St. Mary's Abbey -its Charter and its History
(above) Extract from the Down Survey Map (1654) showing the approximate location of Navan Abbey near the confluence of the Boyne and Blackwater.
Rev. C.C. Ellison M.A.
Ríocht na Midhe 1963
Its date was probably 1189, when the Abbey is said to have been founded by Jocelyn Nangle,the first Baron of Navan, on the site of an ancient Celtic monastery.
J.R.S.A.I 1933. The documents are in the London Public Record Office. Part of Bishop Payne's seal is still attached to the Certificate and is reproduced in the Journal. It seems to be the only surviving example of a Pre-Reformation Meath Episcopal Seal.
The Nangles had received the Barony of Navan, which was the ancient sub kingdom of Laoghaire, from Hugh de Lacy, but in 1185 John de Courcy, his great rival, replaced him as Justiciar. The Justiciar was the chief political and judicial officer under Norman kings. The following year he was killed at Durrow County Laois,leaving his Meath lands in royal hands, since his son Walter,was still a minor.
Both Bishop Payne and Abbot Nangle, in common with the Anglo Norman nobility of Meath, were deeply implicated in Lambert Simnel's rebellion. They were pardoned by Henry V11. "The good Bishop diligently inspected, minutely considered, examined, and collated the text with the prepared copy, word by word, certified it as correct and appended the seal of his Bishopric, 'which we use on the greater occasions'." The inspeximus was granted on 4 June 1498 in a certain lower chamber beneath the greater chamber of the Manor of Ardbraccan.
E.St. John Brooks London Times, 18th November 1932
Strongbow's Ireland, a 12th century Charter
Little is known of this monastery, but the de Courcy Charter grants and confirms "all the lands held of the gift of the Irish before the coming of the English into Ireland". These grants included "all the land which O'Roirke gave them beyond the river Mane."
"The O'Rourkes of the Charter is that Irish Prince, the elopement of whose wife Dervorgilla with Dermot, King of Leinster, fired the train of events which brought the English to Ireland." Brooks Strongbow's Ireland, a 12th century Charter." O'Donovan identifies "Commar Mana" with the confluence of the Boyne and Blackwater at Navan.
Four Masters 11, 1094 note. Part of the 13th century Martyology, which belonged to the Abbey, is still extant and in it are entered various records and obits of the three followimg centuries. It is Rawlinson Ms. 486 in the Bodleian Library, Oxford and is described by Todd in P.R.I.A. 1860.
The Abbey was at first poorly endowed and "spoiled by raids at night" but in 1476 was granted lands to the value of £40 per annum, and permission to elect its Abbot without the costly formalities involved in obtaining the Royal Consent. S.R.I An earlier grant in 1449 of lands, values at £40 yearly is mentioned in Archdall's Monasticon.
Like Trim Abbey, It soon became a wealthy and famous place of pilgrimage on account of its reputation as a shrine of healing.
In 1450 John Bole,the Abbot, afterwards Archbishop of Armagh, had procured a Papal Bull granting indulgences to all persons visiting it as pilgrims or contributing to its repair and adornment. His name is sometimes given as Buile or Boll. In 1451, as Rector of Smermore (Smarmore, County Louth), one of the possessions of the Abbey, he was elected proctor (person in charge of discipline) for the clergy of Armagh (Reg. Primate John Swayne,ed. Chart, p. 197). It seems that he was succeeded by another Abbot of the same name. The Statute Rolls record his protest at being mistaken for one John Bulle, Clerk, formerly Abbot of the House of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Navan,who was sued for debt by Henry Rowe, Clerk in 1463. He claims that he was promoted Archbishop of Armagh before Rowe's suit was commenced. His protest,however, is open to question,since he died in 1471 leaving the Primatial see so encumbered with debt that a long vacancy ensued and his successors were seriously embarassed.
Rev. A. Gwynne, The Medieval Province of Armagh.
Four years later all pilgrims visiting it were granted protection by Act of Parliament. The story is told of a feud between Sir Thomas Bathe and Dr. John Stackbolle of Navan Abbey. In 1449 both laid claim to the parish of Kilberry, Bathe bribed a servant to accuse Stackbolle of high treason, had him imprisoned in Dublin, and confiscated his goods. Stackbolle managed to prove himself innocent, and obtained an order of excommunication against Bathe,which was solemly recited by Edmund Ouldhall, Bishop of Meath, in Navan market place.
" Still continuing in his malicious, inhuman, and diabolical obstinacy against the Church of God," Bathe abducted his enemy from the Sanctuary of the Abbey, imprisoned him at Wilkinstown, and cut out his eyes and tongue. " The which so done, he was again carried to the said Church and cast there before our said Blessed Lady, by the grace, meditation and miraculous power of whom he was restored his sight and tongue."
