2004 World Monuments Watch
Set in an idyllic landscape of verdant green rolling hills along the banks of the River Suir, the ruins of Athassel Abbey stand as a romantic symbol of Ireland's legendary past. Dedicated to St. Edmund, the abbey was founded in 1192 by William Fitz Aldem de Burgo, a Norman aristocrat, for the Augustinian Order. Athassel grew to become the largest medieval priory in Ireland and force in local politics. Unfortunately, this led to friction with the local ruling family, the O'Briens, who put Athassel to the torch in the mid-fifteenth century. Surviving features include the chancel with its lancet windows, multiple carved elements, the remains of the cloister, and the bridge with its associated gatehouse. Although the site is recognized by the government as a national monument and protected structure, Athassel suffers from many of the problems associated with ruins. Exposed to centuries of Ireland's constant rains and brutal winters, the rate of deterioration is accelerating. The effects of natural aging, water penetration, and vegetation have been compounded by cattle grazing about the monument. Seasonal flooding of the site further exacerbates these factors. To date, a conservation plan has yet to be developed and a comprehensive solution involving all of Ireland's heritage bodies is required to secure Athassel's future.
Since the Watch
Following the 2004 Watch, Ireland's Office of Public Works, which controls the above-ground remains of Athassel Abbey, commissioned a preservation plan for the site. The Athassel Abbey Conservation Plan was formally presented and put into effect in December 2008. The plan calls for the protection of this extensive site from rain, frost, overgrown vegetation, and flooding from the nearby river, but the future remains constrained by limited finances. January 2011