Bonamargy Friary

Map Reference: D128408 (3128, 4408)

Bonamargy Friary may have been founded about 1500 by Rory MacQuillan for the Third Order of St Francis. There have been suggestions that the foundation may have been as early as 1475 or as late as 1512. In the latter case the founders may have been the MacDonnells of Antrim. The date of the dissolution of the friary is not recorded but it was probably sometime in the 1530s. It was burned in 1584 during an attack by the MacDonnells and Scots on English troops who were quartered there but the buildings were repaired and in use until 1642. During this time the Franciscans remained associated with the buildings which passed from the Third Order to the First Order in 1626. It became a rest centre for Irish Franciscan missionaries to Scotland. At the Franciscan chapter at Ross in 1687 it was decided to establish a residence at Bonamargy and to petition Rome for permission to erect a canonical foundation.

General View

The buildings are approached through a gatehouse set in an earth bank. This small two-storey building has a fireplace in the upper storey. It is one of the few remaining gatehouses associated with a Franciscan friary.

The Gatehouse

The long narrow rectangular church has three windows and a door in the S wall. This pointed doorway is set within a fine round-headed recess. There is a fine east window with broken tracery and decorated label stops. There are several other decorated stones in the east gable.

Details of the East Window

Inside the site of the west wall of the church is a small holed cross which marks the grave of Julia MacQuillan, the Black Nun. She was a noted 17th century recluse and prophetess. She prayed that, after her death, people would walk over her grave. It is a ring-headed cross with stumpy arms.

The grave of the Black Nun

The cloister lay to the north of the church and in the east range was the sacristy and a day room for indoor work. Above these vaulted rooms was the friars' dormitory. It is fragmentary but is reachable by a stone stair. The 17th century vault running S from the church is the burial place of the MacDonnells, Earls of Antrim. In the south wall of the nave is a tomb-niche of 1630. The other memorials within the church are mainly late 18th century. The churchyard has a mixture of ancient and modern stones.

The interior of the day room

For more examples of Franciscan Friaries click on the following links

Armagh, Co Armagh Ennis, Co Clare Quin, Co Clare Buttevant, Co Cork Timoleague, Co Cork Claregalway, Co Galway Kilconnell, Co Galway Meelick, Co Galway Rosserrily, Co Galway Ardfert, Co Kerry Lislaughtin, Co Kerry Muckross, Co Kerry Castledermott, Co Kildare Creevelea, Co Leitrim Adare, Co Limerick Askeaton, Co Limerick Dundalk, Co Louth Moyne, Co Mayo Rosserk, Co Mayo Nenagh, Co Tipperary Roscrea, Co Tipperary

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