|Clare County Library||
This article was first published in The Architectural and Topographical Record, Part 2, Vol. 1. (1908), pp 169-192.
Church of S. Finghin
General:- The date of the foundation of this church is not known, and neither any reference to it, nor any architectural features are earlier than the beginning of the thirteenth century. The Four Masters record its burning in 1278. “Maidhm Cuinche do thabhairt do Donchadh mac Briain Ruaidh . . ar mac iarla Claire gur loiscead teampal cuinche for a muintir.” (“Donogh, son of Brian Roe, defeated the son of the Earl of Clare, burning the church of the heads of his men.”) Westropp supposed that the church dates from this time, but some of the detail is of obviously earlier character, and some of the stones shew traces of the fire. In 1318 Richard de Clare sheltered in the church on his way to his defeat and death in the great battle of Dysert O Dea. In the last century it fell into ruin, and an exceedingly ugly church was built for the Church of Ireland by its side.
The Building:- the old church is a plain rectangle about 79 ft. by 27 ft., not divided into nave and chancel: a small square tower stands at the south-west corner. Nearly the whole of the north wall has fallen, and the south wall is covered by a mass of ivy which is slowly pulling it down. Though the walls are mainly of early thirteenth century date, several later features have been added, such as the battering buttresses at the east end, and the tower.
Church of S. Finghin, Quin
In the middle of the east wall are three tall and narrow lancets, splayed inside, and rebated outside to take a wooden frame, and outside this worked with a wide chamfer at a very obtuse angle to the wall face. On either side of this group of windows inside, is a small niche with a pointed head. At the south-east corner two buttresses have been added, probably in the sixteenth century. Their lower parts are battered on all sides except those forming the re-entrant angle between them; above the batter is a short vertical piece, and they are finished with a molded and weathered set off under a small string. At the north-east corner is a plainer square buttress battering on both external faces till it dies into the wall, probably of a later date than those on the other side. The gable, which shews a pitch of about 45º, is perfect. Near the east end of the south wall is a two-light window of early type. Unfortunately the caps and the rear arch, and the mullion between the lights, have fallen. The detail, dimensions and position of this window, however, correspond so closely with one in the neighbouring church of S. Luchtigern, Tomfinlough, as indeed does the whole of the eastern part, that it is reasonable to suppose that they were similarly treated.
Here the molded jamb of the rear arch, of a square section generally, and the jambs of the lights remain. The jambs are not splayed inside, but are considerably further apart than the width at the glass line.
At Tomfinlough a double rear arch with moldings of the same section as those on the jambs is carried on carved caps, and a banded cylindrical shaft in the middle: here, as the sill is destroyed as well as the rear arch, the evidence for such an arrangement is wanting. Traces of a piscine exist at the east end of the sill, in a position which would not preclude the possibility of a detached shaft having stood in the middle.
Further west is a rude two-light window with a square head. Internally the head is formed by a large flat stone. The mullion and pier between the lights is of great size. It is probably an insertion of the sixteenth or seventeenth century.
In the western part of the south wall is the only remaining doorway. The arch is round, and there is some sandstone used in it. Most of the inner order is gone, but it bears evidence of being as early as anything in the building.
The tower at the south-west corner is approached from the church by a small square-headed door. It is very small, only 4 ft. 10 in. by 4 ft. 5 in. inside. Outside the lower part of the wall batters. It is constructed of good masonry, probably of the fifteenth or sixteenth century. There are no stairs up it, and it appears to have been open inside up to the top stage, which has a square opening on each face, and was probably a belfry. Above this is a small string, and the whole is finished with a horizontal parapet.
The remains of a small window of early type, now blocked, are visible high up in the west gable. As it was unusual to have any windows at all in the north wall of a church of this type, the building must have been exceedingly dark, and it was probably for this reason that it was abandoned, though in substantial repair.
The chronology of the succeeding few years is doubtful. MacGrath mentions a successful invasion by King Toirdhealbhach of Limerick and Tipperary, and in a MS. copy of the “Cathreim” in the R.I.A. the date of this episode is given as 1304. The context, however, seems to imply that it took place in De Clare’s life time. He continues: “next year the garrison of the towered strongwalled castle of Quin, the capital and nursery of the English forces . . . slew O Leideadh.”
