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ABBEY KNOCKMOY, COUNTY GAL WAY: NOTES ON
THE BUILDING AND "FRESCOES."

BY ROBERT COCHRANE, Fellow.
[Submitted August 9, 1904.]

i Bbey Knockmoy, in its general plan, follows the usual arrangement

of the Cistercian Houses; and the church comprises nave, two side aisles, north and south transepts, with presbytery or chancel. It has two side chapels in each of the transepts, and in this respect it differs from Mellifont and Graignamanagh and some other churches, where there were three chapels at each side. The nave is wide, being 28 feet 8 inches, and the side aisles are narrow.

There are no indications as to whether there was a tower over the intersection of the chancel and transepts. It is highly probable there was the usual low tower here. There is no- doubt about there being arches springing the full width from wall to wall across transepts, nave, and chancel, as they can still be seen in part.

The walls under these arches were not part of the original design, and could not have been built sooner than about the fourteenth century, or early in the fifteenth, and may have been much later.

The building in the cloister-garth is a recent structure of the seventeenth or eighteenth century; its height was about 10 feet from floor to eaves, as may be seen where the roof abutted against the wall of the range of building east side of cloister-garth.

The chapter-room has a very good window; but only a portion of it can be seen internally, on account of the cross-walls and arches built against it. These cross-walls divide the chapter room, which was vaulted, into three compartments.

The chancel and sacristy are also vaulted. Over these rooms was u range of dormitories.

The chapter-room, as originally planned, was one large apartment, having a three-light window in the eastern wall, with richly-moulded jambs, both inside and outside. The other two single-light windows in this wall were not in the original construction; the jambs, both inside and outside, are plain rubble-work, except a small margin of cut stone immediately around the opening.

These single-light windows may have been formed when the crosswalls (which block up two of the lights of the three-light windows) were built.

The apartment south of the chapter-room was the calefactory, or monks' day-room; it appears to have had an external door in the eastern

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wall.

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The small structure projecting eastward was the garderobe, with an upper floor on a level with the dormitory floor, from which there was an entrance to it. The walls of this apartment are not bonded into the walls of the main building, and are not part of the original work, and may be masonry of fourteenth-century work.

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The apartment at the south-eastern angle was only one storey high. The walls are very much dilapidated, and were built up from time to time to form a fence, so that there is nothing to show the position of the windows. There was no door or opening into the refectory at this end; the kitchen was at the western end of the refectory.

In the south wall of the refectory, near the east end, there is an opening about 9 feet wide, where there were a large window, and steps leading up to a rostrum; it formed a suitable position for the reader.

The buildings forming the west side of the cloister-garth were two storeys high. These buildings were for the accommodation of the lay brethren, who had a separate entrance to the church through a door opening into the south aisle.

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SECTION

Interior And Exterior Elevations And Section Of East Window,
Abbey Knockmoy.

The cloister grounds are so much taken up with graves that it is difficult to trace the walls of the cloister walks.

The river, flowing from east to west, is about 100 yards south of the abbey. A short distance west of the abbey there is a modern mill,

Jour. K.&.A.I. j Voj xxxlVi> Consec. Ser. j *

supposed to have been built on the site of the ancient mill belonging to the abbey.

The site chosen for this abbey, in a pleasant valley on the banks of a river capable of affording sufficient water-power to work the mill of the community, shows the uniformity of rule which guided the Cistercians in everything relating to their buildings and the sites they occupy. There are, however, some few features which show a slight departure from the plan of other abbeys of the order erected in Ireland.

The enclosure of a space, corresponding to that required for a ritual choir, with solid walls in extension of the chancel, thus cutting it off from the nave and transepts, except by the narrow doors, is unusual in Ireland.

A somewhat similar construction is to be found at the Cistercian Abbey of St. Mary, Old Cleeve, Somersetshire; and also at Strata Florida, in Wales, neither of which, however, is original; and if it were not for the precedent thus afforded, the enclosing of a space 61 feet 6 inches by 28 feet 8 inches would give colour to the belief that some time after the dissolution a portion of the structure had been used for parochial purposes; and that the chapter-room, which would not then be required for its original use, was divided into compartments, one of which was probably used as a single dormitory.

The chancel, sacristy, and chapter-room being vaulted over afforded shelter from the elements; the refectory and kitchens would not be in use, and were, perhaps, unroofed; it became necessary to supplement the meagre space under cover by the erection of the small building in the cloister-garth close to the entrance to the former chapter-room, and in the ruined remains of the abbey; and, no doubt, under great difficulties, an opportunity was taken to enable the officiating priests to provide for the wants of the parish.

The cathedral church at Kilmacduagh, which had fallen into disuse, was renovated and partly re-roofed about A.d. 1649; and for a few years prior to that date many churches were restored, and again dedicated to Divine Service. It seems highly probable that similar work was undertaken at Abbey Knockmoy, during that period when so much activity was displayed in renovating the ruined churches of the country.

Another feature peculiar to this church is the so-called fresco paintings in the chancel. It should be mentioned here that there are no known examples of real fresco painting in the mediaeval churches in this country or in England. This is now admitted, notwithstanding which, mediaeval wall-paintings are still sometimes called frescoes.

The term fresco can only be properly used when the painting is applied on the fresh or wet plaster, with oil as the vehicle. The met hod actually employed in the wall-paintings of churches is more properly described by the Italian term tempera, from which the English word 'distemper' came into use.

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