MAUSOLEUM AT ST. FRANCIS’ CHURCH

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The Mausoleum at St. Francis’s Church near Eyrecourt in County Galway is a remarkable structure and a rare example of a highly decorated chest tomb type mausoleum. Erected around 1850, the mausoleum showcases the skill and artistry of Irish stone carvers. It also reveals some intriguing clues about the life and death of the person who commissioned it, as well as the religious and social context of the time.

The Mausoleum is located in the grounds of St. Francis’s Catholic Church, which was built in 1827 on the site of a medieval Franciscan friary founded in 1414 by William O’Kelly, Lord of Uí Mhaine. The friary was suppressed by Henry VIII in 1541, but continued to function as a place of worship until the late 18th century, when it was abandoned and fell into ruin. The only roofed building in view was the low single-storey building adjoining the church, part of which then formed the chapel.

The Mausoleum stands out from the surrounding graveyard as a striking monument of limestone, with a rectangular base, a moulded cornice, and a square pointed pinnacle on top. It has cast-iron ring pulls on the east face, suggesting that it may have been intended to be opened at some point. The most remarkable feature of the Mausoleum, however, is the elaborate carvings that adorn three of its faces (the west face is plain). These carvings display a remarkable level of craftsmanship and creativity, with some elements inspired by medieval motifs.

The carvings include various symbols and scenes related to the Christian faith, such as a crucifix, an angel holding a trumpet, a lamb holding a cross, a chalice and host, and an open book with the words “Verbum Dei” (Word of God). There are also depictions of human faces, some of which may be portraits of the person who commissioned the Mausoleum or his relatives. The faces have different expressions and hairstyles, and some wear hats or crowns. One face on the south side has a beard and moustache, and may represent Jesus Christ.

The inscriptions on the Mausoleum are not fully legible, but they indicate that it was dedicated to someone named John Eyre or Eyres, who died in 1848 or 1849. He may have been related to John Eyre (died 1668), who was granted lands in Eyrecourt by Oliver Cromwell after the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. Eyrecourt is a nearby town that was founded by John Eyre in 1655, and named after him. It has a castle that was built by him in 1671, and is now a ruin.

The Mausoleum at St. Francis’s Church reflects the skill and artistry of Irish stone carvers, who created a stunning monument that blends medieval and modern influences. It also reveals some aspects of the life and death of John Eyre or Eyres, who commissioned it as a testament to his faith and status. It forms part of an interesting ecclesiastical group in Meelick that includes the church, other ruined friary buildings, medieval grave slabs, and many other grave markers to the graveyard.

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Mausoleum at St. Francis' Church

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