Murgagagh Abbey is only a short distance from the village Shrule in Co. Mayo. This ruinous abbey and graveyard is also known as ‘Killeenbrenan of the Virgin’ and ‘Kille Abbey’. Many aspects of the history of Murgagagh have been forgotten but we do know that it was founded around 1428 on the site of an earlier church. The abbey was possibly the first and most important houses of the Third Order of St Francis to be established in Ireland, and was built with the help of the De Burgo family. The order is thought to have been established by St Francis himself for married men and women who wished for a Franciscan life. ‘Notes on the early history of the dioceses of Tuam, Killala and Achonry’ written by Hubert Thomas Knox in 1904 mentions the site which already must have been in a very dilapidated state, “Murgagach is Irish for cracked, having a crack or chink, and is a descriptive name.”
Much of what we do know about Murgagagh comes from folklore, at the wall furthest from the front gate there is a hole in the stone about a meter and a half above ground level. Legend states that if you stand back seven steps, close your eyes and walk towards the wall with your arms outstretched, if you manage to get your hand into the hole within three attempts you will have a wish granted or will have secured your place in heaven, depending on which legend you follow! The ‘Schools Collection’ from the 1930s, one of the most important sources we have about local folklore, tells us several tales of ghosts and shadowy figures seen in and around the abbey. One story from the folklore collection tells us that during the time of Cromwell’s conquests of Ireland the monks got a tip off about the approaching forces and headed towards Shrule but not before burying their chalices and other artefacts. A local man named Tom O’ Toole said that the finest chalice had been buried under the gate of the abbey and remains there to this day! Shortly after the monks left the roof of the abbey was blown off by cannon fire.
Murgagagh Abbey is a beautiful place to visit however it is very overgrown and its hard to know how long its crumbling walls can continue to stand.
GPS: 53.53966, -9.11238