Kells Priory is one of the largest and most magnificent
mediaeval monuments in Ireland. Situated on the bank of the King's River, it comprises
a collection of mediaeval tower houses spaced at intervals along and within walls
which enclose a site of some three acres.
Kells Priory was founded by Geoffrey
FitzRobert in 1193. FitzRobert was brother-in-law to Strongbow and the priory
succeeded an earlier church which was dedicated to St. Mary, the Blessed Virgin
and served as parish church to nearby Kells village.
During it's first century
and a half the priory was attacked and burned on three occasions, firstly by Lord
William de Bermingham in 1252, by the Scots army of Edward Bruce on Palm Sunday
1326, and by a second William de Bermingham in 1327. It seems likely then that
the walls and fortifications date back to this period of unrest.
the Bishop of Ossory Richard de Ledrede paid a lenten visit to the priory. Following
an inquisition into a Kilkenny sect of heretics, Alice Kytler and William Outlaw
were ordered to appear before the Bishop to answer charges of witchcraft. Outlaw
was supported by Arnold de Paor, Lord of Kells who arrested the Bishop and had
him imprisoned in Kilkenny Castle for 17 days. This caused great scandal and on
his release the Bishop successfully prosecuted the heretics. Alice Kytler fled
to England and remained there, Alice Smith also fled, but her mother Petronella
de Meath became Ireland's first heretic to be burned at the stake.
of Kells Priory finally took place in March 1540 and the chuch and property were
surrendered to James Butler, Ninth Earl of Ormonde.