Kilconnell Friary is situated on the site of an earlier religious settlement founded by St Conall in the 6th century, hence the Irish placename Cil Chonaill, meaning Conall’s Church. There is some debate about the year in which the Friary was established and given to the Franciscans, some records suggest 1353, however most put the date at 1414. The Friary was established with the assistance of William O’Kelly, Lord of Uí Maine, one of the oldest and largest kingdoms of Connacht. The Friary was adapted and extended throughout the 15th century.
Kilconnell Friary was fortunate to remain in use a lot longer than other religious establishments that were closed as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1540s. An English garrison occupied the site in 1596 but there is evidence to suggest that twenty one years later the buildings were still housing a community of six friars. In 1616 James I granted the lands of Kilconnell to a Norfolk judge named Calthorpe; later in 1657 Oliver Cromwell used the Friary to inter Matthias Barnewall, 8th Baron Trimlestown, whose family estate in Meath had been confiscated. Friars did remain at the site throughout the 18th century as the Friary became ruinous and covered in ivy. By the early 1800s the Friary was in complete ruin, the last friar, who had been acting as parish priest, left in 1801.
What sets Kilconnell Friary apart and makes it a real ‘must-see’ is the elaborate and beautiful niche tombs that line the walls of the nave and choir, its certainly one of the most splendid and ornate Friaries I have been fortunate to visit.
GPS: 53.33275, -8.40086