Saint Mary’s, Roscommon
Image by Irish Dominican Photographers
Fr Ambrose Coleman, O.P.
FOUNDED in 1253, by Phelim O’Connor, king of Connaught, son of Cathal Crovedearg.
1257. The monastery of Mary in Roscommon was consecrated by Thomas O’Conor [bishop of Elphin] for the Friars Preachers.
1261. Murarius Duach O’Konneker was prior.
1265. The founder was interred here this year. He "died, after the victory of unction and penance in the Monastery of the Friars Preachers of St. Dominick at Roscommon, which he himself had dedicated to God and granted to that Order." Annals of the Four Masters. His monument still remains and is a fine piece of Irish work of the thirteenth century. The recumbent figure of the monarch lies on the tomb, in front of which are carved eight gallowglasses in the dress of their time.
1266. Amongst the fourteen documents (two orders to pay and twelve receipts) relative to crusade money, in the custody of the Friars Preachers, Dublin, which the prior and community caused to be transcribed, sealed with the common seal and forwarded to John, bishop of Clonfert, Papal Nuncio, in Ireland, on the Feast of SS. Fabian and Sebastian [Jan. 20], A.D. 1275, the following is the eighth :
"To all who shall see or hear the present letters, Thomas, by Divine permission, bishop of Lismore, executor of the business of the Cross [Crusade] in Ireland, health in the Lord. Know that we have received at At[h]lon[e], on the day of SS. Processus and Martinian [July 2], A.D. 1266, from the friars Eneas, then prior, and Comdinus, subprior, of the Friars Preachers of Roscoman [sic], 92 marks of Crusade money, collected by themselves and -their other friars up to said time, within their limitation and not beyond.
We have also received from the same friars 17 shillings and 10 pence of Crusade money, collected by the prior and friars of the same Order of the house of Slygaht [Sligo], within the limitation of same and not beyond.
" In testimony whereof, etc. given the day, year and place, aforesaid."
Eneas, there can be little doubt, was Gilla-na-naem (Devotee of the saints) ; Comdinus, there can be no doubt was Gilla-in-Coimded (Devotee of the Lord). The collection, the text shows, was made by quest, otherwise it could not be known whether the donors resided within the limit. It is deeply to be regretted that the friars did not supply transcripts of the names of the respective localities, persons and amounts. Data of the kind, needless to say, would have been of the utmost historical value.
1269. Imhar O’Birn, servant and confidential man to Aedh O’ Conor, withdrew from the world, from the midst of his children and affluence, after resolving to pass his life in Roscommon, in the monastery of the Friars Preachers., Annals of Lock Ce.
1270. "Item, domus fratrum et villa de Roscoman combusta est." Annales de Monte Fernando.
1274. Eogan, son of Ruaidhri Ua Concobair, king of Connaught for a quarter of a year, was killed in the Monastery of the Friars in Roscomain, by his own kinsmen. Annals of Ulster.
1275. May 27. "The King had learned by letters of the bishop of Elphin and of James de Audley, formerly justiciary of Ireland, that during the troubles between the said James and him who called himself King of Connaught, the former took from the church of the Dominicans of Roscommon £7 8s. 11d., out of moneys deposited there by poor persons of that country, through fear of the troubles ; that the said James further took from that church wheat and other provisions, worth £8 2s. 7d., timber worth £16, oats worth £4 6s. 8d., and wheat worth £1 4s. 4d., all which were converted to the use of James and the army which accompanied him. The King now commands his treasurer of Ireland to make without delay due restitution, as well to the Dominicans as to the owners of the above property."
In 1282, there is an entry in the treasurer’s books to the effect that the Dominicans received this year at Easter 40 shillings, in part payment of the debt of Roscommon, and there is another entry of the same kind two years later.
1293. A provincial .chapter was held here.
1308. A bolt of fire [lightning] fell on the Monastery of the Friars in Roscomain, so that it broke down the monastery. Annals of Ulster. According to the Annals of Loch Ce and Mageoghegan, this happened at night, on the eve of St. Stephen’s Day.
1348. Simon, O.P., prior of Roscommon abbey, was appointed to the see of Cloyne and consecrated. It was discovered, however, that the bishop of that see was not dead, and as Derry was vacant, Simon was appointed to the latter see, on Dec. 18th of the following year.
