Standing on the banks of the Little Arrigle river, Jerpoint Abbey was founded in 1160 by the King of Ossary. In 1180 it was colonised by Cistercian monks from Baltinglass Abbey. The Cistercian Order (i.e. "White Monks") followed an austere life of prayer and hard work. By 1228 there were 36 monks and 50 lay brothers in residence.

Jerpoint Abbey became the mother house of Killenny and Kilcooly, and its importance became such that, in medieval times, there was also a town of Jerpoint. However, the town had fallen into ruin by the 17th century.