OBJECTID: 6665 Monument Identifier: CL07193 Classification: RHFF Irish Grid Easting: 133927 Irish Grid Northing: 177642 RMP_PROP: 1 County ID: 4 WebNotes: Situated in the centre of Ennis Historic Town (CL033-082----) on what was formerly an island formed by the River Fergus. The Franciscans were invited to establish a monastery here c. AD 1240 c. 1km W of Clonroad Castle (CL033-085001-). While the earliest dwellings were most likely temporary, the defeat of the Anglo-Normans at Clare Castle (CL041-089----) in 1270 allowed Toirrdelach Mór Ó Briain of Clonroad the opportunity to construct a more permanent building for the friars at Ennis. An ornate friary in the Gothic style was constructed consisting of a long nave and chancel with a window of five tall lancets in the E gable. Construction continued into the 14th century with the refectory and sacristy added before 1349. During a period of great prosperity in the 15th century the friary was substantially rebuilt including the addition of a cloister garth to the N, c. 1470, an ornate transept built onto the southern wall of the nave and a bell tower inserted between the nave and chancel. The friary was dissolved in 1543 but remained open until 1570. For a time it was used as a law court and prison. Following a royal visitation in 1615 it was decided that the friary church be renovated and used for Protestant worship. A secure gateway, known in the 18th century as ‘the great gate of the abbey of St Francis’ sealed off the friary from the rest of the urban settlement. This is visible on Hewett’s map of 1736 and is mentioned in the Registry of Deeds in 1763 and 1783. The church was closed in 1871 and the Protestant congregation moved to a new church. The ruins were formally handed over to the Franciscan Order in 1969. In 2011-12 the nave was re-roofed and the windows glazed by the Office of Public Works and the ‘Royal tomb’ (CL033-082015-) was moved from the chancel into the nave to prevent further weathering. The ruined remains consist of the church (L c. 44m; Wth c. 9m) with S transept and parts of the E, N and W ranges of the cloister to the N (see plan in Westropp 1895, 139). The walls (H c. 10m) and gables (c. 15m) stand to their original height. The S wall of the chancel has three windows with double lights, a fourth with three lights and a fifth, originally a twin-light but blocked by the insertion of the crossing-tower. There is a double piscina in the E corner divided by a central pier and the Inchiquin tomb (CL033-082017-) partially blocks the second window from the E. A 17th-century memorial to the Woulfe family (CL033-082027-) is further west on the S wall. The N wall of the chancel, which is plastered, has a round-arched doorway with flattened rear-arch opening to the sacristy. A window near the crossing-tower is partly blocked up but may originally have had three lights. The 19th-century Creagh tomb is at the E end (the Royal Tomb ((CL033-082015-)), portions of which were formerly incorporated into the Creagh tomb has now been moved into the nave). Also on this N wall is a memorial to the McNamara family (CL033-082022-). The E gable of the chancel has a splayed, pointed, five-light window (H c. 11m). The three central lights, included in one splay, are divided by unusually light chamfered mullions and the mouldings on the window are quite simple. There is a small flat-arched rectangular window in the gable above the E window. The N wall of the nave has been much altered since the 13th century. An original double-lancet window was blocked by the insertion of the tower and a second double lancet close to the tower has a pointed rear-arch. It is set high in the wall and its sloping sill is intact. A small single-light window is inserted beneath with a 17th-century (Kerin) memorial inserted above (CL033-082020-). There are four shallow 15th-century sedilia with pointed canopies in the E end of the wall but they are either damaged, partly blocked or have later memorials inserted into them. The Considine and O’Hehir memorials (CL033-082025-, CL033-082019-) are on this N wall. Two large pointed windows were inserted into the wall at a later period and close to the W end there is a modern blocked door visible on the external wall-face. The S wall has a single-light ogee-headed window behind the W support of the tower and two large pointed arches open to the S transept. W of the transept is a sedilia and there is an inserted doorway close to the W end with an upside-down face as an external stop. A second Considine memorial (CL033-082021-) is to be found on the external wall-face just outside this door to the E. A large single-light pointed window similar to those on the N wall is inserted in the W end of the S wall. The W wall has a triple-light window below which is a round-arched doorway.
A crossing-tower of four floors was inserted in the 15th century. It has a high groined vault over the crossing and was rebuilt from the top of the second floor in the 18th century when crenellations and corner pinnacles were added. The first floor was accessed from the E range of the cloister and from the wall-walk of the S transept. Under the crossing tower is a screen of flamboyant tracery with carved panels which may have been part of an ornate tomb (CL033-082016-). In a niche on a pier of the tower is a carved image of St. Francis carrying a cross-staff and showing the stigmata on the side, hands and feet.
The S transept, known also as the ‘Lady Chapel’ or ‘Michael Chapel’, consists of an aisle with three chapels on the E side. The chapels were covered by vaults supported on rectangular pillars. There are three windows in the E wall, the two over the central and southern chapels are pointed with three rounded lights and switchline tracery above while the northern one is ogee-headed with cusped quatrefoil tracery. The S wall has two large triple-lights with switchline tracery above. The S chapel had a double piscina with two small rectangular basins. An arch between the nave and transept bears an image of ‘Christ's Pity' or 'Ecce Homo (Behold the Man)’. The hands are bound and tokens of the crucifixion are arranged about.