1395. Gregory Ileyan, [or I’Lathnan], bishop of Kilmacduagh, was buried here.
1409. O’Conor Roe and O’Kelly pitched a camp around Roscommon, on which occasion they destroyed the corn of the town and of the monastery, lest intelligence (of their doings) should reach the castle. Annals of the Four Masters.
1410. Tiege, chief of Corco-Achlann, was buried here in the tomb of his father and grandfather.
1417. Tiege Oge, lord of Airteach, died a short time after Michaelmas, in the Friars’ house, in Roscommon, and was interred in the Monastery.
1418. Brian Ballagh O ‘Conor was interred here.
1444. Thady Mac Dermott, prior of the abbey of Roscommon, and O’Flanagan, prior of the Dominican house of Roscommon, died of an epidemic at Rome, whither they had gone on pilgrimage.
1445. May 5. Eugene IV. granted an indulgence to all the faithful, who should give assistance towards the repair of the abbey, which had been much injured by the calamities of war.
1448. " Brian [O’Conor] went alive, so wounded, the same night to Balintobair, and died the next day and was buried in the fryers monastery at Roscoman, and Felim [O’Conor] remained that night at Killculy and died in the same house, the next day also "
The abbey was dissolved in the reign of Elizabeth.
1573. Lease to Thomas le Strange, of the site of the friary of Roscommon.
1577. Nov. 1. Lease to Sir Nicholas Malby, Knight, of . . . the site of the house of friars of Roscommon, one quarter of land and its tithes in Roscommon, the churches of Emalaghmore and Cloynin, with land and tithes. In 1615, it was granted to Viscount Valentia.
1590. Diarmuid, son of Cathal i.e., vicar of Teampul-an-aighnein, [Temple-Inan], and who had been for a long time prior over the friars in Roscommon, died in Roscommon. Annals of Loch Ce.
It is curious that there is no mention of Roscommon in the Provincial’s reports of 1622 and 1629, as it is very probable there were some fathers there at that period.
After the Restoration, a large community grew up again in Roscommon and many novices were received. Provincial chapters were held here in 1678, 1682 and 1685. The community, up to the time of the general exile of 1698, usually consisted of eleven fathers, besides clerics and novices. After the exile, some of the fathers returned very soon, and, in 1702, there were six living in Roscommon, novices being received as usual.
In 1756 there were sixteen fathers there, but only half that number’ in 1767, of whom one was parish priest. Grose in his Antiquities ‘ (vol. II., p. 74, edit, of 1791), says that Sir Ulick Burke of Glinsk had given the friars a house and land which they were then in possession of, and the house was inhabited by sixteen religious. The old abbey was demolished by its proprietors, and the steeple of the church fell in 1794, undermined, according to the Memoir of Charles O’Conor of Belanagare, by a gentleman, who wished to procure materials for building a house.
The last fathers connected with Roscommon, whose names are found in the obits, are Father John Murray, who died in 1823, and Father Denis Lennon, who died before 1844.
FATHER BERNARD O’BEIRNE
" Some soldiers of the garrison of Jamestown seized this holy man and tortured him in various ways. But, as gold is proved by the fire, so they found Father Bernard to be a true Catholic preacher, in word, profession, and deed. So, like executioners filled with fury, they set on him, and, after cutting off his fingers and toes one after the other, beheaded him with a sword."
FATHER PHELIM MAC DOWELL
THE very year that O’Heyne published his book, Father Mac Dowell returned to Ireland and was arrested as a friar, just as he was landing in Dublin, and committed to prison. He was indicted at the Queen’s Bench at the Easter term. At the trial it appeared that he had travelled across under the name of Randall Dowell. Before the judge he made no secret that he was a Dominican and truly told him all the particulars of his life. He was sent back to the " Black Dog " prison, the Marshalsea of Dublin, where he died the following year, on February the third. In the Newgate Prison Calendar for 1706, his name appears with other friars :
fr. Dominic Egan, O.P.
fr. George Martin, O.P.
fr. Felix alias Randle Dowle, O.P.
fr. Thomas Blunt, O.P.
fr. James Donough, O.P.
fr. Philip Brady, O.P.
