Muckross Friary Church




N 52° 01' 32.16"   W 009° 29' 42.06"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

V 97407 87062

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Thursday 16 June 2016

GPS Accuracy (m)

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Muckross Friary is among the trees of Killarney National Park. Seen from the end of the path from the southeast.

I've been dreaming of visiting this friary for years, but everytime we were around here it was too late. This time we made it.
The friary stands close to the easternmost shore of Lough Leane, among the trees of Killarney National Park.
It is thought that an early monastery was built here by St. Fionan. The building that we see today was built in 1488 by Daniel McCarthy Mór and granted to a community of Observantine Franciscan friars and dedicated to the Holy Trinity. This order of friars were strict observant of the Franciscan rules in regard to diet, clothing and possession of properties and belongings.
The friary experienced a tremendous existence, it was attacked, sacked and damaged many times, but everytime it was repaired. It was also suppressed by king Henry VIII in 1541, but it was re-established in 1612, until the final attack by the army of Cromwell which killed the friars and burned the friary down in 1654.
The church is a long structure divided into a chancel and a nave with a central tower. The chancel has an intact four-light east window. Three widely splayed two-light windows are in the south wall of the chancel, along with sedilia and a double piscina. Several burials, memorial slabs, canopy and altar tombs can be seen in this section of the church. In the nave there are other tombs, but the most amazing one is the large memorial tomb built in the south wall for Lucy Gallwey of Killarney died on December 14th, 1829, aged 37.
From the nave a large archway leads to the south transept with a beautiful three-light window in the south wall and two two-light windows inserted in large arched niches in the east wall.
To the north of the church and accessed via a doorway in the north wall of the chancel, is the magnificent cloister, with its complete and intact vaulted walkway. The small square cloister garth has a yew tree growing in the middle. According to the folklore it is as old as the friary itself. To the north and the east of the cloister there are the kitchen with the refectory and the dormitory respectively. The upper floors still retain most of their features, the staircases are all intact.
To the west of the complex is an old graveyard still in use. In this graveyard, among others, the burials of the great Irish poets, Geoffrey O’Donoghue, Aodhagan O’Rathaille and Eoghan Rua O’Suilleabhain can be found.
The visit to this place was amazing and relaxing apart from a family whose children used the cloister garth as playground for their balls!

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