Trim Castle & St. Mary’s Abbey

Trim Castle, in County Meath, is a very picturesque pile of ruins nowadays:

Trim castle

more trim castle

However, in it’s heyday (the 12th to 16th centuries; so a paltry 400+ years) it was the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland. It held a strategically important position because stood guard over a fording point across the River Boyne.

 river boyne at Trim

The River Boyne was big enough for boats to travel up it the 25 miles from the Irish Sea, which was handy for reinforcements and supplies.

Right next door to the castle is the ruin of the Augustinian order’s St. Mary’s Abbey. Almost the only thing left of the Abbey is ruins of the Yellow Steeple:

trim ruins

It should surprise no one that Henry VIII targeted this very rich catholic stronghold in Ireland. On 15 May 1542 the agents of Henry VIII forced St. Mary’s last abbot, Geoffry Dardice, to sign his own order of expulsion. They had to work up the nerve to burn of a the Abbey’s famous statue of Mary, which was said to facilitate miracles.  It wasn’t until August of 1548 that the statue of the Blessed Mother was consigned to the flames. The statues charred remains were preserved in the Catholic household of Laurence Hammond, but was finally completely destroyed on the orders of Sir Charles Coote during the Irish Rebellion of 1641. The English won the war, but shortly after the destruction of the statue Sir Charles Coote was shot and killed by Irish forces, which was believed by the locals to be the judgment of God against him. A few years later, the remains of the Yellow Steeple were reported to have been shelled by Oliver Cromwell’s troops during his invasion of Ireland. There is no proof it was Cromwell’s troops or Cromwell’s orders, but the generalized Irish hatred of Cromwell for his war atrocities makes him a good person to blame.

Considering that Oliver Cromwell’s actions edged up against genocide in his pursuit of Puritan domination of the British Isles, I’m willing to believe it’s all his fault too.

If you ever visit Ireland, County Meath is a must-see if you are any kind of a history or pre-history buff. It not only has Newgrange and Trim, it has the Tara, the Hill of Slane, Knowth, tons of Kells heritage, and Fourknocks.

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