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Rushen Abbey, Isle of Man

14th century bridge by Barbara Ballard Rushen Abbey is considered to be the Isle of Man’s premier religious heritage site. It is on the outskirts of the village of Ballasalla beside the river. A path runs beside the river to the 14th century bridge.In the ruins is an extensive and interesting exhibition on the abbey and on the lives of monks who chose this way of life as well as the history of Christianity on the Isle of Man.

Model of Rushen Abbey by Barbara Ballard The abbey was constructed of local limestone in 1134 for the Sauvignac order (later amalgamated with the Cistercians) of monks. The land was granted by King Olaf I. The buildings included a church (completed in 1257), cloister, and dormitories. Abbey lands to the south and west of the buildings provided a means of living for the monks. It is thought that the medieval history manuscripts (the Chronicles of the kings of Man and the Isles) of the island originated with the monks.

Rushen Abbey ruins by Barbara Ballard The abbey saw its share of warfare over the years, being plundered by the Vikings and later by the Irish in 1316. Further problems arose in the 15th century when the whole island was taken over by Sir John Stanley, an Englishman. In the ensuing years various laws were passed to reduce the abbot’s powers. The dissolution of the abbeys occurred in 1540, thus ending Rushen’s active life. The monks and abbot were removed from the abbey in June of that year, and much of the abbey was sold off for building materials. In the 18th century further plundering of abbey stones took place.

Rushen Abbey grounds by Barbara Ballard In the 1800s and 1900s a school (formerly a private house), jam factory (operated until 1970s), and hotel were built on former abbey lands. A nightclub and café were opened. In the 1900s Edwardians flocked to the abbey grounds for cream teas, bowling and dancing. Most of these buildings were later demolished. Fortunately for the abbey, the Isle of Man government bought the site in 1998 and turned it over to the Manx National Heritage, who opened it to the public in 2000.

Rushen Abbey
Ballasalla
Tel. 0 1624 648 000
Open: April-Oct, 10am-5pm
Owned by Isle of Man government; run by Manx National Heritage

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