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Ballymote Friary Church
 

County

Sligo

Coordinates

N 54° 05' 23.0"   W 008° 31' 08.7"

Nearest town

Ballymote

Grid Ref.

G 66086 15740

Map No.

25

Elevation a.s.l. (m)

70

Date of visit

Thursday 5 June 2014

GPS Accuracy (m)

3
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The interesting ruins of the abbey at the far end of the graveyard.


This was a nice surprise after visiting Ballymote castle. While we were leaving the castle we saw the ruins of the friary and had a look at them too.
The building is aligned to northeast (65°).
The friary is partially covered by thick ivy, but the southeast and southwest walls are clean. The northeast gable is still intact with its window, but it's completely overgrown, just like the northwest wall.
The inner wall are all covered by the ivy.
In the southeast wall there's a fine arched doorway that defies gravity, only a thin layer of stones remains and I wonder how long they can resist before crumbling down. There's another doorway in the southwest wall with a carved head above it. According to some sources, this could represent Pope Eugenius IV who granted permission for founding the friary. This head is adorned with a triple tiara.
The friary was founded in 1442 by three brothers, Patrick, Andrew and Philip O'Coleman of the Third order of St. Francis under the patronage of McDonagh who owned the castle at that time.
In 1483 Donatus MacDonkayd and a group of accomplices of his attacked and burned the friary and the town, drove the friars into exile and plundered all their goods withouth an apparent reason, though it's possible that the aggressive way of ruling of McDonagh could have made some local chieftains angry.
The friars returned to the friary and 101 years after the first attack the friary was destroyed again by the rebels led by Brian Óg O'Rorke to deprive sir Richard Bingham, English Governor of Connacht and owner of the castle in that period, of something very valuable to him.
The friars came back towards the end of the 17th century but it didn't last and a few years later the friars were dispersed and the church was abandoned.
Part of its stones was used to build a Mass House in 1725, more stones were used to mark the graves of the poor and the famine victims.
The graveyard adjacent the friary is a real wonder under this point of view.
Hundreds of rough headstones make the place rather unique. A few other gravestones are finely carved.
In the southwest corner of the graveyard there's a chest tomb in commemoration of John Davey, only son of Captain Davey, killed on October 9th, 1845, aged 4 years. He was probably linked to Thady Davey, the secular priest who presided the Mass House after its building.


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