Sunday 6 May 2018

Pilgrimage to Holy Cross Abbey 2018

To make a pilgrimage to Holy Cross Abbey, Holycross, Co. Tipperary, is to walk the path to Calvary and to walk in the footsteps of almost nine centuries of pilgrims. The Abbey was once home to the monks of the great Cistercian Order.

The Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland (1900) says of it: "This monastic ruin is considered to rank in popular esteem as one of the first, if not the very first, in Ireland. It is situated on the western bank of the Suir about seven miles north of Cashel. It was founded in 1182 by Donald O'Brien, king of Limerick, for the Cistercian monks; but is said to owe its origin and name to the possession of piece of the True Cross, presented in 1110 by Pope Pascal II to Murrough O'Brien, monarch of Ireland... The Abbey is appropriately built in the form of a cross, with nave, chancel and transept, and a lofty, square belfrey at the intersection of the cross. In both transepts are two distinct chapels beautifully groined. It was endowed with special privileges, and the abbot was a peer of parliament with the title of Earl of the Holy Cross."

Further details can be found on PilgrimageMedievalIreland including that: "in 1567 the Lord deputy complaining to the Queen wrote ‘there is no small conflunence of people still resorting to the holy cross’. In 1579 James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald is said to have venerated the relic of the cross at the abbey a few weeks before his death at the hands of the Burkes, while 1583 Dermot O’Hurley archbishop of Cashel made a pilgrimage to the shrine shortly before his capture by the English. The relic of the cross would have attracted people from all classes and in 1586 Camden writes of the ‘famous abbey’ to which the people still come to do reverence to the relic of the Holy Cross’. He goes on to say ‘It is incredible what a concourse of people still throng hither out of devotion. For this nation obstinately adheres to the religion of superstition of their forefathers.’"

Good old Wikipedia adds a poignant detail: "The Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland recount that in 1601, Prince Hugh Roe O'Donnell, on his way to the Battle of Kinsale, true to his family arms and Constantinian motto (In Hoc Signo Vinces) and in anticipation of the battle to come at Kinsale, visited and venerated a relic of the True Cross (Holy rood) on the Feast of St. Andrew, on November 30, 1601 at Holy Cross Abbey. At that period it was a rallying point for the defence of religious freedom and for Irish sovereignty. From there he sent an expedition to Ardfert, to win a quick victory and successfully recover the territory of his ally, Fitzmaurice, Lord of Kerry, who had lost it and his 9-year-old son, to Sir Charles Wilmot. It was the last victory before the defeat at Kinsale."

Archiseek has, as ever, some excellent images of the abbey and add that "it became a scheduled national monument in 1880, 'to be preserved and not used as a place of worship'" However, a special Holycross Act was passed by the Irish Parliament, the Oireachtas, to allow the Church to be restored to its intended use and as the old song has it: "is an t-aifreann binn á rá" (and the sweet Mass was said there once more).

Our third pilgrimage in the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly in recent months and following also in the footsteps of 'Ecclesia Dei - Ireland' that had held aloft the banner of the Traditional Latin Mass for so many years, we returned on the 5th May, the traditional time close to the old Feast of the Holy Cross on 3rd May, for the 26th Annual Latin Mass Pilgrimage to Holy Cross Abbey. Faugh a Ballagh!