|The Architecture of Kilcrea Franciscan friaries of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries differ from those of the thirteenth century in terms of situation. Generally they are found in rural rather than in urban locations. There is also a difference in the architectural layout, with the claustral buildings being general-ly located south of the church in the earlier period and north of it in the later. Kilcrea was an ideal location for the building of a friary due to its close proximity to a water source and good arable land. In its overall plan the friary follows the general layout of the Irish Franciscan estab-lishments of the period, which incorporates a church and the usual domestic ranges located round a cloister to the north (Ill. 4) .There are some additions in Kilcrea, however, which will be referred to below. In general the architecture of Kilcrea is plain and most of the windows consist of oblong opes or plain pointed lights. Perhaps the most striking architectural feature in the friary is the arcades of the church's nave and transept, despite the simplicity of their design. They contrast strongly with the solid simplicity of the opposing wall and serve to increase the sense of spaciousness within the church. Overall the friary is carefully laid out on a square. The Church The church is entered through a doorway situated in its west gable. It consists of a nave and chancel divided by a tall, slender tower. The nave was the part of the church in which the con-gregation was accommodated. It was made larger by including a south aisle, a transept with two chapels and a transept aisle. The interior of the church, as well as the rest of the friary build-ings, has functioned as a graveyard since the seventeenth century and consequently it features a large number of burial monuments. The nave measures 25.95m in length by 7.20m in width and is entered through a doorway which measures 2.40m in height by 1.49m in width. It consists of a plain pointed arch with broad chamfering. The original door was designed to be closed using a large timber drawbar, the sockets for which survive on the inside. A recess for a holy water stoup is located outside the doorway to the right. Situated in the gable over the doorway are the remains of a large,three-Iight traceried window|
|Only the heads and parts of the jambs survive (PI. 4). Its positi, is such that in the evenings it would have allowed the nave to bathe in light. Elsewhere the nave is lit by three windows. The first consists of a deeply recessed pointed exaI pIe set in the angle between the tower and the nave. The other two occur towards the east e of the north wall, overlooking the cloister. Both of these feature two lights but only the ea ern one survives intact. Beneath these windows is a pair of plain, arched tomb-recesses. T eastern one has been widened to hold a Medieval grave-slab (111. 14). Tomb recesses such these were reserved for the burial of important people. Directly opposite them is the tomb Art O'Leary, enclosed by wrought iron railings. A small, pointed holy-water stoup is situated the west end of the nave's south wall. An arcade separates the nave from the south aisle and transept (PIs. 5, 6). This consists of thI pointed, broadly-chamfered arches which spring from the side-walls and rest on circu plain-moulded pillars. An arcade of two similar arches separates the transept from its aisle. skew-arch originally sprung from the angle of the aisle to the junction of the two arcad However, only its springing-blocks survive. The south aisle measures 13.80m in length by 3.20m in width. It is entered from the na through the arcade and is lit by two windows. One of these is in the south wall and consists the remains of the lower part of a splayed window; the other occurs in the west wall and co sists of a tall, narrow, single-light with its head missing. Much of the western half of this aisle occupied by a large tomb. The transept measures 12.65m in length by 7.20m in width. It is lit by three windows. T largest and most impressive of these is in the south gable and consists of a four-light examp Its tracery is completely missing, though in design this probably resembled the east and w windows of the chancel and nave respectively. The east wall features two round-headed wi dows, each of which is flanked by a piscina on its south. A piscina is a stone basin provided w a drain and is usually set in a small wall-niche. It was used for washing the sacred vessels. T location of two piscinae here suggests the former presence of two side-altars in the transe These altars were normally used for saying masses for the souls of the friary's benefactors. The transept aisle measures 12.65m in length by 3.10m in width. It is entered from the n;J through the arcade. It is lit by a two-light ogee-headed window with an angular hood-mou] ing on the outside. At the end of the aisle access was gained to the transept through a simp pointed doorway. The church tower is of typical Franciscan type -tall and slender. It rests on four large piers ea of which is chamfered at the angles. The tower separates the nave from the chancel of t church and is pierced by two large round-headed arches. A low lintelled passageway, whi measures 3m in length and. 95m in width, leads into the transept from the southwest corner the base of the tower.|
The tower contained four storeys each of which had a timber floor supported on stone corbels. These storeys were lit by plain, narrow, flat-headed windows, except for the uppermost one where there is a single ogee-headed light in each wall. There are no large windows in the tower. An arched doorway, situated at the north-east angle of the tower, gives access to its stairway. This rises in both straight and spiral sections before finally ascending as a spiral to the top of the tower. There are sixty-three steps in total. The battlements have fallen from their position on top of the tower. Towers in Medieval friaries primarily functioned as belfries. However, the floors within them could also be used for accommodation. There are also some recorded instances of side towers being used for refuge in times of danger. The chancel of the church measures 14.75m in length by 7.1 Om in width. It is lit by what orig- inally was an impressive four-light traceried window located in its east gable (Ill. 5). The tracery and mullions are now missing, with only the sill, head and jambs surviving. The south wall
