The Medieval Augustinian Priory of Clontuskert, Ballinasloe, Co. Galway.

View of the cloister and church of the Medieval Priory of Clontuskert, Co. Galway.

On the R355 road between Ballinasloe and Portumna and 5km from Ballinasloe is Clontuskert Priory. The Site is a National Monument and there is a parking area sign posted on the north side of the road and the Priory is a 350m walk along a straight access path.

Today the Priory is a brooding site situated in isolation near the Cloonascragh River. The original Abbey at Clontuskert was founded by St. Baedan at the end of the eighth century, but there are no surviving remains from that period. The Abbey was situated within the territory of the O’Kelly sept and the hereditary Comharb or head of the Abbey had the privilege of inaugurating the O’Kelly. The standing remains are of the Augustinian Priory of St. Mary, founded in the twelfth century by Turlough O’Conor King of Connacht, in a graveyard surrounded by a stone wall. The original Augustinian Priory was burnt about 1413 and the standing remains are mostly of the fifteenth century reconstruction. The Priory now consists of a nave and chancel church with the remains of the cloister and domestic buildings on the southern side. The Priory was partly excavated in the 1970s and most of the stone traceried east window was recovered which allowed its restoration along with the cloister by the Office of Public Works.

The fifteenth century doorway of Clontuskert Priory, Co. Galway with the pointed arches of the rood gallery visible in the interior

The outstanding surviving feature of the Priory is the west doorway which has an inscription that reads:

Mathev Dei gra eps Clonfertens et Patre oneacdavayn canonie esti domine fi fecert Ano do mcccclxxi

Mathew by the Grace of God, Bishop of Clonfert, and Patrick O’Naughton, canon of this house, caused me to be made in 1471.

The doorway is decorated with vine leaves, and angels and the figures of St. Michael the Archangel, St. John the Baptist, St. Catherine and a Bishop are represented. On the sides are carvings of a pelican, mermaid, deer and a dog. Within the interior of the church the nave and chancel are separated by an arcaded three bay rood gallery with pointed arches that dates from the same period as the doorway. The interior also has a number of interesting carvings and some preserved tomb stones. The Priory was surrendered to King Henry VIII in 1551 and was regranted to the Prior Donat O’Kellie and the monks appear to have remained in the Priory until the end of the seventeenth century.

View Clontuskert in a larger map

GPS coordinates 53.279174,-8.2164

Further reading
Egan, P.K. 1946. The Augustinian Priory of St. Mary Clontuskert O Many. Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society 22, 1-14.

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