Kylemore Abbey (Irish: Mainistir na Coille Móire) is a Benedictine monastery founded in 1920 on the grounds of Kylemore Castle, in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland. The abbey was founded for Benedictine Nuns who fled Belgium in World War I.
Originally called Kylemore Castle, it was built between 1863 and 1868 as a private home for the family of Mitchell Henry, a wealthy politician from Manchester, England who was also MP for Galway County from 1871 to 1885. After the death of his wife Margaret in 1875, Mitchell did not spend much time there. He and his wife are both buried in the small mausoleum near the church in the grounds of the abbey. Notable features of the abbey are the neo-Gothic church (built between 1877 and 1881), a miniature replica of Norwich Cathedral, made from local green Connemara marble, and the Victorian walled garden.
The abbey houses a secondary girls' boarding school, Kylemore Abbey International Girls' School. The house and gardens are open to the public. The nuns have decided to close the school in 2010, although they do not plan to sell the property and will continue to reside there.
The name Kylemore originates from the Irish words Coill Mhór – meaning Great Wood.
The tragic tale of Kylemore Abbey:
October 1, 2008
It was quite a wedding gift.
When Mitchell Henry and his bride Margaret honeymooned at Kylemore in the wild west of Ireland, he promised he would build their dream home there.
And he was good as his word, later constructing a magnificent home which 150 years later remains one of Ireland's greatest neo-Gothic castles.
Built out of love, Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, County Galway also has a tragic tale.
The castle was funded by the huge inheritance Mitchell Henry received when his father Alexander died in 1862 and he became chairman of the British family's textile business.
Dr Henry abandoned his medical career and purchased the existing Kylemore Lodge and 4,000 hectares of land surrounded by mountains and a lake.
Designed by Samuel Ussher (Ussher) Roberts, the 70-room abbey was built through the labour of hundreds of local people and featured marble from the Connemara region.
The Henrys, who married in 1849, had nine children by the time the castle was completed in 1871 and Mitchell Henry by then had also embarked on a political career, representing Galway in the British parliament (Ireland was then ruled by Britain).
But tragically his beloved Margaret died aged 45 in 1874 after becoming ill while the family was on holiday in Egypt.
Her body was brought back to Kylemore and a mausoleum, which still stands today, was built on the abbey's grounds and a Gothic church was also built in Margaret's memory.
Tragedy would continue to stalk the Henrys as in 1892 their daughter Geraldine, who was married to an American and had a daughter, died instantly in a horse and cart accident.
Mitchell Henry put his cherished castle on the market and it was bought in 1903 by the Duke and Duchess of Manchester for STG63,000 ($A157,559).
Dr Henry saw out his life in England and after he died aged 84 in 1910 his ashes were brought back to Kylemore and laid to rest in the mausoleum next to Margaret.
One of the Henry's grandchildren also has their ashes entombed in the mausoleum.
Since the early 1920s, Kylemore Abbey has been in the hands of Benedictine Nuns, who purchased the castle and church after leaving World War One devastated Ypres in Belgium, where many Anzacs died on the battlefields.
They established an international boarding school for girls which is still operating today and sometimes has students from Australia.
The school's long term future is in doubt though as few nuns remain on the teaching staff.
Like the Henrys, the Benedictine nuns have found the castle has its own curses with a large fire in 1959 destroying part of the abbey and the school.
In more recent years, the nuns have opened the abbey up to raise funds, some of which was used to restore the church - officially opened in 1995 by Ireland's first female president Mary Robinson.
A Victorian-walled garden, visitor centre, craft shop and restaurant have also been added since the mid-1990s to make Kylemore Abbey one of the Connemarra region's premier tourist attractions.
The Gothic castle on the lake is an amazing sight in a region of rugged mountains, trout-filled lakes and rivers and idyllic seaside settings.