Fore Abbey and the Seven Wonders of Fore
What I did: Revised text. Added images, video and map.
When you visit the village of Fore, County Westmeath, and roam the surrounding fields, you’ll enjoy a first hand experience with origins of traditional Irish folklore tales that have been around for more than a thousand years. Not only is Fore one of the most beautiful, ancient and unspoiled places in Ireland, it remains one of the least known — with few tourists around, it remains a true hidden gem.
Just a few kilometres from Castlepollard, this ancient slice of Ireland’s heritage revolves around the tales of Saint Fechin.
Founder of the village’s Benedictine monastery during the seventh century, Fechin was a man of faith who influenced the surrounding area in seven miraculous ways, collectively known as the Seven Wonders of Fore.
The Seven Wonders
- 1. The Monastery Built on the Bog – The monastery itself, Fore Abbey, is considered one of the wonders. Its ruins constitute the only Benedictine site remaining in the entire country. Their strong presence and fortress-like appearance give the impression that the building, in its time, was more of a castle than a house of prayer. Legend says that it was built on a rock in the centre of a quaking bog.
The ruins of the monastery represent only a small portion of St. Fechin’s achievements. Over the centuries, pilgrims have come to visit the sites and see evidence of the other ‘seven wonders’ that still exists today, including:
- 2. The Water that Flows Uphill – St. Fechin was said to have used his staff to coerce water to flow uphill instead of down. The “uphill” flow of water is an optical illusion.
- 3. The Mill without a Race – St. Fechin reportedly induced water to flow from the ground and operate a mill that had no visible water supply.
- 4. The Tree that Will Not Burn – is also known as the money tree, as pilgrims have embedded copper coins in its surface for centuries.
- 5. Water that Will Never Boil – Near the tree, you’ll see St. Fechin’s Holy Well, now believed to be the site of a megalithic burial tomb, whose waters were locally reputed to heal the sick and cure various ills. Another legend said the water would never boil, and local tradition warned that misfortune would come to anyone who tried boiling it.
- 6. The Stone Raised by St. Fechin’s Prayers – Another wonder located nearby is in the ruins of a 12th Century Church, St. Fechin’s Church, whose centre post, decorated by an ornate Greek cross carved into the stone, was said to rise into place by the power of St Fechin’s prayers alone.
- 7. The Anchorite in a Stone. On the hill above St. Fechin’s church, you can also visit a 15th-century tower. Also known as the Hermit’s Cell, the tower, now encased in a 19th century family mausoleum, once housed Patrick Beglin — the last “anchorite hermit” in Ireland. He entered this tiny cell to pray, and withdrew from society for religious reasons, relying on food and water brought to him by local supporters. He died in the cell, and is commemorated in a stone tablet in the cell dated 1616 AD.
And don’t miss the Abbey Pub, where you can learn more about the Seven Wonders, and view original works created by local artists.