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Athenry, though now a poor town, was once a place of considerable importance, as its ruins testify. Its name Ath-na-riogh signifies the “ Ford of the Kings." It is considered by Sir James Ware and others to have been the chief seat of the Auteri, mentioned by Ptolemy ; and Mr. Orpen agrees in its old identification with the Regia of Ptolemy. After the Anglo-Norman invasion it became a centre of importance under the De Burgos and De Berminghams. It was walled in 1211, and its castle erected in 1238. The Dominican monastery was founded, in 1241, by Meyler De Bermingham, who died in 1252.
This was a favourite burial place of the Earls of Ulster, and many chief Irish families of the west. Edward II. granted a murage charter giving power to collect money for building walls and fortifying the town. In 1316, Sir William De Burgo, and De Bermingham, 4th Baron of Athenry, surnamed “Richard of the Battles," fought here against Felim O'Connor, King of Connaught, who had joined Edward Bruce ; in the battle 8000 were slain, including many Irish chieftains, and the spoils taken are said to have been spent on the defences of the town.
In 1577 Connaught was swept by fire and sword by the “Mac-anEarlas," or sons of the Earl of Clanricarde. They sacked Athenry, burning down the gates and destroying a church and other buildings which had recently been erected. For nine years the town remained
1 By T. J. Westropp, M.A., M.R.I.A.
almost a heap of ruins. It was restored, however, in 1585; but in 1596 Red Hugh O'Donnell and Tibbot Mac William Burke overran Connaught, and laid siege to Athenry. They burned down the gates, took the wall towers, set fire to the town, which was destroyed, and never recovered its ancient prosperity; the citadel, abbey, and church alone escaping. It returned members of Parliament from the reign of Richard II. until the Union, when £15,000 compensation was granted to the trustees of the marriage settlement of Theophilus Blakeney. The mace and old seal of the Corporation are in the possession of Captain Blakeney.
Entering the town by a small gate tower, the arch being a modern insertion, we first find the market cross mounted on a pyramid of modern steps. It has on the one face the Virgin and Child, surmounted by a canopy ending in a cross, and on the other our Lord crucified, under a double-arched canopy, with a figure at each side. The sides have canopies ending in crosses. The base is carved with several deer and other animals in relief. At one corner is the rude figure of an angel with a scroll. Near the cross is an ancient house, which has been modernised into a shop, but retains its side windows.
The FRANCISCAN FRIARY was founded by Thomas, Earl of Kildare, 1464; its first chapel was built by his wife, Margaret Fitzgibbon, its second by the Earl of Desmond. The church was cruciform, and is now much defaced, the chancel and belfry being modernised as a parish church.
Of the nave, the south wall alone is in tolerable preservation, the west gable having fallen ; it has two fifteenthcentury windows. Near the more eastern appear the remains of a round column, with moulded capital and plain arches, as if an arcade had been built up and a side aisle demolished. The plain south door is pointed ; there are some remains of a porch. The north transept is greatly overgrown and ivied; it has a broken win
dow of decorated Gothic, two Vo us les molle
shafts interlacing with bold
quatrefoils. The south tranH EAST, en welke
1894 sept is of fine masonry much
superior to the nave. It has Dominican Friary, Athenry. the remains of a very beautiful window. It had two shafts and richly-interlaced tracery now fallen.
The splay has finely-moulded capitals and bases.
In the east wall
is an interesting double piscina with a square basin with stellate futings and a smaller round basin. Many fragments of windows lie about the cemetery, which commands an imposing view of the castle.
Not far to the south-east lies the DOMINICAN FRIARY, standing in a large graveyard. It was founded by Meyler De Bermingham at the request of St. Dominic himself, in 1241, to which
new period the rows of lancets in the north wall of the chancel and south wall of the nave
tai Main the interesa must belong. William De Burgo, who died in 1324, and his wife, Finola ni Brien, en
TO larged the choir by 20 feet,
1894 and gave money and tithes to the monks. It was burned to
Dominican Friary, Athenry. the ground in 1423, and was largely rebuilt under a Bull of Pope Martin V.
in 1427. Another Bull was issued by Pope Eugene IV. in 1445. It was finally granted by Queen Elizabeth to the portreeve and Corporation of Athenry at the yearly rent of 268. 4d. Irish. Like so many of our western monasteries it survived its dissolution for many years, and was made a university, in 1644, by a chapter held at Rome. The lofty belfry was still standing in 1792 (there being a view of the ruins in Grose's “Antiquities"). It had stepped battlements at each side, a large-pointed ope to the east, and a double light to the north. It seems to have risen only three stories above the arch.
The monastic buildings lay to the south, the natural place in our dark climate, but, strange to say, far from usual in the western friaries. They were demolished to build barracks, and their site is occupied by modern houses. The remains consist of a church, 147 feet long, and a sacristy. The latter is a perfect vaulted building, having a late east window of three trefoil-headed lights and a heavy hood. It is entered by a door from the south side of the chancel, and is traditionally said to be the burial-place of the later monks.