In revenge for this, Cumheadha MacConmara stormed the fortress, broke down the gate and walls, and finally burned it. No mention is made of De Clare in this connection. His defeat and death certainly took place in the district, but the exact place is not known, and from the historian’s silence we may infer that it occurred before the storming of the castle. It was never rebuilt; the next reference to the place concerns the Franciscan priory which was erected on the ruins.
The Building:- The castle was not entirely razed to the ground, but portions of the walls were incorporated in those of the priory which succeeded it, and three of the four round bastions at the corners still stand some 15 ft. above the surface. In plan it was a square of 120 ft. with round towers 40 ft. in external diameter at the corners. Only one quarter of their circumference is engaged in the curtain walls, so the whole front shows an elevation of 160 ft. long. The towers of the east side are the more perfect: they shew an immense thickness of wall, battered as high as anything remains, with small chambers or recesses inside. That at the south-west corner is largely demolished, and of that on the north-west nothing is visible, though a considerable height of wall remained within living memory, and the foundations still exist. Of the curtain walls, on the south side portion about 55 ft. long, and nearly 30 ft. high remains incorporated in the wall of the church: before the transept was added the whole length of this wall probably remained, but with later windows cut in it. In the centre is a small door, widely recessed inside. The wall is 9 ft. 6 ins. thick.
Probably parts of the old wall are incorporated in the east wall of the church also, for this is 9 ft. thick. The remaining portion of the east wall lies outside the abbey buildings, and is only some few feet above the ground.
From that time the history of the abbey is a record of the benefactions of the MacNamaras. It appears to have been the metropolitan church of the Clan Cuilean, and most of the chiefs of that tribe are buried within its walls.
Under the 1402 the following entry occurs in the “Annals
Rioghachta”: “Mainistir Cuinche . . . . do toccbail do braithribh
S. Fronses la Sioda ccam MacConmara tigearna
This state of things continued till 1641, when a college was opened in the abbey, which soon had 800 students, and was the most prosperous seat of learning in the country. It was broken up in 1652, but some of the friars stayed on in the ruinous buildings. Dinely’s sketch in 1681 shews the transept roofed and the huge metal crosses still on the gables. He notes it was lately “harbouring some friars of the Order of Seynt Francis.” One of these still lived in the place in 1760, but the others had moved to Drim, where the last of them died in 1820. He was buried in the cloister here.
The buildings, in spite of their vicissitudes, are perfect except for the roofs and the strangers’ hall outside the west door, the greater part of which has fallen. They were vested in the Board of Works as a national monument in 1881, and are now well cared for, except that interments are allowed inside the walls, and some of the stones from the cloister buttresses have been removed for head-stones.
The Church:- The church occupies the south side of De Clare’s castle for its whole length. It is divided, in accordance with the usual practice, by a narrow tower, into chancel and nave, of about the same dimensions, with a large transept in the middle of the south wall of the nave. In addition to the high altar there were two altars in the nave, set against the western tower piers, and two in the transept. All five remain nearly perfect. As the south wall was 9 ft. 6 in. thick, and it was apparently not thought desirable to recess the windows to this extent internally, they are put in the middle of the wall and their jambs splayed outside, while their heads are covered by heavy arches which give a peculiar and characteristic appearance to the whole structure. The parapet was also placed in the middle of the wall, leaving a great sloping set-off outside it, covered with large flag-stones.
The Chancel:- The chancel is 40 ft. long and 25 ft. wide. Before the erection of the tower it was not structurally distinct from the nave. At the east end a somewhat unusual feature occurs. At this point the wall, which incorporates parts of the Norman castle, is 9 ft. thick. The east window is set on the outside of the wall, and the very widely splayed jambs are concave so as to form a kind of apsidal recess in which the altar stands. The actual tracery of the window is of late character and is probably not much earlier than 1500. It is of three lights, and of the common pattern with intersecting bars of the same curve as the arch, the lower lights being finished with depressed trefoil arches.
