Augustinian Houses of the County Clare:
Thomas Johnson Westropp
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Clare County Library
Abbey of Clare
The O’Briens having chosen Ennis
Friary as their burial place from the 13th century, and the Macnamaras
founding Quin and using it as their cemetery, the chiefs seem to have
lost all interest in the Augustinian houses. Accordingly, it is only in
the bell tower and a few windows in Clare, in a few windows and doors
in Killone, and in the transept of Inchicronan that we find any trace
of work later than the period of the foundation.
The church was originally a long oblong building, 128 feet by 31 feet, externally. The interior was subsequently divided into a nave and chancel by a belfry tower 15 feet 9 inches, and the chancel 48 feet 5 inches. The west window had fallen in 1680, but the gable was held up by its own solidity and the tightly-knotted ivy. It is now supported by a modern arch. There are a number of putlock holes in the north wall. In the same wall are a pointed door and a late traceried window of the same period as the east window, the hood ending in a human face to the north end (fig. 1, infra). Both walls are capped by plain neat cornice and broken battlements.
The belfry has no staircase; it had three
floors resting on corbels, the second had a double light window with cinquefoil
heads in each of the sidewalls. The lower was reached by two large slightly-pointed
doors opening on to the gutters. The battlements of the tower are low
and badly-proportioned. The barge stones were nearly all loose, and some
were balanced in most precarious state; they were reset in the repairs
of December, 1898, and January, 1899. The arches underneath are pointed,
are made of finely-cut limestone, with ribs resting on neat corbels; there
are also corbels for a rood loft. The belfry dates from about the middle
of the fifteenth century. A large tomb slab stands in the north recess
under the tower, which is lit by a very primitive round-headed window
slit with the usual chamfer and recess. The slab has no carving of inscription.
“Death’s Our end, and to the
grave We go,
The church lies along the north side of the cloister garth, and projects 14 feet beyond the eastern rooms. A range of domestic buildings adjoins from the chancel, and another lies along the southern side of the garth. There were no buildings to the west of the cloister. The latter space is nearly square, being 85 feet by 85 feet 9 inches. The corbels and weather ledge along the church wall shows there was a roofed walk, probably without an arcade. It had a skew arch, like those at Clare Galway and Canons Island, but with a plainly chamfered rib and no corbel, at the south-east corner.
The eastern wing, like the southern, is 20 feet 6 inches wide; it is 109 feet long. There is no visible trace of sub-division, and all the features are defaced except a small window-slit at the south-east angle and in the east wall, a rude door in the west wall, and a window in the south gable. This originally consisted of two oblong lights, the sill and shaft of which were broken away; above these is an elaborate and boldly cusped tracery, consisting of six trefoils and a quatrefoil, the whole framed in a projecting hood, richly moulded and coming down the sides. It recalls a window at Ballyhack, and a simpler one at Rathfran, in Co. Mayo. Nearly all the outer wall of this wing has been levelled.
The site is in a grassy field with outcrops of rock, closely beset on three sides by swamps, into which the Fergus finds its way in floods. It was an unpromising site, very unlike those of the other monasteries and even churches, and, unless some sanctity attached itself to Kilmoney, seems badly chosen, being neither sheltered nor commanding, while better sites exist close to it in every direction. The district was, however, in some sense a focus of religious activity in the older times, six centuries before Donald More. Less than a mile to the north the grim stone faces on the ivied church of Doora stare across the swamp. Little over a mile to the east stands the venerable church of Killoe (Killuga in 1302), the cell of some Lugad, perhaps the earlier patron of Killaloe. About a mile from Killoe, the “Cyclopean” foundations, rude earthworks and well of Kilbrecan or Carntemple, mark the monastery, traditionally the earliest in Clare, founded towards the end of the fifth century by Brecan, son of Eochy Baillderg, one of the earliest evangelisers of Thomond and Aran.