THE FRIARS OF ROSCOMMON
Fr. John O’Heyne
In County Roscommon there is a magnificent abbey, founded in 1253 by Hugh O’Conor, who came of a most distinguished and royal race. The walls of the church still in existence show the former magnitude of this work, worthy of such a patron who endowed this house with many lands and ecclesiastical ornaments. The father of this Hugh was Phelim O’Conor, the legitimate son and heir of Cathal O’Conor, called of the Red Handy who reigned absolute monarch of all Connaught, for thirty-six years, and whose father was Terence O’Conor, called the Great. The latter was the monarch of the whole kingdom of Ireland, in 1172, when the English first invaded it. We make express mention of these heroes for two reasons: first, that the real founder of this abbey may be known, in spite of the anonymous French author, who says in his Monastic History of Ireland (page 218), that this abbey was founded by the father of the real founder, viz., by Phelim O’Conor, who died much earlier than this foundation was made; secondly, that when considering the foundation of our abbeys and also the history of their sons, it is most just that we should unearth with equal diligence the memory of the founders, who with Christian and heroic liberality bestowed so many goods on holy Church, a work I am determined to do about every founder, provided that I can obtain certain and indubitable records concerning each. This abbey was the mother of many distinguished sons, but I have not about me records of them all: Those however who are known to me are the following: —
DR. TEIGE MACKEOGH, bishop of Clonfert, made very good studies in the convent of Pamplona and then went home. In his own native convent and at Athenry lie preached with learning and fluency for many years. He was a scientific and melodious cantor (which is at present not very common amongst our Irish brethren from want of practice), he was also a man of "wonderful firmness though gentle in his manners, and was most exemplary in all his actions. He stayed for some years with Ulick Burke, marquis of Clanricarde, at London, whence on being made bishop, he went home and governed with vigilance the flock committed to ‘his care for at least twenty years. Fortified with all; the sacraments of our holy mother the Church, he gave his soul to his Creator, in 1687, and lies buried in the chapel of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary, called Kilcorban. Before the ruin of our country this chapel belonged to Athenry abbey, and the statue of the Blessed Virgin, which is devoutly venerated there, is preserved in the noble family of the Burkes of Pallas. The frequent miracles which God works through this statue of the Blessed Virgin continually confirm the Catholics in the true faith and devotion to the Queen of Heaven. It is probable that our venerable bishop, from his profound devotion to the Holy Mother of God, wished to be buried there, for the abbey of Saint Peter Martyr of Portumna was almost equally distant from the place in which he died. The French author assigns Kilcorban to the Franciscan fathers, but he is badly informed; for our abbey of Athenry besides that church possessed a farm there.
The great and distinguished man, FATHER JOHN BEIRNE, St celebrated master of sacred theology, belonged to this community. He made his studies at Salamanca and in the convent of the Blessed Virgin of Atocha, and being of a profound and subtle mind, taught philosophy in our school at Prague in Bohemia, where he was also Master of Studies. Being then made regent in the college of Holy Cross, Louvain, he taught theology for many years, to the great benefit of his scholars and other auditors. In the disputations with the anti-Thomists he was a terror to them; for he was thoroughly well versed in the text of our great father Saint Augustine and of Saint Thomas, and followed the scholastic method of our illustrious Godoy, whose disciple he was. On his return home he went to great pains in receiving many excellent young men. This innocent man was the object of several libels, amongst which it is worth mentioning that on one occasion he was brought to the Protestant court in Dublin, under a guard of soldiers, on a bare-backed horse, with his feet tied together underneath, where he was accused of the crime of concubinage by a certain priest, who had been moved to jealousy and envy, because the people crowded to his dwelling on festival days to hear from him and other religious the Word of God, which he preached with power and pace. Being therefore brought to the court to be closely examined, he most successfully and thoroughly Indicated the glory of God, the honour of the Church and his Order, and his own good name, whilst the woman, who had been induced by the accusers with bribes to bear witness against him, openly and freely stated that she had never known the man, declaring also that she had been corrupted by the bribes of the accusers.
