Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Ennis Franciscan Friary

From Monastic Ireland: 
Ennis Franciscan friary was built on an island at a point where the river Fergus divides. This island is now incorporated into the streetscape of the modern town but remnants of the medieval settlement are evident. Apart from the friary, traces of the O’Brien medieval residence and late medieval houses are scattered throughout the town and it is clear that the friary was deliberately located at a crossing over the river into the settlement. It also benefited from river fisheries. The original O’Brien founder of the friary is unknown – it may have been Donnchadh O’Brien, king of Thomond (d. 1242) but no records survive. The friary appears to have been endowed and re-constructed in the late thirteenth century by a later king, Toirdhealbhach O’Brien (d. 1306) and it was used as the burial place of the O’Briens and the MacNamaras (Mac Conmara), the other powerful lords of the region. Much of Ennis friary survives intact including its very fine stone carvings, now exhibited in the recently refurbished nave of the church.

Ennis friary was one of a series of Franciscan friaries that benefitted from O’Brien patronage between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. The fourteenth-century heroic tale Caithréim Thoirdhealbhaigh ‘The Triumphs of Toirdhealbhach’ tells how Toirdhealbhach Ó Briain, king of Thomond supplied the friary with sweet bells, holy crucifixes, a good library, embroidery, glass windows of blue glass, veils and cowls. Under O’Brien patronage the friary flourished as a school for novices (studium) and also as a foundation that attracted accomplished sculptors. In 1375 two friars from Ennis were sent to study in the Franciscan studium in Strasbourg and an Irish lector in theology was appointed in 1441. The late fifteenth century was a particularly active period of building at Ennis. A bell tower was inserted and the south transept was added to the church. (Read more.)


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