The Benedictine Nuns & Kylemore Abbey: A History


Deirdre Raftery & Catherine KilBride

March 2024

Renowned historians Deirdre Raftery and Catherine KilBride tell the astonishing story of the Benedictines of Kylemore Abbey in this beautiful book, the first fully illustrated account of this historic order.


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For one hundred years, Kylemore Abbey has been home to the Irish Benedictine nuns, whose monastery in Flanders was destroyed during the First World War. Known in continental Europe as the Irish Dames of Ypres, the community was founded in 1665 and provided education to the daughters of elite Irish Catholics during the penal era. On arriving in Connemara in 1920, the Benedictines established a monastery and opened a boarding school.

This book provides the first fully illustrated account of the Irish Benedictines and their monastery at Kylemore. It also charts the fascinating history of the castle, built by Mitchell Henry and later home to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester. The stunningly beautiful castle became a national landmark in the nineteenth century. The twentieth century saw the Benedictines develop the gardens, restore the Gothic Chapel and open the castle to the public.

Meticulously researched with material from the Kylemore archives, this book provides a compelling account of a unique part of Irish history, while the images capture the life of the nuns, and the savage beauty of Kylemore and its surroundings under the Diamond Mountain.

Table of Contents
Preface and Acknowledgements
1. The Irish Dames of Ypres
2. The Journey towards Kylemore, 1914–1920
3. Connemara and Kylemore in the Nineteenth Century
4. The Benedictines at Kylemore Abbey, 1920–1959
5. Growth and Change: The Benedictines and Kylemore, 1959–2019
Epilogue by Mother Abbess Máire Hickey

About the Authors

Deirdre Raftery is Professor of the History of Education at UCD, and an elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. She has thirteen book publications including (jointly) Nano Nagle: The Life and the Legacy (2018); Transnationalism, Gender and the History of Education (2017), and was recently awarded the CHWR Distinguished Historian Award, at Notre Dame. Her research specialism is the history of women religious (nuns).

Catherine KilBride was Principal of Pembroke School (Miss Meredith’s), Education Director of the Marketing Institute, and lecturer in Education Management at University College Dublin. She is now an editor, translator and writer. This is her fourth book.

Praise for The Benedictine Nuns & Kylemore Abbey

‘This beautifully illustrated book is a well-deserved tribute to a group of extraordinary women who have been unwavering in their response to the call to prayer.’
John Scally, Doctrine & Life

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