Bathe was later put on trial and his Louth estates confiscated.
Act of Parliament, Drogheda 1460, quoted in Hardiman "Statute of Kilkenny," Cogan Diocese of Meath" Volume 1, 225-6 Note, Butler "Trim Castle," J.R.S.A.I. 1893.
Another Thomas Bathe, stated to have been of Genoese descent, was Chief Baron of the Exchequer and Archdeacon of Dublin. He became Archdeacon of Meath in 1400 and died about 1410. He is stated to have been in possession of the Rectory of Kilberry.
Journal of Royal Society Antiquaries Ireland 1933
In 1539 the northern Irish, under Con O'Neill and Manus O'Donnell, invaded the Pale and sacked the town of Navan carry off " spoils of gold and silver, copper, iron, and every sort of goods and valuables besides."
Cogan, Diocese of Meath, Volume 1 p.1223.
His successor, John Kerdiff (Cardiff) had experienced a similar fate in County Tyrone, and during the time of the Commonwealth, was expelled from Navan and became Chaplin to Bishop Martin of Meath,who had taken refuge in Trinity College, Dublin. Dr. Kerdiff became Senior Fellow of the College, regained his Parish at the Restoration, and was appointed Dean of Clonmacnoise in 1661.
The first Commonwealth Preacher at Navan, Richard Bourk (Burgh), was convicted of being
"a common haunter of alehouses, and soe intemperately given to drink as renders him to be of a loose and vain life and conversation."
Having been seen by "divers creditable persons... shamefully overcome with drink as towards noonday he passed through ye streets in Dublin,"
Healy, History of the Diocese of Meath Volume 1, 297.
He was expelled from his office and replaced by Jonathan Edwards, a Trim doctor of medicine,in spite of the protests of the dispossessed Rector, Dr. Kerdiff.
Healy, History of the Diocese of Meath, Vol. 1, 297.
Phillips, History of the Church of Ireland, Vol. III, 272.
Episcopally ordained clergymen were anathema to the Puritans, who replaced them with persons "gifted with knowledge and utterance, and (as they hope) experimentally acquainted wit with ye working of ye Spiritt of ye Lord."
Healy, History of the Diocese of Meath, Vol. 1, 295
Returning to the fortunes of the Abbey Church in the 150 years which followed its disendowment, we find it described in 1615 as "well repaired" Montgomery's Visitation, and in 1622 as "in good repair, chancel ruinous." Ussher's Visitation.
Bishop Anthony Dopping in his very full account of the state of the churches in Meath at the end of the 17th century, states that the church of Navan, like nearly all the others, had been in ruins since 1641. In his 1685 report he says that the few Protestant families then in the town held their services in the "Sessions House", while in 1693 he states that the parishioners have lately repaired the "Mass House" where duty is performed, and that it is in very good order. His manuscripts are in Marsh's Library, Dublin.
We are indebted to him for what seems to be the only surviving description of the monuments which stood in and around the Abbey, which after his time was obliterated by the building of a cavalry barracks on the site. Cogan, Vol 1, 228.
In the graveyard stood a stone monument to an Abbot, with the carved figures of six apostles on one side and six on the other. At the top was the carved figure of Christ on the Cross,with a woman on each side in an attitude of mourning. Probably, as is usual in such carvings, the figures represented the Blessed Virgin and saint John.
Dopping continues, "In ye body of ye Church this inscription on a tomb- Edmond Manning of ye Navan and Margaret his wife, caused this monument to be made in memory of Patrick and his wife Ann Traves (Father and Mother to ye sd. Edmond) and Mary Warren his first wife, who are buryed towards ye pulpit. Patrick and his wife lived together 30 years in joyfull and happy state, and changed theyr lives viz. Patrick ye 1st of January 1597, his wife Ann Traves ye 17th March 1611, Mary Warren 1st wife of ye said Edmond ye 13th Sept. 1613. Good and charitable reader pray for ym and theyr posterity; God receive ym and every of ym to ye joys of bliss. Amen. Ye 19th Feb 1616."
Edward or Edmund Manning was a Burgess under the James l Charter, and held property in the town, as did Patrick Manning, perhaps his brother, who was M.P. in 1639. The former was one of those tried for hearing Mass said by Father Richard Mysset at Navan in 1615. The jury was imprisoned for acquitting them. He seems to have been responsible for the building of the Market House in 1632. There was an inscription round the foot of the pulpit, dated 1490, in memory of Rippen (?) Smyth, and Catherine Garovan his wife. In the side chapel founded by him, was the tomb of John Maw, his wife Alicia White and their children; and in the upper Chapel the tomb of John Wakely Esq. and his wife Catherine Rawson, erected by Thomas Wakely and Maud Hankore.
