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Scoil Naomh Molaise, Grange, Co. Sligo

Staad Abbey


Local History Project

Staad Abbey 

By Méabh McIntyre

About Staad Abbey 

Staad Abbey is an early monastic site, reputedly  founded by St Molaise, where pilgrims and other  travellers en route to Inishmurray, (an island just off  where Staad Abbey is) would stop off and stay there  before getting a boat to the island. It is can also be  called a shore hostel, for travellers to stay in. There  are also associated features including open air  cooking spaces and a possible area of lime  production to make mortar. Many items have been  discovered around there by archaeologists and local  residents, such as two quern stones, a piece of  gunflint, evidence of a trackway or platform from the  Bronze Age and preserved wooden posts that may have been used to hold nets to trap migrating birds  for food. Despite the name, there is no evidence that  Staad Abbey is actually an abbey. 

Staad Abbey is located in Agharrow, County  Sligo, right on the cliff above the beach there,  which is very near Streedagh. It is about 6.5km  from Inishmurray, which is in the Atlantic Ocean

Staad Abbey, the building 


Staad Abbey was built in approximately the late  fifth century or early sixth century. It was built by  St. Molaise (and some other people, who knows  who they were). The reason he wanted to build it  

was because he wanted somewhere for monks  and pilgrims to stay and pray while they waited  for a boat to Inishmurray (which St. Molaise also  founded) and it first came into use a few years  after it was begun to be built. It measures 12 x  6m (approx). No one really knows when it  stopped being used, or why it stopped being  used, or when it stopped being used except that  it was before 1880. Now, there’s only one wall left  and it’s very weak. 

Inishmurray and Staad Abbey 

Inishmurray is an island about 6.5km from Staad  Abbey in the Atlantic Ocean. It is an early  monastic site. The monastery there was founded  by St. Molaise, (a monk) during the 5th century.  There is a statue of St. Molaise in a famous  museum in Dublin and a copy in the park in  Grange. The island is about 1 mile long and 0.78  miles wide. Since 1948 it has not been lived on.

Staad Abbey was a sort of hostel for travellers  on their way to Inishmurray. Travellers used to  stay there for a bit until the next boat went. They  were mostly pilgrims or monks, so they would  pray a lot. Basically, Staad Abbey was a cell of  Inishmurray, a very important part of it, as if  Staad Abbey didn’t exist no one would be able  to go to Inishmurray (unless they owned a boat  or could swim very well!). Not anyone really  stayed for long, other than the people who lived  there and provided food, but they were also  monks. So the main thing was Inishmurray, but  Staad was definitely a big part of it all. Some say  it was a medieval church but really it may date  back earlier.

A day at Staad Abbey 

The people who stayed at Staad Abbey were  

monks. Monks live a very disciplined life. They  

have to get up really early in the morning for  

prayers. They each had different jobs, such as  

taking care of animals, copying books, cooking,  

cleaning or gardening. Monks prayed a lot, and  

they would have held Mass and done all that  

kind of thing. All the things listed above monks  

would have done when they were in the  

monastery, (in this case, Inishmurray) so life at  

Staad Abbey would probably be less disciplined,  

but there would be a lot of praying and work still,  


Other Things at Staad Abbey 

Shell Midden  

Just beside Staad Abbey there is a shell  midden. This is a refuse site, made mainly of  shells. People would have dug a hole and  dumped all their rubbish, which was mainly  shells from the shellfish they’d eat. The shell  midden can be seen now that the sea has eaten  away some of the cliff. People staying there may  have eaten lot of other things but they have all  broken up and there are no signs of them. 


Also at Staad Abbey there is a souterrain, which  is an underground passage used for storage  and shelter. People would have hidden there, if  there was an enemy coming and they would  have stayed there until the enemy had gone.  Also, they would store food there, (especially  meat or fish that had been caught as it would be  cooler for them underground). 

The shell midden at Staad Abbey. A souterrain, (not the one at Staad Abbey).

Staad Abbey in danger 

Staad Abbey is in danger of falling into the sea  

because of coastal erosion caused by climate  

change. Since the 1830s, approximately 16m of  

the land have been taken by the sea, and nearly  

a metre between 2012 and 2014, which,  

apparently was “a period of bad weather and  

heavy storms.” The building now stands  

approximately 3.5m at one end, 6.5 at the other  

from the cliff edge. If erosion continues, Staad  

Abbey will be in the sea. Luckily, archaeologists  

are trying to find a way to protect the building,  

but they may not be able to, especially as there  

is not much time for them to do anything. Staad Abbey is very close to the sea, and is very weak  as there is only one of the walls left.

Fransisco de Cuellar and Staad Abbey 

A few months after the boat he was on, the  

La Lavia, sank on Streedagh Beach, the  

Spanish Armada survivor, Fransisco de  

Cuellar at one point sought refuge in Staad  

Abbey. When he arrived there, in 1588, he  

found the church partly burnt and twelve  

Spaniards hung from the rafters. De Cuellar  

stayed there for a bit, maybe a few weeks,  

and then he fled again. Some people say that  

it was not Staad Abbey he visited, but some  

other medievial church around Staad Abbey,  

possibly Ahamlish church, just north of  

Streedagh, (where the ships definitely sank). The Spanish Armada, 1588

Different Pictures of Staad Abbey 

Another picture of the shell midden 

Inishmurray seen from Staad Abbey 

Above and left, Staad Abbey 

Staad Abbey side-on


The information was sourced from the following sources: Dr. Fiona Beglane, IT Sligo Applied Archaeology  + Jerry O’Sullivan, Galway County Council, January 2 2015. https://rté.ie/news Eileen Magnier, 3 March  2021. Ask About Ireland. 2000: 0866 - Staad Abbey.,_entr%C3%A9e_du_souterrain.jpg is the souterrain  photo on slide 6 is the photo of Inishmurray on slide 4 is the photo of the map on slide 2 is the photo of the Spanish Armada on slide 8  The rest of the photos I took myself.  

I hope you enjoyed my presentation!




Staad Abbey by Darragh Gilmartin

Staad Abbey is located in the townland of Agharrow, in the parish of Ahamlish.  It is near Streedagh and Grange. On the beach there is very little sand and it is mainly rocks.  The name Staad comes from the Latin statio, meaning stage or station because pilgrims stayed at Staad on the way to Inishmurray.    

The shell middens came about when the people who lived in the abbey dug a hole and dumped the shells of the shell fish that they ate. You are able to see all the shells because of the sea wearing away the soil.


By Darragh Gilmartin

Last changed: Jun 23 2021 at 5:24 PM