The Ffrench Mausoleum is a stunning Gothic Revival structure that stands in a clearing deep in Monivea Woods. The mausoleum is the final resting place of the last members of the Ffrench family, one of the most distinguished of the 14 Tribes of Galway. 

The Ffrench family traces its origins to the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th century, when they came with Strongbow and settled in Wexford. Later, they moved west and acquired Monivea Castle and its adjacent lands from the O’Kelly Clan. The Ffrench family became one of the leading gentry families in Galway, and were involved in politics, trade and agriculture. They also improved the local industry and reclaimed land from the bogs.

One of the most notable members of the family was Robert Ffrench, who inherited the estate in 1744 and made vast improvements to its lands and beech plantations. He also represented Galway in the English Parliament between 1768 and 1776. The Ffrench estate reached its peak in 1876, when it covered more than 10,000 acres of land.

The last generation of the Ffrench family to live in Monivea Castle was Robert Ffrench, his wife Sophia and their daughter Kathleen. Robert Ffrench served as Secretary to the British Embassy in St. Petersburg and Vienna, where he met Sophia, the only child of Alexander de Kindiakoff, a Russian noble of great wealth. They married in 1864 and had one child, Kathleen, who was born in 1866.

Robert Ffrench died in Italy in 1896, and his body was embalmed in Milan until the completion of the mausoleum in 1900. The mausoleum was commissioned by Kathleen Ffrench, who inherited her father’s estate and fortune. She also inherited her mother’s estates on the Volga River, but they were confiscated by the Bolsheviks after the Russian Revolution. Kathleen Ffrench spent much of her life travelling around Europe, but she always returned to Monivea Castle. She died in 1938 and was laid to rest beside her father in the mausoleum. Her cousin Rosamund Ffrench, who lived in Monivea Castle until her death, is buried next to the mausoleum.

The Ffrench Mausoleum is a remarkable example of Gothic Revival architecture, inspired by medieval tower houses. It is built from Wicklow granite and has a crenellated roof with four corner turrets. Above the entrance door is an intricately carved coat of arms of the family and their motto, “Malo Mori Quam Foedare” – “Death before Dishonour”.

The doors open into a marble chapel, lit by beautiful stained glass windows depicting scenes from the life of Christ. The chapel has an altar with a crucifix and two statues of angels. Lying in the centre of the chapel is a life-sized sculpture of Robert Ffrench lying in state in his robes of the Order of Malta, carved by the renowned Italian sculptor Francesco Jarace. The sculpture has an inscription in French that reads “Il lui sera beaucoup pardonné car il a beaucoup aimé” – “He will be forgiven much because he has loved much”.

The two lead coffins of Robert and Kathleen Ffrench rest in the crypt of the mausoleum, reached by a winding stone staircase to the left of the altar. The crypt has a vaulted ceiling with four niches for candles. The coffins are covered with velvet drapes and have brass plates with their names and dates.

The Ffrench Mausoleum is a unique and beautifully crafted structure that reflects the history and personality of the Ffrench family. It is a stunning feature in Monivea Woods, where visitors can enjoy a peaceful walk among the beech trees and admire this Gothic Revival legacy.


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Ffrench Mausoleum



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