St. Francis Abbey

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St. Francis Abbey
Mainistir Phroinsias
Kilkenny Friary as seen from the Round Tower 2007 08 28.jpg
St. Francis Abbey is located in Ireland
St. Francis Abbey
Location within Ireland
Monastery information
Other namesThe Abbey Church of Saint Francis, Kilkenny
Grey Friary
OrderOrder of Friars Minor (Franciscans)
Founder(s)Richard Marshal, 3rd Earl of Pembroke
LocationParliament Street, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny
Coordinates52°39′21″N 7°15′12″W / 52.655926°N 7.253431°W / 52.655926; -7.253431
Public accessno
Official nameSt. Francis Abbey
Reference no.72

St. Francis Abbey, also called Kilkenny Grey Friary,[1] is a medieval Franciscan abbey and National Monument located in Kilkenny City, Ireland.[2]


St. Francis Abbey is located in the northeast of Kilkenny's historic Hightown district, behind Smithwick's Experience Kilkenny, immediately south of the point where the Breagagh River enters the Nore.[3]


Model of the friary as it would have looked c. 1500

The Order of Friars Minor was founded by Francis of Assisi in 1209; they came to Ireland around 1226, and St Francis Abbey was founded in Kilkenny as a small rectangular chapel between 1231 and April 1234 by Richard Marshal, 3rd Earl of Pembroke. In 1245, it received a royal grant for clothing. It expanded, reaching out to the banks of the Nore and holding provincial chapters of the Franciscans in 1267 and 1308.

During the Dissolution of the Monasteries the abbey was granted to Walter Archer. In 1550, the friars were expelled by John Bale, Bishop of Ossory under King Edward VI. When Mary became Queen in 1553 they returned, only to be expelled again when her half-sister Elizabeth gained the throne in 1559.

When James I became King, worship returned to the abbey. In 1606, a chalice was presented to St. Francis Abbey by the Archer family. It continued to be repaired and restored, but numbers dwindled over the centuries. In 1766, there were only two friars left, with a few others working as parish clergy. The last friar died in 1829.[4]

The monks had been brewing ale since the 14th century, and a commercial brewery — Smithwick's — was established to brew Irish red ale in 1710. During the expansion of Smithwick's Brewery in 1854, the nave and chancel of the abbey were discovered within the grounds of the brewery. The sacristy has been restored as an oratory at the brewery.[5]


The remains of St. Francis Abbey include the great east window: a cluster of seven lancet lights divided by slender mullions. The nave, chancel, bell tower and sacristy also survive, as does a holy well bearing St. Francis's name.[6]


  1. ^ "Draft Archaeological Report (DAR) Section 1 Process and Methodology - Kilkenny County Council Consultation Portal". Retrieved 9 July 2018.
  2. ^ "Holdings: St. Francis Abbey, Kilkenny".
  3. ^ "Holdings: St. Francis' Abbey, Kilkenny City, Co. Kilkenny".
  4. ^ "1245 - St. Francis Abbey, Kilkenny, Co. Kilkenny - Architecture of Kilkenny - Archiseek - Irish Architecture". 19 January 2010.
  5. ^ Ireland, Royal Society of Antiquaries of (1 January 1873). "Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland" – via Google Books.
  6. ^ "St.Francis's Abbey". Retrieved 9 July 2018.