Portumna Friary was originally a Cistercian chapel which was dedicated to St. Peter and Paul in the 13th century. The site later became abandoned and a local chieftain at the time handed it over to the Dominicans whom, with consent from the Cistercians, erected a friary and church on the site which were dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1426, a papal bull was granted, confirming their possessions, by Pope Martin V. In 1689, the Irish Jacobite leader, Patrick Sarsfield was married to Honora de Burgo at the church. The remains today consist of a church with nave, chancel and transepts along with outlines of surrounding domestic buildings.
Although the ruins of Annaghdown Friary are just about prevalent today, the site still bears religious and historic significance to the local area. It is believed the site was of the first Friary of Annaghdown which was founded by St. Brendan for his sister.
Annaghdown Abbey of St Mary
It is believed the Annaghdown abbey was built in 1195. The abbey is dedicated to St. Mary, hence the abbey is sometimes also referred to as the Abbey of St Mary de Portu Patrum. Although now ruinous, it’s remains are a fine example of an early fortified abbey. The remaining ruins include a church, a cloister and living quarters.
Kilconnell Franciscan Friary
The Kilconnell Franciscan friary was believed to have been part of the territory of the O’Kelly’s clan, lords of Uí Mhaine in east Connacht. The friary was built on the site where an earlier church dedicated to St. Conall once existed. Although now ruinous, the remains of the friary are in good condition and it dominates the surrounding lands, in particular the tall tower. Throughout the 16th & 17th centuries, the friary would have experienced turbulent times but often remained protected by the powerful families who owned the territory throughout the centuries. Within the friary, tombs of many of its patrons still exist.
Friary of Ross (Ross Errilly Friary)
Said to be one of the most extensive and best preserved Franciscan friaries throughout Ireland, the ruins of Ross Errilly Friary, founded in 1351, are still impressive in it’s surrounding landscape. The prominent de Burgh family were the chief patrons of the friary and often protected the friary ensuring peaceful times. However, in 1538, English authorities kill many friars along with imprisoning two hundred. From this point, Ross Errilly rarely found peace due to consistent confiscation from the English until it was completely abandoned around two hundred years later.
Clontuskert Augustinian Friary
The original abbey at Clontusket was founded near the end of the 8th century by St. Baedan, however nothing from this period remains. The chief patrons of the original abbey were the O’Kelly family as the abbey was situated in their territory. In the 12th century, an Augustinian Priory dedicated to St. Mary, was founded by Turlough O’Connor, the king of Connacht. However, the friary went through some turbulent times and was burnt to the ground around 1413. The remains which exist today are mostly from the 15th century re-constructed friary. The remains consist of a church nave and chancel along with remains of a cloister and domestic buildings. Within the ruins there are a number of interesting carvings and some preserved tomb stones. Some of the history of the 15th century friary includes it being surrendered to King Henry VIII in 1551 and later re-granted to the Prior Donat O’Kellie. It is believed that monks existed in the friary right up to the 17th century.
The Claregalway Friary was one of the first Franciscan houses founded in the west of Ireland. The friary was strategically located to the nearby castle and the banks of the river Clare. The friary was built through a number of phases over a long period of time, which is evident in some of the remaining features to be found throughout. As with most friary’s, it faced some turbulent times throughout the centuries. Initially, in the late 15th century, the friars enjoyed protection from the second earl of Clanricard, Sir Richard Burke. However, following the death of Burke, friars were expelled and the friary became used as a barracks by English forces. In the later centuries, friars sporadically used the friary until around the 19th century, where the friary eventually became abandoned.
Originally, a monastery which was founded by St. Feichin in the 6th century existed on the site of Cong abbey. In 1120, the high king of Connacht, Turlough O’Connor, chose the site for a Royal Augustinian abbey to be built. The ruins of the Royal abbey of Cong, provide some of the finest examples of early architecture in Ireland, displaying detailed craftsmanship through its Gothic style windows, Romanesque doors, clustered pillars and arches, standing columns and floral capitals. It was at the abbey, that Rory O’Connor, the last high King of Ireland died and was buried (his remains were later moved to Clonmacnoise). In 1542, the abbey was suppressed in the reign of Henry VIII of England. The abbey later fell into ruin but was restored in the 1850’s by Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness (a former owner of Ashford Castle).
