Moyne Franciscan Friary

Site Plan

A view of the friary from the path visitors use today to access it, showcasing its position in a very rural landscape on the shores of Killlala bay.

The coastal position of the friary explains its construction, according to Franciscan chronicler Donagh Mooney, with a mortar made from burnt sea-shells, which proved very effective in joining and waterproofing the walls. At high-tide, large ships were able to come as far as the friary’s harbour, suggesting the friars’ involvement in local trade.

Like many other mendicant friaries, there was in Moyne an efficient system of water-supply, sanitation and sewerage, and this is a view of the water channel leading from the friary towards Killala bay, which carried water into the kitchen, the two mills of the friary and other rooms around the cloister, and carried off the sewage from the latrines and the waste from the kitchen.

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The nave is the area in the western part of the main body of the church where the congregation gathered to hear sermons preached and to attend Mass.

A view of the west gable of the church, with a west doorway of the classical style inserted probably in the seventeenth century, through which the laity would have entered the nave. Above it is a triple-light with switch-line tracery typical of late medieval Gothic architecture in Ireland, especially in a mendicant context.

A closer look at the west doorway, which is of the classical style and therefore likely a seventeenth-century insertion, which suggests that the church was still in use at that time and benefitting from local patronage. Indeed we know that an English widow was in possession of and lived in the friary, but rented out the church and a few cells to the friars at the time of Donatus Mooney’s visit in 1616.

A number of etchings of ships have been discovered on the nave walls, and dated to the end of the sixteenth century, reminders of the mercantile connections of the friary, which had its own harbour where ships were able to come to at high-tide.

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The aisle is an area that runs parallel to the nave or chancel, separated from either by a row of arches and columns known as an arcade. It often contained side altars and was used for liturgical processions.

A view into the lateral aisle of the church, which was unusually large, being wider that the nave itself by 1.5 metres. It is separated from the nave by an arcade or round arches resting on octagonal piers. To its west is a transept arm, and a study of the fabric of the structures has revealed that the aisle was a later addition to the transept, replacing an earlier project in which it was the transept’s width that had been doubled, similarly to the arrangement in Ross Errilly friary.

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The transept is the space which intersects the nave and chancel, giving the church its characteristic cruciform appearance. These rectangular extensions to the north and south of the church provided space for additional altars dedicated to various saints and serving as mortuary, burial or chantry chapels for the community’s benefactors. In a mendicant context, only one transept arm is found, in most cases abutting the nave, or the nave and the tower between the chancel and the nave, known as a ‘one armed transept.’

A view of the south window of the transept, four round-headed lights surmounted by a quatrefoil inserted within switch-line tracery, of a similar design to the east window in the chancel, suggesting that the transept was built contemporaneously to the nave and chancel.

A large ‘transept’ arm extends to the south of the nave at its east end, a typical feature in mendicant context. Accommodated within the east wall of the transept between two windows is a small room which might have served as an additional vestry, where sacramental vessels and vestments used by friar-priests serving the secondary altars within the transept were kept. There were at least two altars, placed in large recesses within the east wall on either side of the vestry, forming small side chapels.

A closer look at the piscina inserted within the wall of the small vestry, which would have been used to wash up the vessels used during masses celebrated at the altar in the recess within the east wall of the transept. A similar piscina is inserted within the south wall of the other altar recess arranged within the east wall, underneath the other, south-most window.

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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 central tower, looking west from within the chancel. It’s unusual, lopsided appearance is due to having been enlarged to provide room for a newel stairs, perhaps to avail of the space within the tower for accommodation. The original tower would have been very similar to the tower at Rosserk friary, which is located 5km south of Moyne. Note the low, round tower arch, similar to the one found in the Observant friary of Kilcrea (Co. Cork). There is a doorway opening onto the cloister walk underneath the tower, probably used by friars sleeping in the west range dormitory to enter the chancel.

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The chancel is located in the east end of a church and is reserved for the use of the clergy and choir, and is where the altar is located.

A view into the chancel, with its east window of a similar design to the south window in the transept, suggesting their contemporary construction.