The chancel measures 64 feet x 23 feet 7 inches. Its north wall has six early lancets and another partly closed, while east of them (the change marking an extension of the chancel for 20 feet by William De Burgo) at each side, are two windows of richer tracery, though evidently of later date, and belonging to the 15th century restoration. The present east window has three shafts interlacing with round pieces over the main lights. It has been inserted in the arch of a much larger window. A neat tomb, with a figure of the Virgin, remains in the north wall, while a defaced carving of an angel, holding a long scroll, and some curious slabs, with church windows resembling those of the abbey, and other ornaments cut in relief, lie in the chancel. In the centre of the latter is the great pretentious tomb of Lady M. Bermingham, 1779, made by “Coade, London, 1790." It is an elaborate but tasteless monument, the skulls, torches, pilasters, and wreaths well executed in stucco, now rapidly falling out of the dark limestone of the main structure. Two other monuments call for notice. In the north wall appears a slab with a shield, bearing a cross patee and lion rampant; crest, a hand and dagger. On it is an obscure and fanciful inscription in three languages:
* the latter is the great pituuu...
LION REMPENT I PORTE SEPT OF
“THE MISTICALL | SENSE OF THE ARMES IN THIS VERSE | POUR HO | NEUREE | CONQUE / STRAN: | DUN . | ILLUSTRE | MARQUE | DE CLOR | IL VOLEVT LE LION REMPENT | PORTA LE PRIS DE LEUR VICTOIRE | HERE IS THE ANTIENT SEPULCHRE OF THE SEPT OF WALLS OF DROGHTY LATE | DEMOLISHED BY CROMELLIANS AND NOW REEDIFIED BY WALTER WALL | FICH PEETER OF THE SAID SEPT FOR | HIS OVN AND HIS POSTERITIES USE ANO | DOMINI 1682 INSIGNIA HUIUS FAMILIA | CRUX ET LEO VINOTAT | IS ANTIQVVM RETNIET GENS WALLIA | STEMMA NAM CE MAGNANIMAM CV | next line covered.
On the south wall, arms, a cross, a lion rampant in first quarter :
“HEERE LYES THE / BODY | OF SIR | IOHN | BURKE | OF DER | RIMAGA | LA | GNIE | KNIT DECEASED IN THE 36 YEEARE OF HIS AGE | 1666 THIS TOMB WAS ER | RECTED FOR HIM AND HIS | POSTERITIE BY HIS WIDOW THE LADY MAB | Y BURKE NOW BARRONESS OF ATHENRY IN 1683."
The nave measures 67 feet 9 inches x 23 feet 7 inches; it has a beautiful west window of four lights, decorated Gothic, opened and repaired in the recent conservation. The south wall has five of the early lights, and one closed by the belfry; outside some traces remain of the junction of the cloister and domicile ; inside is a row of recesses and sedilia. One has three quatrefoil opes, some of the capitals are neatly carved. A curious pulpit-like projection, said to be the cell of a penitent of the last century, juts out near the south-west corner. There are several quaint tombs, one of a smith, Thomas Tanian, with the date 1682. It has a cross, surrounded with two pair of bellows, horseshoe, anvil, and pincers, the very appropriate armorial bearings of a follower of Tubal-Cain. Other tombs bear ploughs and coulters.
The side aisle is to the west of the transept, and north of the nave; three of its nave arches remain, built in the larger opes of a fine arcade. It has two neat side lights and a pointed door. Only the south piers and spring of the arches of the belfry remain, with an intervening recess. The rest, with the arcade of the transept, completely collapsed when the tower fell. In the north gable of the transept is a beautiful arcading of trefoil-headed niches, and a slab with elaborate mantling ; crest-a double-headed eagle's head. Arms.—A doubleheaded eagle displayed, impaling a chevron between three trefoils slipped, with these lines : “PRAY FOR THE | SOULE OF OLIVE | B BRO | WNE | OF CYL | ARAN AND JULIAN LYN | CH. HIS WIFE WHO EREC | TED THIS MONUMENT FOR | THEM AND THEIR POSTE | RITY ANO DNI 1686.” The east wall had two handsome windows complete in 1792, but one is now much defaced. The obituary of the abbey, cited by Archdall, is still extant, being preserved by the existing Dominicans. A copy is in the British Museum, Sloane MSS. 4784. In 1893 the Board of Works judiciously repaired the ruins, and restored to order the much neglected graveyard.
The following inscriptions lie on the floor :
“THIS IS THE TVMBE OF 101S BURKE AND OF HIS ANCESTORS AND KATREN BVRK | E HIS WIFE THE 20 OF 8BER 1627.
“ HIC. IACET DMA MARIOTA DE BVR | GO FILIA WA | LTERI ALS DORIAN M° . . . . VIB ..... ARD . I.1.8. . I.H.s. 1615.”.
“PRAY FOR THE SOWLE OF FLOR | ENCE HEYNE | WHO DEYED | THE 24 OF MARCH 86 THIS M ......" probably of 1686.
complete in 9 9 DNI 1686."