Annaghdown Abbey of St. John the Baptist
Founded in 1223, the abbey of St. John the Baptist de Cella Parva was a house of Premonstratensian Canons. The first abbot of the abbey was said to be Thomas O’Malley, who was believed to be the son of a bishop and a nun. He later went on to become the Bishop of Annaghdown (1242-1250). The abbey survived until 1542 where it was then dissolved under increase pressure from English forces.
The Cistercian abbey of Knockmoy was founded by Cathal O’Connor, the King of Connacht, in 1189-90. O’Connor was later buried in the abbey in 1244. The abbey at Knockmoy is unusual in that it has a fresco visible (barely) on the wall of the chancel, probably dating from around 1400. In 1200, the monastery was captured by William De Burgo. Unusually, in 1240, the Abbot of the monastery was censured as he allowed his hair be washed by a woman. He was later accused of setting fire to the abbey in 1483. The remains consist of a church nave, chancel, transept and two chapels.
Meiler de Bermingham, the 2nd Lord of Athenry, founded the Dominican abbey in 1241. The abbey had several new buildings such as a the chapel and refectory, later built from 1265 to 1340. As with most, abbey and friary’s throughout Ireland, it went through great times of turmoil during the the Protestant Reformation but it managed to survive during this period. However it was later desecrated and burned during the Mac an Iarla Wars of the 1570s, and was finally vandalised by Cromwellians in the 1650s. The remains largely consist of the church nave, chancel and a northern aisle and transept. In addition, there are some tombs to be found inside dating from the 13th to 15th centuries.
The old Eglish abbey was built in 1612 and was dedicated to St. Caven. It is believed that the monastery of Eglish was a Carmelite foundation. The abbey is now in ruins with not much remains left. Exact location of the abbey is unknown but it is believed to be in the surrounding areas of the pointer.
It is believed that St. Patrick built a monastery upon a site in Dunmore, which Walter De Birmingham, the Lord Baron of Athenry, later founded a friary for Hermits of St. Augustine in 1425. The abbey changed hands several times through the turmoil of the Protestant Reformation which took place throughout Ireland. Nonetheless it is known that as late as 1641, there were still a prior and 30 friars in the community. It was later converted to a parish church with all other features surrounding the church being leveled. The remains consist of a church nave and a chancel with a tower.
Kylemore Abbey is perhaps the most famous of all abbeys in the west of Ireland, as it’s picturesque setting leads itself as the perfect photo opportunity. The abbey is a Benedictine monastery which was founded by Belgium Benedictine nuns who fled to Ireland from the trouble of World War I in 1920. It is built on the grounds of Kylemore Castle which was built as a private home for the family of Mitchell Henry, a wealthy doctor from London. Apart from building the castle, he also set about building other buildings on the grounds which included a Gothic cathedral and a family mausoleum containing the bodies of Margaret Henry, Mitchell Henry and a great grand-nephew. The estate later traded hands with the Duke and Duchess of Manchester before being sold to the Benedictine nuns. The abbey promoted education and became an international boarding school and day school for girls. However, it was forced to close in June 2010.
The abbey at Glenlo was constructed in the 1790’s as a private church for the Ffrench family who constructed and owned the mansion house and demesne in 1740. The house and abbey were once known as Kentfield House. The abbey however was never completed and as a result was never consecrated. It was typical of 18th century Ireland to find chapels on large demesnes. The estate was put up for sale in 1846, where it was eventually purchased by the Blake family (another illustrious Galway tribe family). It was later purchased by the Palmers in 1897 where it remained under their ownership for the following 90 years.