John Wakely was the lay rector in the time of Edward Vl and Elizabeth l, and M.P. in 1559. He died on Nov. 2nd, 1570. Thomas, his heir, succeeded in these offices. The family had an estate at Ballyburley or Wakelston in King's County (County Offaly). The last inscription quoted by Dopping is entirely in Latin, and has been translated
"Here lies John Nangle, who for Adam's sin ate bread in the sweat of his brow, and also Johanna Nangle and their children, who fell asleep after his death."
A Charter of John de Courcy to the Abbey of Navan.
Eric St. John Brooks M.A. 25th April 1933.
The following charter of John de Courcy, of which I have given some account in The Times of November 18, 1932, appears to be unknown. The documents are in the London Public Record Office (Chancery, Miscellanea, Bundle 20, File 6, No. 12 ).
The charter is recited in a certificate of John Payne, Bishop of Meath, of date 1498, when it was produced by Richard Nangle, Abbot of Navan. (see link Nangle Family). A fragment of the Bishop's seal remains attached to the parchment; and on their attention being drawn to it, has been repaired, so far as possible, by the officials of the Public Record Office.
I transcribe the whole document, without alteration, except that I have expanded the contractions. I reproduce also the remaining portion of the seal.
Jhesus ( Jhus,written within the capital U of Universis) Universis alme matris ecclesie filiis presentes litteras sive presens publicum Instrumentum visuris inspecturis seu audturis Frater Johannes ordinis predicatorum Dei & Apostolice Sedis gratia Episcopus Midensis Salutem in domino sempiternam ac Indubiam seqentibus adhibere fidem Ad universitatis vostre noticiam ac ad futuram rei memoriam deducimus & deduci volumus presencium per tenorem quod anno ab Incarnacione dominica secundum cursum & computacionem occlesiarum Anglicarum et hibernicarum Millesimo Quadringentesimo Nonagesimo Octavo Indiccione prima pontificatus sanctissimi in Christo & domini nostri domini Alexandri divina providencia pape sexti anno sexto mense vero Junii die quarta In quadam bassa camera situata sub maiori camera manerii nostri de Ardbraccan coram nobis in Notarii publici testiumque subscriptorum presencia honorabilis ac Religiosus vir ffrater Ricardus Nangle Abbas domus sive monasterii beatissime virginis Marie de Novan nostre Misensis diocesis unacum suo conventu personaliter comparens quasdem litteras anciantice Sigillatas Jus justicum commodum & utilitatem sue domus predicte ut asseruit intime concernentes sanas integras (a gap in the parchment. Read non falsas or some such phrase) aut in aliqua parte suspectas prout nobis apparuit realiter exhibuit nobisque obnixe rogavit & requisivit quatinus ipsas litteras que verisimiliter ad partes remotas propter tenerinam (Almost illegible; but the word is certainly some such word from tener.) vetustatem sine corruptela deferri non (Inserted above the line as stated by the notary public.) possunt ad futuram rei evidenciam transcribi exemplifcari ac in publicam auctenticam formam rede (A gap in the parchment; probably redegi for redigi.) & transsumi (A couple of illegible words; apparently itaque.) sigilli munimine roborare nostro mediante decreto dignaremur Nos siquidem attendentes rogatum (&) (A gap here; supply &.) requisicionem huiusmodi Juri fore consonos & congenos (An illegible word; perhaps nove.) veram & indubitatem predictarum litteraram copiam diligentur inspectam auscultatam examinatam veraciterque collacionatam de verbo ad verbum cum originali concordantem per Notarium publicum infrascriptum nostrum in hac parte scribam exemplificari transsumi & publicari ac in publicumformam Redigi fecimus & mandavimus volentes & presencium decermentes tenore quod transsumpto & exemplo huius per omnia tam in Judico ipso extra ubique locorum quciens ea contigerit exhiberi deinceps adhibeatur plena fides Tenor vero predictarum litterarum de verbo ad verbum sequitur & est talis videlicet Universis Christi fidelibus ad quos presens scriptum pervenerit Johannes de curcy Justiciarius hibernie salutem in domino Nouerit universitas vestra me de communi consilio domini Regis in hibernia contulisse & hac presenti carta mea confirmasse deo & ecclesie sancte Marie de Novan & canonicis regularibus ibidem deo servientibus omnes terras quas tenuerunt de donacione hibernicorum ante adventum anglicorum in hibernia scilcet terram de Novan in qua abbacia sita est terram de Kel big Rathlog terram de grange ffoghyn & totam terram quam terram O Roirke eis dedit ultra ampnem de Mane scilcet terram de Grange clagh & mothes morcorne Keregh senbaly Rath ne chambalybroc no rathdouen ab ad negarve usque ad leeg tenendas & habendas sibi & successoribus suis in puram & perpetuam elimosinam cum omnibus pertinenciis suis in pratis in pascuis in moris & mariscis