|Urlaur Abbey - County Mayo|
The Church is rectangular with doorways in the western and southern walls, windows and three gothic arches. There is an aperture where lepers could rest and hear Mass. The Abbey also had other buildings such as the kitchens, the refectory, the boathouse for a quick escape and, up the steps, the dormitory where the friars slept.
The Urlaur Pattern is still held each year on the 4th. August to remember the feast of St. Dominic. The chief duty of the Dominicans was to preach. They also helped the sick and lepers and provided shelter for pilgrims and travellers though living on charity themselves.
The Dominicans are named after their founder Saint Dominic who was born in Spain in 1170. He chose a life of penance and poverty and gathered together a band of preachers in southern France in the early part of the 13th century. The preachers were sent to cities where the Universities and other seats of learning were to be found. The Dominican Friars came to Oxford and London in 1221 and to Dublin in 1224 and are known as the Order of Friars Preachers. The Order spread quickly through Ireland forming communities and churches. Twenty-Four Dominican communities were founded in Ireland in the thirteenth century.
In 1385, the MacDermots Roe are said to have established the Dominican Priory of the Holy Cross at Cloonshanville, near modern day Frenchpark in County Roscommon. Theobald Dillon got possession of Cloonshanville after the dissolution of the Monasteries. The Dillon’s settled in Ireland after the Norman Conquest in 1169 and were a landlord family from the 13th century in a part of County Westmeath called 'Dillon's Country'.
The Costello’s of Tallaghanmore or Edmondstown were another branch of the family. The last member of this family was Captain Costello who built the residence of the Bishop of Achonry. This latter family became Protestants somewhere around the beginning of the 19th Century. It was said that Sir Robert Peel, who was Chief Secretary for Ireland (1812 to 1818) and later became British Prime Minister, the man who established the Royal Irish Constabulary (the Peelers), regularly visited this family of Tallaghanmore for the shooting season.
Most monasteries in the West escaped suppression until the reign of James 1. Following inquisitions in 1608 and 1610, the friary was declared suppressed and its lands given to Sir Edward Fisher. Later it passed into the hands of Sir Theobald Dillon although the friars went on living quietly at Urlaur.
|Stairs leading to the Dormitory|
The situation deteriorated further under Cromwell. Fr. Dominic Dillon and Fr. Richard Overton of Urlaur were put to death at Drogheda. Cromwellians killed a Fr. Mac Costello and Fr. Gerard Dillon died in prison. Despite the mayhem and terror of the time, eleven Dominicans met at Urlaur to discuss the affairs of the Order.
In 1698 the friars were forced to flee the Friary again because of the Penal Laws. Facing the threat of transportation and possibly death, five friars remained in the area including Fr. Pierce Costello and Fr. Redmond Costello. The late 18th century saw the Friary in ruins and a dwindling community. The last friar was Fr. Patrick Sharkey who died in 1843.
‘The Friars of Urlaur’ is dark but highly amusing tale of morality whereby the Friars seek to banish a foul and evil spirit which had invaded their peace. The story appears in ‘Legends of Saints and Sinners’ a book of Irish Christian folklore, collected and transcribed by Douglas Hyde and published in 1915
Some evil spirit found its way to Loch Urlaur. It came at first in the shape of a black boar. One day the friars were walking by the brink of the lake when they saw the big black boar. It let a screech out of it and rose up then on its hind feet screeching and dancing for a couple of hours. Then it leaped into the water and an awful storm followed with lightning and the thunder, and everybody thought that it was the end of the world.
After much tormenting by the creature, the friars enlisted the help of the bishop to rid themselves of the evil spirit. "Seize the villain, seize him," says the bishop. "You didn't seize me yourself," says the villain, "when I was your pet hound, and when you were giving me the meat that you would not give to the poor people who were weak with the hunger; I thank you for it, and I'll have a hot corner for you when you leave this world."
The evil spirt was finally destroyed by a local piper who was said to have done more good on this world than all the priests and friars in the country.
Urlaur Abbey now lies in ruins but the annual pattern held on 4th of August brings locals and visitors to the area. Mass is celebrated in the old Abbey and a sense of peace is evident among the hallowed stones.
For further information please see: