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Ross Errilly Friary Church
 

County

Galway

Coordinates

N 53° 28' 46.44"   W 009° 07' 54.6"

Nearest town

Headford

Grid Ref.

M 24871 48323

Map No.

45

Elevation a.s.l. (m)

30

Date of visit

Monday 20 June 2016

GPS Accuracy (m)

3
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The access to the ruins is from the south.
The friary appears for a few seconds in the movie "The Quiet Man" (1952), by John Ford, when Michaeleen Flynn claims it's the Flynns' ancestral home, later seized by the Druids, see movie at time 01:01:16.


This Franciscan Friary is the best preserved of its kind in all Ireland.
It was founded in 1351 but was enlarged in 1498 so to become the largest Franciscan settlement in Ireland. Most of the buildings survive today and give the visitors an amazing view of what a Franciscan friary was. The friary is in the middle of a field with visible traces of a wide ditch all around it.
The complex is huge and compact with several interesting features.
The church has a pointed arch doorway in the west (260°) wall with a moulding whose ends open outwards and end with some kind of foliage decoration. The nave is short compared to other churches. Many burials pave the ground.
The south side of the nave has an arcade that forms a south aisle. To the south of the aisle there are a side chapel and two transepts. The side chapel has a small altar against the south wall. Above it is a memorial plaque from 1678 for Soracha Ionin, her husband Tho Kievach Ionin and their son David. Both south transepts have a three lights window. The eastern south transept has a small chapel of its own to the east. Inside this chapel is a slab with a coat of arms carrying the date 1646.
A massive and almost intact central tower splits the church in two sections.
The chancel has a four lights window in the east wall, three tombs built against its north wall and two wonderful memorial slabs dating from the first years of the 18th century. A double piscina is next to where the altar was.
The west doorway is slightly off-centre with the east window.
North of the church is the cloister with all its piers still in place. The vaulted ceilings are gone, though. There are no effigies or decorations in the cloister. On the same side of the church there were the domestic buildings, like the refectory, the kitchen, and the dormitory on the upper floor.
In the kitchen there was an oven and a tank that was filled with water in the days of the friars. In this tank they would hold live fish that they had fished from the nearby Black River.
Along the stairs that would take to the upper level is a wonderful, though ruined, crucifix. I can imagine that everytime that friars would go upstairs they had to have a look to this Christ and praise him.
Several parts of the inner walls are still covered with the original plaster.
The friary lived a rough and anguished life. The friars were evicted, expelled, attacked and killed several times between 1538 and 1731, but everytime they returned to the settlement until 1832 when the friary was closed and fell into disrepair.
By the mid-19th century it is reported that heaps of human bones and skulls could be found among the ruins.
The place is amazing and rather far from the beaten touristic path.

This friary appears for a few seconds in the movie "The Quiet Man" (1952), by John Ford.

We came here for the first time on December 8th, 1995.


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