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Holy Rood Church

This church was located at Carnalecka. It was built between 1170 and 1230 by descendants of Thurlough Mor O’Connor and might be described as the first parish church of Ballinrobe. It was on the same level with the great churches of Shrule and Burriscarra, all measuring about 90 feet long and built in Gothic style. It is said that this church was not monastic, but run by secular clergy.
However, coinciding with the arrival of the Normans, the O’Connor power had begun to wane. Furthermore, around 1142 St. Malachy had come to the conclusion that a change was needed in the Irish Church in order to bring it more in line with Rome and the more organised systems of monasticism, which were developing in Europe and in England.

Killeentreva Church

While the Holy Rood was thought to not be monastic later monastic establishments in or near Ballinrobe were the Killeentreva Church (in ruins) and the Augustine Abbey (in ruins). The Killeentreva Church, which is on the road to Creagh Demesne, was possibly established in the 12th century by a small settlement of nuns.

Augustine Abbey

The Augustinian Priors were first introduced to Ballinrobe by Elizabeth de Clare, a relation through marriage of Maurice Fitzgerald, and a grand daughter of Edward the 1st of England. She married John deBurgh, son of Richard, the Red Earl of Ulster, in 1308. This would appear to have been a marriage of political consequence as the deClares- possible descendents of Strongbow – (Richard deClare) were allied with the Fitzgeralds against the deBurghs in wars for the possession of territories in Connaught. To celebrate the birth of a son and heir, William, on the 14th of Sept 1312 she and her husband ordered the building of a priory at Ballinrobe as a gesture of thanksgiving.

Several noted priors served at this Abbey, the most notable being Fergal Dubh O'Gara who was prior in 1673. He was an accomplished Irish Poet and Scholar. Notable also was Augustine Gibbon De Burgo, who was prior in 1649. He later became an outstanding Churchman in the University of Ehfurt in Germany during the Martin Luther era. The 17th century steal of the Abbey is in the British Museum in London. The O'Hely Chalice and the Malachy O'Queely Clalice, in Tuam and in Stonyhurst College in England respectively, are both proof of its former splendour. In the Nave of the Church, is the tomb of Father James O'Hely, who died on 20th April,1688. Next to this tomb lies the tomb of a person who seemingly was hanged. This bears the inscription of a skull and crossbones, clearly marked on the stone.

In 1585 the priory was confiscated under Elizabeth 1st. The deBurgo successor was an English settler, Gregory Nolan. He was Catholic and didn’t interfere with the priors but he din’t help them either. With the win of the Cromwellians the Nolans disappeared. There is no record of Cromwellian destruction of the priory. Priors were there in 1662 the same year as the making of a beautiful chalice that was begun for them in Spain, co-incidentally the country of their origin. This is now described as the O’Hely chalice. It was discovered during the demolition of a derelict house in the parish on Cong in 1922 in a wooden box buried in the wall near the fireplace. James Cuff who succeeded the Nolan’s in 1665, was a tolerant man. His family and descendants didn’t interfere with the priors, the did have an interest in developing the locality, which included the reconstruction of B’robe Manor and Market House, tree planting and milling, meant that the priors were squeezed out of any significant input into the locality except to maybe give spiritual comfort. The priory was officially closed in 1820 although even after 1832 there still remained a few priors in or around the area.

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