The whole recess is covered by a large plain rear arch, and the wall is continued up of the full thickness to the height of the ceiling. Above this the gable is quite thin, and flush with the outside face of the wall. The elegant MacNamara tomb is cut into the jamb on the north side. There is no credence or piscina.
The old altar remains. The front edge is 5 ft. 3 ins. From the wall, but the top is only 2 ft. wide, and 11 ft. 7 ins. long. The remaining space was occupied by some form of reredos, which has now been broken down. The top of the altar is composed of several stones and the edge is richly molded. The whole erection is cut away at the bottom so that it virtually projects out of the wall.
On the south side two windows were cut through the old castle wall when the abbey was founded. The eastern is of two lancet lights, the western of three. In the former the rear arch and the outside arch, of segmental shape, have a chamfer worked on them; the outer arch of the western side is formed of large, roughly squared stones.
Between these windows is a recess for a tomb of the ordinary type, but now much obscured by a modern vault of the Mahon and Corbett families. Above it a large design in relief, representing the Crucifixion, has been worked in stucco on the wall. It is well executed, and would appear to be of early seventeenth century date, but has been much mutilated.
The Nave:- The nave is of the same width as the chancel, but slightly longer (56 ft.). Originally the whole south wall, with the exception of the extreme south-west corner, which falls inside the old bastion, was formed by the castle wall. A small double lancet window occurs in the south-east corner. The lights are very low, but the arch over them is the same height as those over the chancel windows.
In the fifteenth century the great arch, 24 ft. 6 in. wide, opening into the transept, was made. It is in two orders; the outer chamfered, and dying into the transept wall face at the springing; the inner half octagonal in section carried by a molded pointed corbel.
Immediately west of this is a large stoup recessed in the wall and covered by a vault of simple character, probably of the fourteenth century. A door in the south-west corner leads into the churchyard by a small passage through the wall, and into this opens a spiral stair of somewhat rough construction, which leads up to the roof.
The west wall of the church is continued to the north without a break to form the wall of the conventual buildings. It has a batter up to about 12 feet from the ground. Inside it is treated in a similar way to the east end with the window and door recessed under a plain arch of great depth. The outer part of the wall runs up to a considerable height above the walls, and is finished horizontally, the parapets on the lower walls of the dormitory and south side of the nave being stepped up to meet it. A passage runs behind this, and in front of the gable of the nave roof, sloping upwards to clear the top of the west window.
Both the west window and door under it are of late character. The former is of two very tall plain lights with pointed uncusped heads, included externally in the square outer order of the window, but internally not marked off from the general wall face. The spandrels are not pierced. The door below this has a pointed head, included in a square frame, richly worked with a somewhat monotonous series of moldings, the outer of which forms a label, and is returned horizontally at the springing into the batter of the wall. The spandrels are occupied by sinkings formed by the same moldings as those on the arch. The whole is recessed in the batter of the wall, which gives a rich effect and increase of interest to an otherwise dull design.
Near the east end of the north wall is a small pointed window opening into the cloister. It is widely splayed on the church side, and enclosed in a square molding towards the cloister. It was not intended to be glazed.
Just west of this is a recess for a wall tomb of a peculiarly offensive form sometimes met with in this district. It is covered by an ogee arch, in which the reverse curves of the intrados touch the apex. Consequently the moldings (which are many) are bungled round the point in a most inconvenient way.
Both the altars in the nave are 6 feet long. The only one the south side is 3 feet wide, and the molding on the edge is similar to that on the high altar. The other is 2 ft. 9 in. wide, and the molding plainer.
The Tower:- As is usual in churches of this order, the tower is a later addition placed in the building between chancel and nave, and not bonded into the walls. In this case it is of perfectly normal design; the arches carrying it are tall and narrow, the lower part is much broader north and south than east and west, and it is sloped back just above the roof so as to be more nearly square in plan in its upper stages. The main tower arches here are but 9 feet wide from north to south, and 6 ft. 6in. from east to west, the whole thickness of the tower in this direction being 15 feet, and all are about 28 feet high to the springing. The piers are of perfectly plain square section, as is the outer order of the arches, and the ribs of the handsome vault over the central space die into the arris.
