Errew Abbey Church




N 54° 03' 10.8"   W 009° 15' 48.54"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

G 17268 12276

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Wednesday 24 June 2015

GPS Accuracy (m)

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At the end of a 10-minute long walk among hedges and tall grass without any sense of direction, the hedges open and this is the first view of the abbey.

An early monastery was founded at this site by St. Tiernan in the 7th century and was originally called "Mainistir Taobh Thiar do Shruth", that means "the abbey on the west side of the stream".
There's no history about it, but it survived for centuries.
The present building dates from the 13th century and was built for a religious community, but there are no records about them either.
The Augustian Canon Regulars were brought here in 1413 by the Barrets. This family gave a Bishop to the diocese of Elphin, Thomas Barret, who is buried in this friary.
The church was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.
The monastery was dissolved in 1585.

The friary has a square plan with massive walls, but it's badly damaged, nearly all the buildings are roofless.
Only the east section of the cloister survive, traces of the north and south sections can be still seen, but to the west there was another building, probably the chapter house. On the north side of the cloister there are traces of a domestic building.
The surviving east section hasn't the usual arcades of a typical cloister, but only four narrow ogee windows quite far from each other. The cloister walk should have been very dark.
From the south range of the cloister walk it was possible to access the church through a rounded arch doorway. The church itself is very long, with a plain east window and a small west window. Under the east window the altar is still present.
Two huge buttresses support the south wall of the church from the outside.
In this wall, next to the east wall, there's a beautiful trefoil window into a widely splayed niche.
Under this window there's the piscina which recalls the shape of the window. Two sedilia are close to the piscina.
Another trefoil window is the north wall of the chancel, above the cloister.
It's possible to go on the roof of the east section of the cloister with a wonderful view of Lough Conn.

About 150 metres north from the abbey there's the outline of a small building, probably an oratory, called Templenagalliaghdoo (Teampall na gCailleach Dubh), The Church of the (Black) Nun.

The friary is far from every road or track. There's a tiny car park at the end of the country lane, with the only signpost. From here, with a good sense of direction, it's possible to reach the ruins after a 10-minute walk among tall grass and thorny hedges.

We came here for the first time on May 11th, 2002.

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