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Aghaboe (Friary)

Order: Dominican Friars

There is evidence for several early Christian ecclesiastical settlements in the parish of Aghaboe. The foundation of Achad Bó was associated with Cainnech, and Liber (Mo-Libba). Field remains include a round tower, church sites and a graveyard, and associated artefacts include a bronze ecclesiastical figure of the 7th or 8th centuries. The foundation of Camclone was in the diocese of Aghaboe, with a possible church site and graveyard remaining. Also in the parish of Aghaboe was the foundation of Cell Chainnig Becc, associated with Cainnech, with a church ruin and graveyard remaining. Further foundations include Cell Chodáin, in the parish of Aghaboe, with church site and graveyard at Kylebeg. The foundation of Cell Chrócháin/Daire Chrócháin, associated with Cróchán m Tairbin, is in the parish of Aghaboe, with an ecclesiastical site, enclosure, traces of a church and a graveyard. Folk traditions include the name ‘Dairy Hill and Kilminfoyle the first churches named in Rome’, a tradition of clandestine infant burial and the pattern of Tober an Bhile; Tobar Crócháin. The foundation of Cell Delcce/Deilge, associated with Emaíne or Emán, is in the parish of Aghaboe, with a church site and graveyard. The foundation of Cell Máele-Phóil (townland of Kilminfoyle, parish of Aghaboe), associated with Máel-phóil, has a possible remaining church site, earthen mound and graveyard, and is associated with the folk tradition ‘Dairy Hill and Kilminfoyle the first churches named in Rome’. The foundation of Cell tSillóc, associated with Sillán/Sillóc is in the parish of Aghaboe, with an ecclesiastical site, a circular enclosure visible in aerial photographs, and a graveyard site. Cuffsborough, associated with Cainnech, has a church site, graveyard and well. The foundation at Farran Eglish is in the parish of Aghaboe, with the tradition of a graveyard in ‘Church Field’, and a church ruin (late medieval) and a graveyard site. The foundation of Knockseera (C. Saigre?) is in the parish of Aghaboe, has traces of a church, a graveyard, a well (St. Kieran), and has a folk tradition connected to St. Kieran’s bush, and a pattern on May 5. The foundation of Kylenaseer (Cell na Saer), a convent, was in the parish of Aghaboe, with a church site and possible graveyard site, and a tradition of a graveyard at the hill of ‘Cruckan an ure’, of convent in field ‘Crithacorra’. The foundation at Tintore in the parish of Aghaboe was dedicated to St. Nicholas, and a medieval church site remains. Further foundations exist at Troscad, associated with Fainche, either in the parish of Kyle or Aghaboe, and Tuam domnaich, associated with Mo-Lua (Lugáed), in either the parish of Aghaboe or Kyle. (monasticon.celt.dias.ie, accessed 22/03/13)

Archdall gives an account of the early Christian monastic foundation at Aghaboe, including the building of a great church by the abbot in 1234, and the translation of the cathedral of St. Canice to the town of Kilkenny in 1250. In the same year, or in the following, according to Archdall, Fitzpatrick, ancestor to the Lords of Upper Ossory, erected a monastery on the site of the ancient cathedral, and under the invocation of St. Canice, for the friars of the order of St. Dominick. This date is disputed in Med. Religious Houses, Ire., 211. Other events recorded by Archdall include:
1325 – About the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, Bren O’Bren, with the assistance of the English forces in Ely O’Carrol, took a great prey from the people of Aghaboe and Aghmacart.
1346 – May 13th, Dermot McGillepatrick, a man remarkable for his villanies, burnt this town; the shrine and reliques of the blessed St. Canice were lost in the conflagration. (Archdall, 590)


The early Christian settlement of St. Cainnech was plundered a number of times, and was rebuilt as an Augustinian foundation in 1234. Close nearby, the Dominican friary was established in 1382, founded by Florence MacGillapatrick, Lord of Ossory. Earlier writers give it as a thirteenth-century foundation, but Burgo (296 - 9) disagrees, given that it is not included in the Dominican catalogue of 1300. (Med. religious houses, Ire., 221)

Archdall gives a list of 'abbots' from 1382, beginning with John O Foelain and ending with Patrick Keely. Patrick Keely was the last Dominican to work in the area, c. 1780. (Med. religious houses, Ire., 221)

This foundation was suppressed in 1540 (Carrigan) (Med. religious houses, Ire., 221).

The Church of Ireland church of Aghaboe occupies the site of the Augustinian church, and contains fabric from the Dominican church.

