The Murrisk Abbey was founded in 1457 by the O'Malley family for the Eremites following the rule of Saint Augustine after permission of Pope Calluistus in order 'to establish a Church and Priory at the foot of the mountain of Cruach-Padruig' as Archdall's 'Monasticon Hibernicum' said. This ancient abbey is located quite close to the sea overlooking Clew Bay and was built on the site of a previous church founded by St. Patrick.
The building was very extensive and well planned; the ruins are considerable and well preserved. They consist of a L-shaped structure representing the church with one central aisle, the sacristy and the chapter room where the Friars met to discuss business and read daily the chapter of the order’s rule.
Behind the main altar space, the east window, carved with human heads, is the finest feature of the ruins; there are also the ruins of the south battlemented walls, suggesting that the building was fortified.
An elaborate vault can be seen at the west end of the church. It is the only feature of the belfry tower that survives today.
The gravestones show that the Abbey was the burial place of many of the notable families of the two baronies, be they Catholic or Protestant. The Garveys are buried near the high altar, while many of the Protestant O'Malleys repose within the sanctuary. The MacDonnells of Cloona and Thornhill have their tombstones at the other end of the church.
The friars were driven out in the late 16th century during the Reformation in Queen Elizabeth's time. Very little is known about the circumstances of the friars from 1570 to the early 1800's when Murrisk Abbey finally ceased to function, it is believed that the remaining monks moved to Ballyhaunis during that time.
The Abbey is now under the Supervision of the National Monuments Service.
Did you know?
The narrow road from Campbells Pub leading to the Reek is locally known as Boher na miasa (in Irish 'The Road of the Dishes'). A local legend tells that the Monks from the Abbey used to wash their utensils and crockery in the stream that runs alongside this narrow roadway.