The Ennis Friary in Co. Clare, Ireland was founded for the Franciscans around 1284 by the O’Brien family. It’s had an interesting history, remaining active under O’Brien protection until at least 1570. Later it came under the auspices of the Church of Ireland, during which time the bell tower was hit twice by lightning and had to be rebuilt.
On one of the internal pillars is the remains of plaster work from the 14th or 15th century, with four or five pieces of graffiti depicting sailboats. There are not interpreted as vandalism but as prayer tokens. The pillar is located in the nave where the congregation would have stood. And the sailboats are seen as a spiritual or religious practice – a prayer for a fisherman’s safe return or a good catch, for the safekeeping of a person on a voyage, or maybe even as a symbol of Christianity (Jesus as the fisher of men).
As I explored (and I can highly recommend a visit to the friary – great interpretation and very helpful staff), I came across an Arthur grave dating from 1830 – perhaps a distant relative using the more standard spelling? It was erected as a ‘humble tribute of affection’ by Patrick Arthur for his wife Mary Arthur alias Considine. And a nice nineteenth century verse to keep us humble:
All you good people who now stand by
As you are now so once was I
As I am now so you shall be
Remember death and pray for me