in busco & plano in viis in semitis in aquis & molendinis in stagnis & piscariis in furcis & duellis in ecclesiis & capellis in husbote & theibote in soc sooc in omnibus libertatibus & liberiis consuetudinibus ad dictamterram spectantibus sicut melius & plenius & liberius aliqua elimosina potest confirmari cum omnibus decimis dictarum terrarum ut autem hec mea concessio & confirmacio rata & stabilis & inconcussa permaneat sigillum meum huic scripto corroboravit hiis testibus Jordano do curci Rogero de quenci hugo tyrrell constabelario domini Regis Rogero tyrell Willelmo de angulo Gilberto de angulo Ricardo maucheualer Jordano malet & multis Anno v regni domnii Regis Henrici iiidecimo die Aprilis apud Drogheda Acta sunt hec omnia & singula prout suprascribuntur & recitantur sub anno domini Indiccione pontififactu mense die & loco supradictis Presentibus ad tunc honorabilibus viris magistris Johannie Ward Decretorum Doctore Ricardo hoyn officiali principali curie nostre Midensis & Willelmo Roche in Decretis Baccalariis aliisque diversis unacum subscripto Notario In quorum omnium & singulorum fidem & testimonium permissorum Sigillum nostrum quo utimur ad maiora presentibus (Inserted abobe the line, as stated by the notary public ) duximus apponendum Datum Anno Die mense & loco supradictis.
Maria (Written within the capital E of Et. ). Et ego Georgius Cogley clericus Midensis diocesis publicus auctoritate Apostolica Notarius Quia premonstratarum litterarum exhibicioni prenomminati abbatis desuper requisicioni & rogatui memoratique Domini Midensis in ea parte decreto & mandato ceterisque premissis omnibus & singulis Dum sic ut superius scribuntur & recitantur sub Anno Domini Indiccione pontifcatu mense die & loco predictis fierent & agerentur unacum prenominatis testibus presens personaliter presens publicum Instrumentum de mandato dicti domini Midensis ex inde confeci scripci publicavi ac in hanc publicam formam redegi monium omnium & singulorum premissorum Et constat michi Notario vii & viii necnon presentibus inter xxv & xxvi lineas huius instrumenti a capite eiusdem computando eciam de rasuris omnium aliorum vocabulorum que approbo & omni vicio carere notifco.
Quod vidit et audivit hoc testatur (In the margin)
The charter of John de Courcy, brought for transcription and certification by Richard Nangle, Abbot of Navan, before the Bishop of Meath in a certain lower room beneath the greater room of his manor of Ardbraccan on June 4, 1498, and which, on account of its fragility and age, could not without damage be sent to remote parts (presumably the English Chancery ) may be translated as follows:
To all Christ's faithful to whom this present writing shall come, John de Curcy, Justicar of Ireland, greeting in the Lord. Know all that I, on behalf of the common council of the King in Ireland, have granted and by this my present charter confirmed to God and the church of St. Marie of Novan and the canons regular serving God there all the lands which they held of the gift of the Irish before the coming of the English into Ireland , scil. the land of Novan in which the Abbey is situated, the land of Kel big Rathlogh, the land of grange foghyn and all the land which O'Roirke gave them beyond the river Mane, scil. the land of grange clagh and mothes morcorne Keregh, senbaly Rath ne cham', ballybroc no rathdouen from ad negarve up to ad leeg, to have and to hold to them and their successors in pure and perpetual alms with all their appurtenances in meadows and pastures, moors and marches, wood and plain,roads paths, waters and mills, ponds and fisheries, gallows and duellum, churches and chapels, housebote and haybote, soc and sac, all liberties and free customs belonging to the said land, the better, more fully and freely as any alms can be confirmed with all tithes of the said lands. And that this my concession and confirmation may remain settled and lasting and undisturbed i have affixed my seal to this writing. These being witnesses Jordan de Curci, Roger de Quenci, Hugh Tyrrell the King's constable, Roger Tyrell, William de Angulo, Gilbert de Angulo, Richard Maucheular, Jordan Malet and many others. At Drogheda, April 14, in the year 5 (sic) of the reign of King Henry.
In spite of the care taken by the Bishop, the Notary Public and other officials to collate copy and original they have unquestionably made a mistake in the date. Either 5 Hy. 11 or 5 Hy. 111 is an impossible date. John de Courcy was made Justicar by Henry ll in 1185 (Giraldus,v, 392). He witnesses, as Justicar, a charter in which John, Earl of Mortain is mentioned (Cart. St. Thomas's, 383) which indicates a date not earlier than 1189. The date of the charter is therefore between 1185 and 1189 when Henry ll died. If we take the 5 to be a mistake for 35, we should get the likely date of April 14, 1189.
