Tintern Abbey Ireland - Sarah Woodbury

Tintern Abbey Ireland

The Tintern Abbey in Wales has been referred to as ‘Tintern major’ and the abbey in Ireland as “Tintern of the vow”

Dan: It can’t be a coincidence they have the same name.

It isn’t, anymore than New York is name for ‘York’ in England. In this case, both abbeys were founded by the Norman Lord of Chepstow. In the case of the Tintern Abbey in Wales, that was Walter de Clare, and that abbey will the subject of a video coming up. Tintern Abbey in Ireland was founded by William Marshal, who was a later Lord of Chepstow, and named the Irish Tintern after the Tintern Abbey in Wales.

As we talked about last week, William Marshal married Isabel de Clare, daughter of Richard de Clare, who made himself Lord of Leinster by marrying the daughter of Diarmait, the Irish King of Leinster. Richard de Clare was also Earl of Pembroke, so when he died without a male heir and Isabel married William Marshal, William became Earl of Pembroke too, and thus the lord of Chepstow.

King Henry had granted William permission to marry Isabel in 1189 while on his deathbed, which is a story in and of itself in that William then hightailed it across France to reach London to meet Isabel before Richard the Lionheart was crowned king and reversed Henry’s decision. Richard did ultimately approve the marriage and made William one of his most trusted advisers. That didn’t get William established as the Lordship of Leinster, however, even though he had a right to it, since it was currently in the hands of Richard’s younger brother, John.

John, who was only a prince at the time, was not disposed to hand over Leinster, which had been without its rightful ruler since Strongbow died in 1176. However, when Richard died without an heir in 1199, William Marshal was influential in putting John on the throne instead of his rival, Arthur, the eldest son of Richard and John’s older but deceased brother. In exchange (possibly), John finally gave up Leinster to William.

Now we finally get to Tintern Abbey. On that initial journey to Ireland, William’s ship foundered in a storm in the Irish Sea. According to William himself, he prayed for deliverance and promised that if he and his family survived, he would found an abbey in Ireland at their point of landfall.

That abbey was Tintern, located at a place called Saltmills in South Wexford, on 3500 hectares granted to the Cistercians by William Marshal. It was colonized by monks from the Tintern Abbey in Wales. Really, from our discussion about the difference between abbeys and priories, it sounds like it should have been called Tintern Priory—but it wasn’t.

As with the rest of the monasteries in Britain and Ireland, the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII brought ruin. Tintern was given into private hands and turned into a house. Today all that is left are ruins of the nave, chancel, tower, chapel and cloister.

Next week we’ll be talking about another Cistercian Abbey, Bective.

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