In 1470, the local lord, John O’Connor-Kerry and his wife, Margaret Nagle, founded Lislaughtin Friary for the Observant Franciscans. In 1477, Pope Sixtus IV licensed it as a religious house, and the friary was completed and its church consecrated in 1478. It is a fine example of the elegant Hiberno-Gothic style architecture with some contemporary Spanish decorative influences. For over 102 years it served as a spiritual, educational and charitable centre for the Shannon estuary region. Also it served as the mausoleum of the O’Connor-Kerry dynasty. The friary was built on the site of an early Christian monastery that was associated with St Lachtin (7th century). Irish Observant Franciscan Province held its general chapter meeting here in 1507. In 1580, Queen Elizabeth I’s troops, who had besieged Carrigafoyle Castle nearby, sacked the friary, and three elderly friars Daniel Hanrahan, Maurice Scanlon and Philip O’Shea were killed in front of the high altar. Subsequently, Elizabethan officers, James Scolls, John Hollis and later Sir Edward Denny occupied the friary and its farm. However, by 1629 the Franciscans returned and re-occupied Lislaughtin until its final destruction by Cromwellian troops in 1652. Yet, the friars continued to provide pastoral care in the area right up until 1860.
Lislaughtin Processional Cross
In March 1871, John Jephcott was ploughing some reclaimed bogland in the local townland of Ballymackessy when he discovered the Lislaughtin Cross, also known as the Ballymackessy or the Ballylongford Cross. The cross itself was made of silver-gilt and stands at 67 cm tall, and a wooden shaft inserted into its collar would have held it aloft in procession. It bears the figure of Christ Crucified, and the finials on the three upper arms of the cross and the central boss have cartouches containing symbols of the Four Evangelists. The figures on the collar represent St Francis and other saints of his Order. The inscription in Lombardic Script engraved on the arms of the cross states that it was made by the Dublin craftsman, William Cornel in 1479, at the behest of Cornelius O’Connor-Kerry (Conor Liath, son of John the founder of Lislaughtin), and Avelina FitzGerald, daughter of the Knight of Glin, It was probably hidden before the siege of nearby Carrigafoyle Castle began in 1580, when the friary was sacked by Elizabethan troops.