This vault has one set of tierceron ribs, chamfered, but no wall ribs, their place being taken by the plain edge of the main arches. These have a plain square inner order carried on a simple corbel. Large recesses, going back to the original wall face, are left on the north and south sides by the great projection of the tower piers. Half of the space is covered by rough rubble arches turned on hurdles about half way up the piers; the rest by the deep main arch. Plain corbels project from the wall under the north and south arches flush with the face of the piers, and other molded corbels are fixed lower down, probably to carry a loft.
On the south side a small room is hollowed out in the thickness of the castle wall inside the small door before referred to [above]. The threshold of the door has been raised, and it is possible that this space may have been used as a chapel, but it bears no signs of any particular designation. A door opposite on the north side leads into the cloister. Above the level of the roof the tower is 18 feet wide north and south and 15 feet east and west. Immediately above the vault is a room with square openings towards chancel and nave, probably into the space above the ceiling, for both appear to have been ceiled. It is approached from the roofs of the dormitories on the north, and another opening leads to the gutters of the south wall. There are two more storeys inside above this.
Outside, these divisions are marked by two string courses, and a third and similar one runs round below the tall parapet. The second storey has no windows except one on the north side lighting the stairs; but in the belfry stage are large two-light windows, except to the east, where is a smaller single opening. The lights have ogee heads under a square label.
The parapet is somewhat ruinous. It appears to have had battlements in two stages, at the corners only, with wide embrasures between. The south side is fairly perfect. A small crocketted pinnacle stands in the south-west corner, but is probably not original.
The Transept:- Both the design and execution of the transept are of a high order. The walls are faced inside and out with ashlar masonry, and the details, though simple, are carefully worked. There is no record of the date of its construction, but it appears to belong to the second half of the fifteenth century.
The building is 40 feet long from the inside of the nave wall, and 24 ft. 6 in. wide. It is not separated from the nave at floor level, but the great arch across the opening springs at a comparatively small height from the ground. Above this arch the wall is carried up outside the gutter of the nave roof to form a gable, and flush with its outer face. The carefully weathered coping of these gables remains, with the tall finals ending in octagonal bulbs, in which are sockets formerly holding huge metal crosses.
Pairs of buttresses flank the corners of the building. They diminish in two stages. The upper set-off is weathered and molded, the lower member returned and stopped against the wall; the lower is of similar character, but the molding is returned along the walls, and is cut off on the splay by the chamfer of the window jambs.
Below this the buttresses batter, their thickness, however, remaining the same, and a bold string and battered plinth runs round the entire transept (so-far as can be seen from the parts above the surface) a short distance above the ground.
The south window has tracery of the same character as that at the east end of the church; the arch is in two chamfered orders externally with no label. The splays inside are plain, but the rear arch is twice chamfered. There are two windows in the east wall and one in the west; all similar. They are of two lights; the window arch is in two orders each chamfered outside, and in the head the mullion divides to form sub-arches, which are cusped. The string at the level of the lower set-off of the buttresses is cut on the plane of the chamfer on both jambs of the south window, and on the south jambs of the others.
The rear-arches are similar to that the south window. Between the east windows is a shallow round-headed recess.
The two original altars stand under these two windows. They are plainer in detail than those in the nave, and are 7 ft. and 7 ft. 6 in. long. In the south wall is a double piscina, formed by two pointed arches separated by a detached shaft under a square label, all elaborately molded.
The Sacristy:- On the north side of the chancel lies a long narrow room, its east wall flush with the east end of the church, and communicating with the chancel, and by a door in the west end, with the newel stairs leading to the day room of the convent. It had a very low ceiling, and was lit by a square-headed two-light window in the east wall. The room above had a similar window, and two are treated externally as one.
In the north wall is a lavatory for washing the altar linen, connected with a drain. It is covered by a flat stone with a vault pattern worked on it, under which are stone sockets to a hold a wooden rail on which the linen could be hung.
Monuments:- The most conspicuous monument, in fact one of the most interesting features of the church, is the MacNamara tomb on the north side of the high altar. It appears to date from about 1500, but no certain record of its erection remains. An inscription round the slab is nearly effaced in parts, and many different readings have been given. The most probable is: “Hic jacent Oidh filius Laurentii filii Maccon mac Conmara et Coustina ni mic Conmara uxor ejus qui me fieri fecerunt.” Oidh probably stands for Aodh or Hugh, a name which frequently occurs. Laurentius is uncommon unless is stands for Lochlan, a very common name in the family. But the person commemorated has not been identified. The burial has been used by the MacNamaras from early times till quite recently.
