In 1098 St Robert, founded the first Cistercian Abbey in Citeaux, France. Upon a visit, Malachy, the archbishop of Armagh, was so impressed by the Cistercian order that he believed such discipline would help to dispel corruption within Irish monasteries. He was also impressed by their beautiful Gothic style of continental architecture and so commenced to construct a church of stone in 1140 in Bangor.. In 1141 the first Cistercian monks, consisting of both Irish and Frenchmen, arrived at Mellifont. The King of Uriel (Donough O`Carroll) became a great benefactor of this monastery that within 30 years 14 more Cistercian communities had evolved. These monks were attracted to the remoteness of Ireland and the fact that they were free to work the land independently from the local chiefs. A total of 35 more abbeys sprang up all over the country including Bective (1147), Baltinglass (1148), Inislounaght (1148), Monasteranenagh (1148), Grellachdinach (1148), Boyle (1161), Kilbeggan (1150) and Newry (1153) with Mellifont still as the ‘mother ship’. The monks lived strict lives and took took a vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They farmed land directly only to maintain themselves and the days activities included routine prayer, labour, silence and self-discipline. Although the strict statutes of the Cistercian order forbade any form of decoration (that would distract the monks from prayer) many of the Abbeys in Ireland developed some of the most beautiful decorations, architectural styles, art and furnishings to be found anywhere in Europe. In 1539 Henry VIII enforced the dissolution of the monasteries in the Pale and Ireland and many of the monasteries were destroyed within this period and were later used as burial sites.
The Cistercians – arrived 1140emmet