Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

St. Abbin.

Laois c.1790

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St. Abban.

St Abban founded a monastery here in Killabban about 650AD, in which he is said to have been interred: there are some remains of its church. There are also remains of the old church of Arles, and of the ancient castle of Hovendon, over the entrance to which are quartered the arms of the Leinster and Ormonde families. Near Castletown church is a well, which supplies water, enough to turn a mill in its immediate vicinity.

Courtesy of Portlaoise Public Library 1999.Parish in Killabban

St Abbans Grave in Co Cork. Source: ancient and more proper title for this parish is Killabban. It receives its present name from the parish church being placed in modern times at Arles. This name Arles is derived from Ard-glas, i.e. "the verdant hill;" or, according to some, from Ard-lios, i.e. "the forted hill." The earliest place of worship here appears to have been a chapel built in 1686, of which there is a description and an illustration (Pl. 34, Vol. II.) in Grose's Antiquities.

It is there described as having been "built, according to tradition, by a lady of the family of Hartpole. It is erected in the form of a cross, and is thatched. In one arm of the cross is a small chapel, the place of interment for the Grace family. A long Latin metrical epitaph to Dame Frances Grace, alias Bagot, wife to Sheffield Grace, who died 3rd May, 1742, aged 32, is given; and another, in English, to Mrs. Martha Grace, wife of Michael Grace, who died Nov. 28, 1736, in the 55th year of her age." Grose's illustration shows this chapel to have been a very plain structure, with the thatch sadly in need of repair. An inscribed stone, let into the wall of the present church, records the name of the builder of the old chapel: "Madam Scurlock, alias Walsh, alias Hartpole, built this chapel, A.D. 168-" (last figure broken away).

According to the annals of the Grace family, this chapel was pulled down in 1795, and was replaced by that which existed until the present beautiful church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was built, towards the erection of which the late Mrs. Grace Grace was a munificent contributor. The Grace mausoleum is a conspicuous object in the adjoining grave-yard. It was built in 1818, in place of the original one-erected in 1687, by Oliver Grace, Chief Remembrance of the Exchequer; by Mrs. Alicia Kavanagh, daughter of Michael Grace of Grace-field; Sir William Grace, Bart; and his brothers Sheffield Juris consult, and Percy, Admiral of the Royal fleet, for themselves and posterity, on the site of the southern wing of the church of Arles.

The following is the inscription upon it, recording the above:

 "Hoc sepulchrum Alicia Kavanagh, filia Michaelis Grace de Gracefield, Arm.; Gulielmus Grace, Baronettus, et fratres ejus Sheffieldus, jurisconsultus, Perceus Regiae Classis Praefectus, poni curaverunt, A.D. MDCCCXVIII., sibi posterisque. Quo loco fuit olim Australis ala aedis Arlesianae ab Olivero Grace de Shangano sive Gracefield, Armig. Anno Salutis MDLXXXVII. aedificata, jamdiu vetustate collapsa."

This mausoleum is fully described and illustrated in the family Annals, compiled by Sheffield Grace, who traces their pedigree to Raymond Fitz William, surnamed Le Gros, who accompanied Strongbow to Ireland, and through him further back to the Ducal House of Tuscany.

(Above copied as was written)

Source: Rev M Comerford "Collections relating to the Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin" Vol. 3 (1886)

Killabban Church
 (now a monastic site)

Abbin's Well. near Arles
OSi map showing the site of Abbin's well to the west of Arles chaple.

The Religious Heritage of St. Abban

St. Abban is very much part of our local religious heritage. At an early age he joined the monastery of St. Fiach at Sletty which was established around 640 A.D. After completing his studies at Sletty he left to build his own first monastery about 5 miles away at Killabban in the late 640’s A.D. The parish of Arles was known in older times as the parish of Killabban, Cill Abainn or the church of Abban.

St. Abban’s Well in ArlesTradition has it that a pilgrim path went from Killabban to a holy well known as St. Abban’s Well. This well is situated only two fields away from Arles Parish Church (on land owned by Pat Mulhall, a local farmer). Each year a parish pilgrimage takes place to St. Abban’s Well on the 15th August. This pilgrimage recalls our ancestors who made their way to this holy well on their way to Sunday Mass. They secretly attended Mass because it was forbidden to attend Mass during penal times when the priests were hunted. Tradition has it that a priest was caught and hung nearby.

There is a common link between us and St.Abban. Tradition has it that he blessed this well in the 7th century. It has never been known to run dry. The greatest unbroken link between us and St. Abban is the common bond of our Christian heritage.


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