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The Kilconnell Franciscan Friary near Ballinasloe in Galway, is a friary which was founded in 1414 by William O’Kelly, Lord of Uí Maine, and is one of the best-preserved medieval religious buildings in the country. It boasts of many impressive features, such as flamboyant tombs, carved stones, a wooden statue of Our Lady, and a tall tower that dominates the landscape.

The Kilconnell Franciscan Friary was built on the site of an earlier church dedicated to St. Conall, a 6th-century saint who was associated with St. Patrick. The friary belonged to the Observant branch of the Franciscan order, which followed a strict rule of poverty and austerity. The friary was supported by the O’Kelly clan, who were the lords of Uí Maine, a large territory that covered parts of Galway, Roscommon, Offaly, and Tipperary.

The friary witnessed many turbulent events in Irish history, such as the Reformation, the Cromwellian invasion, and the Williamite wars. However, it managed to survive and remain in the hands of the Franciscans until the late 17th or early 18th century. The friars continued to minister in the area until the early 19th century, when they finally left. The friary then fell into ruin and was taken over by the Office of Public Works, which maintains it today.

The Kilconnell Franciscan Friary is a remarkable example of late medieval Gothic architecture. It consists of a church with a nave, a chancel, a transept, and a tower; a cloister with an east range; and some ancillary buildings. The church is notable for its large windows, which fill the interior with light. The tower, which rises to 21 metres, has four storeys and a crenellated parapet. The cloister has pointed arches on octagonal columns and traces of wall paintings.

The friary also contains some splendid examples of art and sculpture. The most striking are the two tombs in the nave, which belong to members of the O’Kelly family. They are decorated with elaborate carvings of angels, saints, animals, and heraldic symbols. Another notable feature is the wooden statue of Our Lady, which dates from the 15th or 16th century and is one of the oldest surviving wooden sculptures in Ireland. The friary also has several carved stones, such as an owl under the tower and a cross on the south wall.

The Kilconnell Franciscan Friary is not only a historical and architectural gem, but also a place of spiritual and cultural significance. It is a testament to the faith and devotion of the Franciscans and their patrons, who endured many hardships and persecutions for their beliefs. It is also a witness to the rich heritage and identity of Uí Maine, one of the ancient kingdoms of Ireland. The friary attracts many visitors who are interested in learning more about its history and art, or who simply want to enjoy its peaceful and serene atmosphere.


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Kilconnell Franciscan Friary



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