Well let me tell you the story about the enchanting Fore Abbey, nestled in Ireland’s hidden heartlands, County Westmeath.
This place, a sort of hidden gem, is packed with history.
As I passed through the secluded village of Fore, there wasn’t anything to write home about. Just a rural Irish village. But then I saw a sign for St. Feichins way and it’s majestic ‘Fore Abbey’.
As I approached the abbey, i was fascinated to see this majestic structure so out of place, it had to be a different era. A sort of relic of centuries long gone.
Well, Fore Abbey traces its roots back to the 7th century, when St. Féichín, a humble monk, founded a Christian monastery here. So as I pulled up to its tree lined avenue entrance, I imagined how I would have been greeted so majestically here so many years ago.
The word "Fore" itself derives from the Irish "Fobhair," meaning "the town of the water springs." St. Féichín and his followers sought solace and spirituality amidst the lush rural landscape and he dedicated his life to establishing what became a leading early Christian site. It survived through turbulent times with invasions by the Viking and the Anglo normans, 12 times in all it was set on fire.
Now here is a fact that awes me: There are 18 Celtic crosses (Fore Crosses), which are spread out over 10 kilometres around the Abbey. One of them is at the church and then the others are scattered throughout the hills.
And if that’s not enough. there is the so called ‘Seven Wonders of Fore’ – including that the saint is said to have thrust his crozier into the ground and caused water to flow and that the lintel stone of the church was raised by St Feichin’s prayers.
As I crossed the moss-covered threshold, the weathered stones seemed eager to share their tales.
But you’ll never guess what happened. In the centre of the priory, a serene man stood playing the violin and filled the abandoned priory with music and I was transported back 1300 years, picturing exactly what it must have been like to hear the enchanting sounds of a lively but serene paradise of prayer and isolated devotion.
Afterwards, I had a chat with the man and his violin and he turned out to be a grandson of a man who lived next to the Abbey and he said he comes here just to find some tranquility and peace and musical reflection.
The abbey's main chapel where I stood talking to him. dating back to the 13th century, stood proud, its Gothic architecture speaking of times when devotion and artistry intertwined.
Throughout the centuries, Fore Abbey witnessed turbulent times, from Viking raids to the dissolution of the monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII. But even in the face of adversity, this sacred place endured, and today, it stands as a testament to the resilience of Irish history.
But the real magic of Fore Abbey lies in its hidden corners. As I ventured deeper into the abbey's embrace, I stumbled upon secret gardens that were once tended by monks.
So if you find yourself in Westmeath, make it a point to journey to Fore Abbey and be transported back in time to a lost city of spirituality, knowledge and peace.