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Roscommon Priory Church
 

County

Roscommon

Coordinates

N 53° 37' 28.9"   W 008° 11' 31.9"

Nearest town

Roscommon

Grid Ref.

M 87331 63872

Map No.

40

Elevation a.s.l. (m)

57

Date of visit

Friday 6 June 2014

GPS Accuracy (m)

3
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Approaching the priory from the northwest.


This Dominican priory was founded in 1253 by Feidlim Ua Conchobair, king of Connacht, son of the famed Aedh mac Cathal Crobdearg Ua Conchobair.
In those years the power of the family was declining mainly due to the expansion of the Anglo-Norman territories, so Feidlim thought that the construction of a monastery for a new religious order was a way to reinforce his reputation.
The construction of this church was completed in 1257, a very short time for the medieval standards, and was dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
But the life of this church had to be troubled because about twenty years later it was burned by the Anglo-Normans who had built a castle about 1 km further north, and in 1308 it was hit by a lightning which badly damaged parts of the structure.
The O'Conor family got control over the town again in the middle of 1300's, though one century later the priory was reported as in disrepair but it received a papal indulgence to re-build it.
During the middle of the 16th century, during the Reformation, the priory and its lands were confiscated and put under the English crown control.
In the 17th and 18th centuries most of the adjoining buildings and the central tower, which was built in the 15th century, were totally demolished.
What we see today are the ruins of the church itself, about 35 metres long and 10 metres wide, aligned to the east (85°), with the west gable still intact though visibly leaning outwards. In this wall there are a pointed arch doorway and a large window with remains of a tracery and two finials. On the sides of this large window there were two lancet windows but they have been walled up. The south wall is still in rather good conditions, with five lancet windows and seven niche tombs beneath them. There's a north transept built in the middle of the 15th century and a north aisle, but the arches are gone and only the stumps of four piers remain.
There was a cloister with buildings around it on the south side of the complex. The east end of the building is probably the most interesting. The east gable has a large window. In the north wall of the chancel there's a large niche where the tomb of Feidlim is. The top of the tomb has the effigy of the king who died in 1265 dressed in a long robe. His right hand holds a sceptre, the other arm is bent over his chest and holds a religious item suspended from his neck by a chain. At his feet a dog is resting in a sleeping position.
The front panels are from a later period, a 15th century tomb, and have eight arches containing the figures of gallowglass. In the wall above the tomb is a fragment of a medieval grave slab.


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