The Friars at Knightswood

There is indisputable evidence that the friars of Multyfarnham settled at Knightswood, near their old home, in the latter half of the 17th century. Sir Henry Piers, writing in 1682 states: “The Friary in Multyfarnham is at this time out of repair, yet the friars had a Friary and convent on a piece of land near this place, being a parcel of Knight’s Wood, belonging to Sir Thomas Nugent, baronet. Here they had built all manner of conveniences, both for the receipt of strangers and for their own use, but all thatched cabins, which are to this day kept in good repair and are ready for their reception.”

Thus, for some time prior to the year 1678, the friars were settled in a permanent abode at Knightswood and considering the difficulties of the times, their residence was fairly elaborate. Piers’ phrase, ‘near this place,’ that is, near the old Friary, may well suggest that their new habitation was at the northern end of the townland of Knightswood where it adjoins the townland of Multyfarnham, and hence not far from the Friary.

In 1671 Blessed Oliver Plunket reported to the Holy See that there was a Friary of Franciscans in Multyfarnham, composed of ten friars, that Bro Gaenor resides there and that it includes a novitiate. From this statement it is clear that in 1671 the friars were well established at Knightswood. The fact that they had opened a novitiate suggests they had been there for some time. Hence, it may also be taken for granted that as soon as political conditions permitted, the friars established themselves at Knightswood, near their old Friary.

The site was given to them by Sir Thomas Nugent. Though the residences of the friars were plain thatched cabins, they were sufficiently spacious to accommodate a community, which, included novices, numbered upwards of twenty.

During this period (c. 1670) the friary of Multyfarnham was one of the most important in the Province and was the residence of the Vicar Provincial, Bro Gaenor. In 1669, the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda, acting on the advice of Cardinal Barberini, appointed Bro Gaenor to rule the Irish Province.