Day One: Visiting the Site (3d Modelling AFF625[A])

For my final project for this module on 3d modelling, I have decided to attempt to reconstruct the Lavabo at the Old Mellifont Abbey just outside Drogheda Co. Louth.

Mellifont was the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland, founded in 1142 by St Malachy of Armagh. Part of the reason why it is such an important site for the history of the country is the fact that it established the connection between Irish and continental church architecture. The first example for the Romanesque style was the construction of the church on the rock of Cashel in 1127. Just over a decade later the continental type of monastic design and planning was introduced at Mellifont, the first Cistercian abbey in Ireland. By the time it was dissolved in the beginning of the 16th century, Mellifont had become one of the richest monasteries in the country. Its most interesting architectural feature is the octagonal Lavabo built around the year 1200. This is also the most well preserved building on site. Today, very little of it is preserved of the site and with the Lavabo only 4 1/2 of the octangonal sides remain. A 3D reconstruction of the site would help to understand and see the grandeur of the Lavabo as it once was.

Before arriving to the site, from researching it and viewing images in books and online, I went in with the aim of reconstructing the whole site. After walking around the site for 5 minutes I knew that this was an impossible feat given the time constraints regarding the deadline.


Old Mellifont Abbey


Floor Plan of the Abbey [Source Old Mellifont Abbey]

The most intriguing structure on site is the Lavabo, where the monks would have originally washed their hands before meals. One of the reasons behind choosing this structure for my project is because although it is quite well preserved, there is a lot to consider when thinking about an interpretation. The structure, as you can see below still stands with 4 and 1/2 walls remaining.





One of the capitals at the Lavabo

Originally the middle of the Lavabo would have held the fountain, where the monks washed there hands. From Archival digs in 1953, remains of lead pipes were found which suggest that the fountain would have had 8 taps, as there were 8 pipes, which was what was traditional at the time. However there is no remains left of the fountain, one can assume that it would have been modeled off similar Cistercian Abbeys throughout Europe at the time, according to Roger Stalley in Decorating the Lavabo, it has been suggested that the fondant in the basement at Townley Hall was designed off the basins from Mellifont (the owners of Townley Hall also owning the Abbey at the time).  The other option is to style or model it off the fondant at Poblet Monastary in Spain, also an eight taped fountain from a Cisterian Monastery built at the same time.  So I will need to decide which is the most suited for the reconstruction.

Also another thing to consider is the second story of the Lavabo, this second story came later after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century. Although there is no record of a roof, or even an interpretation of what it would have looked like, there is mention of a second storey, so this is another aspect of the structure I will need to consider.

Finally, I am hoping to in some way incorporate the medieval tiles into the Lavabo. These tiles can be found in the Chapter House currently, however as the original flooring was removed from the Lavabo, there is no reason why the tiles wouldn’t have featured here, the Chapter house being only meters away, so I will have to consider this adaption.


Example of one of the style of tiles found at Mellifont

This and many more of my decisions and I’m sure failures when it comes to modelling the Lavabo will be coming up in later posts.


Roger Stalley Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature. Vol. 96C, No.7 (1996), pp.237-264.

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