Urlaur Friary, a Dominican foundation, on the shores of Urlaur Lake in Co Mayo is one of Ireland’s best kept secrets.
The friary was founded around the year 1430 and was dedicated to St. Thomas. The friary survived the Reformation and in the early 17th century, the property was confiscated and handed to Viscount Dillon, a local loyal landlord. The community continued to reside here and the last friar of Urlaur, Patrick Sharkey, died in 1846. He lived in a cottage beside the ruins of friary and he sometimes said mass within the church.
The church is entered through the west gable via a pointed doorway with hooded moulding. A carved head in poor condition sits above its apex.
Above the door is a small elaborate triple light window with hooded moulding.
The interior of the church is quiet plain and the floor is covered with gravel.
The north side of the nave of the church appears to have been extended to accommodate an aisle. The remains of an arch on the north side of the west gable wall suggests the aisle may have been divided from the nave by arches and columns.
The east gable is also well preserved and has the remains of an elaborate tracery window.
The domestic buildings for the friary also survive and abutts the east end of the south wall of the church.
A pointed doorway in the south wall of the church leads into a vaulted room (part of the domestic building) abutting the exterior south wall of the church.
A second door in the middle of the south wall provides access to the exterior of the church and the domestic buildings.
The remains of the domestic building consist of a north-south aligned two storey building. The ground floor has a number of vaulted rooms.
Access to the second floor of the building is provided by a stone stairs.
The upper floor is unroofed and may have been the dormitory for the friars.
A square tower for want of a better word is built against the south wall. This is probably the garderobe.
During the 19th century Urlaur was the scene of a pattern day held the on 4th of August, the feast of St Dominic. A field beside the church was marked as the pattern field on the 1839 1st ed OS 6-inch maps for Co Mayo.
The pattern despite some ups and downs has continued to the present day and an annual mass reintroduced in 1914 is still held here each year on the 4th of August.