Jerpoint Abbey, County Kilkenny, Republic of Ireland

Cloister pillars, Jerpoint Abbey. Photo by Renée DeVoe Mertz, May 29, 2013.

Jerpoint Abbey was once an important Cistercian monastery and a favorite burial site for the area’s powerful families. Its general biography is fairly familiar: founded in the mid-late 12th century, it flourished until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 and soon after passed into the secular hands of James Butler, Earl of Ormonde.
[A more detailed history of the abbey can be found here, courtesy of the Cistercians in Yorkshire Project.]

Much of the church is still standing, with highlights including several ornately carved 16th-century tombs and a fortified crossing tower. However, the site’s primary draw is its unique but heavily damaged 15th-century cloister, which was partially reconstructed in the 1950s. Each of the remaining pillars consists of two simple columns framing, on the better preserved examples, large, high-relief images of saints and various medieval personages. Dragons, green men, and other grotesque or humorous figures also appear along the colonnade and under the connecting arches.

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