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1250: A Franciscan Friary was founded in Claregalway by John de Cogan!, an Anglo-Norman adventurer.  He had been granted Claregalway as reward for his involvement in the conquest of Connacht c 1235. Eugene O’Heyne, a local noble, provided the friary with a dormitory, having provided the same for the Dominicans of Athenry in 1241.

1252: De Cogan received a grant to hold a weekly market and an annual fair in Claregalway, probably with the intention of establishing a borough.

1291: An indulgence was granted to penitents who visited the church.

1296: Philip de Blund, archdeacon of Tuam, was indicted for removing the pontificalia (a bishop’s insignia, which included the ring, mitre, sandals, pectoral cross and crosier) of the bishop of Annaghdown from Claregalway friary where it had been placed in safekeeping.  The diocese of Annaghdown had been united with Tuam in 1263.

1297: The Franciscans of Claregalway and the Dominicans of Athenry were involved in a dispute with the archbishop of Tuam, William de Bermingham (d.1312) and his archdeacon, Philip de Blund, who had forbidden the faithful from providing the friars with food.

1324: As part of a papal investigation into the Irish Franciscan province, Gaelic friars in a number of friaries, including Claregalway, were to be reassigned to other houses in the province.  Claregalway and Galway were the two friaries permitted to appoint Gaelic guardians.

1327: John Magnus de Copgan (111) refers to himself as the founder but it was more likely that he was a patron who expanded, rather than founded, the friary.

1328: Robert, bishop of Annaghdown sued the Archbishop of Tuam, Malachy for having taken his goods by force from Claregalway (Strothyr Clare) valued at 40 pounds.

1333: Philip Hamlin gave 10 acres of land to the friars to provide bread and wine for their masses.

1368: Lands in Clonmoylan were granted to the friary by Thomas de Bermingham, lord of Athenry.

1387: John Roch granted the friars gifts of land from Joanne Brown and James Caer, dean of the Diocese of Tuam.

15th century: The tower in the friary was added to the earlier church.

1426: William Pulard, a friar from Claregalway received a dispensation for accidently injuring a layman, Donald O’hAschi, during a game that later died of his wounds.

1433: Pope Eugene IV granted an indulgence of four years and four quarantines to the faithful who visited Claregalway Franciscan friary to contribute to the renovation of the church and the completion of the tower.

1538: Lord Leonard Grey was sent to Galway City by Henry VIII, with his troops stripping Claregalway friary of all chalices, bells and crosses en route.

Late 16th century: The friary possessed six cottages and gardens, twenty-four acres of arable land, pasture for twenty four cows on commons and a water-mill.

1567: The friary became an Observant house.

1570: The friary was granted to Richard de Burgo, who allowed the friars to remain in residence.

1588/9: The friars were driven out of Claregalway by Sir Richard Bingham, Governor of Connacht (d. 1599), and the friary was converted into a barracks for his forces

Early 17th century: The Franciscan chronicler Donatus Mooney described the woodwork in Claregalway friary as being of a very high quality.

Post-1641: The friars attempted to restore the friary.

1731: Edward Syngte, Anglican archbishop of Tuam recorded that there were three friars still living in Claregalway.  The high sheriff of Galway,m Stratford Eyre, seized a number of documents from Claregalway friary.

1732: Sheriff Eyre reported that the friars lived close to the friary, and were building a large house in the estate of Thomas Blake.

1744: Richard Croasdaile, a priest hunter, included the names of the guardian and a friary of Claregalway in a report to Dublin Castle.

1752: The Anglican bishop of Meath, Pococke, travelled in Connacht this year and observed that the chapel of the church at Claregalway was converted into a mass house.  The use of the side chapel suggests the dilapidated condition of the friary church itself.

1766: The Claregalway Franciscan community consisted of five friars, three of advanced years.

1791: Coquebert de Montbret, French consul at Dublin recorded that the friars residing among the ruinds of Claregalway.

2010/11: Excavations carried out close to the friary impinged on the medieval graveyard and a number of burials and objects including medieval green glazed imported pottery, fragments of floor tiles and worked bone pieces were discovered. Some of the burials seems to have been located outside the friary precinct and had the characteristics f deviant burials.


                                                             The Convent of Claregalway

1.  The Convent of Claregalway is situated in the county town of the same name, and is a conspicuous object to all passing through the district.  It is the diocese of Annaghdown, which is now united to Tuam, and the County of Galway, not more than four miles from the city, towards the north, on the straight road to Rosserrilly, which is eight miles further on.

The town and adjacent countryside belong to the Earl of Clanrickard, who later purchased the title deeds of the convent and its possessions from the stranger to whom they had been granted by the Queen.  Besides the convent and its immediate surrounds, the friars owned some farms, and had the right of pasture for a certain number of animals on lands that were held in common by the inhabitants of the town.  They possessed in all about a carucate of land, as it is called in that country.

The convent belonged to the Conventuals ’till the time of their union with us, of which I have spoken.  The community was then small in number, and the members were transferred to other convents.  It has since remained deserted, for none were sent to replace them.  The principal reason was the danger to which friars were exposed on account of the exposed position of the monastery, since the heretics obtained the upper hand in that district.  I have met but one of the former inmates of Claregalway.  He told me that the roofs, the ceilings, and other parts in which wood was used were of excellent workmanship.  At present the walls alone remain, but from these we can conclude that the convent was a well built structure. The timber work has allperished by the natural decay of time, or has been broken up or burned by the soldiers in their pillaging excursions, or while in garrison here, which often happened.  The land belonging to the convent has never been alienated, and if the church should ever again enter into her rights, could be sole, and the proceeds applied to the restoration of the buildings.

