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Discovering Multyfarnham Friary: A Journey Through History and Faith

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Nestled in the picturesque village of Multyfarnham, just a short drive from Mullingar in County Westmeath, lies a gem of Irish history and spirituality - Multyfarnham Friary. This Franciscan Friary has stood the test of time, bearing witness to centuries of tumultuous events and steadfast faith.

A Brief History

Multyfarnham Friary dates back to the 13th century when Franciscan friars first arrived in 1238, answering the call of Norman families in the area. The friary and church, dedicated to Mary Mother of God and Saint Francis of Assisi, were built around 1270 by William Delamer, a local Norman patron. Despite facing suppression by King Henry VIII in 1540 and subsequent attacks throughout the centuries, the friars persevered, continuing their ministry amid adversity.

Queen Elizabeth I famously referred to the friars as "a nest of scorpions," highlighting their resilience during turbulent times. The friary endured multiple raids and burnings, yet each time, the friars returned to rebuild and renew their spiritual home.

Significant Events and Artifacts

Throughout its history, Multyfarnham Friary has been a sanctuary and a center of cultural preservation. In 1626, a chapter of the friars was held here, where Brother Micheál Ó Cléirigh, one of the Four Masters, visited and transcribed the ancient Book of Cúchonnacht Ó Dálaigh, a priceless manuscript dating back five centuries.

Despite Cromwell's army scattering the friars in 1651, they persisted in their religious life, even residing in a thatched cottage near the ruined abbey until 1830. The church saw partial restoration in 1827 and a complete renovation in 1839, marking a resurgence of Franciscan presence in the area. Today, the friary continues to thrive, serving both the local community and visitors from afar.

What to Experience When Visiting

Visitors to Multyfarnham Friary can explore its rich heritage and architectural beauty. Highlights include:

  • Central Altar and Tower Arch: Admire the intricate craftsmanship and historical significance.
  • Blessed Sacrament Chapel: Featuring a stunning stained glass window and a unique tabernacle crafted by David King.
  • Stations of the Cross: The friary boasts 14 elaborate stations, among the most beautiful outdoor shrines in Ireland.
  • Historical Stained Glass Windows: Depicting pivotal moments like the burning of the friary in 1601 and scenes of Franciscan devotion.
  • Artistic Treasures: Such as the Nigerian wood carving of Mary in the Lady Chapel and ceramic plaques honoring saints like St. Francis and St. Clare, crafted by local artisans.

Continuity and Community

What sets Multyfarnham Friary apart is its continuous function as a Catholic place of worship for over 700 years, making it a cornerstone of faith in the Midlands. Today, the friars uphold their mission, catering to the spiritual and pastoral needs of the community and beyond, ensuring that the legacy of resilience and devotion lives on.

Plan Your Visit

Whether you're a history enthusiast, a spiritual seeker, or simply someone looking to appreciate Ireland's cultural heritage, Multyfarnham Friary offers a unique experience. Immerse yourself in centuries-old stories, marvel at exquisite craftsmanship, and feel the serenity of a place where faith has endured against all odds.

Explore Multyfarnham Friary and discover why it's not just a historical site, but a living testament to faith, resilience, and the enduring spirit of the Franciscan tradition in Ireland.

Plan your visit today and step into a world where history meets spirituality at Multyfarnham Friary.