There are no piers in the wall at the back of the monument, but the side arches are supported direct on the wall.
The arches and cusps are worked on one plane, and are square in section, the spandrels filled with well carved leaves in low relief. A widely spreading cornice crowns the whole erection.
Although this slender structure carries the great arch over the east window for about 5 ft. 6 in. of its length, it is in perfect preservation. A tablet on the wall behind, however, records its repair. It bears a shield surrounded by an elaborate foliated mantling of elegant design, with the arms of MacNamara (gules a lion rampant argent in chief two spearheads or.) and the following inscription:- “This monument was erected by Mahon Daul McNemara, and repaired by Captain Teige McNemara of Ranna. A.D. 1714.” This is the Teige for whom MacCurtin wrote the most complete copy of the “Cathreim Thoirdhealbhaigh” in the year 1741.
A large slab lying under the tower commemorates Captain John MacNamara, 1601, and his wife Anina, daughter of Mac I Brien Ara, who erected it, in the inscription of mixed Gothic minuscules and Roman caps.
A fragment of a seventeenth century tombstone in the chancel bears the words “Edmund MacNamara” in handsome raised Roman caps.
In the nave lies a fragment of the slab of a high tomb bearing the words “Morin . . . Mat . . .” in similar letters.
A slab with a raised cross, ornamented with cusping, has been converted to the use of Edmund MacNamara, 1760.
Two early coffin-shaped slabs with no inscriptions remain. One bears an axe, cut in outline, and the other a plain cross in outline, and a pair of pincers by its side, while in one corner is a hexagonal ornament formed by tetrahedral sinkings.
The Conventual Buildings:- The buildings are symmetrically disposed round a square cloister, and form a rectangle, of which the north and west sides coincide with the walls of De Clare’s castle, but the east side falls within the enclosure. At the north-west corner a small rectangular tower containing the latrines stands detached from the main building, and only communicating with it by a passage carried on a large arch at first floor level. A detached guest house, of which only the south gable remains, stood at the west end.
On the west and north sides the lower parts of the wall batter to the same height as the west wall of the church, of which it is a continuation, and the windows and door are recessed in the batter. On the east side the wall is vertical.
Probably the lower part of the walls is of comparatively early date, though not belonging to the castle, for almost all the openings seem to be additions to the original designs, but the cloister and all the upper parts seem to have been built at one time, perhaps 1402.
The arcade stands on a plinth, ornamented outside with the large flat moldings characteristic of the country, as also found at Ennis, the same member being repeated. The bases of the piers are well molded, with a considerable diversity of section; the piers themselves consist of octagonal shafts connected by a thin web. The shafts are 5½ inches in diameter, and the piers 1 ft. 8 in. deep. In the smallest piers the web is 2 inches thick. The buttressed piers are 1 foot thick, the buttresses being 8 inches. On the west side the latter are chamfered, and on the others plain. They die into the wall 14 to 15 feet above the ground.
Quin Abbey. Cloister seen through window from Nave
Four of the piers have twisted shafts. The caps are of two patterns of rather clumsy design. The walk is covered with a pointed barrel vault except opposite the large arch and the window into the nave, to clear which a square bay is roofed with a pointed fan vault without ribs, and like the rest turned in rubble on a centering of hurdles. The corbels on which the centering was carried remains all round the cloister.
At the south-east corner are doors leading to the church and to the newel stair up to the day room, at the south-west corner an opening into a vaulted room on the west side, and at the west end of the north wall a passage leading to an external door, with openings on either side to the refectory and the stairs to the dormitories.
On the east side lies the kitchen, a long room (71 ft. 0 in. by 13 ft. 6 in.) with two fireplaces and two doors to the cloister. The refectory is on the north side, 64 ft. long and 18 ft. wide, covered by a barrel vault. A late three-light window has been inserted in the west end, and a handsome fireplace in the north wall, which nearly blocks one of the old windows. Three of these remain further east; they are square-headed of two ogee lights, recessed in the batter of the wall. The west side is occupied by a vaulted room, part of which is now walled off to serve as a burial place.
