Franciscan Friary

It was the Mayor of Clonmel, Otto de Grandison, who invited the Franciscans to the town, and the construction of their Friary can be traced to 1269. What is unusual about the site of the Friary, and the buildings that at one time were part of it, is the fact that it was placed inside the town walls, this at a time when abbeys tended to be located outside of towns.

The Orginal Form

The present structure was renovated in 1884, but one part of the Friary, the Tower, still survives from the original 13th Century structure. Today's church was once the choir of the building, with the nave stretching west, across today's Abbey Street and into the car park opposite the modern entrance. The remains of the nave were demolished when the Street was built in 1760. The cloister and domestic buildings were placed to the south, at the river side of the Friary. These were destroyed when Cromwell built a fort on the site.

A Change in Tenancy

The Friary was dissolved in 1540, and became the property of the 9th Earl of Ormond, but some of the friars remained in the town. The beginning of the 18th Century saw the Friary come under the control of the Unitarians. When they left the building, almost 100 years later, it was again acquired by the friars, who, following alterations, re-opened it in 1828.

1884 Redevelopment

In 1884 Walter G. Doolin gave the church its modern form, and followed the design of the Norman architects who originally built the Friary. The most obvious and easily recognisable feature of this style are the tall lancet windows and the large, circular, quatrefoil windows over the entrance.

The Butler Tomb

An elaborately decorated tomb, housing the remains of members of the Butler family, can be seen inside the church, in a recess underneath the Tower. Dating from the 1530s, the tomb is the final resting place of seven of the Butlers, Lords of Cahir, and was moved from the choir to its present location in the 1600s. The carving on the top shows the image of a knight and lady, lying side by side, with the arms of the Butlers of Cahir between them. A Latin inscription appeals for prayers for deceased members of the Butler family, beginning with James Galdy, who died in 1431.

Sources - Shee & Watson, "Clonmel: An Architectural Guide"; CBC, "Clonmel, Official Guide", "Clonmel Heritage Trail

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