A sacristy built of roughly coursed rubble limestone with dressed quoins is situated to the N of the chancel. The barrel-vaulted ground floor is of 13th century date while the first and second floors were probably added in the 15th century. It is unroofed and the W wall of the ground floor is missing. The E wall has a pointed twin-light window and a round-arched doorway at the N end leads to a tower added to the NE angle in the 15th century. There are four round-arched recesses in the N wall and three in the S. Modern access to the first floor is via a stairs which has been built onto the N wall of the church. At first-floor level the E gable survives to 5m and has a tall mullioned and transomed rectangular window, possibly 17th century. A door opened from the N end to the tower. A row of corbels in the N wall indicate the former existence of a second floor. The tower, accessed from the NE angle contains a narrow chamber with a pointed vault at ground-floor level, badly lit by a flat lintelled slit in the E wall. Another small chamber to the W is barrel vaulted and also badly lit from the S by two narrow slits. There is a small wall-cupboard in the W wall and a fireplace in the W end of the N wall. The first floor is accessed from the first floor of the sacristy and is lit by a small rectangular window at E. The W wall has a single-light ogee-headed window and there were windows in the N and S walls also.
Of the cloister, the foundations and some of the columns survive and part of the W and N arcade have been rebuilt. The roofing line for the S and N ambulatory can been seen in the S wall of the north range and on the N wall of the nave.
Only the N and E wall of the ground floor and part of the first floor of the narrow two-storeyed E range remain. The E wall has an opening and a twin-light ogee-headed window at the N end and a single-light window at the S end. The N wall has a wide splayed blocked opening. The first floor was supported on corbels and was accessed via a spiral stairs in the angle between the E range and the sacristy. The N and W ranges of the friary were converted for use in the 17th century. A restaurant now occupies the premises with extensive renovations having taken place in 2008. Some of the medieval fabric of the original buildings has been retained. A large quantity of architectural fragments is stored in the graveyard and cloister.
Twelve different geometric mason’s marks have been noted in the sacristy while Celtic patterns and leaves are to be seen used extensively in later parts of the friary (Kearns 2001, 23-4). Medieval graffiti in the form of a boat is present on the plaster of one of the pillars dividing the nave from the south transept (Kearns 2014, 31-2).
Excavations in 1994 (licence no. 94E0045) revealed part of the western cloistral wall. Further excavations in 1998 (licence no. 98E195) in an area encompassing a sector of the cloister walk and part of the E range revealed some medieval wall remnants but none that cast much light on the architectural development of the friary. However, over 90 burials were recorded in the small area of excavation dating from the medieval, post-medieval and modern periods. The medieval burials were largely adult males (most likely members of the pre-Reformation Franciscan community) whereas the post-medieval and modern burials were male and female and of all ages and likely represent local townspeople buried at the friary. In 2007-8, excavations (licence nos. E2840 and E3383) revealed a layer of cobbles which seem to be the original floor of the N range and a well which while not precisely dated, may relate to the occupation of the site in the medieval period. Ennis Friary is a national monument in state care, no. 170. (Westropp 1895,135-54; Walsh 1959; Leask 1960, vol. 2, 118-20; Harbison 1977, 39-42; Bradley et al. 1988, 55-78; O’Sullivan, Roberts and Halliday 2003, 21-42; Coyne 2011, 46, no. 120; Ó Dálaigh 2012, 1-2, 15)
The following images are attached:
CL033-082001-_01.jpg Ennis Friary floodlit, from the SE.
CL033-082001-_02.jpg Ennis Friary from the SE.
CL033-082001-_03.jpg Internal view from E window.
CL033-082001-_04.jpg Carved image of St Francis on a pier of the crossing-tower.
CL033-082001-_05.jpg Carved image of ‘Christ’s Pity’ or ‘Ecce homo (Behold the Man)’ on an arch between the nave and the S transept.
CL033-082001-_06.jpg The ground floor of the 13th-century barrel-vaulted sacristy N of the chancel.
CL033-082001-_07.jpg The probable 15th-century first floor over the sacristy with a tall window possibly of 17th-century date.
CL033-082001-_08.jpg The cloister foundations N of the church and the rebuilt W and N arcades. A modern restaurant occupies and incorporates part of the N and W ranges.
CL033-082001-_09.jpg Medieval graffiti in the form of a boat.
CL033-088001-_10.jpg Inverted image of a grotesque face used as a doorstop at the W end of the nave.
Compiled by: Mary Tunney
Date of upload: 13 August 2014
Zone Code: R120052 ITM Easting: 533892 ITM Northing: 677681 SHAPE: Point Att.: 10 Class: Religious house - Franciscan friars SMR No.: CL033-082001- Townland: CLONROAD BEG Point: X: 533892.0 Y: 677681.0 Spatial Reference: 2157