St Mary's Church, Graveyard & Grotto, Claddagh

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The Dominican Friary at Claddagh was built on the site of an early church of St. Mary's on the hill, which was a 13th century foundation associated with the premonstratensian Canon's of Tuam. In 1488, the site which was then vacant was granted to the Dominican’s by Pope Innocent VIII who gave them license to construct a Friary. An extensive Friary is shown on the 'Pictorial Map of Galway' of the 1660's. In 1493, James Lynch Fitzstephen added a choir at his own expense. The site survived the suppressions of Henry VIII and Edward VI. In 1570 after it had already been 'lately dissolved', it was granted to Galway Corporation. By 1629, there were still four Dominicans Friars, five professed clerics and some novices there. The Dominican’s remained in the area or returned to the site at various stages in the 18th century despite the Penal Laws. There was a small church on the site in the 18th century. The Dominicans set up a soup kitchen here in 1846 during the great Famine. These soup kitchens fed up to 7,500 people a day. The Penal period Church is shown on several paintings and engravings and survived into the 19th century when it was replaced in the 1880's by the present church. The graveyard was once far more extensive. In the 1930's, a large number of headstones were laid flat and a garden with paths was laid out. Many other monuments were taken up and placed against the walls of the cemetery. In the early 2000's some of the funerary monuments were temporarily uncovered during a FAS scheme but were covered over again. The monuments recorded all monuments which have remained overground and these are listed on the website. A 17th century tomb fragment with the Crucifixion, St. Mary and St. John is in the porch and several architectural fragments from the site are in the priory. Several other carvings are in the boundary wall on the Fairhill side. The new church built in 1890 and located on the Claddagh Quay, this Dominican church was designed by William Hague. With its rock-faced granite walls and finely detailed round-headed arches, this handsome church has often been described as being of Norman style. Features such as a carved tympanum and moulded surrounds at the front entrance as well as fine windows enliven the composition. This structure is a good example of the return of the Romanesque style linked with the Celtic Revival-style church architecture of the late nineteenth century. The well-preserved and decorated interior with its richly ornamented reredos, altar and font is especially worthy of note.