Ross Errilly Friary is a medieval Franciscan monastery near Headford in County Galway, and is one of the most complete and well-preserved monastic sites in Ireland. The friary offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives and beliefs of the friars who inhabited it for centuries.

Ross Errilly Friary was founded in 1351 by the prominent de Burgh family, who were the lords of Connacht and the chief patrons of the Franciscan order in Ireland. The friary was built on a fertile plain by the Black River, which served as a natural boundary between the counties of Galway and Mayo. The friary was dedicated to St. Mary and St. John the Baptist, and it became a center of learning and spirituality for the region.

The friary consists of a large church, a cloister, a sacristy, a chapter house, a refectory, a kitchen, a dormitory, a library, and several chapels and altars. The architecture reflects the Gothic and Renaissance styles that were popular at the time, and it features elaborate carvings, arches, windows, and tombs. The friary also has a cemetery, where many members of the de Burgh family and other local nobles were buried.

The friars of Ross Errilly lived a simple and austere life, following the rule of St. Francis of Assisi. They wore brown habits, prayed seven times a day, observed fasting and abstinence, and relied on alms from the local people for their sustenance. They also engaged in preaching, teaching, writing, and ministering to the poor and sick. Some of the friars were renowned scholars and theologians, such as John Colgan, who wrote an important collection of Irish saints’ lives in Latin.

However, the friars also faced many challenges and hardships throughout their history. During the Reformation, Henry VIII dissolved all monasteries in Ireland in 1538, and Ross Errilly was confiscated by the crown. The friars were expelled, killed, or imprisoned by the English authorities. However, thanks to the protection of the de Burgh family and other local supporters, the friars were able to return to Ross Errilly several times over the next two centuries.

The friary was also affected by the political and religious turmoil that plagued Ireland in the 17th and 18th centuries. The friars supported the Catholic cause during the Nine Years’ War (1594-1603), the Confederate Wars (1641-1653), and the Williamite War (1689-1691), which resulted in further attacks and confiscations by the English forces. The friars also suffered from persecution and harassment by the Protestant authorities, who tried to suppress Catholicism in Ireland.

The last friars left Ross Errilly in 1832, after a provincial order that required them to join other Franciscan communities in Ireland or abroad. The friary was then abandoned and fell into ruin. However, it was never completely forgotten by the local people, who continued to visit it as a place of pilgrimage and devotion. In 1880, a local priest named Father Peter Conway restored some parts of the friary and erected a cross on its roof.

Today, Ross Errilly Friary is a national monument of Ireland and is managed by the Office of Public Works (OPW). It is open to the public for free and attracts many visitors who are interested in its history, architecture, and atmosphere. Ross Errilly Friary is a hidden gem of medieval Ireland that offers a unique insight into the Franciscan tradition and its impact on Irish society. It is well worth a visit if you are looking for an authentic and inspiring experience of Irish heritage.


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Ross Errilly Friary



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