Kilconnell Franciscan Friary

Site Plan
Image of Kilconnell Franciscan Friary Plan

Located in the western part of the church, the nave was where congregations gathered to hear sermons preached and to attend Mass. In Cistercian churches, the nave was the site of the Laybrothers’ Choir, the area in which those members of the community charged with manual work attended Mass and an abbreviated form of the Divine Office at the beginning and the end of their day’s work

View of the sixteenth century mural tomb at the west end of the nave. It consists of a panel of six carved figures beneath a canopy of ‘flamboyant’ tracery flanked by two ornamental pinnacles. Above the canopy are two small figures, one of St. Francis and the other of a Bishop. It is not known who was the benefactor who commissioned this tomb

A bishop and St Francis above the canopy of the tomb

A closer look at the panel in the lower section of the canopied wall tomb. It features carvings of six figures, who can be identified, from left to right, as St. John the Evangelist, St. Louis of Toulouse, The Virgin, St. John the Baptist, St. James of Compostela and St. Denis of Paris.

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The area on either side of the nave or chancel

This area is separated from the nave through an arcade (a row of arches and columns).
Aisles often housed side altars and were used for liturgical processions

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In monastic churches the transepts were rectangular extensions abutting the nave/chancel that gave the church its characteristic cruciform appearance. In friary churches generally only one transept is found. The transept provided space for additional altars dedicated to various saints and serving as mortuary, burial or chantry chapels for the community’s benefactors. In friaries the transept was often the location of a shrine to the Virgin Mary and was known as the Lady Chapel

A view into the south chapel, or south transept, of the church, which was probably added in the later years of the fifteenth century to the original nave and chancel church. It shows two tomb niches underneath the south window, and an archway leading into a projecting chapel added in the sixteenth century, and flanked by two tall arcaded niches that likely used to contain secondary altars dedicated to the cult of particular saints.

A view of the south transept taken from its southeast corner. It shows how the transept/chapel was connected to the crossing tower, the transept own lateral aisle, and the nave and its south aisle through series of several arcades. Note how the arch leading into the tower and the nave arcade are pointed, while the arcade separating the transept from its lateral aisle has rounded arches, a more unusual choice in fifteenth-century architecture, but not unheard of in a Franciscan context, especially in an observant foundation. Kilconnell adopted the Observant reform in c. 1460, probably before the transept was constructed

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Secondary altars within a designated space in the church are known as chapels

These can be dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Lady Chapel) or be erected by members of a specific family as a private chapel

Mass was celebrated here for smaller congregations

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Towers served as belfries, ringing out the hours of the Divine Offices, which called the religious community to the church. They were generally built over crossing or the intersection of the nave and chancel.

A view of the south elevation of the friary, facing the south gable of the church transept, with the nave and its side aisle to the west and the chancel to the east. Between nave and chancel is the crossing tower, which was added to the church in the late fifteenth century, together with the south transept. It is tall and slim, in typical Franciscan fashion.

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Situated at the east end of the church and separated from the nave by a wooden or stone screen (cancellus), the chancel was the area reserved to the members of the religious community. At its west end were the choir stalls where the community gathered for the daily celebration of the Divine Office. At the east end of the chancel, underneath the principal window stood the High Altar and the sedilia or ornamental seats for the clergy officiating at Mass. This part of the chancel was also known as the presbytery

A view into the Chancel, showing the beautiful four-light east window, filled with flamboyant tracery. To the left (north) of the chancel is the sacristy, while unusually in a mendicant context, a chapel is located to the south of the chancel, which was added in the sixteenth century.

The canopied wall tomb of the Daly family, located in the north wall of the chancel, a very sought after burial position in mendicant churches.

A close look at the tracery in the upper section of the Daly tomb located in the north wall of the chancel. While the tracery of the church east and south windows is typical of Irish flamboyant tracery, this tracery is reminiscent of geometrical tracery, which was in fashion in England and elsewhere in the thirteenth century.

The Ward armorial stone, commemorating the death of Mary, wife of Andrew Nugent Comyn in 1910.

For more on the Comyn family, check out

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The sacristy (or vestry) is a room off the church, where vestments, church furnishings and altar plate are stored and where the clergy robe for church services

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The uncovered central space within a cloister is called the cloister garth.

The cloister garth is surrounded by the cloister arcade or alley, which was a covered walkway which connects the domestic ranges and the church

A view of the cloister square. The cloister arcade survives on the east side, and partly on the south side. The arcade is typical of fifteenth-century Franciscan cloisters, as can also be admired in Quin and Askeaton friaries, with dumbbell-shaped pillars. We can see how the cloister walk integrated the top floor of the east range. It was also the case for the western half of the south side of the cloister, as can be seen here, suggesting that the friars sleeping in the west range dormitory could access the first floor of the tower through a passage above the cloister walk, and from there take the stairs down and into the chancel.

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The cloister alley or ambulatory is a covered walkway that surrounds the central garth.

The cloister alleys connect the domestic ranges of the monastery with each other and with the church

The ambulatories were often used as a burial place for members of the order or for important benefactors

Another view of the cloister square. Even though the north and west sides of the cloister arcade are gone, many sections of the arches and columns survive, scattered along the western cloister walk (seen here in the forefront of the picture).

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The east range contained the rooms essential for conducting monastic life, such as the sacristy, chapter house, calefactory and dormitories above. The range was connected to the church via the chancel or transept.

A view into the only surviving domestic range, the east range, which is likely to have hosted the chapter room and perhaps a day room, where the friars could have met more informally. Visible here is also the east side of the cloister arcade, as the friary had an integrated cloister, a common configuration in Irish friary, whereby the upper floor of the range, where the friars’ dormitory was located, would have covered both the lower rooms of the range and the cloister walk, thus adding significant amount of space to the upper room.

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The refectory was the main dining room of the community, normally located in the cloister range parallel to the church. In houses of Augustinian Canons, the refectory was often located on the first floor, a position that recalled the cenaculum, or upper room in Jerusalem in which Christ had celebrated the Last Supper. Each refectory contained a pulpitum, or reader’s desk from which a member of the community read devotional material during the silent communal meals

There was a lavabo at the entrance for the religious to wash their hands

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The west range of domestic buildings was where the community interacted with the secular world, where visitors and alms were received. In Benedictine and Cistercian communities, the west range was reserved for the lay brothers.

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The garderobe, which is also known as a reredorter, was the communal lavatory usually situated at the northern end of the dormitory. It consisted of a room with a long bench and a pit below into which the waste fell.

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A view of the friary looking north. It lies in a picturesque, rural landscape in east Galway. The tall, slim tower was erected in the later fifteenth century, an addition to the original nave and chancel church.

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