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Armagh Friary Church
 

County

Armagh

Coordinates

N 54° 20' 38.52"   W 006° 39' 13.14"

Nearest town

Armagh

Grid Ref.

H 87541 44763

Map No.

19

Elevation a.s.l. (m)

51

Date of visit

Friday 31 May 2019

GPS Accuracy (m)

4
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The ruins of this friary in the Palace Demesne Public Park.


The ruins of this friary lie next to the City Hotel in Armagh, at the entrance of the Palace Demesne Public Park.

The Franciscan Friary in Armagh was founded in 1263/64 by Archbishop Patrick O’Scannail, when he brought the Friars Minor to the town. The construction of the religious building was completed around 1268, and a ditch was excavated all around.
Not much is known about the history of the friary in the following years, apart that the friars of Armagh appealed to the Holy See and the Pope in order to defend themselves against Richard FitzRalph, Archbishop of Armagh, who, in 1357, set up a harsh campaign against all Franciscan friars in Ireland and would like to see all their privileges withdrawn. Richard FitzRalph was eventually summoned in Avignon to discuss the matter with Pope Innocent VI, and there he died three years later.
In 1433 the friary suffered an attack by the O'Donnells in war against the O'Neills.
It was probably one of the religious houses to be suppressed by king Henry VIII in 1542.
After this, the church lived a period of decline till October 1551, when the Marshall Nicholas Bagenall requested to have all windows and doors walled up to ensure a better safeguard to the soldiers who lived in there.
Ten years later the friary was burnt by Shane O'Neill who wanted to prevent it to be turned into a military depot, and it is reported that by 1586 the building was in ruins, though it seems that the friars might have intermittently returned to the friary.
In 1618 the ruins of the friary and its land were incorporated into the Demesne lands until the church and all the annexed buildings were given into the care of the State.
One of the most prominent burials within the friary is the one of Gormlaith O’Donnell, wife of Domhnail O’Neill, who died on April 14th, 1353.

What we can see today is an empty and poor shell of a religious building. The west end is the most intact, with the west-northwest (285°) wall standing to at least half of its original height. A semi-arched doorway and a large splayed window are in that wall. The south wall has two pointed arches, part of the south aisle of the church. A wide gap is between this section and the eastern section of the south wall, which is missing to the very east of the length. Only a corner wall remains at the northeast end of the building. The north wall is totally missing.
The church would have had a cloister and other domestic building to the north, but no trace of them are visible today.

The building is aligned to the east-southeast (105°).
With its 50 metres of length, Armagh Friary is the longest friary in Ireland. It's 7.60 metres wide.

It seems that a holy well dedicated to St. Brigid was behind the friary until a century ago, but we couldn't find it, though we searched far and wide and asked everybody. Most of the people we asked were totally unaware of its existence, so I presume it is gone for good!


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