Errew Abbey

Lough Conn 2012 by Sjaak Kempe
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:20120820_11_Ireland_-_Co._Mayo_-_Lough_Conn_(7961567404).jpg

Errew Abbey in County Mayo was a two – bay double – height single – cell Chapel constructed circa 1845 to 1847 (?).  The complex included a single – bay three – stage square east tower.  According to this site ‘The shell of a chapel illustrated the continued development or ‘improvement’ of the Errew Monastery complex with the architectural value of the composition.’  There were pointed – arch window openings with dragged cut-limestone sills of cut-limestone surrounds that had chamfered reveals without fittings.  A Pointed-arch window opened to the tower with dragged cut – limestone sills also cut – limestone surrounds had chamfered reveals that framed six – over – six timber sash windows with interlocking Y – tracery glazing bars.  There were pointed – arch openings (bell stage) with dragged cut – limestone sills plus cut – limestone surrounds of chamfered reveals that also framed louvered timber fittings.  There was cut – limestone coping to the gables.  On the west gable was a Cross finial to apex.  The walls had coursed rubble limestone with tooled cut – limestone flush quoins to the corners.  The tower had coursed rubble limestone walls with dragged cut – limestone chamfered stringcourses.  Dragged cut – limestone stringcourse (bell stage) supported battlemented parapet that had cut – limestone coping.  The Abbey was dissolved from 1923 with interior now in ruins.  Missing also is the pitched roof.  Remains of cast – iron rainwater goods on cut – limestone eaves have retained cast – iron hoppers without downpipes.  There is a discreet benchmark that is interesting for its connections with cartography also the preparation of maps by the Ordnance Survey that was established during 1824.  There are several images on this site.  Registered Number is 31308919.  Coordinates are 116452, 283566.  (date recorded 13th December 2010) [i]

An early church was founded by St. Tiernan at Errew possibly dated to the twelfth or thirteenth centuries.  During 1413 the Barrett’s established an Abbey for the Augustinian Canons on an earlier ecclesiastical site.  The Abbey was possibly a Priory under the direction of the main Crossmolina Abbey. The complex had a long rectangular church that has retained some trefoil – headed windows also a piscina.  According to this site there is evidence that there was a cloister walk on the north & south, it did not have the typical open arcade which is normally found with fifteenth century buildings.  The east side of the cloister with its attached ground floor buildings is well – preserved.  A few traces of domestic buildings on the east side of the cloister are visible.  Several beautiful images by Brian Mc Elleron feature on this site.[ii]

During the seventh century an early monastery was founded in Errew by St. Tiernan at this site.  It was originally named ‘Mainistir Taobh Thiar do Shruth’ that translated as ‘The Abbey on the West side of the stream.’  The present foundation dates from the thirteenth century but no records survive of the religious community.  In 1413 the Barrett’s provided the site to the Augustinian Canon Regulars.  This building was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.  The Bishop of Elphin Thomas Barret was interred within the Friary.  The Abbey was constructed to a square plan with massive walls.  The church itself was exceptionally long with a plain east window also a small west window.  The alter is visible under the east window.  On the east wall is a beautiful trefoil window set into a widely splayed niche.  Under this window there are two sedilia close to the piscina.  Two buttresses support the south wall of the church from the outside.  It was possible to access the church through a rounded arch doorway.  There is another trefoil window above the cloister in the north wall of the chancel.  The east section of the cloister survives whilst traces of the north & south sections may still be viewed.  The surviving east section has four narrow ogee windows.  To the west was another building possibly the chapter house.  There are ruins of a domestic building on the north side of the Cloister.  On one of the steps on entrance to the ruins of the north side is a fishbone carving that was possibly a mason’s mark.  According to this article it is possible to view Lough Conn from the roof of the east section of the cloister.  One hundred & fifty metres north from the Abbey there is an outline of a small building that may have been an oratory called Templenagalliaghdoo or Teampall na gCailleach Dubh (The Church of the Black Nun).  Several images feature on this site.  Grid Reference is G 17268 12276.  Coordinates are 54 03 10.8 N, 009 15 48.54 W.  Article by Antonio D’Imperio with several images of the Abbey.[iii]

