DUISKE (GRAIGUENAMANAGH) Location: Graiguenamangh
County: Kilkenny Foundation: 1202-4 Mother house:
Stanley Relocation: - 1207 Founder: William
Marshal Dissolution: 1536 Prominent members: Access: Parish church - accessible to the public
Graiguenamanagh, also known as Duiske abbey, was founded by William
Marshal the elder, earl of Pembroke, and was colonized with monks
from Stanley in Wiltshire. It is thought
that the monks came to Ireland between 1202 and 1204 and first
settled at Loghmere (Loughmerans)
near Kilkenny, moving to Anothmolt (Annamult) and lastly to St.
Saviour (Graiguenamanagh). Anothmolt was only three miles from Jerpoint and
the Statutes of the Order stated that new monasteries should
not be founded within twelve ‘Burgundian leagues’ of
another. The site at Anothmolt was therefore illegal and inevitably
led to friction with Jerpoint. In this instance the community
had to move and, although the monks may not have arrived at Graiguenamangh
until 1207, it seems that building may have begun in 1204 when
cemetery at Duiske was consecrated. The permanent location was
in the valley of the river Barrow, on a site between the main
and the Duiske tributary.
Much of the abbey was constructed with
yellow limestone brought across the Irish Sea from quarries at
outside Bristol. The monastery was planned on a vast scale and
the gothic church was the largest Cistercian building in Ireland.
1228 the religious community was fixed at thirty-six monks and
fifty lay-brothers; it was almost as large as Mellifont which
had 50 monks
and 60 lay-brothers. The abbot of Duiske sat as a peer
in parliament at that time. In 1228 the abbeys of Duiske
and Jerpoint entered into a long running dispute over the ownership
of the dissolved monastery of Kilkenny. At the end of the thirteenth
century the abbey was heavily in debt on account of forward buying
on the wool market, which meant the receiving payment in advance
of production. The abbey clearly struggled to fulfill its obligations
and in 1299 owed approximately £466 to the Ricardi of Lucca.
In 1228 Stephen of Lexington produced a comprehensive list of
criticism and instructions directed at the monastic buildings
and Duiske – his comments are in effect a critique
of the layout of these monasteries as they existed in 1228. In
1450 the abbot complained that the abbey was threatened with ruin
James, earl of Ormond, forced the monks to pay unlawful dues and
had also prosecuted them. In 1460 one of the monks accidentally
killed a four year old boy while practicing archery in the precinct.
In 1524 the abbot gave his monastery a silver cross, gilded and
decorated with gems.
At the time of Dissolution the annual income
of the abbey was valued at £76 (£88 in peace time).
The value of the monastery was thus similar to the smaller Cistercian
monasteries of England, such as Buildwas and Croxden.
The abbey was suppressed in 1536 and the last abbot, Charles O’Cavanagh,
resigned his title. Following the Dissolution the property passed
to the earl of Ormond and the abbey church was used as a local
place of worship. In 1754 the church ruins were converted into
place of worship: the west end of the nave was fitted up as a Protestant
church. By 1813 the local Catholic community had taken over
abbey, which now forms the parish church of Graiguenamanagh town.
Some of the thirteenth-century stonework can still be seen,
still-leaf foliage carved into the capitals, dog-tooth ornaments,
banded shafts etc. An outstanding effigy of a knight survives
Graiguenamanagh; he is depicted seizing a sword and is carved with
great attention to detail. It is one of the finest medieval
in Ireland. Tiles excavated at the abbey in 1977 are among the
earliest in Ireland; it is thought that they were laid around
soon after the completion of the abbey. Guided tours of the abbey
church can be made by request only and
placed at various points around the abbey provide information on
the history of the site. Some remnants of the claustral buildings
also survive but these are