Murrisk Abbey

Murrisk Abbey Ruins. Co. Mayo
D. Joyce Personal Collection

Murrisk Abbey in Carrowkeel in County Mayo is situated on the shores of Clew Bay in the shadow of Croagh Patrick.  Founded during 1456 as an Augustinian Friary possibly because of ‘the inhabitants of those parts have not hitherto been instructed in the Faith.’  A local Chieftain Hugh O ‘Malley granted the land.  The present ruins consist of an L – shaped building that represents the church, sacristy also a chapter room.  The church is long plus narrow.  There is an East window carved with human heads on the outside wall.  There are several windows on the South wall that is crowned with battlements suggesting the building had been fortified.  The spring of an elaborate ribbed vault is all that survives of the tower at the West end of the church.  This site has beautiful images of the Abbey. [i]

Murrisk Abbey was founded by the O ‘Malley family during 1456 as a home for the Augustinian Observant Reform following permission granted by Pope Callistus 111.  Hugh O ‘Malley, a Friar of Banada Abbey in Co. Sligo was responsible for the building of the abbey at Leithearmurese.   Thady O ‘Malley granted land close to the sea where a previous church was founded by St. Patrick.  A later document stated that Lady Maeve O ‘Connor, wife of Thady O ‘Malley’s uncle was the actual Founder.  The Friary was dedicated to St. Patrick then known as Muireske or Mons S. Patritii.  The ruins consist of an L – shaped structure that represented the church with several domestic buildings at the right angle that included a sacristy, a chapter room also a room housed into the two – floored building at the Northern side.  The church ruin has a single chamber with no transept or west window, possibly removed during erection of belfry tower.  The main Portal is located at the South wall.  Behind the main alter space, the east five – light tracery windows are possibly the most decorative feature of the ruin.  The sacristy is a long narrow room lit by a single round – headed window.  The Chapter is located to the north of the sacristy, it features a cusped ogee – headed window where its hoodmould ends in a knot that the develops into a foliate ornament on the North side continued on to a simple point on the South side as the late Irish Gothic Style required.  The upper floor supposedly contained a Dormitory with just one large window.  There are two carved heads on the ruin: one situated on the east wall near to the window while the other is located on the south wall.  The one on the south bears a hat whilst the other wears a beard.  There are ruins of battlements visible on the south wall that suggests the building once was fortified.  An elaborate vault may be viewed at the west end of the church possibly the only surviving feature of the belfry.  During the Reformation of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, the Friars were expelled. It’s a possibility they moved to Ballyhaunis.  There is little information available of the Friars from 1570 to the 1800’s.[ii]

Murrisk Abbey: Irish Muraic either means ‘Muir Riasc’ ‘marsh by the sea’ or ‘Muir Iasc’ a sea monster from pre – Christian times.  During the mid – fifteen century Augustinian Friars founded the Abbey that replaced Tóchar Phádraig as the preferred starting point for all Croagh Patrick pilgrimages.  The L – shaped ruin includes the long narrow church, the sacristy plus a chapter room with an overhead dormitory.  The outside of the East window features carvings of human heads.  There are several ogees – headed ande trefoil windows.  The only remnant of the tower is a ribbed vault. The cemetery on the Church grounds are still in use.[iii]

Close to the Famine National Monument are the ruins of Murrisk Abbey.  It was a former Augustinian Abbey founded during the 1400’s by Pope Callistus 111.  Stone maintenance has been carried out some years ago.  The Abbey ruins are now under the supervision of the National Monuments Service.[iv]

The name Murrisk is either derived from ‘Muir Riasc’ that translates as ‘a marsh by the sea’ or ‘Muir Iasc’ that referred to the sea monster during pagan times. During the 1400’s an Abbey was founded by Pope Callistus 111. [v]

The Murrisk Friary located in Co. Mayo was founded during 1457 by Hugh O ‘Malley of Banada Friary, Co. Sligo.  He had been granted permission by Pope Callistus 111 who decreed a church & priory be built at Croagh Patrick.  It was established on lands granted by Thady O ‘Malley.  It was built on the site of the original church of St. Patrick.  The ruins consist of a church with a centre aisle, with battlement walls plus an eastern set window.  Behind the main altar space, the east window is possibly the finest feature of the ruins.  There was a belfry tower at the west end of the church. All that survives of the tower is a vault.  Despite being supressed at the time of the Reformation the Friary continued until 1577.[vi]

The Augustinian Friary built in 1456 by papal mandate from Hugh O ‘Malley of Banada to a licence to build a Monastery.  An Observant building it was –reformed during 1458.  Dissolved during 1578 the Friars were expelled then the Abbey granted to James Garvey.  Possibly Friars returned later.[vii]


This site states that the Abbey was founded in 1452, that it is located on the water.  It has an image of the old Abbey:

Murrisk Abbey is listed among Irish Abbey’s at this link:

This site has a partial image of Murrisk Abbey at the foot of Croagh Patrick:

Dr. Yvonne Mc Dermott mentions the Murrisk Augustinian Friary in her article ‘Abbeys have Abbots’ at the following link:


[i] Murrisk Abbey

( [assessed 23rd June 2020]

[ii] Murrisk Abbey ( [assessed 23rd June 2020]

[iii] Murrisk ( [assessed 23rd June 2020]

[iv] Murrisk, Co. Mayo ( [assessed 23rd June 2020]

[v] Murrisk ( [assessed 23rd June 2020]

[vi] Murrisk Abbey ( [assessed 23rd June 2020]

[vii] List of Monastic Buildings

( [assessed 23rd June 2020]


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