The main interest of this charter is in the light it throws on the pre Norman history of Navan Abbey. Archdall ( Monasticon, 558 ) has no information about it before its foundation or reedification by Jocelin de Angulo, or Nangle, that knight of Strongbow's from Angle in Pembrokeshire to whom Hugh de Lacy (who had been granted Meath by Henry 11 in 1171 ) gave Navan and Ardbraccan ( Orpen, Song of Dermot, line 3144, note).
Mr Joseph H. Moore in his paper on Navan ( Journal, xxiii, 1893, p. 55 ) thinks that, although there are some doubtful notices of an ecclestiacical establishment here before the coming of the Normans, " either no such place existed, or that it was utterly unimportant." On a later page (59), however, he says " there was probably a Celtic monastery in existence but...it cannot have been of any importance."
This charter proves the existence of a Celtic monastery to which grants had been made by the Irish before the coming of the English, and in particular by O'Rourke. He is the well known Tighernan O'Ruairc, Lord of Brefni, the elopement of whose wife Dervorgilla with Dermot, King of Leinster, fired the train of events that brought the English to Ireland. He had, before the Norman invasion, extended his territory from Brefni south over Longford and far into Meath. In 1144 Turlough O'Connor divided east Meath between O'Rourke and Dermot McMurrough and in a fresh partition in 1169 O'Conor gave O'Rourke the eastern half, keeping the western half for himself
(Orpen, Ireland under the Normans, i, 52, 173).
There has been some doubt how far O'Rourke's occupation of Meath was effective. But, if the places beyond the river Mane can be identified as in Meath, this Charter shows that O'Rourke had power to make grants in Meath to Navan Abbey before 1171 when de Lacy secured the county.
Jordan de Courcy, the first witness, was John de Courcy's brother, and was killed in 1197 ( Roger de Hoveden, edn. Stubbs, iv. 25 and Annals of Inisfallen, 307 ).
Roger de Quency was probably a relative of Strongbow's son- in- law, Robert de Quency.
Hugh Tyrell was the well known lord of Castleknock; but I cannot recall another charter in which he is styled the King's constable.
Roger Tyrell was probably his son of that name who is mentioned with his brother Richard in a charter of Milo le Bret (Lawlor's Calendar of the Liber Niger, no. 85 ) and as brother of Richard in an Ormond deed (communicated to me by Professor Curtis from his " Calendar of Ormond Deeds, Voleme 1 ).
William de Angulo was a son of Jocelin de Angulo. He occurs in another Ormond deed, a grant to him by Strongbow and therefore before 1176. From his position among the witnesses he was, perhaps, an elder brother of Gilbert de Angulo, the lord of Morgallion who also witnesses.
Richard Maucheualer' and Jordan Malet I have not identified.
For assistance with placenames I have to thank Professor Curtis and the Rev. Paul Walsh, P.P, of Multyfarnham. The possessions of Navan Abbey, as surrendered by Thomas Wafre, the last Abbot, on July 19, 1539, are given in an Exchequer Inquisition, of which the original is lost.
But there is a precis made by Thomas Harding about the year 1815 for the Record Commission for Ireland ( vol. 23, pp. 106-112, of the Calendar in the Public Record Office, Dublin ). As the details correspond almost exactly with those given in the Fiants of Edward lV ( no. 943, Feb. 4, 1551/2; 8th Rep Dep. Keeper, p.126 ) we may assume that we have here a complete record of all the Abbey's possessions at the time of the Dissolution.
Father Walsh has gone over the names and given the modern renderings; and it will be sufficient to say here that the only places named in the charter which are found in these later documents are Rathlogh and Grange ffoghyn. These are two of the places given in the first group of Names. The third Kel big cannot be identified with any confidence; for though there is a parish of Kilbeg in the Barony of Lower Kells, 11 1/2 miles north north west of Navan, there is no evidence that it ever belonged to Navan Abbey.
The inquisition taken at the time of the Dissolution includes a messuage, 110 acres of arable land and 4 acres of pasture in "le Grange juxta ffaghanhill ", and " the Grange by Foghanhill " is mentioned as part of the possessions of Navan Abbey in 1541 (Fiants Hy. Vlll, no 252, 7th Rep. Dep. Keeper, p. 56) and in 1551/2 (Fiants, Ed. V1., no. 943. " The town of Grange near Foughan hill," parcel of the monastery of Navan, was granted to Sir Anthony Savage in 1613/4 ( Cal. Pat. Rolls, Ireland, Jas. 1., p.265). Grange is marked on the 1 inch Ordnance Map, 1 1/4 miles north west of Ardbraccan church and 2 miles north west of Navan; and Faughan Hill (364 feet ) 1 mile to the west of Grange. Grange is in the parish of Ardbraccan and Faughan Hill in that of Martry.