According to this site in Gaelic Mythology Errew Abbey was founded by St. Tiernan or St. Tigernan in the sixth century who had been transferred from Inisglora to Kilmore Erris then Errew Abbey on Lough Conn also Aughris in Tireraghwell.  Originally called ‘Mainistir Taobh Thiar do Shruth’ or ‘the abbey on the west side of the stream.’  It was recorded that one thousand four hundred European students from all over Europe studied at the Abbey.  During the twelfth & thirteen centuries the Abbey was renamed by the Barret’s.  The Bishop of Alpine Thomas Barrett was buried within the Abbey during 1404.  An earlier foundation during 1413 the Barret’s established the Abbey of Augustinian Canons dedicated to the virgin Mary.  It was a cell of the Abbey of Crossmolina.  There was a long rectangular Church approximately 27 × 7 m 90 22.  Errew Abbey was dissolved during 1585.  Among the ruins are trefoil-headed electric reveals with two sedilia.  The East side of the monastery is well preserved. Immediately to the north of the Abbey was The Church of the Black Nun.  The Erenachs of the lands at Errew OFlynn family obtained the relic of a paten named ‘MIAS Tighernain.’  The saga of McWattin Barrett’s capture of Henry Barrett & St. Tigernan is covered on this site.[iv]

Errew Abbey was situated at the extreme end of Errew on a peninsula that stretched from the barony of Tirawley into Loch Conn.  It was founded by St. Tiernan during the seventh century.  According to folklore Errew Abbey was erected by the Barrett’s for the Augustinian Community on the site of an earlier church.  Bishop Thomas Barrett of Elphin was buried there during 1404.  The area inside the Abbey was approximately 90′ by 22.’  A beautiful ornamental window of cut stone was on the east gable.  Nearby was a window that was circular at the top approximately 2′ in height.  A small circular door of cut stone is on the north side wall approximately 4′ in hight plus 3′ in width.  A famous relic from the Abbey called the ‘Mias Tighernain’ believed to have belonged to St. Tiernan is discussed in folklore of an encounter of McWattin Barrett with St. Tiernan.  An O ‘Flynn family were Erenachs of the church lands at Errew.  In the O. S. Letters a legend reported that the relic lay at the bottom of Loch Conn for centuries before it floated to the surface.  The ‘Ballina Impartial’ described the ‘Mias Tighernain’ as a large plate produced with several thin pieces of copper riveted together at the edges.  There was a slender cross of the same material on the back.  On the front was a silver cross richly – carved with a rim of silver in the centre approximately one inch in height.  The rim encircled a small cup of copper with the bottom upwards.  There were berlys of two silver rings within the compartment formed by the cross.  This site states that an O ‘Flynn pledged the ‘Mias Tighernain’ to a Mr. Knox of Rappa Castle.  Following his demise, it was auctioned with his personal possessions in London.  Within the site located north of the Abbey ruins is the tiny ‘nuns chapel’.  The foundation is asmall building is approximately seven yards in length plus three & a half yards in breadth.  There are several images on this site.  (Extract from article by Crossmolina Historical and Archaeological Society) [v]

Errew Abbey is located on a tiny peninsula beside Lough Conn.  This thirteenth century Augustinian Abbey’s cloister is well preserved along with the chancel, altar & piscina.  It was recorded locally that St. Tiernan founded the building during the sixth century.  Over 1400 students from Europe studied at this Abbey.  During the late twelfth century a new building was constructed.  Similar to several other monasteries this was destroyed under Cromwell’s reign in Ireland.  The oratory of massive stone walls in fields adjacent to the abbey is known locally as Templenagalliaghdoo or Church of the Black Nun.  The precious relic Mias Thighernáin or St. Tiernan’s dish is associated with Errew Abbey.[vi]

This ruined thirteenth century Augustinian Abbey is located on a tiny peninsula in Lough Conn approximately three km. south of Crossmolina.  The abbey’s history may be traced to the foundation during the sixth century by St. Tiernan.  Students from Europe studied at the Abbey up to 1400 AD.  The abbey building featured a chancel with altar also a piscina.  An additional building appeared to have been constructed circa twelfth century.  This Errew Abbey was destroyed by Cromwellian settlers.  The precious relic ‘Mias Thighernái’ or St. Tiernan’s dish was associated with Errew. An oratory of massive stone walls in fields adjacent to the abbey is located on the site of a church founded during the sixth century.  It was known locally as Templenagalliaghdoo, that meant “Church of the Black Nun.”[vii]

