Christianity took strong roots in this area and some of the nearby abbeys are among the most attractive ruins in Ireland.
Moyne Abbey close to Crosspatrick is one such settlement. It was a friary founded by one of the Burke family about 1460 by Mac Uilliam Iochtarach for Franciscans of the Strict Obedience and was one of the chief houses of study for young Irish Franciscans.
It is a late Irish Gothic foundation with a square tower of six stories which were added after the original building. There is a renaissance door at the west, which appears to be a much later addition. On the plaster of the west nave wall may be seen 16th century graffiti. There is a vaulted chapter room and a part-vaulted sacristy and the chapter house; the kitchen and the refectory on the north side are built over a stream.
It was burned by Sir Richard Bingham, an English governor of Connacht in 1590. Some friars continued in residence until 17C: the last one died around 1800.
Another friary burned by Bingham is that at Rosserk some 7km north of Ballina, which was built by the Joyce family in the 1441 for the Observatine Franciscans; it is generally accepted as the finest Franciscan construction in the country and is certainly the best preserved.
Among the curiosities of the friary are the carvings on the double piscine with a round tower depicted on one of the shafts. The buildings include a square tower, nave, chancel, south transept cloister and conventional buildings. There is a fine arched doorway and east window. From the cloisters, stairs lead up to the dormitories and refectory above the vaulted rooms on the ground floor. It is a most evocative site.
The ruins of a Dominican Friary, which was founded in 1274, lie close to the shore. Lancit windows lighted the long rectangular church, which has a panel depicting the crucifixation over the west door.
In the 15C some of the south windows were built up, an aisle was built and part of the nave was rebuilt. Little remains of the two cloisters and the 16 C conventual buildings. Although the friary was suppressed and the buildings burned by Bingham in 1590, the friars remained in the neighbourhood until the 18C.
By Carmel Murphy