The inquisition of 1539 includes "a certain part of the fishery of the water of Boyne in Rathloghe in the above county" ( Meath ). Rathloghe is included in the Fiants of 1541, and Rathlogh an a "portion of a fishing there upon the Boyn" in that of 1551/2. Five acres in Rathlogh and a portion of the fishings in the Boyne, parcel of the estate in the monastery of Navan, were granted to Sir Anthony Savage in 1616/7
(Cal. Pat. Rolls, Ireland, Jas. 1, p. 317 b ).
Rathlogh cannot now be identified, but it is evident from the above that it was beside the Boyne.
The second group of names are O'Rourke's grants beyond the river Mane. There is nothing in the charter to show that these lands were in Meath, and there is also to be taken into consideration the doubt referred to above whether O'Rourke's occupation of Meath was so far effective as to permit of him making grants of land in that county. But I have not been able to identify any of the names in the charter with places in other parts of O'Rourke's dominions, and there are not wanting certain grounds for thinking that they were all in Meath and in the neighbourhood of Navan.
The river Mane seems to be Commar Mana which O'Donovan (Four Masters ii. p. 1094, note) says was probably the ancient name of the commar or confluence of the Blackwater and the Boyne. This seems a plausible identification for the river Mane of the charter, for it indicates that part of the river Boyne on which Navan stands.
Professor Curtis suggests that ad negarve may perhaps stand for ath na gabhra the ford of the Gabhair; and the Gabhair O'Donovan (Four Masters i, p. 120 note ) identifies as the modern Gowra which flows into the Boyne near Dowdstown House, some 3 1/2 miles south of Navan. If this identification be accepted, may ad Leeg be similarly interpreted as the ford of the leeg, the modern Leigh's brook ? This rivulet flows into the Boyne just south of Navan, and, if it is not a modern name, may perhaps be the Leeg of the Charter.
Whatever balybroc or rathouen may stand for, the above interpretation would place these lands in the neighbourhood of this stretch of the Boyne between Navan and Dowdstown. Dowdstown, where the Gowra joins the Boyne is a modern form It is Dowthstown in O'Donovan's note quoted above and Dowestowne in Petty's map c. 1655-9.
Topographical Index of the Parishes and Townlands of Ireland in Sir William Petty's Maps, Irish Manuscript Commission, 1932, p.16).
Therefore a possibility that it is the Rathdouen of the Charter, though "town" is an unusual rendering of "rath".
With even less confidence I suggest that Rath ne cham' ( or Rath ne thain' as it may just as possible be read) is the modern Rataine, 4 miles south west of Navan, in which parish is Shanbo (about 1 mile to the east ) which be the senbaly of the Charter. It should be noted however that there is no record of Rataine being in the possession of Navan Abbey. If the identification is correct then the lands of Rataine must have been alieniated before the Dissolution. At the identification of other places I have not been able to make a guess, and I must them to Meath topographers, only mentioning on the authority of Father Walsh that "Mothes morcorne Keragh" should be divided "Mothesmor cornekeragh." Mothesmor is possibly mota mor, perhaps the great pre-Norman mote that dominates the Boyne about 1/2 mile east of Navan, but this is north of the Boyne, and would not, on the interpretation above, be beyond the river Mane.
Mr Charles McNeill suggests that the name written "Mothesmor" represents an Irish original "Methus Mor," and that the place referred to may be Macetown, a townland in the angle between the Blackwater and the Boyne. See Hogan's Onomasticon, s.v. Methus.
The Bishop and the Abbot
The Bishop of Meath, Brother John, is John Payne, who was one of the foremost supporters in Ireland of Lambert Simnel, and had preached at his coronation in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, in 1487 (Dictionary National Biography). In a Pastoral Letter of his, quoted by the Rev. A. Cogan (Diocese of Meath," i, 376) from Hibernia Dominicana, p. 86, he styles himself as in the above document, "Frater Johannes ordinis praedicatorum."
Brother Richard Nangle, Abbot of Navan and no doubt a descendant of Jocelin de Angulo, was also a supporter of Lambert Simmel and was pardoned by Henry Vll in 1488 (Archdall, Monasticon, 558) as was the Bishop. George Cogley, the Notary Public, is mentioned in Cotton's Fasti Eccl. Hibern. (v, p.233): "Among the Records in the Diocesan Registry of Meath is an ancient parchment roll containing the names of the Bishops of Meath from the English invasion under King Henry ll, 'compiled from the ancient Originalls, in 1518, by me, George Cogley, Notary Apostolic and Registrar of the Court of Meath.' " It was from this record, no doubt, that Ware got his details (Bishops, p. 151) about the burial of John Payne in 1506. He "was buried, as George Cogley says (who was a Notary Public and Register of the Diocese of Meath about that time) in Dublin, in a monastery of his own order, yet he erected a marble tomb, once adorned with brass plates, for himself and his successors, in St. Patrick's, Dublin, not far from the west gate, as appears from the rude epitaph in rhyme thereon inscribed." The inscription is quoted in Healy's, Diocese of Meath, i. 153.
