There are religious ruins in practically every corner of Ireland, but one you may not have heard of is tucked away in the village of Fore, Co. Westmeath. Fore Abbey has a fascinating history and a number of massive ruins, but what really makes it unique are its so-called “7 Wonders.” You won’t find any hanging gardens or pyramids among these marvels, however. No. the Seven Wonders of Fore are:
The anchorite (hermit) in a stone
The water that will not boil
The monastery built on a bog
The mill without a millstream
The water that flows uphill
The tree that will not burn
The stone lintel raised by the saints’ prayers
The site was founded by St Féichín in around 630 A.D., although nothing remains of the original structures. There is a fine 10–11th century church on the slopes directly above the main section of Fore Abbey, called St Féichín’s Church, and this features the aforementioned lintel (no. 7 on the “Wonders” list). Most of Fore Abbey’s main structures date to the period following the Norman invasion of Ireland.
The ruins are really quite enormous, and this effect is magnified by their setting in a picturesque valley well away from the usual tourist rail. As you walk from the car park to the abbey ruins, you will discover a medieval well and two holy wells, bordered by trees knotted with pieces of cloth left by the faithful – part of an ongoing tradition of combining religion and superstition.
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