features four windows. Three appear to have consisted of double-pointed lights while the easternmost one, which survives intact, consists of a wide, single-light with a pointed arch. Together these five windows insured that the chancel was the brightest part of the church. No trace survives of the high altar which would have been positioned beneath the east win-dow. An arched piscina, however, occurs nearby in the south wall. Rows of wooden choir stalls would have stood in the chancel positioned parallel with its side-walls. Originally an arched doorway connected the chancel with the east range of the domestic buildings. When the adjoining sacristy was built, however, this was blocked up and replaced by a doorway leading into the sacristy. Traces of the original doorway may still be seen, partly obscured by a tomb. Beneath the piscina a modern plaque marks the grave of Bishop Thomas O'Herlihy while opposite it another, located in a tomb niche, marks that of Cormac Laidir MacCarthy (see chap-ter on Burial Monuments). Sacristy and Scliptorium The gable-ended building which is located in the angle between the east range and the chancel is clearly a later addition to the main friary. Based on the form of its first floor win-dows it is likely to be sixteenth century in date. Measuring 12.20m in length and 4.85m in width it comprises two floors, both entered from the corresponding levels of the adjoining east range. The ground floor, which is also connected to the church's chancel by a doorway, would have functioned as a sacristy. The upper floor was almost certainly the monastic scriptorium. The sacristy was a necessary adjunct to the chancel. Here the sacred vessels, vestments and books which were used for services in the church were kept, and the room was probably fur-nished with wooden cupboards. It is lit by four windows. The one in the south wall consists of a two-light pointed example fitted with an external hood-moulding (PI. 7). The two in the north wall are of double ogee-headed type while the eastern example is a pointed two-light window similar to that in the south wall. The first floor of this building has been identified as Kilcrea's scriptorium. It is the best lit room in the friary, containing no less than eleven windows (ten of which are of double-light type). Both flat- and round-headed types occur. It is because of this profusion of windows that this room has been identified as the Medieval scriptorium, as the scribes would have needed as much light as possible to carry out their work. Originally this room featured a tall window in the east gable, but this was later blocked up and a fireplace inserted in its place. It is likely that this was done due to the necessity of keeping the scriptorium warm and free from dampness.
Kilcrea The Cloister The cloister usually consisted of a square garth or garden surrounded by covered walkways (ambulatories) on each of its four sides. The cloister was the inner sanctum of a monastery, the centre of all monastic life, and served many functions. The covered walkways, into which sun-light shone through the arcade, provided easy access to the church and domestic buildings on all sides and to the stairways serving the dormitories above. They also could afford peace and
quiet which was essential for reading and meditation. The monks would spend a good deal of their allotted periods of prayer and meditation here. The garth area in the centre of the clois-ter may have accommodated a lawn, but it seems more likely that it functioned as a vegetable or herb garden. The cloister at Kilcrea is square in plan, measuring 17 .3m. The church lies to its south and its east, west and north sides are flanked by two-storeyed ranges of buildings. The walkways along its sides do not survive, though the corbels and string-coursing on the walls above indi-cate the position of the sloping roof which covered them. In a recent F As clean-up scheme at the friary a number of lost cloister-arcade fragments were recovered at the friary. Originally these would have formed the arcade which framed the cloister garth (see Il1s.6 and 7 for reconstruction). The cloister is entered from the ground-floor area of the tower through a chamfered, point-ed-arched doorway. Access to and from the surrounding ranges is through a number of similar doorways. Three of these occur in the east wall, one in the north wall and one in the west wall. DollEstic Buildings Normally the east range of buildings in a Franciscan friary contained the sacristy, chapter room and the day room, with the dormitory occupying its first floor level. A garderobe was some-times located at its northern end, serving the dormitory above. The east range was usually the first of the domestic ranges to be built, featuring, as it did, some of the more important monas-tic rooms. The chapter-house was the location of daily meetings. Here the monks would gather each morning after mass to hear a chapter of the Franciscan Rule being read and to receive their daily duties and instructions from the friary's superior. In addition, any other business of the friary was discussed here. Kilcrea adheres fairly closely to the basic Franciscan plan in the layout of its domestic ranges. Its east range measures 24.75m in length by 6.37m in width. The ground floor, from south to north, features a chapter room and a day room separated by the remains of an inserted divid-ing wall. The day room probably functioned as a place where the friars carried out work during inclement weather. Originally the west range also included a sacristy at its southern end, but this was relocated in the sixteenth century. The entire length of the upper floor functioned as a dormitory. There are several doorways located in the ground-floor level of the east range. Three occur in the west wall, one of which is blocked, and these provided access to the cloister. There is also a poorly preserved fourth doorway at the south end of this wall, which may be original. Opposite it is a segmental-arched doorway which leads from the chapter room into the later sacristy. The construction of this presumably dates to the same period as the building of the sacristy. Beside it, in the south wall, is the original sacristy doorway, now blocked up. Midway along the east
