PORTUMNA FRIARY

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Portumna Friary is a medieval friary and church that dates back to the 13th century. Located in the town of Portumna in County Galway, this friary is one of the best-preserved religious ruins in the country and offers a glimpse into the past lives of the Cistercian and Dominican monks who lived and prayed there.

Portumna Friary was originally a Cistercian chapel that was dedicated to St. Peter and Paul in the 13th century. The site later became abandoned and a local chieftain at the time, O’Madden, 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.

The friary flourished for several centuries, attracting many pilgrims and patrons who donated lands and money to support its activities. The friary also witnessed some important historical events, such as the marriage of Patrick Sarsfield, an Irish Jacobite leader, to Honora de Burgo at the church in 1689. However, the friary also faced many challenges and hardships, such as the suppression of monasteries by Henry VIII in the 16th century, the Cromwellian invasion in the 17th century, and the Penal Laws that restricted Catholic worship in the 18th century. Despite these difficulties, the friary remained active until the early 19th century, when it was finally abandoned and fell into ruin.

Today, Portumna Friary is a National Monument that is open to the public and free to visit. The remains consist of a church with nave, chancel and transepts along with outlines of surrounding domestic buildings. The church is notable for its Gothic architecture, featuring pointed arches, ribbed vaults, lancet windows and carved capitals. Some of the original features that can still be seen include:

– The high altar, which is made of limestone and has an inscription that reads “Orate pro animabus O’Maddan et uxoris eius” (Pray for the souls of O’Maddan and his wife).
– The sedilia, which are stone seats for the clergy on the south wall of the chancel.
– The tomb of Patrick Sarsfield and Honora de Burgo, which is located in the north transept and has a plaque that commemorates their marriage.
– The cloister garth, which is a grassy area surrounded by four arcaded walls that once connected the church with the domestic buildings.
– The graveyard, which contains many old gravestones dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries.

Portumna Friary is located in Fairyhill Portumna, about 1 km from Portumna Castle and Forest Park. It is accessible by car or by foot from the town center. There is no admission fee or opening hours for the friary, but visitors are advised to respect the site and its surroundings. There are no facilities or guides at the friary, but there are information panels that provide some historical background. 

Portumna Friary is a fascinating place to visit for anyone interested in history, religion or architecture. It is a testament to the faith and resilience of the monks who lived there for centuries, as well as the beauty and diversity of Irish culture.

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Portumna Friary

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