Cloister Garden Renewal at Glencairn

A traditional monastery is built around four cloisters (covered walkways, or simply corridors) which form a rectangle.  The space in the middle of this rectangle is the cloister garden.

Accessible only from inside the monastery, a cloister garden is an enclosed, sheltered, oasis where the nuns can enjoy nature, contemplate, read, or just relax.  It includes walkways, a water feature, places to sit and, of course, plants, flowers, shrubs, greenery – whatever the cloister gardener chooses or coaxes to grow there.

During the renovations to our monastery over the last few years, one of the four wings (one ‘cloister’) was completely demolished. No longer enclosed, the garden became part of the building site.  Some plants were removed to other gardens around the monastery; others were potted so that they can eventually be returned.


Sr. Michelle Miller, left and Sr. Sarah Branigan, Vocations Director, St Mary’s Abbey, Glencairn, during the much needed current restoration of their monastery. The roof at the cloisters was in bad need of repair, their living quarters and bedrooms were recently opened after rebuilding. Photo:Valerie O’Sullivan


Now the new cloister has been built (and is beautiful), and the internal space is enclosed again. It is time to restore it as a cloister garden! This is very exciting, as it is like having a blank canvas to develop as we wish. Plans are being worked out – but of course implementing them depends on factors such as weather, available labour, and funds.

The weather so far this year has been terrible, much too wet to do anything.  Thankfully the last week or two has brought some improvement.  And for labour, Micheál, a college student who is working with us for the summer, has been helping Sr Fiachra: the cloister garden has been rotavated, each of the four plots in turn; lots of stones have been removed; and the soil is being nourished with our own compost.


Cloister Garden this week. The renewal begins.


The next step will be the erection of a timber pergola.

We will update you with cloister garden developments over the months ahead – we are all really looking forward to seeing it take shape and come to life and beauty again!

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