Located in the small village of Fore in rural Westmeath, Fore Abbey is a wonderful example of a medieval monastic complex that spans across centuries. The first foundation is believed to have been established by St. Féichín in around AD 630, and the small monastery quickly grew in size and importance, receiving many mentions in the Annals of Ireland. The main patrons of the early foundation may have been the Caille Follamain, one of the three main branches of the powerful Southern Uí Néill. St. Féichín died in AD 665 at Fore, having caught the dreaded Yellow Plague.
Although there are no visible remains of this initial 7th-century monastery (indeed, the exact location of the earliest foundation has still not been conclusively proven) there is St. Féichin’s Church located on the slopes directly above the main part of Fore Abbey (for more information see below the gallery). The huge lintel above the doorway is said to be one of the Seven Wonders of Fore: “The Monastery Built upon the Bog/ The Mill Without a Race/ The Water that Flows Uphill/ The Tree that Won’t Burn/ The Water that Doesn’t Boil/ The Anchorite in a Stone/ The Lintel Stone Raised by St. Féichin’s Prayers“.
Most of the structures that form the main part of Fore Abbey date to the period following the Norman invasion of Ireland. The de Lacys ruled the Lordship of Meath (which, roughly speaking, incorporated today’s Meath and Westmeath) from their fortress at Trim Castle. De Lacy would have appreciated the value of the monastery and the population growing around it. He had a priory established in around 1180. It was founded as a dependency of the Abbey of St. Taurin at Evreux in Normandy, France, and is one of the only substantial remains of an Anglo-Norman Benedictine House in Ireland. The Benedictine movement was extremely popular across Europe, but the main orders in Ireland tended to be Augustinians, Cistercians and Franciscans.