The Bishop's Seal
"The great seal" (quo utimur ad maiora) is unfortunately greatly damaged. I am indebted to Dr. Robin Flower of the British Museum for the following description of the portion that remains.
"It shows in the base a chalice with rayed host and in the chief the lower part of a figure. What remains of the inscription is illegible." We should expect some such phrase as " Sigillum Johannis midensis episcopi," and it may be that the few strokes that remain are for mid, for if the legend were "S. Johannis midensis episcopi," the mid of midensis would just fall at the bottom on the right. No pre Reformation seal of a Bishop of Meath appears to be known, and fragmentary as this is, it is of interest. It may be compared with the ancient seal of the clergy of the diocese of Meath, reproduced by Mr. E.C.R. Armstrong in the Journal for 1916 (xlv, p. 146, plate xii.)
St. Mary's Abbey, Navan was located between the Rivers Boyne and Blackwater bounded by St. Ultans Terrace, Navan Shopping Centre, Beaufort Road and Navan Fire Station.
Ríocht na Midhe.
Rev. C.C. Ellison, M.A.
The Charter of John de Courcy to the Abbey of Navan is recited in a Certificate of John Payne, Bishop of Meath, dated 1498, at which time it was produced by the Abbot, Richard Nangle. Its date was probably 1189, when the Abbey is said to have been founded by Jocelyn Nangle, the first Baron of Navan, on the site of an ancient Celtic monastery. Little is known of this monastery, but the de Courcy Charter grants and confirms "all the lands held of the gift of the Irish before the coming of the English into Ireland."
These grants included "all the land which O'Roirke gave them beyond the river Mane" Part of the 13th century Martyology, which belonged to the Abbey, is still extant and in it are entered various records and obits of the three following centuries.
The Abbey was at first poorly endowed and "spoiled by raids at night" but in 1476 was granted lands to the value of £40 per annum, and permission to elect its Abbot without the costly formalities involved in obtaining the Royal Consent. Like Trim Abbey, It soon became a wealthy and famous place of pilgrimage on account of its reputation as a shrine of healing. In 1450 John Bole, the Abbot, afterwards Archbishop of Armagh, had procured a Papal Bull granting indulgences to all persons visiting it as pilgrims or contributing to its repair and adornment. Four years later all pilgrims visiting it were granted protection by Act of Parliament.
The story is told of a feud between Sir Thomas Bathe and Dr. John Stackbolle of Navan Abbey. In 1449 both laid claim to the parish of Kilberry, Bathe bribed a servant to accuse Stackbolle of high treason, had him imprisoned in Dublin, and confiscated his goods. Stackbolle managed to prove himself innocent, and obtained an order of excommunication against Bathe, which was solemnly recited by Edmund Ouldhall, Bishop of Meath, in Navan market place. "Still continuing in his malicious, inhuman, and diabolical obstinacy against the Church of God," Bathe abducted his enemy from the Sanctuary of the Abbey, imprisoned him at Wilkinstown, and cut out his eyes and tongue. " The which so done, he was again carried to the said Church and cast there before our said Blessed Lady, by the grace, meditation and miraculous power of whom he was restored his sight and tongue." Bathe was later put on trial and his Louth estates confiscated.
In 1539 the northern Irish, under Con O'Neill and Manus O'Donnell, invaded the Pale and sacked the town of Navan carry off "spoils of gold and silver, copper, iron, and every sort of goods and valuables besides".
On 19 July 1539 Thomas Wafre surrendered the Abbey to the Commissioners of Henry Vlll. An inventory of its possessions made on 1 October 1540 states that
"the Monastery Church has been from time immemorial the parish Church of Navan...the house and other buildings now within the site or manor are so ruinous and decayed that they are worth nothing." The Abbey occupied a fortified position in the angle formed by the confluence of the Boyne and Blackwater. "It is very necessary for the defence of those living in the vicinity, and for the safe custody of their beasts and other goods in time of any disturbance".
There was a fortified house or tower, called Newcastle, a garden and orchard, three water mills, a salmon weir the rent of which was thirty salmon valued at 2 shillings a piece, a meadow called "Horlyng Park" and several hundred acres of land.
The tenants were bound to work in the Abbey demense at the times of sowing, hay making and harvest, their labour being values at 2 pence per day.
