Middle Ages

The many place names recalling St Patrick do not, despite continuing popular belief, indicate that he was responsible for introducing Christianity to the area but Ardpatrick was a major centre in later centuries due to its support of and patronage by the monastery of Armagh. The evidence of Round Towers, portions still surviving at Kilmallock, Carrigeen near Croom and Ardpatrick, though those at Singland and Killeely have disappeared, suggest significant monasteries at those locations. Mungret, founded in the sixth century quickly became the most important monastic centre underlined by the fact that the Vikings raided it four times in the ninth century. Three medieval churches survive there in contrast to the lack of any remains of the most significant female religious house, the monastery founded by St Ita at Killeedy, which is the only attested evidence of an Early-Christian-period nunnery.

Medieval Buildings

The most visible reminders of the Desmond’s dominance of Co. Limerick are the ruins of their castles, from the early motte and bailey of Shanid to the great enclosure castles of Askeaton and Newcastle, with their impressive fifteenth-century banquet halls, to the tower houses, of which among so many that at Lough Gur stands out. They also promoted the growth of the important urban centres of Kilmallock, Rathkeale and Croom in addition to Askeaton and Newcastle. They were also among the many patrons, Anglo-Norman and Gaelic Irish, of the new religious orders which replaced the old Irish monasteries. All traces of the medieval Franciscan friary in the city, located outside the walls on the south-east of the Englishtown, have vanished but impressive remains survive of the friaries at Askeaton and Adare. The Dominican friary at Kilmallock is reasonably well preserved and there are fragmentary portions of their city house, just inside the walls on the eastern side of the Englishtown. Portion of the Augustinian Canons monastery at Rathkeale survives while the Trinitarian House at Adare is now incorporated in St Nicholas’ Catholic Church and the Augustinian friary is largely intact and serves as the local Church of Ireland place of worship. The ruins of the major Cistercian abbey at Manister are still impressive though all traces of that at Abingdon and the less important one at Abbeyfeale have disappeared.

We have to rely on brief documentary references for information on the priory and hospital of the Crutched Friars established early in the thirteenth century near Baal’s bridge, which later acquired substantial land outside the walled city, termed north and south prior’s land. The Franciscan Third Order Regular house at Ballingarry is only sparsely recorded also along with a few, perhaps dubious, references to Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller with the obvious exception of the important house of the latter Order at Hospital, which is both well documented and preserved. The Canonesses of St Augustine had a house, dedicated to St Peter, near the eastern wall of the Englishtown, as early as 1171, from which the local name Peter’s Cell is derived, but the better-documented foundation was that of St Catherine near Shanagolden founded in the 1240s.


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