Kilcrea Abbey Historical Walk

Tuesday June 21st, 2016 – Historical Walk

On the longest day of the year, the 21st June, twenty five members attended a very pleasant historical walk at Kilcrea Abbey.   The weather was only glorious for the two hours walk.  Our esteemed guide Liam Long entertained everyone giving a concise and informative talk on the history and architecture of both the Abbey and Castle.  The Friary was founded by Cormac Laidir Mac Charthaigh of Blarney in 1465 and continued to be used by the Friars until 1616.  Today it is a historic ruin. After the historic walk, a pleasant drinks night was held in the “White Horse” pub in Ballincollig.

Founded in 1465 for the Observant Franciscans by Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, Lord of Muskerry, Kilcrea Friary is located on the site on an earlier monastery, and named after Saint Cyra. He is interred in the centre of the choir. The Friary was officially suppressed in 1542 but continued in use under MacCarthy patronage. It was sacked by English troops in 1584. In 1597, it was granted to Cormac MacDermot MacCarthy who leased it to Richard Hardinge.

KilcreaFriaryIn 1661, the friary was granted to the first lord of Clancarty. It was vested in the Commissioners of Public Works in 1892. However, as late as 1832, a small number of friars remained living on the site. A graveyard is situated within the ruins of the Abbey. This was the burials place of the MacCarthys of Muskerry from 1494 to 1616, commencing with Cormac MacCarthy. No trace of the MacCarthy tombs survive. The Friary has been used for general burial since the early 17th century. Art Ó Laoghaire is buried here.


Kilcrea Friary consists of a nave and chancel church with tower, cloister and surrounding east, west and north range of buildings. The nave measures 25.95m in length by 7.20m in width. The friary is carefully laid out on a square and the church is entered through a doorway in its west gable. An arcade separates the nave from the south aisle and transept. A recess for a holy water stoup is found outside the doorway and in the gable over the doorway are the remains of a large, three-light window. The tower contained four storeys which had timber floors supported on stone corbels. Each storey was lit by plain, narrow, flat-headed windows, except for the top storey where there is a single ogee-headed light in each wall. No trace survives of the high altar which would have been sited under the east window, but an arched piscina is found nearby in the south wall. On the north side of the church is the cloister area and domestic buildings, which include the remains of the chapter room, the refectory and dormitories. Adjoining the chancel of the church is the sacristy, above which is the scriptorium. A 15th-century manuscript written at Kilcrea is preserved in Rennes, France.


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