A large cruciform, aisleless early 13thc. church standing next to the abbey ruins (W wall of nave to E wall of chancel 40.23m, w. across transepts 22.86 m). The rebuilt chapter house and sacristy survive and are also early 13thc. while the remains of the cloister and domestic buildings are mainly 15thc. The church has a vaulted chancel with a chamber above and two barrel-vaulted chapels in each transept, the inner round-headed and the outer pointed and rather taller. The sacristy adjoins the south transept and abuts onto a small chamber, accessible from the cloister walk. The chapter house is attached to the sacristy. A 17thc. chapel adjoins the chancel on the S. The nave was rebuilt in 1270. Plain round-headed doorways are found in the N wall of the N transept and N and S side of nave (all reconstructed in 1965-6). The plain sacristy doorway and the doorway to the storeroom in the E cloister range are original. This doorway is round-headed and of three plain chamfered orders, the first order with a tympanum and the others continuous. There are plain round-headed windows at clerestorey level (one on S two on N); one in the E wall of each transept chapel, with a small rectangular window above; and two, one above the other, over the triple window on the E face, the upper being rectangular. There are a number of narrow round-headed windows to the chapter house, some reconstructed. Romanesque sculpture is found on the corbels of the crossing, the chancel vaulting and E window, the W door of the chapter house, a reset corbel and a mortar (used as a font).
Ballintober Abbey was founded in 1216 by Cathal Crobdearg Ua Conchobair (O'Connor), King of Connaught, the natural son of King Toirrdelbach Ua Conchobhair (Turlough O'Connor) for whom the Cross of Cong was made. Knox suggests that Cathal may have founded the abbey in order to make amends for imprisoning the Bishop of Tuam, an deed recorded in the Annals of Loch Ce. This scandalous event also involved Cathal's brother Maelisa, who later became Prior of Inishmaine Abbey. Cathal also founded Abbeyknockmoy in Galway in 1189-90.
Ballintober is close by the site of a church said to be founded by St Patrick c.441 and lies fifteen miles E of Croagh Patrick, where the saint is supposed to have spent a 40 day vigil before founding the church.
The Abbey was founded for Canons Regular and dedicated to the Holy Trinity. Abbot Maelbrighde O'Maicin led the building campaign. The Annals of Loch Ce record that 'it was by him the church of Tobair Patraic was begun and its sanctuary and crosses were diligently finished' (Blake). The Annals of the Four Masters state that O'Maicin 'with great exertions begun and finished' Ballintober.
The Annals of the Four Masters record the burning of part of the abbey in 1265, causing the nave to be rebuilt in 1270. In 1536 legislation was passed to dissolve the abbey, but this was not enforced, at least, no deed of surrender has been found from Henry VIII's time (Blake) In 1653 Cromwell's soldiers burned the abbey, unroofing the church and destroying the monastic buildings, dormitories, cloisters and domestic buildings. The first attempt at restoration was 1846, although the Great Famine put an early halt to this (Killanin and Duignan, 87). The restoration was resumed in 1889 by George C Ashlin, with a further campaign in 1965-6.
N capital: above an incised line are four symmetrical trees with shared branches. The trees have grooved triangular trunks and the branches bear bulbous leaves.
S capital: as N, but very damaged.
N capital: from a central stem which terminates in a lily about halfway up the angle, two symmetrical branches spring, each separates into three triskeles, one below the lily (clockwise), one above (anticlockwise) and one outer (clockwise).
S capital: traces of branching foliage with bulbous leaves, very weathered.
On either side of the doorway are round attached shafts with capitals. The capitals are reeded.
N capital: two triskeles may be seen but most of the design is lost.
S capital: a stem on the angle branches, forming a Y-shape, each arm terminating in a triskele. There may have been carving between the triskeles but this is now lost.
S capital: as N but not as badly weathered, a multi-lobed leaf rises between the two stems.
Splayed, round-headed, of two orders.
The second order has keeled half-shafts, continuous around each window, surmounted between the windows and on the outer side of L and R windows by a grimacing animal mask with a snake protruding from either side of its mouth. The dragons of the inner order appear to bite the grotesque masks which lie between them and the snakes link together. The outermost grotesque heads issue only one snake, and have only one (inner) biting dragon. There are no imposts although there is the suggestion of a roll moulding above the mask.
A chamfered string course extended around the whole of the church about 0.60m below the clerestory windows, most of this is now missing. On the E wall this continues as the label of the ground level windows.
On the E wall of the chancel is a plain string course at the level of the sill of the uppermost window, extending to within a metre of the gabled roof, with another at the level of the window arch, continuing as a label, this extends to within 0.30m of the roof.
N capital: affronted figures on horseback. The animals have long sinuous bodies with front legs lower than the rear so that the haunches are raised up. The tails are long and straight. The animals have thick arching necks and glare at each other with round eyes, the bridle and reins have fine reeding. The L rider and horse are very damaged.
S capital: affronted winged dragons with scaly necks, with claws gripping a collar of large, rounded flat leaves. The wings and body of each beast taper and spiral into a triskele. The protruding tongues of the beasts hang down between them. Beneath the head of each beast is a coiled snake with head pointing downward. To either side of the creatures are further coils.
N capital: affronted lions with open mouths and coils (?snakes) beneath their out-thrust necks. The lions' floriated tails curl between their hind legs and up over the bodies. The beasts stand above a necking of wide, flat slightly pointed leaves.
S capital: two pairs of dragons with intertwined necks, each with its head bending over its own back. The dragons are of the same type as those on the S capital between first and second bays. Their necks are carved with diagonal grooves so they appear to be twisted around. The dragons stand on a necking of wide, flat slightly pointed leaves, the inner dragons standing on the feet of the outer ones.
The capitals stand above nook shafts with Attic bases, with two deep grooves running along their length. The bases are at the same level as the tapered ends of the columns between the bays.
S capital: as N.
Set into the S wall of the N chapel in the N transept. A corbel carved with a human head, and with a round shallow bowl carved into the top of the head which drains into the wall. The lower part of the jaw is missing and the carving is scored and chipped. It has simply delineated features and slightly waving hair which is drawn back behind large ears.
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