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Delving into Sligo Abbey’s 800 years

It’s situated right in the middle of Sligo and interest is being renewed into the town’s abbey with heritage week playing its role in highlighting its history with a series of events including a workshop in the medieval Dominican chant which had been an important part of the friars’ daily routine

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Deputy Frank Feighan, Minister of State at the Department of Health, and Deputy Peter Burke, Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, pictured during a recent visit to Sligo Abbey with OPW Head Guide Emma Timoney.

Deputy Frank Feighan, Minister of State at the Department of Health, and Deputy Peter Burke, Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, pictured during a recent visit to Sligo Abbey with OPW Head Guide Emma Timoney.

Sligo Abbey.

Sligo Abbey.

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Deputy Frank Feighan, Minister of State at the Department of Health, and Deputy Peter Burke, Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, pictured during a recent visit to Sligo Abbey with OPW Head Guide Emma Timoney.

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THE heavenly harmonies of medieval chant will echo throughout the ancient ruins of Sligo Abbey during National Heritage Week, which starts this coming Saturday, August 13th..

Among the array of events taking place in the Abbey during the week will be a workshop by a leading expert on medieval Dominican chant.

Admission to the Abbey, and to all Heritage Week events, are free, with something for all ages.

Among them is Wild Child Day, with talks and demonstrations on a variety of subjects integral to the Abbey, such as stone carvings and biodiversity, as well as renditions by local musicians.

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Founded in 1252 as a Dominican Friary, the almost 800-year old edifice has survived the centuries, with the Dominicans’ present-day church in High Street in Sligo enduring as a popular and peaceful oasis for daily prayer, Masses and other religious events.

A glimpse of the sacred atmosphere of the 13th Century friary may be gleaned by visiting on the afternoon of Sunday, August 21st., between 2pm and 4pm., when Dr. Eleanor Giraud, a lecturer in chant and ritual song at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick, will deliver a workshop on medieval Dominican chant.

Dr. Giraud explained that for the Dominicans, chant was an important part of their lives.

She said: “Every day, the friars would congregate in the church to offer Mass and eight other services of prayer, chants and readings, collectively known as the Divine Office.”

In Dr Giraud’s workshop on August 21st, participants will learn how to sing a collection of chants that would have been sung in Sligo Abbey in the Middle Ages.

She added: “At the end of the workshop, we will have the opportunity to sing these chants in their original setting of the Abbey.

“Notation will be provided for those who want it but as most medieval friars were not trained musicians, you don’t need to be either.”

Dr. Giraud’s doctoral research at the University of Cambridge examined how Dominican chant books were made and who copied them.

She is now conducting research into the origins of Dominican chant and its relationship to other chant traditions.

Registration is required for this workshop. See heritageweek.ie for booking link.

Apart from the choir area in which the friars chanted and prayed, other parts of the Abbey are among the best acoustic spaces for musical performances, one of which will take place on Sunday August 14th at 3pm, when B.M.-M.B. banjo and ukulele duo Martin Byrne and Barry Mulligan will entertain with their own distinctive offering of music and song.

The Abbey contains a wealth of unique and intricate stone carvings, an insight into which can be gained on Thursday 18th at 10:30am, when Emmet Farrell will lead a stonecutter’s tour throughout the ruins, talking about the work of the craftsmen of yesteryear, admired by experts to this day.

The Abbey grounds also contain a number of dedicated pollinator-friendly zones, tying into this year’s Biodiversity theme.

On Tuesday, August 16th at 10am, come along for ‘The Abbey After Dark’ when Nature Learn Expert Michael Bell will share the contents of his moth trap, left out the night before, revealing the lives of those that flit around the Abbey after dark.

Wild Child Day will follow on August 20th which will include a pollinator display and biodiversity trail. Prizes will be awarded to the most observant young naturalists.

An Abbeyquarter Photography Competition will run throughout Heritage Week. Residents of Abbeyquarter get a view of Sligo Abbey that most never see.

We want to see your pictures! Submit your entry on Sligo Abbey’s Facebook or Instagram @sligoabbeyopw by Saturday, 20th August for a chance to win a €100 photography voucher.

A centre of worship and prayer for hundreds of years, the Abbey was, from the late 1700s to the mid-1800s, the burial place for thousands of Sligo people, particularly during the cholera epidemic of 1832.

Today, it is managed and maintained by the Office of Public Works, and attracts many visitors, local and international.

This Heritage Week, Head Guide at Sligo Abbey, Emma Timoney, is encouraging more local people to visit and discover the historical jewel on their doorstep.

Emma says: “We have many international visitors to the Abbey and we love sharing our history with them.

“This year, after being closed the last two seasons, we are seeing a lot more local people, which is wonderful.

“As a National Monument and part of Sligo’s foundation, it is important that locals have a sense of ownership and feel welcome here.

“Local people tell us stories about how they visited, and maybe even played as children, in the Abbey grounds.

“Some local people proudly refer to themselves as “Children of the Abbey.”

“We also have many native Sligo people living abroad who visit the Abbey while on holiday. Almost 800 years after it was founded, the Abbey remains a powerful attraction for Sligo townspeople and international visitors alike.

“This Heritage Week, we would love to welcome you, admission is free, please come visit.”


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