Court Abbey

Wakeman made this particular painting (along with two others of the site) on 28 August 1878. It is an illustration of the south transept of 'Court Abbey', which is a mid-fifteenth century Franciscan Friary, although the transept may be of 16th date.

This friary consists of a rectangular church with a central tower and this transept on its south side. There are many 19th century and 20th century burial within the site today and ivy has covered much of it. The eastern end of the chancel is missing. There is an 18th century O'Hara burial vault in the northwest corner. The door is on the west wall of the nave but its surrounds are gone. The tall tower occupies the width of the church and narrows to half its base width.

The building had begun in 1454 and unusually it appears to have been a joint community of brothers and sisters of the Franciscan Third Order Regular. A late 16th century description states that it had a thatched church, with cemetery, dormitory and two other thatched houses. A ringfort and early field system lie nearby. An example of a ringfort can be found at Cashelore.

The transept, like the tower is not later than the 16th century, and both were built after the main church. The transept is built against the south wall of the nave with a 4m wide arch giving access between the two.

Wakeman's painting shows the east wall of the transept. Two side altar recesses are depicted, both about 3m wide. They are square set and are both splayed inwards towards a central window. Since Wakeman painted this, both the surrounds of the windows have gone and the ground level has risen.

On each right hand corner of both side altars are small square recesses covered by a quarter dome. Each has a shallow basin with a drain hole indicating that they are piscinae, which were used for washing the sacred vessels used for saying mass.

Between these two altar recesses is a small rectangular room built within the thickness of the wall and accessed through a round arched doorway. This is completely obscured by an 18th century headstone in Wakeman's image, but just about visible in the photograph.

Above this doorway and either side of it are two projecting flat slabs of different sizes and heights, one of which has a skull on it in Wakeman's painting. These were probably originally used to hold statues. Within these side altars and beneath the ivy cover on the west wall are faint traces of original paint on plaster rendering. These paintings are today very difficult to make out because of weathering, vegetation and algae growth.

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