Tipperary Tourism: Holy Cross Abbey

Holy Cross Abbey

The Holy Cross Abbey in Tipperary is a restored Cistercian monastery in Holycross near Thurles, situated on the River Suir.  Holy Cross Abbey and the sacred relic of the True Cross became a place of great medieval pilgrimage, and with the Reformation also a rallying-point for the dispossessed and victims of religious persecution.  As a symbol and inspiration for the defence of the Catholic faith, resistance and the struggle for freedom, it also drew a complaint by Sir Henry Sidney, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, to Queen Elizabeth I in 1567.  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.  The Holy Rood relic was last exposed for public veneration in 1632, and following the Cromwellian war, Holy Cross Abbey fell into ruins. Local people used the roofless ruins as a burial place after 1740. It became a scheduled national monument in 1880, “to be preserved and not used as a place of worship“.  Special legislation in the Dáil on its 50th anniversary, 21 January 1969, enabled Holy Cross Abbey to be restored as a place of Catholic worship, exceptionally for a national monument. The Sacristan of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican provided an authenticated relic of the Holy Cross, and the emblem of the Jerusalem Cross, or Crusader Cross, has been restored for the Abbey.


The village of Holycross with a population of about 700 people developed around the Cistercian Abbey.  The River Suir runs through the village which is an excellent spot for fishing.  There are some picnic areas and quintessential parklands scattered around the village which is ideal for a relaxing summer day picnic.  The village contains some amenities such as a local pub (The Old Abbey Inn) and a shop.  The Old Abbey Inn offers a carvery Sunday dinner from 12.30 every Sunday, there is also a café in the Old Abbey Inn which offers a take away menu.  Holycross is located only a short distance from Thurles where you will have access to a full range of services and amenities.

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