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St. Mary's Abbey Church
 

County

Galway

Coordinates

N 53° 11' 59.82"   W 008° 34' 12.84"

Nearest town

Loughrea

Grid Ref.

M 61899 16764

Map No.

52

Elevation a.s.l. (m)

80

Date of visit

Monday 22 June 2015

GPS Accuracy (m)

3
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This is the west gable of the abbey. There's the doorway and a two-light window above it.


St Mary’s Carmelite Priory was founded around 1300 by Richard de Burgo, an Anglo-Norman chief, for the Carmelites who had arrived to Ireland in 1270. The church was extended in 1437 when the central square tower was also added. Funds for this huge works were raised through the selling of Indulgences, a sort of pardon for all the sins upon the payment of a sum of money. The priory was in use until 1618 and 25 years later it is reported in ruins.
Following the Cromwell's invasion, the monastery was abandoned, though the Carmelites never abandoned the area. They lived in hiding or in disguise and continued to secretly do their religious services.
At the beginning of the 19th century a new abbey was built north of the ruins to prove that the Carmelites were still present in the town after more than 500 years.

The church has a chancel and nave structure with a central tower and a south transept. The west gable has some very interesting features, like the pointed arch doorway with an elegant moulding and the above window with two lights and a fine tracery. The window is flanked by two carved animal figures, two griffins. The chancel has five two-light window in the south wall and a large four-light window with intact tracery in the east gable. There's a small square window at the top of the west wall of the nave, a tiny stone figure above the window depicts a crowned man. The large south transpet has a three-light window. The central tower is intact. The church was locked on the day of our visit but I could see several tombs inside the nave and the transept, along with memorial slabs.
The ruins are surrounded by a graveyard still in use.
The church is aligned to the east (95°).
I had the immense privilege to talk with one of the Carmelite friars during my visit at these ruins, an elderly man who, with his calm words, enriched the day for me!


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