Archdall gives a description of the buildings in 1786:
We shall here give a description of the abbey as it now appears: - The west and south windows are handsome Gothic work; the church is one hundred feet in length and twenty-four in width, has three windows to the south, one at the east, and one at the west. In the centre to the south is a small oratory called Phelan’s Chapel, and divided from the church by an arch, resting on a pillar of solid masonry; between the east windows of this chapel is a pedestal, intended for a statue, and under it a stone, hollowed and shaped like an inverted cone, with eight grooves, supposed to be for holy water: A door on the north side leads you to a quadrangle of sixty feet; the cells for the friars, usually ten in number, lay to the east and opposite thereto was the kitchen, with apartments for servants; the cellars were large, and over them the abbot’s apartment, measuring forty-six feet by seventeen, at the end of which was a bed-chamber seventeen feet square; whether this large room was not the refectory we cannot determine, as the last vicar of the parish demolished much of the building and made use of the materials to enclose a demesne. Originally there was a fire-place at the south end, and a stone stair-case made a communication with the church and cellars. The lands annexed to the abbey, such as those of Aghaboe, with the Cross and Friar’s land, were of a considerable extent, and of the best quality. (Archdall, 590 – 591)

Restoration was carried out at the Dominican friary of Aghaboe in 1986. The works were undertaken by a local committee. Virtually all of the north wall of the church was missing, and excavations were undertaken in order to trace original foundations prior to the rebuilding of the northern wall.
Five cuttings were opened, which revealed decaying mortar and the evidence of burial. From the bones found, it was evident that the bodies had been laid coffinless on top of one another, sometimes with part of the lower skeleton removed to make place for the upper. Few artefacts were recovered – these included a coin or token, possibly of 18th century date, fragments of a clay pope, a bowl, pottery sherds, lead weights, and several pieces of glass slag. The church wall foundations are medieval in date, and the finds most probably belong to the 18th and 19th century – it is likely that the interments found are of the same date. (Anthony Candon, www.excavations.ie, accessed 22/03/13)
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Dedicated to: St. Canice

Barony: Clarmallagh (Clár Maí Locha)
Civil Parish: Aghaboe
Townland: Aghaboe (Achadh Bhó)
Kingdom/Lordship: Ossory
Early mediaeval Kingdom/Lordship: Osraige/Mac Giolla Pátraic

Main events in the history of this site

- The friary and the advowson of the rectory of St. Kennie of Aghaboe were granted in 1601 to Florence Fitzpatrick, rent £5 18s. 0d. (Archdall, 589), (AG), followed by a description of the buildings. (Med. religious houses, 221) 
1382Foundation - The Dominican friary at Aghaboe was founded by Florence (Finghin) MacGillapatrick, Lord of Ossory 
1400s - The Dowdalls were benefactors of the friary in the fifteenth century. According to Med. religious houses, Ire., there is a bible of this friary, Lambeth Ms. 534(Med. religious houses, Ire., 221) 
1540 - The friary was suppressed in 1540, and following this, it was granted to the Lord of Upper Ossory (Morrin i, 87) (Med. religious houses, Ire., 221) 
1541, 11 January - On 11 January, 1541, the jurors found that all the buildings were necessary for the farmer and the possessions included c.76 acres with 12 cottages, valued at 50s. 2d. (Extents), (Med. religious houses, Ire., 221) 
1548 - James, Earl of Ormond, was the occupier, and in 1548 his executors were £20 in arrears. (Extents), (Med. religious houses, Ire., 221) 
+ 3 minor events. Show minor events

Bibliographical sources

14 Printed sources

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Archival sources

Royal Irish Academy Prints and Drawings, 'Abbey and church of Aghaboe, Queen's Co.', (Document),

Royal Irish Academy Prints and Drawings, 'Abbey church at Aghaboe, Queen's County, elevation of piscina, Benjamin Woodward', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland (Prints and Drawings), 'Church of Aghaboe South East Aspt: Queen's County Augst: 3d: 1792.', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland, 'Grant by Earl Richard, son of Earl Gislebert, to Adam de Hereford of half the vill of Achebo (Aghabo', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland, 'Grants by Nicholas de Dunheved to Sir R. Pippard of the manor of Alcroyle (Ardcroile, Aghaboe parish', (Document), (View website)

Royal Irish Academy Manuscripts, 'Letter from Aquilla Smith to James Graves, including a sketch of bronze figure, Aghaboe', (Document), (View website)

Royal Irish Academy Manuscripts, 'Letter from T. E. Winnington, probably to Rev. James Graves.', (Document), (View website)

Royal Irish Academy Manuscripts, 'Letters between Revd. James Graves and John O'Donovan mentioning Aghaboe', (Document), (View website)

British Museum, 'Maps and plans of estates of R. Fitzpatrick in Granstown in Bordwell and Aghaboe, Leix', (Document), (View website)

Royal Irish Academy Manuscripts, 'OS Letter to T.A. Larcom from Patrick Keefe (Aghaboe)', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland, 'Quit-claim by Hugh Purcel to Sir Nicholas de Dunheved of land in Adcroyl (Cruell, Aghaboe parish), c', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland (Prints and Drawings), 'South Door of the Church of Aghaboe, Queens County', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland (Prints and Drawings), 'View of Aghaboe by Lady de Vesci', (Document), (View website)

Related articles on Monastic Ireland

List of abbots of Aghaboe from the year 1382, as given by Archdall (From \'Monasticon Hibernicum\', 1786, pg. 591), Mervyn Archdall.

Laois, OSI Grid:S3274085800