A closer look at the east window of the chancel, four round-headed lights surmounted by a quatrefoil inserted within switch-line tracery, of a similar style to the south window in the transept.

Two doorways connect the chancel to the sacristy in the east range. The door on the left was probably used by the community of friars as they came down from the dormitory to attend services in the stalls arranged in the choir, in the western half of the chancel, while the door on the right was used by the celebrants, the priest, deacon and sub-deacon as they went to take place in the presbytery. A holy water font is placed between the two doors, for the use of the friars when entering the church.

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The chapel is a small separate space (usually off the aisle or transept) which contained a secondary altar, often dedicated to a particular saint. They were usually erected by members of a specific family as a private chapel.

Unusually, a long, rectangular chapel was added to the south of the chancel, in a similar manner to the ‘transepts’ placed at the east ends of the mendicant friaries’ naves. Its construction was probably funded by local patrons, perhaps as a funerary chapel where they could be buried and the friars would pray and say masses for their souls, but it might also have been used as additional space for use by the friars themselves.

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The cloister garth was the uncovered central space within a cloister. The cloister garth is surrounded by the cloister arcade and the cloister walk or alley.

A view of the south side of the cloister arcade surrounding the cloister garth. Unusually, an entrance into the garth is arranged in the middle of the arcade, through a wider arch. This is the only occurrence of the sort in Irish Franciscan friaries. This side of the cloister walk was covered by a lean-to roof, while the other sides are integrated within the domestic ranges, with the upper floors extending over the cloister walks, supported by barrel vaults.

A view of the west side of the cloister arcade, which on the west, north and east sides is integrated within the domestic ranges, with the upper floors extending over the cloister walks, supported by barrel vaults. This allowed for larger spaces for the dormitories while keeping a compact design for the whole claustral complex. The arcade of pointed arches rests on dumb-bell piers, the design of which is almost identical to that of the cloister arcade of Ross Errilly friary.

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The cloister walk (or cloister alley) was the covered walkway that surrouded the cloister garth, connecting the domestic ranges to the church. It was often used as a burial place for members of the order or for important benefactors.

A view into the west cloister walk, which like the walks on the east and north sides is barrel-vaulted, supporting the domestic ranges’ upper floors. At the north end of this walk, in the wall, is a rectangular hatch, on the other end of which is a passage connecting to the kitchen. These hatches could be used for handing in products received at the door, and handing out food to the porter to be given to the pilgrims and travellers received at the entrance of the friary, located at the south end of the west range in Moyne.

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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 chapter house played an important role in monastic life. The community gathered here every morning to listen to a reading of a chapter of their rule, to pray for their benefactors, to receive instructions for their daily tasks and to deal with administrative matters.

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The refectory was the main dining room of the community, normally located in the cloister range parallel to the church. 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.

A view of the east wall of the refectory, located within the northward extension of the east range, showing the reader’s desk recess projecting off the wall. Both this and the position of the refectory are reminiscent of Ross Errilly friary’s arrangement.

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The north range (although usually located to the south of the cloister) of domestic buildings contained the rooms where the religious community dined, including the refectory, kitchen and a warming room known as a calefactory.

A view of the north wall of the south domestic range, connecting the east and west ranges. The kitchen was located in the lower ground of the range, connected to the refectory to the east,
And to the vaulted store rooms of the north range to the west - their arched doorways now exposed, as a building extending to the north was pulled down in the eighteenth century.

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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.

A view of the west domestic range, which housed, downstairs, a succession of vaulted rooms, probably used for the storage of goods, and upstairs, a dormitory and separate apartment at the north end of the range. There is material and textual evidence that additional domestic buildings existed further north, perhaps forming an outer court similar to the arrangement in Ross Errilly friary. However, buildings were taken down in the middle of the eighteenth century, their stones used to build a house on the site, probably the house extending east of the east range.

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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 interior of the dwelling house which was built, presumably, with the stones from buildings that once stood to the north of the surviving domestic buildings. It was probably built in the eighteenth century, to the east of the domestic complex, connected by a corridor or passage to the east range and cloister, its upper floor connected to the garderobe of the friars

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