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Why is Abbey Street in Dublin City centre called Abbey Street? Because there used to be an Abbey there. The end. St. Marys Abbey was actually an enormous structure, one of the biggest in Ireland that was founded back in 1139. Only two rooms remain; the Chapter House and the Slype, and both are hidden away beneath a warehouse accessed from a lane off Abbey Street. It wasn’t always underground, the city has actually built up, over and around it since it glory days.
A chapter house is general a room where larger meetings are held. In monasteries, the whole community would often meet there on a daily basis for readings or talks. A slype is a covered passageway that would lead from a church into a Chapter House.
It was an Abbey for the Cistercian Order (The White Monks). This order made a big point of living a life of manual labour and being self-sufficient. It ran as a monastery from 1139 till 1539 when Henry VIII (Yes that Henry, Henry the 8th, the man of many wives!), dissolved monasteries.
The Chapter House was where Silken Thomas FitzGerald, 10th Earl of Kildare (1513–1537) renounced the rule of King Henry VIII on June 11th 1534. That July he attacked the seat of King Henrys Power in Ireland, Dublin Castle and his army was easily beaten. The rebel Silken Thomas retreated to his base in Maynooth, County Kildare but he was betrayed by a guard and put to death by Henry’s forces.
On a litracry note, the Abbey gains a mention in James Joyce’s Ulysses in the ‘Wandering Rocks’ chapter. In the book Ned Lambert shows J.J. O’Molloy and Reverend Hugh C. Love around the Abbey, which is now Lambert’s warehouse.
The Abbeys entrance is only a short walk from The Ha’penny Bridge or O’Connell Street. Addmission is free however it’s more often closed then open. Contact Heritage Ireland for off-season tours: email@example.com . It’s also part of Dublins Bloomsday Celebrations, 16th June.