Castlelyons Friary Church




N 52° 05' 20.76"   W 008° 14' 01.74"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

W 85977 93045

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Friday 10 June 2016

GPS Accuracy (m)

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The ruins from the southwest.

We waited nearly an hour for the heavy rain to stop before being able to step out of our car and walk inside the ruins of this friary, but the wait was worth it.
The friary was founded in 1307 when John de Barry granted the Carmelite friars a plot of land to build a church on, but the construction of the church didn't start until 17 years later, because Pope Clement V wasn't willing to authorize the friars to build the friary, but they lived there anyway. His successor, Pope John XXII, gave them the licence and the construction began. The original building was a small church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. A century later it was extended to the west with the addition of the nave, a central tower, the cloister and the surrounding domestic buildings.
It is reported that for the next 250 years the friary was still in use, though in 1638 the windows of the friary were removed to be taken to Lismore where they were re-used during the renovation of the Cathedral, so probably the friary was abandoned by that time. One hundred years later the friary was re-established and remained in use probably for another century or so. In the mid-19th century the nave was being used as a handball alley by the people of Castlelyons, a inglorious destiny that has been shared by dozens of other religious monuments in modern Ireland!

What survives today is the nave, half of the central tower, the west range of the domestic building and part of the dormitory. The cloister is almost totally disappeared, the chancel is ruined and the domestic buildings have lost their features. A new road with a small car park has been built against the cloister. In the chancel there's a beautiful stone altar, though it might not be of the same date of this part of the friary. The floor of the chancel is covered with many 14th and 15th centuries beautiful grave slabs.
In the west gable is a pointed doorway. Above it there's a two-light ogee window with a moulding. An anti-clockwise spiral staircase in the northwest corner of the cloister leads to the upper level and from up here there's an elevated point of view over the domestic building in the west range and the cloister itself.
The church of the complex is aligned to the east (80°).

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