St. Nicholas History
(The history of St. Nicholas and its primary features is also available as an Audio Guide.)
St. Nicholas Church is a building that was originally one of three monasteries in Adare, all dating from the 13th through the 15th centuries. The monastery in what is now St. Nicholas was from the Augustinian order; they were called the Black Friars, because the habits they wore were black. Therefore, the Augustinian abbey was also called the Black Abbey.
The other two monasteries housed the Trinitarian order and the Franciscans. The Trinitarian Abbey, or “White Abbey,” has been restored and is now Holy Trinity Abbey Church, the Roman Catholic parish church, in the centre of the village. The Franciscan Friary is in ruins and is in the golf course, near Desmond Castle.
The Augustinian monastery was founded about 1315 by John Fitzthomas Fitzgerald, the first Earl of Kildare. The community was probably fairly large, judging from the number of buildings that there were. Of the original buildings, what remains is a portion of the current church; the cloisters, walkways that formed the centre of the monastic buildings; and the refectory, or hall where the monks ate.
The monastery continued for about 200 years. Then, in the 1530s, Henry VIII of England destroyed monasteries in both England, Ireland, and Wales, and the Augustinian Abbey was dissolved. It is possible that the monks continued to stay on in the abbey after this, but were driven out sometime between 1567 and 1585. The Augustinians on O’Connell Street in Limerick are the descendants of the monks that originally were in Adare.
The church then sat in ruins for more than 200 years. In 1807, it was given to a small Church of Ireland congregation that existed in Adare. This congregation included descendants of some Palatine refugees from Germany, who had moved to the area in about 1708. Many of their descendants still worship today at St. Nicholas. In 1807, the congregation was worshipping at the old St. Nicholas parish church, near the old Franciscan Friary in what is now the golf course. An oak door from this old parish church was moved to the Augustinian Abbey and is still in use today as the door between the chancel and the vestry.
The restoration of the Abbey took place through the early 1800s, thanks to the Dunraven family; successive Earls of Dunraven owned the Adare Manor and also restored the village of Adare.
The Church of Ireland congregation has been worshipping here at the old Augustinian Abbey, now called St. Nicholas Church, since the first refurbishment was completed in 1811. The old refectory, or eating hall, was for many years the home of St. Nicholas National School, founded in 1814 by Lady Caroline Dunraven. The School is now housed in a new building constructed in 2007. The school celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2014.
The congregation of St. Nicholas Church is celebrating its 700th anniversary in 2015. The primary event was a Festival of Faith & Flowers on 22–24 May 2015.