To this day, the site remains a largely undisturbed early historic and medieval monastic site containing a complex of archaeological monuments, ecclesiastical and secular, visible and sub-surface. The extant monuments at the site include a large ecclesiastical enclosure, five Early Christian grave slabs, a fine mid-ninth century high cross, a fragment of a cross shaft, a complete cross-head (housed in the National Museum of Ireland) and cross base, a holy well and other extensive archaeological features. It also includes a motte built by Hugh de Lacy in the 1180s and it was here that he was killed in 1186 by an Irishman.
It was at the monastery in Durrow that the ancient Book of Durrow was compiled. Discovered in the hands of a local farmer, the book is believed to be the earliest surviving fully decorated insular Gospel manuscript. It is believed to date from the 7th century, though this is controversial.
The site itself, originally called Daru (plain of the oaks) is the location of some of the only remaining pre-mediaeval oak in Ireland. The line of oak trees which lines the fields to the side of Durrow Abbey also marks the route of the ancient highway of Ireland.
The five high crosses or Early Christian grave slabs (four of which have been stolen) are said to lie on the intersection of ley lines, where many ancient sites or monuments are said to sit. Durrow Abbey and the surrounding lands has been sound to sit on a higher than normal number of ley lines.
From an architectural perspective, the site contains two interesting features: Durrow Abbey House — a building of significant quality dating to the 1920s when it was rebuilt — and the church, dating from the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century which itself is built on the footprint of at least one previous church, dating from medieval times. It is also suggested that the medieval church was itself built on the site of a former 12th century abbey church.
The house and land has recently been leased to the Founder of the Arts for Peace Foundation, which will use the house and grounds as the venue for a recreational respite centre for children from conflict zones.
State to pay E3m for 80 acres at Durrow ; Government decision to buy part of historic Offaly estate will protect high cross
Nov 05, 2003; The Government is set to buy part of the historic Durrow Abbey estate in Co Offaly later this month for E3 million to protect one...