Errew Abbey is located at the tip of a peninsula that overlooks Lough Conn.  This monastery consisted of a church with cloister.  On the North side was a series of domestic buildings.  A Community of religious brethren was established during 1413 by the Barrett’s of Augustinian Canons Regular.  This monastery incorporated a Priory cell attached to the Augustinian Friary at Crossmolina.  The church had trefoil windows plus a piscina.  Near the Priory was a small oratory named Templenagalliaghdoo or Church of the Black Nuns.[viii]

There was an old Abbey on the shores of Lough Conn at Errew in Crossmolina according to Mr. Timothy Mulhern on this Duchas site.  St. Tiernan the patron saint of this parish during the sixth century laid the foundation stone.  The Abbey had a curved doorway.  The windows were narrow & long.  The image of a human head was carved on a stone in front of the altar.  St. Tiernan was interred within the Abbey.  (Extract by Mr. Anthony Mulhern An Clochar School in Crossmolina.) [ix]

According to Frommer’s Staff at this link Errew Augustinian Abbey was South East of Crossmolina on a tiny peninsula beside Lough Conn in County Mayo.  Founded during the sixth century by St. Tiernan as an Abbey with at one time accommodation for up to one thousand four hundred European students.  The Abbey was dissolved during 1537.  Sir Richard Blake became the owner of the Abbey with its lands.  Currently the ruins of a cloister, a chancel with altar & piscina are visible along with a stone basin.  The precious relic Mias Thighernáin or St. Tiernan’s dish is associated with Errew Abbey.  Adjacent to the abbey is the site of a church founded during the sixth century known as Templenagalliaghdoo or Church of the Black Nun.[x]

Errew Abbey lay South East of Crossmolina in County Mayo.  The Abbey was founded during the sixth century by St. Tiernan.  At one time up to one thousand four hundred European students were accommodated there.  During the latter twelfth century a new foundation was added.  It was destroyed by the Cromwellian army.  Then this Abbey was dissolved in 1537.  Errew Abbey with its lands was awarded to Sir Richard Blake during 1630.  Nearby is a small ancient church or convent also attributed to St. Tiernan.  The precious relic known as the Mias Thighernáin or St. Tiernan’s dish was also associated with Errew Abbey.[xi]

The discovery of a relic during the eighteenth century that lay over St. Tighearnin’s chest in his grave within Errew Monastery was a circular bronze & silver disc.  It became known as the Mias Tighearnin or the plate of Saint Tighearnin.  This relic had been in private ownership within & outside the Republic of Ireland.  Eventually acquired by the National Museum of Ireland earlier this year where Conservators have since studied it to unveil its secret past.  The relic was dated as far back as the eleventh century but may have been during the fourteenth, fifteenth also the nineteenth centuries.  According to Mr. Anthony Read, Head of Conservation at the National Museum ‘It’s a lot more exciting than it looks. The object itself revealed little in its appearance but conservation has allowed us uncover and piece together its history.’ When subjected to X – ray studies it was proved that the Mias Tighearnin was produced from several layers of plating from many periods.  Encapsulated within the outer bronze plating (from the fourteenth century) there is an older set of plates from the eleventh century.  On further examination the presence of a square metallic object that rattled within the Mias Tighearnin’s centre was believed to be the original relic.  According to Mr. Read he believes this object may be made of silver or gold, yet it remains ‘an enigma’.  He remarked that ‘curiosity got the better of somebody’ when the Mias Tighearnin during the nineteenth century was opened: unfortunately, the find was not recorded!  The belief was that the relic possibly was used as a Paten for holding communion hosts or at a later era as a religious reliquary used for swearing oaths upon also for general good luck.  From an article titled Museum conservators unravel hidden secrets of an ancient Irish relic.’  The Irish Times 3rd January 2000.[xii]

