Nenagh Friary Church




N 52° 51' 46.44"   W 008° 11' 49.62"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

R 86726 79129

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Sunday 19 June 2016

GPS Accuracy (m)

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The west wall of the church.

The Franciscan Friary in Nenagh was founded by Donal Ó Cinnéide, Bishop of Killaloe, in 1250. It became the chief house, or head of custody, for eight friaries. A provincial synod was held at this friary in 1344.
The friary was allegedly burned down by the O'Carrolls in 1548, then it was dissolved in 1570 under the reign of Elizabeth I, but the friars struggled to survive here until 1587. For 45 years the friary was abandoned, then it was taken by a community of Observantine Franciscan friars, but they were dispersed during the Cromwell's campaign. They returned in 1680 under the reign of King James I, then again chased off during the Penal Laws in the early 18th century. There was a new community of Franciscans in the first half of the 18th century.
The building is a long and narrow church with no central tower or transepts. There are traces of a sacristy on the south side of the chancel. In the sacristy there are a large altar tomb against the south wall and other burials and memorials on the ground and the south and west walls. A small doorway in the south wall of the church leads to the sacristy.
The only two sides of the church still intact are the east (95°) and west gables. The south wall is partly ruined, the north wall stands at a reduced height in its west section. In the north wall of the chancel there are 8 lancet windows, 6 more windows are visible as openings in the wall to the west, 3 of them have been walled up. There are four buttresses against the north wall where the 8 lancet windows are, but they have a different masonry and stone type than the rest of the building. They are clearly later attempts to contain the outwards tilting of the north wall, as are the tie bars inserted more recently.
The east gable has three very tall lancet windows, the central one being the tallest. Right under the gable top is another small window.
The main doorway is in the west gable, and above it is a large Gothic-style window. A bellcote at the apex of the west gable holds a bell which is not original. Right under the west Gothic window there are two decorated stones. One depicts the crowned head of a woman, the other has a finial and probably comes from another part of the building.
The building is locked and the keys are available at the Tourists Office, but it was Sunday, it was raining and we didn't feel like wasting our time.

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