The Abbey also owned a number of houses in Canon's Row, which were destroyed in the 1539 attack as they were just outside the town wall. But they seem to have been rebuilt before 1552, since they are included in the list of properties leased to John Wakely in that year.
The landowners at the time of the Dissolution were only too ready to enrich themselves by leasing the confiscated Church property. They were supposed to make provision for vicars to carry out the spiritual duties of the parishes but seldom did so adequately. Sir Roger Jones, the impropriator under James l, had amassed over 1500 acres in Ardbraccan and Navan, yet he only allowed the vicars of these parishes £7 and £12 a year respectively.
It is not to be wondered that many of the parish clergy were pluralists. William Phillips, B.D. curate of Navan, was also Rector of Dunsany, Kilberry and Ardmulchan where he lived. By this means his income was raised to £85-6-8 per annum. He was notable as being "of good life and conversacion, and verrie painefull in his calling.”
Roger Puttock, Vicar of Donaghmore and Rector of Kilmoon, was presented to the Rectory of Navan about 1633. In October 1641 the Portreeve and Burgesses favoured the insurgents, and during the general uprising against the protestants in the town Puttock's house was sacked, and "he was glad to fly with his wife and two children disguised, and to leave one child behind him."
The Abbey in Navan is still remembered in placenames in the area. There is Abbeylands, while Abbeylands North and Abbeylands South point to the many acres of rich lands owned by the Abbey. The location of the Abbey is the car park on the Navan Relief Road opposite the Fire Station and the surrounding land. Canon Row reminds us of the canons or priests who served their flock in the Abbey.
The history of the Abbey can be summarised briefly. Following the Anglo Norman invasion of the 1170s, Hugh De Lacy who was Lord of Meath granted Navan and Ardbraccan to Joceline Nangle, one of his bravest and richest knights. Nangle built an abbey on the ancient Celtic monastic site known as Nuadhcongbhail. This was an old Celtic name for Navan, meaning new dwelling. The canons regular of St. Augustine were the order of monks in this monastery in Navan. Grants of land had already been given to the old Celtic monastery by the Lord of Breffny, Tiernan O'Rourke, and these were left to the monastery under the Normans.
However, the monastery was Norman controlled, even to the choosing of the abbots, most of whom were of Norman blood. The Irish were kept from positions of importance. The Abbey was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. A very famous statue of Our Lady was housed in the Abbey to which was credited many cures and miracles. People came on pilgrimage to the Abbey. Plenary indulgence could be gained, all contributed towards the upkeep of the monastery. It certainly proved a valuable source of income for a time.
There is a story told of a certain dignitary of the Abbey, a Dr. Stackballe. He was responsible for the excommunication of a Norman named Thomas Bathe at the Market Cross in Navan. Later the followers of Thomas Bathe cut out his eyes and tongue. He was brought to the statue in the Abbey and both his speech and sight were restored. This statue was destroyed during the Reformation.
In 1539 Thomas Wafre, the last Abbot of Navan, surrendered the Abbey and its vast demesne to Henry Vlll. He himself received a pension of £13 per annum. Later the neighbouring Northern Irish chieftans O'Neill and O'Donnell, plundered Navan and burnt the Abbey buildings. The houses owned by the Abbey in Canon Row had also been destroyed. The total possessions included over 700 acres. Abbeylands was leased first to an Englishman called Wakely and later to Savage. He was succeeded in 1625 by Roger Jones. It descended in the 1840s to the Earls of Essex. The tenants of the Earl of Essex received the lands through the Land Purchase Acts of the late 1800s.
The Abbey and its church fell into decay. Around 1711 a barracks and stables were built in its place. All the ancient tombs were broken up and used for paving stones and flagstones for the barracks yard. The cemetery was dug up and the human remains cast irreverently into the Blackwater. When a pumphole was been sunk in the barracks yard about 1854, the remains of nine people were discovered laid one on top of the other according to Dean Cogan.
In 1916, Dr. Gaughran, the Bishop of Meath, purchased the old barracks for £600 and later opened a De La Salle Brothers School. Thus the religous had one again been established in the old monastic site.
Fig. 2 Fragments of carved masonry from Navan Abbey, pictured above, were uncovered in 1976 during the excavations for the Inner Relief road. They are now to be seen in the grounds of St. Mary's Catholic Church. They date from the mid 15th century re- structuring of the Abbey during the time of Bishop Bole.
In 1976, whilst laying sewage drains, human remains were found in Abbeylands down to a depth of nine feet below the surface. They were reburied before any expert could examine them. Also, around the same time, a basin shaped font measuring approximately three feet across was found in a field at the entrance to the present Abbeygrove. This was some kind of baptismal font associated with the once all important Abbey in Navan. It is now in the National Museum.