1870 - 1890
Attached limestone ashlar Franciscan Roman Catholic church, built between 1876-86, but not finished until 1929, with a southeast facing façade comprising a tetrastyle Corinthian pedimented portico standing over the street pavement to central nave bay, flanked by single-bay two-storey aisle entrance bays. Cupola with copper dome rises from roof above portico. Built with adjoining four-bay three-storey friary to south. Pitched natural slate roof with coping to northwest gable and cast-iron rainwater goods. Tetrastyle portico with four Corinthian columns rising from plinth bases supporting a full entablature enriched by a modillion cornice and dentil architrave above a blank frieze. Three figurative sculptures rise from pediment. Limestone flagged stylobate incorporating public footpath. The façade is faced in limestone ashlar, with responding Corinthian pilasters flanking nave elevation. Limestone ashlar aisle bays with rusticated quoins and parapet entablature. North side elevations faced in squared and snecked limestone, with limestone corbels to eaves supporting gutters. Venetian window over nave entrance with limestone architrave and comprising a semi-circular arched central opening with a triangular pediment supported by fluted consoles. Six-over-nine timber sash window with fanlight to upper sash and three-over-three timber sash sidelights, all having cylinder glass. Triangular pediments over square-headed window openings to aisle bays rising from cornice of door beneath. Round-arch aisle windows to north aisle elevation and to clerestory elevation to north and south side elevations, each having a limestone ashlar block-and-start surround, limestone sill and weather glaze protected leaded stained glass. Square-headed door openings to façade with limestone architraves and triangular pediment overdoor to nave opening and entablature overdoors to aisle openings. Double-leaf panelled timber doors. Interior with triple-height nave with double-height side aisles separated by a Corinthian colonnade, of polished granite, with painted capitals, supporting a stucco entablature with modillion cornice and frieze having painted lettering. Arcaded aisle elevation and clerestorey elevation with openings arranged in groups of three. Modillion cornice and deeply coffered ceiling. Arch with compartmented soffit and panelled spandrels, gives way to an apsidal alter, completed 1931, and with fresco decorated half-dome springing from entablature. Encaustic and terracotta floor tiles. Curved timber organ gallery supported on polished Corinthian columns. Timber-framed glazed narthex beneath.
This church, designed by the Limerick architect William Edward Corbett, is a formidable exercise in classical church architecture with an imposing portico of such vertical emphasis that it recalls Saint Audoen's Roman Catholic Church in Dublin. The portico reaches over the public pavement in the same manner as does the porticoes of the Bank of Ireland, College Green and GPO, O'Connell Street. In this case, it was most likely designed in this manner to emphasise its presence on this relatively narrow streetscape. Internally it was inspired by the basilica church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. The architects Jones and Kelly completed Corbett's unfinished church between 1928-31; the contractor was Michael Gough, of Wolfe Tone Street, Limerick. The decoration was carried out by Hookinson. The church was consecrated in December 1931. The Franciscans have been present in Ireland for approximately seven hundred years and in Limerick the site of the ancient monastery, with no known above ground remains, is located around Sir Harry's Mall. Thomas de Burgo established this first monastery, and the probable date is c. 1245. The monastery became known as Saint Francis Abbey, the name it retained during the Suppression. The Abbey River derives its name from the proximity to the monastery. The friars were expelled from the city for a short time in 1651, after which they successfully regained occupation of their residence at the junction of Athlunkard Street and Nicholas Street. A site in Newgate Lane was acquired in 1782, on which a chapel and friary was built. The present site on Henry Street was acquired in 1824, and a church was built in 1826 and a friary in 1827.