This may also be said of the small property that was possessed by some other of the convents where they were in the hands of the Conventuals.  The Observantines have never renounced these possessions, for the simple reason that they were never able to occupy the convents through the growth of heresy and the dangers of the times, for they are determined to claim for their sole property severe and rigid poverty, and have for their sole support the alms of the charitable.

Friar Donatus Mooney ‘Brussels MS 3947’, Analecta Hibernica 6 

Translation The Franciscan Tertiary, vol 5:9 (January, 1895) pp 257-8.

2.         The Convent of Moyne

The convent occupied a most agreeable situation.  The buildings were spacious, of excellent workmanship, and almost entirely constructed of marble.  Round the convent were gardens, meadows, and orchards, enclosed by a strong wall of stone.  In the very cloister a spring of water gushed forth from the rocky soil, and flowing through the premises, was made use of by the brethren in six or seven different places, if then rushed to the sea, about three hundred paces distant, sweeping with it the refuse of the house.  On its way it turned two mills for grinding corn.  The water was of an excellent and wholesome quality and flowed from this well n such abundance that it was never known to fail. There was a plentiful supply of fish, an immense, I might say, a superabundant quantity of vegetables, while such was the profusion of shell-fish that they could be collected at any time on the seashore without the slightest trouble. The mortar used in the building of the church and convent was made from the shells of oysters and other such fish, which when burned forms a cement of wonderful binding power.  The convent stood close by the sea. This was most convenient, for ships of heavy burden could be moored at high water beside the infirmary and at the door of the cloister, while at low tide you could walk to the island of Bartragh, which is at least a mile distant. This island abounded in rabbits.  Indeed it would seem as if God wished to supply all our necessities with his own hand, so that we had no need to seek fish, vegetables or meat from an earthly benefactor.  Would we had been suffered to live there in peace. But such was not the will of God.

Donatus Mooney ‘Brussels MS 3947’, Analecta Hibernica 6 (1934) p.51;

Translation in The Franciscan Tertiary, vol. 5 (1894), pp226-7

3.          Form of commission for friends travelling overseas.

To the venerable in Christ, the, fathers, guardians and all other friars of our family, and especially those of province N. and specifically the convent of N in that province to whom these present letters pertain.  Friar N vicar provincial in the province of Ireland over all the friars of the said vocation commonly called de Observantia. Everlasting greetings in the Lord.  Since we are bound by a rule of perfect charity that knows no wavering, we ought to pay back to our devoted friends and to those loving us tenderly (all) permissable and possible repayments of mutual charity and to share with them any help, advice and favour in upright and permissible things.  For which reason I make recommendation, as deeply as I can, for the welfare of this particular friend of ours N. s. N beginning a voyage with his merchandise for the purpose of private and public gain, and I beseech you, for the sake of God, to show him in deed and word, as though to special and spiritual friends, whatever is suitable and permissable to you, should the need arise.  From our convent N, in the year of the Lord.  Signed in testimony of sincere recommendation of him.

Latin original in J.A. Gribbin & Ó Clabaigh, ‘Confraternity letters of the Irish Observant

Franciscans and their benefactors’.

Peritia 16, (2002) pp 459-71, at pp 470-71.

4.       David Wydyr, worthy former burgher of Athenry, travelled to Flanders and returning from Flanders to England was by divine will overtaken by death in the city of Bristol.  Because of his affection for the order of St. Dominic he chose burial in the friar’s habit with the Friars Preachers at Bristol and for whose soul that convent received twenty pounds.  He bequeathed to the convent of his native town of Athenry one hundred marks, a silk choir cope for the use of the cantor in choir and two bronze candlesticks. The cost of the silk cope was sixteen marks and the cost of the bronze candlesticks was twenty shillings.  The noble matron Joanna Wffler, wife of the said David Wydyr, on the advice of the friars caused the boners of her husband to be transferred, honourably and with great expense, from the convent of Bristol to the convent of Athenry by Friar Thomas Nasse, lector of the Athenry convent.  And the said matron kept with her for fifteen days all the Friars Preachers in Connacht … from Roscomon, Sligh, Athleathan (Strade), Rathfran (?) Lohrra and de portu Dei  and all the other mendicant orders, the Minors, the Augustinians and the Carmelites as well as the poor and indigent, both spiritual ad otherwise, for the funeral rites of her husband.  And gave good and drink to them in abundance and silver to the poor religious and clerics.  And she caused the great window over the high altar and all the windows in the choir to be glazed and it is said that it cost more than one hundred marks for the glass and for all pertaining to the glazing.  And for the same (funeral) she gave one hundred pound of wax and innumerable other gifts.

Coleman (ed), ‘Regestrum monasterii Fratrum Praedicatorum de Athenry’

5.   One time in the convent of Bologna, Dominic found a devil going around the entire house. Blessed Dominic said to him: “Where are you going?” He answered: “I go all around, I seek whether there is any among your brother whom I may devour.” Said Blessed Dominic: “What do you gain in the choir? “He answered: “That I make them sleep, break silence come later, leave quickly.” And in the refectory, what do you gain?” He answered: “Sometimes I make them eat too much, sometimes I make them eat too fast.” And in the dormitory, what do you gain>” He answered: “I prick them with desire, I make them rise late, and miss the office,” “And in the speaking room (parlour), what do you gain?” He answered laughing, ‘That place is all mine; for they cast rumours and words to the wind.” Finally Blessed Dominic dragged him to the chapterhouse and said “What do you gain here?” The devil answered: “This place is my hell, because whatever I gain in a week I lose here in an hour, because here the brothers often accuse themselves, confess, and are absolved; whence I hate this building above all others.

Galvagno della Fiamma Little Chronicle of the Order of Preachers (1333); Cited by M. Mulchahey, First the bow is bent in study: Dominican education before 1350 (Toronto, 1998), p. 105.


Colmán Ó Clabaigh OSB

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