wall is another doorway, now blocked up, which led to the area outside the friary where the cemetery may have been located. This floor also features two large inserted fireplaces: one in the north wall, which partly blocks a window to its west, and one midway along the west wall. The ground floor is lit by four windows each of which is located in the east wall. They are all blocked up. A round-arched recess, which was later converted into a doorway, occurs at the north end of the west wall. It too is now blocked up. Another recess occurs in the south wall and a small wall cupboard occurs in the east wall. The upper floor of the east range served as a dormitory. It was accessed through a doorway in its south gable which is located at the top of a straight flight of stairs, ascending from the base of the tower. These were the 'night stairs' which the friars would descend on their way to noc-turnes, affording direct access from the dormitory to the church. A small slit opening at the landing on top of the stairs provided a view of the chancel. Perhaps this was used by aged or infirm monks who could not attend night prayers. Close to this doorway, in the east wall, is an inserted pointed arched doorway which gives access to the scriptorium. The floor of the dormitory was of timber planking supported on large, transversely-disposed wooden beams. The beam holes of these survive along both sides of the range. This floor is lit by sixteen flat-headed windows and by a large, two-light, ogee-headed example in the north gable. From the dormitory access is gained through a pointed doorway in the north gable to a pas-sage which led to the garderobe (a medieval latrine). This domus necessarium is located in a later gabled building which may have replaced an earlier garderobe. The garderobe was serviced by a chute which debouched at the base of the east wall. The ground floor of the north range measures 23.40m in length by 6.45m in width. Access is from the cloister through a pointed-arched doorway situated towards the west end of the south wall. Another doorway, now blocked up, occurs immediately opposite this in the north wall. There is slight evidence for an external porch to this doorway. The two doorways may have originally been linked by a passageway, dividing this range into two rooms. The eastern one was more than likely the refectory, based on its large windows. The western end, which contains the large nineteenth-century mausoleum of the Hayes family, probably served as the pantry. The refectory is lit by five, large, pointed windows located in the north wall. More than likely a reader's desk stood in the easternmost window. The curved back of the reader's seat still remains in its west jamb. During the friars' meals passages of scripture or homilies would have been read aloud to them from this position. A large recess occurs nearby in the east wall. The room presumed to have been a pantry was originally connected by a doorway to the kitchens in the adjoining west range. This is now blocked up and is partly obscured by the Hayes' mausoleum. The room was lit by four windows, one of which was in the west gable. All are now blocked up. The upper floor of the north range probably also functioned as a dormitory. It was accessed from the dormitory in the east range through a large doorway while a smaller doorway, now
blocked up, leads from it to the upper floor of the west range. This dormitory was lit by sixteen windows, most of which are identical to those in the east range dormitory. A particularly fine two-light window occurs in the east gable. Like the east range dormitory this room was floored on large timber beams. The west range measures 17.1 Om in length by 6.45m in width. Access from the cloister is through a pointed-arched doorway which is situated midway along its east wall. A second blocked-up doorway is discernible a short distance to the north of this. Directly opposite the first doorway is another, now blocked up. A flat-headed doorway, situated in the west wall, pro-vides access to a small, two-storeyed, gable-ended structure which is a later addition. Its tiny ground floor apartment is lit by a small looped window which is furnished with a slop-stone underneath. A small wall cupboard also occurs in this room. Two fireplaces occur in the ground floor of the west range, one in the south gable and one towards the north end of the east side-wall. The latter appears to have been an original feature. This floor was lit by four windows, two of which have double-lights, one of which is now blocked up. Because of the existence of the fireplaces and its location adjacent to the pantry and refectory it is thought that this room functioned as the friary's kitchen. The first floor of this range probably also functioned as a dormitory. Access is by means of the aforementioned doorway from the upper floor of the north range as well as by a stairway which ascends from the south side of the cloister. Like the similar stairway in the east range this functioned as a 'night stairs'. A narrow slit-opening near the top of the stairs allows a view of the side altars in the south transept. This dormitory, like the others, was floored on large timber beams and was lit by eleven win-dows, one of which is ogee-headed. A fireplace also occurs on this floor in the centre of the south gable. It features a joggled arch and rests on two corbels. A small garderobe, accessible from the dormitory, is located within the upper storey of the adjoining gabled building. In general terms the architecture ofKilcrea friary may be described as functional. Nevertheless, the planning of its layout was sophisticated and demonstrates admirable logic and formality. The good state of preservation of the buildings makes the task of reconstructing daily life in the friary in the mind's eye both feasible and pleasing.