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This is the stuff movies are made of. It’s no wonder that the makers of the movie ‘Braveheart’ chose Trim in County Meath as the shooting location for their epic thriller. One look at Trim Castle’s stony outline against a dramatic Irish sky and storybook images of valiant warriors and timid monks spring to life. In Medieval times, Trim Castle stood like an imposing stone sentinel and powerful symbol of norman strength at the edge of the Pale, the small area of Anglo-Norman influence on Ireland’s eastern coast. To go beyond the Pale was to enter the hostile world of the Gaelic Irish. Here at the edge, the two sides would have met – in conflict and in battle.
Trim Castle, the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland, was constructed over a thirty-year period by Hugh de Lacy and his son Walter. Hugh de Lacy was granted the Liberty of Meath by King Henry II in 1172 in an attempt to curb the expansionist policies of Richard de Clare, (Strongbow). Construction of the massive three storied Keep, the central stronghold of the castle, was begun c. 1176 on the site of an earlier wooden fortress. This massive twenty-sided tower, which is cruciform in shape, was protected by a ditch, curtain wall and moat.
St. Mary’s Abbey & The Yellow Steeple
St. Mary’s Abbey in Trim, County Meath, Ireland is a former Augustinian Abbey dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. The abbey was situated on the north bank of the River Boyne, opposite Trim Castle, on land given to St. Patrick who is often credited with founding the abbey. The abbey was a prominent pilgrimage site, famous for the healing power of its statue of the Virgin Mary, until its dissolution under Henry VIII during the Reformation. Little remains of the abbey except for the Yellow Steeple, the ruin of the abbey bell tower named for the yellow color reflected by the stonework in the setting sun, and Talbot’s Castle, an abbey building converted to a manor house.
Just northwest of the St Mary’s Abbey building is the 40m Yellow Steeple, of Trim Castle in Trim, Meath. Once the bell tower of the abbey, dating from 1368 but damaged by Cromwell’s soldiers in 1649. It takes its name from the colour of the stonework at dusk. The tower, constructed of punched and squared limestone, served as the abbey’s bell tower. The tower still retains the remnant of a spiral staircase, which was built without a newel. The eastern wall rises seven storeys and the southern wall reaches five, but little to nothing remains of the other sides of the formerly square tower. The eastern wall retains two clasping corner buttresses.
The walls are mostly plain with a few windows and other simple decoration. The most elaborate feature is the double-pointed belfry window underneath a flower-let formed by a tracery pattern. The south wall is partly built of rubble suggesting that it was an interior wall. There are signs that a tall pointed object, such as a funerary monument, was connected to the south wall. The abbey church most likely was connected to the tower from the south.
This medieval cathedral is situated in Newtown Cemetery. It was founded close to the temporal power of Trim Castle by the Norman Bishop Simon de Rochfort in c.1206 after his cathedral at Clonard was burned down. Only part of the original nave and chancel of this largest Gothic Church in Ireland survive. Part of the ruined Priory of Augustinian Canons, which were established to maintain the Cathedral, also survive.
In the parish church in Newtown-Clonbun stands the remains of the tomb of Sir Lucas Dillon and his wife Lade Jane Bathe, daughter of James Bathe of Athcarne and Drunmconrath. The recumbent figures of Sir Lucas in Renaissance armour and his wife in Elizabethian gown surmount the tomb. This tomb is known locally as the tomb of the jealous man and woman because the two figures do not touch each other at all. And also the sword of state separates the figures.
The friary was founded by the Lord of Trim, Geoffrey de Geneville in 1263, just outside the town walls of Trim. Geoffrey de Geneville retired to the friary and was buried there in 1314. The friary was an important part of the town of Trim as it held extensive lands and ecclesiastical and governmental meetings were held there from the 13th to the 15th century.
The excavations undertaken by the Irish Archaeology Field School are run in conjunction with the Blackfriary Community Archaeology Project. The project aims to rejuvenate the four acre site where the Friary is located for the benefit of the local community and visitors alike.
St. John’s Hospice
Adjacent to the old Newtown Bridge that spans the River Boyne stands the ruins of the Priory and Hospital of St John the Baptist. The priory was founded for the ‘Crutched Friars’ (name is from the wooden staffs they carried which were topped by a cross) by Simon de Rochfort c 1202, about the same time as he founded the Cathedral and medieval parish church. The Friars were Augustinians who ran hospitals and guest houses.
Their hospitals were built similar to all Augustinian monasteries, but with special facilities for caring for the sick. Among the remains is a church with a nave and chancel and a large three-light window in the east wall, see above. Part of a long two story building remains as well as remnants of a 15-16th century enclosing wall with one small corner turret still standing.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
The Cathedral of St Patrick’s is Church of Ireland. Previously the cathedral of the Diocese of Meath, it is now one of two cathedrals in the United Dioceses of Meath and Kildare which is part of the ecclesiastical province of Dublin.
In the town of Trim, County Meath, people can visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which was built in 1803 on an historic site boasting a 15th-century stone tower. Although bishops have been enthroned here since 1536, it was not raised to full Cathedral status until 1955. The present building features the first stained glass window that Edward Burne-Jones designed. The church porch and grounds contain a number of medieval graveslabs.
St Patrick’s Church
St Patrick’s Roman Church in Trim is a Gothic Revival style church. It was built circa 1900. The church is surrounded by landscaped grounds that overlook Trim Castle.
Celtic mosaics decorate the interior of the church with white marble reredos and stained glass windows depicting the history of Trim. Overall the church is a very imposing building. There is a fantastic pipe organ situated on the choir balcony that is serviced by a lift. The acoustics are excellent as a result of the scale of the church. A sizeable congregation of 800 could be accommodated in the church.
Part of the 14th-century town wall stands in the field to the east of the abbey, including the Sheep Gate, the lone survivor of the town’s original five gates. It used to be closed daily between 21:00 and 04:00, and a toll was charged for sheep entering to be sold at market.
The “sheep’s gate” stands near the ‘yellow steeple’ and the castle. The wall in this area is in ruins, but it marks the original town boundary, the only intact part of the wall stands on Loman Street. It is not marked by any signs but it starts around the front of St. Patrick’s Anglican church and runs down to ‘The Priory Pub’.
The Boyne river walk is a walkway through the Porchfields along the river Boyne starting at the castle park and running along the Boyne to Newtown abbey. The total walk to Newtown and back takes about 40mins.