir Eanna and Tir Neaghtain. The area of Tir Neaghtain contained more than 5 parishes which included Mayo.

The Annals of The Four Masters report in 1169 that " Magh-Eo of the Saxons, with its Church, Fobhar-Fachine, and Diamliag-Chianain were burned".
Mayo Abbey is represented as a place of importance for local political leaders. In AD. 1176 Donnell O'Conor, son of the ruler of Connaught, Turlough O'Connor and brother of the last High king of Ireland was buried here.


A radical change took place in the organisation and religious life of the abbey when the monastery in 1370 became transformed into a church administered by Augustinians Canons. This arrangement was confirmed by the Papacy in 1411, with the creation of an abbey administered by Augustinian canons. An entry found in the Calendar of Papal Registers dated AD. 1411, tells us,
To the Augustinian Abbot and Convent of St. Michael's, Mayo in the diocese of Tuam, &c: Taking under the protection of St. Peter and the Pope them and their monastery, the place where it is situated and their possessions, present and future..... with the confirmation of Papal liberties and immunities, and all liberties and exemptions granted by kings, princes, and other faithful from secular exactions ".

During the 1530's a fundamental change occurred in religious life with the Reformation, which took place in England. Protestantism now became established church and the older monastic way of life became challenged.

Mayo Abbey faced huge changes during the 16th century. Unfortunately the age when the monastery thrived now came to an end; and during 1578 the monastery was described as having fallen on bad times; the remains of a once magnificent monastery now consisted of a ruined cloister, six large rooms and a little cemetery.

An 1578 Elizabethan Fiant, a record of legal transaction recorded the grant of the priory and lands of Mayo to the ' burgesses' and ' commonality' of the town of Athenry. The era of Mayo abbey as the centre of a thriving religious centre now came to an end. By Tudor times the monastery had declined from a former glory.

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