Straide Abbey (dating from c. 1252)

Straide Abbey is situated about four miles south-west of  Foxford, in the county of Mayo. It was founded in 1252, and was known in the old  catalogues as the Abbey of Athletan. According to the Book of the Friars  Preachers of Athenry, the Mac Jordans had recently founded a house here for  Franciscans, but Basilia Bermingham, daughter of Meyler de Bermingham, who  founded Athenry abbey, and wife of Stephen of Exeter, son of Jordan, was  insistent on having Dominicans there in their place, and having prepared a great  banquet, to which she invited her father, refused to eat or drink till her  request was granted by her husband. The story goes on to relate that she then  sent a messenger to the Pope, with a large sum of money, and that the Holy See  confirmed the transfer of the convent from the Franciscans to the Dominicans.

According to the Annals of Lech Ce, it was founded in 1253,  and the same annals record that it was burned the following year.

These Mac Jordans were the Norman family of the Dexters, or  de Exeter. The oldest annals of Ireland written in the Latin language, usually  known by the name of Annales de Monte Fernando (Multifarnham), are supposed by  Ware, owing to the frequent references in them to the Exeter family, to have  been the compilation of a Dominican of Straide Abbey, probably the Stephen de  Exeter, who is said in these annals to have been born in 1246 and to have  received the Dominican habit in 1263, and who was probably also the son of the  founder. Two copies of the annals are preserved in the British Museum (Ckandos  MSS., fol. hist., no. 19 and no. 42.) The present representative of the family  is Dr. de Exeter Jordan, of Castlebar.

1266. Thomas, bishop of Lismore, apostolic administrator in  Ireland of affairs relating to the Crusade, acknowledges to have ‘received at  Athlone, on July 2, 1266, from Friar Henry de Siscle and Friar John Matugan  [Madden], of the Dominican convent of Athletan [Straide], the sum of  twenty-eight marks and a half, Crusade money, collected by them and their  brethren in their own district. Tkeiner, p. 109.

1434. March 18. Eugenius IV., granted an indulgence to all  the faithful who would give help towards the restoration of this abbey.

1578. Lease of Straide Abbey to James Garvey for 21 years.

1588. Aug. 9, A lease of the Abbey was granted to Patrick Barnewall for forty  years. ;

In 1756, there were seven fathers here and four in 1767. Some  of the fathers remained in Straide till within a rather recent period, in a  house built by them close to the old Abbey. Father Clarke died in 1837, aged  seventy-nine. Father Patrick D. Kelly, the last of the friars of Straide, died  between 1856 and 1860.

Count Manus O’Donnell, major-general in the Austrian army,  died in Ireland at the age of eighty and was buried in Straide abbey, in 1793.

Archdall (p. 509) writes (about 1786) : “A very small part of  this friary remains, but the walls of the church, which was singularly  beautiful, are still entire, and the high altar is adorned with gothic ornaments  ; in the centre of the altar is an image of Our Lord and Saviour when an infant  (but dead) in the Virgin’s lap, and a person in relievo within a compartment on  each side. Here is also a tomb, adorned with curious relievos of four kings, in  different compartments, one of whom is kneeling before a mitred person; near to  which is another relievo of SS. Peter and Paul.”

The altar has entirely disappeared, and the tomb was removed  from the abbey by the parish priest of Straide, Father James O’Donnell, in 1871,  and placed in the parish church to serve as an altar.

The tomb is divided into two parts by a pilaster. On the  right are four panels, divided by light pilasters and surmounted by Gothic  arches, containing relievos of four kings standing, three of whom, as they are  holding something in their hands, are thought to represent the three kings from  the East, carrying their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. On the left the  panels are not divided, the arches above being terminated half way down by  angels. Two of the figures on them represent SS. Peter and Paul. On the extreme  left, a mitred figure, holding an archiepiscopal cross in his left hand, is  blessing with his right a kneeling figure, who is drawing back his hood with his  right hand as a sign of respect.