St Tiernan founded a monastery during 550 on the Errew peninsula on Lough Conn in County Mayo.  Templenagalliaghdoo means ‘Church of the Black Nun.’  St Leogar was abbot of the abbey of Errew. There are the ruins of a church close to the Lough.  It is marked 24 174 125 on the O S Map.[xiii]

The Errew Abbey or Priory has an unusual cloister walk that is complete with roof.  Founded by St. Tiernan.  According to folklore at one time there were one thousand students at the Abbey.[xiv]

County Mayo’s Errew Abbey was a former Augustinian Monastery situated on a peninsula that stretched into Lough Conn with Templenagalliaghdoo to the North. Tigernan of Errew was believed to have founded the Monastery during the early sixth century.  Originally called ‘Mainistir Taobh Thiar do Shruth’ meant the Abbey on the west side of the stream.  It was recorded that up to one thousand four hundred European students availed of its education.  During the twelfth & thirteenth centuries the Barret Family re – founded the Abbey for the Augustinian Canons then dedicated it to The Virgin Mary.  During 1404 the Bishop of Elphin Thomas Barret was interred within the Abbey.  According to this site during 1413 the Barret family constructed a Priory cell on the site that was dependent on Crossmolina Abbey.  There was a long rectangular church that measured twenty – seven metres by seven metres.  The building had trefoil – headed windows also two sedilia plus a piscina.  Folklore recorded that ‘during 1413 McWattin Barrett violated the sanctuary of Errew to seize Henry Barrett who had taken refuge there.  Saint Tigernan is said to have appeared to McWattin every night until he promised to make amends; he gave the Abbey an Eraic of a quarter of land at Ballinbraher (Friarstown).  A family called O ‘Flynn were Erenachs of the lands at Errew and came into the possession of Mias Tighernain, a paten said to have belonged to Tigernan.’  Errew Abbey was dissolved during 1585.  The east side of the cloister is well-preserved.  This Abbey is now a National Monument in County Mayo.[xv]

Footnotes

‘A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, comprising the several counties, cities, boroughs, corporate, market, and post towns, parishes and villages, 2 volumes 1837’ Samuel Lewis   S. Lewis & London, A PDF containing the main text of volumes I and II May de downloaded at this link: https://www.logainm.ie/en/res/98

Bibliography

[i] Errew (https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/31308919/errew-monastery-errew-carr-by-county-mayo) [assessed 12th April 2021]

[ii] Errew Abbey (http://irishantiquities.bravehost.com/mayo/errew/errewabbey.html) [assessed 12th April 2021]

[iii] Errew Abbey (http://www.irishstones.org/place.aspx?p=903&i=25) [assessed 12th April 2021]

[iv] Errew (https://amp.en.google-info.org/index.php/52165196/1/errew-abbey.html) [assessed 12th April 2021]

[v] Errew Abbey (https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-villages/crossmolina/history/errew-abbey.html) [assessed 12th April 2021]

[vi] Errew Abbey (http://www.crossmolina.ie/heritage/errew-abbey) [assessed 12th April 2021]

[vii] Errew Abbey (https://www.northmayo.ie/visit-the-abbeys-of-north-mayo/) [assessed 12th April 2021]

[viii] Errew Abbey (https://www.tripadvisor.ie/Attraction_Review-g186625-d319010-Reviews-Errew_Abbey-County_Mayo_Western_Ireland.html) [assessed 12th April 2021]

[ix] Errew Abbey (https://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/4428078/4376173/4448595) [assessed 12th April 2021]

[x] Errew Abbey (https://www.frommers.com/destinations/county-mayo/attractions/errew-abbey) [assessed 12th April 2021]

[xi] Errew Abbey (https://www.activeme.ie/guides/errew-abbey-mayo/) [assessed 12th April 2021]

[xii] Museum conservator (https://www.irishtimes.com/news/museum-conservators-unravel-hidden-secrets-of-an-ancient-irish-relic-1.230300) [assessed 12th April 2021]

[xiii] Templenagalliaghdoo (http://www.earlychristianireland.net/Counties/mayo/templenagalliaghdoo/) [assessed 12th April 2021]

[xiv] Day Out (https://barrysguidedtours.com/day-out-by-lough-conn/) [assessed 12th April 2021]

[xv] Errew Abbey (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Errew_Abbey) [assessed 12th April 2021]

 

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