The Holy Rosary Church of Abbeyleix was erected in 1895, designed in the cruciform and romanesque style by architect William Hague. Abbeyleix (‘Mainistir Laoighise’, The Abbey of Leix) was so called from a monastery founded there in 1183 by Conor O’More. This abbey was Cistercian and was founded from Baltinglass. A religious community is said to have been here since the year 600. The old town of Abbeyleix grew around the 12th century Abbey, on what was later to become the De Vesci demesne. In the early 1800’s Lord De Vesci levelled old Abbeyleix and laid out the present town on a superior site. The O’More chieftains were buried in the locality of the abbey.
In 1588, three Franciscan priests, John O’Mulloy, Cornelius Dogherty, and Calfrid Ferrall, were captured by a party of cavalry in a remote part of Queen’s County. They were outlawed priests, ministering to their flock in secret. They were brought to the garrison at Abbeyleix where they were tortured and hanged.
Bishop James Doyle (J.K.L.) formed the new parish of Abbeyleix in 1824. Previously the area formed part of Ballinakill parish. With the construction of the new town a chapel was built on the present site of the Most Holy Rosary Church. This was also a De Vesci site. Holy Rosary church has architectural round arches throughout and is in the shape of a Latin Cross. The external walls are faced with hammered ashlar and have limestone chiselled dressings. The church foundation stone reads “Ecclesia Sacratissimi Rosarii. Abbeyleix 1893”. The bell which weighs 29 cwts., was erected in 1906. In 1993 the sanctuary area was re-ordered and thorough renovations were carried out. The church has three altars – a high altar and two side altars, which are now shrines. All are made of marble, with coloured shafts.
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