Therefore by the providence of God, the venerable and holy man came forth glorious and triumphant, to the joy of all the Catholics, the singular good-will of the Protestants, and to the deep confusion of the false accusers, amongst whom was a titled Catholic nobleman, who, led by a blind zeal not according to knowledge, strongly favoured the accusing priest. The distinguished religious censured this nobleman before the whole court, and when his vindication from the vile calumny reached the ears of the pious Queen of England, this nobleman could never afterwards obtain any favour from her or even an audience with her. The nobleman heartily repented of his share in the shameful affair, and often said that he feared the extinction of his posterity on account of it. Whether from this or some other cause, it really came to pass, and he has left neither son nor daughter: for the judgments of God are a deep abyss. This great theologian, the eldest son of the noble O’Beirne, nobler still by his piety, was often the worthy prior of his own native, convent, and once respectively in the convents of Clonshanville, Trim and Naas; and he was a faithful and prudent steward of his great talents. He died, fortified with the last sacraments of the Church, in 1687.
Father DOMINIC O’ CONOR, of the same community, after finishing his studies in the magnificent convent of Saint Paul, at Burgos in Spain, returned home, and on being made prior of the Tralee convent, became a brilliant preacher of the Divine Word. He was most acceptable there and in his own convent to the clergy and people; he constantly preached with learning and eloquence and was a most zealous promoter of the holy rosary. Whilst prior of his own native convent and after being appointed vicar-provincial by our provincial, he died in 1705, a truly pious and good man.
Father AMBROSE FITZGERALD, of the same community, studied in the college of Holy Cross, Louvain and at Rome in Saint Sixtus’. He had a most clear intellect and was a most open-minded religious. Being energetic preacher in the English language, he preached in Drogheda and Dublin with most favourable results. While procurator of the Irish province at the court of London, he there passed to a better life.
FATHER MICHAEL O’CONOR, of the same community, died at Salamanca, and was a pious and upright religious. On being made prior after his return to Ireland, he died a pious death.
FATHER EDMOND O’BEIRNE, of the same Roscommon community and twice subprior of it, being pursued to death by the Protestants for his faith, his country and the strong defence of the authority of the Holy Apostolic See, at length fell into their hands, in 1652, and being once attacked on all sides with pikes, guns and swords, he triumphantly coloured his ardent zeal with the stains of his blood.
FATHER REDMOND KEOGHY, the same happy lot the following year, for being tortured by the Protestants he was slain out of hatred religion.
BROTHER BRYAN O’KELLY, of the same community, after luring in prison for a long time filth, iron fetters and starvation (by which he was compelled to barter for bread the only garment that covered him), being sentenced to death in Galway, in 1653, he was hanged in public and died a glorious death for the cause of religion, BROTHER DONALD O’NAUGHTEN, a laybrother of the same community, most observant of his rule, never from his option using linen next his skin, and always openly wearing the habit of the Order in public. He was most devoted to his rosary which he always carried in his hands, after receiving many blows was slain with a sword by order of a military officer, in 1648: truly an Israelite in whom there was no guile.
Others belonging to this community were put to cruel deaths in various ways, whose names I have not by me and whom I leave to the Book of Life.
Belonging to the same house there are still living:
FATHER PHELIM MAC DOWELL, who having almost finished his studies in the great and observant convent of Valladolid, went to Italy, and there amongst the English fathers of our Order, taught in the convent of SS. John and Paul. Being then made prior of Saint Sixtus’, and after his term of office, bachelor of theology, he went to Ireland, where, on the opening of the war between our truly Catholic king, James II., and the English and Scotch rebels, led by the Prince of Orange, a most unjust usurper, this father was chaplain of a regiment of cavalry, until the subjugation of the kingdom by the enemy. At that time he crossed the sea, and after various adventures returned into England where he is now residing, as I am informed. He is a religious and pious man.
FATHER PATRICK PLUNKETT, of the same house, doctor of the Sorbonne, completed his studies in the celebrated convent of Saint Jacques, Paris, and taught there in some abbeys with success. Being afterwards called to Rome, on getting an appointment in the Cassanatte library, he is now living there and has been made Definitor for the present general chapter.
FATHER PIERCE O’FLYNN was prior for many years in Rathfran convent and came to France in the common exile, where he is living in some place or other.
FATHER DOMINIC DILLON of the same community, is living somewhere in Italy.
FATHER THOMAS O’QUILTY is living at Ancona, as I am informed.
FATHER JOHN O’BREIKEN with another priest remained at home.
FATHER O’TIGHE is living in the province of France and is teaching there in some place or other.
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