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Ross-Errily Friary (Abbey or Ross)

Ross-Errily Friary and Cong Abbery, both of which are maintained by the Office of Public Works,  are by far the most imposing ecclesiastical ruins around the Corrib. As you leave Headford towards Cong, the ruins of Ross-Errily Friary can be seen some distance away on the left-hand side of the road.  Said to be the most extensive and best preserved of all the Franciscan friaries in Ireland, it was founded in 1351. It chief patrons were the de Burghs, a prominant Norman family in the area. The friary had a troubled history which well illustrates the oppression and savagery inflicted on Irish Catholics by the English during their occupation of Ireland. During most of the events described in the following paragrahs, the friary was surrounded by water.

In 1538 English authorities imprisoned two hundred of the friars and killed many others. It was confiscated again during the reign of Elizabeth I and given to Richard Burgh a decendent of the original patrons. However he returned it to the friars. In 1584 the English confiscated and plundered it. In 1586, the second Earl of Clanrickarde purchased the friary and returned it to the Franciscans. However the English confiscated it again and it was used as a garrison during the nine years war (160X - 160y). At the end of the war in 1604, the 3rd Earl of Clanrickarde financed the rebuilding of the friary and returned it to the friars. Even the Protestant Archbishop of Tuan had a go at the friary and expelled the friars in 1612 and they did not return until 1626 with greatly diminished numbers of six priests and two brothers.

Cromwellian forces reached the friary in 1656 and ransaked everything including the tombs. The friars had prior warning and had fled just hours before the forces arrived. The restoration of Charles II to the thone of England in 1660 removed some of the pressure on Catholics and the friars re-occupied the friary in 1664. They lived peacfully intil 1698 when the Popery Act was introduced. Under this Act, the Franciscians became fugitives and adjourned to a nearby island, ‘Friars Island’ where they were fed and clothed by local people. Due to the various Corrib drainage schemes, Friars Island no longer exists. By 1832 the Franciscans had abandoned Ross-Errily.

Links to Ross-Errily Friary

Library Ireland (A comprehensive account of the history or Ross-Errily Friary)

Abandoned Ireland

Enjoy Irish Culture

Some fine photographs (by Brian T, McElherron)


Royal Augustinian Abbey of Cong

The ruins of Cong Abbey are in the actual village adjacent to the current Catholic Church. Cong Abbery was an Augustinian Abbey and contains some of the finest examples of early architecture in Ireland including Gothic windows, Romanesque doors, clustered pillars, arches, standing columns and floral capitals. The original monastery was founded by St Feichin in 623 but was destroyed by fire in the 12th century. In 1135, the great High King Turlough Mór O’Connor refounded the Abbey as the Royal Augustinian Abbey of Cong. In 1198, his son Rory, who became the last High King of Ireland was also buried here his remains being subsequently  moved to Clonmacnoise. Up to three thousand Cenobitic Monks resided within it’s walls where they practiced community life (cenobitic monasticism) and would have studied history, poetry, music, sculpture and the illumination of books. They were also skilled craftsmen in metal work, engraving, and harp making. Over the years, Cong Abbey was attacked and rebuilt many times and has served many purposes including, a hide out for the O’Connors, a hospital for the sick, a shelter for the poor and starving as well as a place of learning.

In common with most Catholic instututions, the Abbey was suppressed in the reign of Henry VIII of England in 1542. It then fell into ruins but was later restored in 1850’s by the direction of Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness , former owner of Ashford Castle. The Foys from Cong who were renowned for their expertise with stonework completed the masonry. There are three beautiful carved doorways, which illustrate some of the Foys most outstanding work. The Gothic doorway consists of columns, brilliantly carved capitals and gothic arches; it is probably the Abbey’s finest feature.

The remains of the Monk’s Fishing House can be seen today. The monks used this to catch fish.

Links to Cong Abbey

Megalitic Ireland (some fine photographs)


Annaghdown Abbey and Nunnery

In the village of Annaghdown are the ruins of the ancient Abbey of St. Mary de Portu Patrum, a monastery of White Nuns of the Praemonstratensian Order.  It was founded at an early period by White Praemonstratensian Canons. The present Abbey was built around 1195 and is an example of an early fortified monastery. Judging by the area occupied by the ruins, it was quite a large abbey.

Adjoining the Abbey is a church built in Gothic style. This is recorded as having been built by Hugh Mór O Flaherty in 1400 and being burnt down in 1411.

There is also a Franciscian Friary here which given that the monasteries of Connacht and Ulster were subordinate to its head, must have been of considerable importance.

An ancient church is referred to in the Irish Tourist Association Survey (1942) as having been founded for St. Briga (Bridget) by her brother St. Brendan of Clonfert (known famously as ‘Brendan the Navigator’). St. Brendan is said to have died there in 577 A.D.

Links to Anaghdown Abbey

Irish Tourist Association survey of 1942

Photographs



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