The Friary at Askeaton is situated to the north of the Limerick village, also home to the impressive Desmond Castle, the area heavily associated with the FitzGeralds for generations. There are two foundation dates given for the Friary, the first being 1389 by Gerald FitzMaurice FitzGerald, 3rd Earl of Desmond, the reason given for this date is due to a recording of an indulgence possibly given to the friary by Pope Boniface IX, who was pope from 1389-1404. Gerald was a renowned writer of poetry in Irish and legends state that he is still sleeping in a cave, waiting to ride back on his horse in Ireland’s time of need! A second school of thought places the more likely foundation date of 1420, this would mean that Gerald’s son James FitzGerald Fitzgerald, the 6th Earl of Desmond was the friary’s patron. James was known as ‘the Usurper Earl’, he deprived is nephew, Thomas, of his title and estates in 1418 for marrying a Gaelic woman, Thomas was forced into exile in France and died in Rouen two years later. James helped the FitzGeralds rise in further prominence was a supporter of the House of York.
The Friary was plundered by Nicholas Malby in 1579 during the Second Desmond Rebellion as he had been unsuccessful in his siege of Desmond Castle, many of the friars were killed and two friars hanged at Kilmallock were buried in the friary. The order was revived again in 1627 but did not full establish themselves until 1642 but abandoned in 1648 as Cromwell’s forces raged through Ireland. The friary was re-established in 1659 with the help of Richard Stephenson, a leading member of the Confederate Irish Forces, his family were granted a tomb near the altar. The last Friar was appointed in 1714 and it is soon after this that the Friary fell out of use.
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