The newel stairs at the north-west corner of the cloister are excellently worked. They lead to the dormitories which lie over the west and north sides of the cloister.
The west dormitory is lit on the outer side by three windows of two ogee-headed lights under square labels; the spandrels and ends of the latter well carved. Four similar but plainer windows look into the cloister garth.
The north dormitory is a larger room. In the west gable is a large window similar to the others in this wall, but higher and with a transom. Four windows of the common type pierce the north wall, and three the south.
Over the south walk a passage leads to the day room 83 feet long, which occupies the whole east side. It has six small square windows on the outside and five towards the cloister. The north gable contains a group consisting of a tall two-light window in the middle, square outside, but with a molded rear arch inside, and seats in the jambs; and to the west of it a single light with a stepped head. To the east is the door leading by a narrow passage over an arch to the small tower containing the offices.
Each of these rooms was roofed separately with a stone gable at either end, and broad gutters with parapets giving easy access to the whole system. From the west gutter of the day room the tower could be reached.
Church of S. Brican, Dangan
The walls were carefully built of small stones set in mortar, but it is impossible to assign any date to the work.
It would not now, however, be recognized from this description, for only one of the turrets or bastions remains visible, and the keep is a later structure built on the west side, partly outside the original building line, and apparently occupying the site of the south-west bastion. The quadrangular enclosure seems to have been about 100 feet square, but the east wall is entirely demolished, and the south wall has been altered at different times, and what remains of it are much obstructed by fallen stones, so that it is hard to trace the exact plan. On the south-west is a square tower, 50 ft. by 40 ft. (though the south wall has fallen) and originally apparently of three or more storeys in height. It is divided into two parts by a transverse wall running north and south, each half covered with a pointed barrel vault over the first floor. A newel staircase occupied the south-west corner. In the north wall is a window of fifteenth century character.
To the south-east, and apparently largely outside the original line of wall, a large hall was built, the only remaining features of which shew work apparently of the sixteenth century. It measures 50 ft. by 30 ft.
In the north wall was a large window of which the internal splays and round rear arch remain, carefully worked in ashlar masonry. On the east wall appears a weather mold, marking the lower roof of buildings which formerly stood on the south side of the court.
The whole structure is very ruinous and covered with ivy.
Danganbrack (a name which is explained locally as “because it was a great place for trout”) belonged in 1580 to John MacNamara. The bartizans at the top corners, and the high gables and chimneys added in the late sixteenth century give it a more picturesque air than most of the type. Like all of them, the planning is somewhat complex, the passages and stairs being contrived so as to be easily defensible in case the lower storey was stormed. On the south-west and north-east corners square bartizans are carried on long pointed corbels; on the south-east this feature is round on plan, and the corbels project in successive courses, the undersides of the stones rounded. The north-west corner is plain.
The building was inhabited in comparatively recent times, and the original small windows in the lower storeys have been destroyed: on the top floor, which was the principal hall in the castle, the larger windows have only been slightly altered at the time the gables were raised; plain square lights replacing the ogee-headed ones which formerly existed.
The fireplaces, on which much art and skill were usually lavished, have with one exception disappeared, and that one is plain in design and much mutilated.
The whole is in substantial repair, except the stairs, which have been broken down to prevent access to the upper floors, and the later work on the top floors which is in rather a shaky condition.
Note:- Of a similar character are
Armory:- Arms of De Clare. Or 3 chevronels gules
History and Topography
of Clare. J. Frost 1893
No reference is made in the above to the various State papers, etc., which deal with the district. References to these will be found in the books mentioned.
1. “Cathreim Thoirdhealbhaigh,” written by John MacGrath about 1350. It is the most trustworthy document dealing with the wars in Thomond in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. There is a translation in the British Museum.
2. Full details are given by the Four Masters.
3. Compare the doors from the chancel to the chapels in S. Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.
4. Probably Captain John buried in Quin Abbey 1602. [See
under Franciscan Priory: Monuments, above.]