near Bective, County Meath, Ireland
Bective Abbey is 6 south of Navan in the middle of a farmer’s field overlooking the River Boyne in County Meath.
The large medieval abbey is a collection of well preserved ruins and is surrounded by an outer wall. The main part of the fortified abbey is built over three floors and includes cloisters and a tower giving it the appearance of a fortress rather than an abbey. The majority of the site consists of buildings from the 15th century with a few monastic details such as the sculpture of a kneeling monk, which can be seen in the south cloister.
The abbey is well signposted but to gain access to the site you must first climb through a small hole in a gate, walk across a field and finally climb over a small wall, so come prepared with the appropriate footwear. There are two information panels for visitors to read about the history of the abbey on the site.
Bective Abbey was built in 1147 by King Murchad of Meath, Murchad O’Mael-Sheachlainn, for the Cistercian monks from Mellfort and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was thought to be one of Irelands most important monastic sites.
The abbey along with the Abbey of St. Thomas in Dublin was granted to Hugh de Lacy. After his death in 1186 both abbey’s wanted his body to be buried at their site, finally it was decided that his body was buried at Bective and his head in Dublin. This decision caused great feuding between the monks and in 1205 the Bishop of Meath along with two judges decided that the body should be moved to Dublin.
Following the English invasion in 1228 the abbey was fortified and used as a safe haven for the English and visitors from Europe. The number of monks declined significantly in the 15th century and because of this the cloisters were significantly reduced in size and the south aisles of the church with its arcades were demolished. They did however build two towers making it the most heavily fortified abbey in Ireland.
During the reign of King Henry VIII in 1536 the abbey was closed following dissolution and was changed into a Tudor manor house for use by his civil servants. By 1540 the roof had be removed for use in another of the king’s properties and was left abandoned.
The film Braveheart, staring and directed by Mel Gibson, used Bective Abbey as a filming location in 1995.
Other Castles in the Area
Aras an Uachtarain, County Dublin
Ardbraccan House, County Meath
Ashtown Castle, County Dublin
Athcarne Castle, County Meath
Barmeath Castle, County Louth
Bellinter House, County Meath
Carbury Castle, County Kildare
Castletown House, County Kildare
Dardistown Castle, County Meath
Dunsany Castle, County Meath
Liscartan Castle, County Meath
Maynooth Castle, County Kildare
Monktown Castle, County Meath
Slane Castle, County Meath
Trim Castle, County Meath