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Meet Medieval Ireland
At the Town of Athenry

Medieval Ireland comes alive in the town of Athenry in County Galway, Ireland once a year at the medieval festival in early August.

Irish history comes to life at the Athenry Heritage Centre, County Galway, Ireland, with medieval style dress up and archery.

The festival brings back medieval traditions and practices such as sword fights, shooting with bow and arrow or the cross bow, the ritual of striking deals at market, or medieval music and dance. The festival is well worth a visit that the whole family would enjoy if you happen to be around at the right time.

Torture In Medieval Ireland

See us here bound together in this board for 7 days and 7 nights as a punishment for arguing inflicted by Benedictine of the Athenry Heritage Centre. You could call it medieval marriage counselling... We have decided not to argue again!

Irish history comes to life at the Athenry Heritage Centre, County Galway, Ireland, with medieval dress up.

Any other time of year, enjoy the medieval sights of the town taking them in on a stroll, and do visit the heritage centre in Saint Mary's Church (booking recommended) for a medieval dress-up experience, archery and more.

Here Are The Facts About Some Of The Sights Of Medieval Athenry:

The Market Cross

The stone carved Market Cross of Athenry is the oldest market cross in Ireland still situated in its’ original position, on the market square. It replaced an earlier, wooden cross in the same location. It’s shaft went missing leaving only the base and cross itself. Unfortunately the 15th century cross stone is badly deteriorated, but one can just about make out the carvings. One side features a crucifixion scene, and the back a Madonna and child. Originally it was 9 foot tall and must have been an imposing sight. Medieval Ireland had a lot of these market crosses but very few have survived.

The medieval market cross at Athenry, County Galway, Ireland- the only market cross in the country still left in its' original location.

Traditionally, the cross was the central place in the town and bargains struck at market were sealed here. People still like to gather here and sit on the steps below.

The North Gate And Town Wall

The North Gate is the only surviving out of originally four town gates. The gate is a great example of a well-functioning fortification.

The North Gate at Athenry, County Galway, Ireland.

It is a tall, strong tower with an inbuilt murdering hole, from which hot liquids or rocks could be released onto unwelcome visitors as a last line of defense. It must have been an intimidating to look at for anyone approaching the town back in the day.

The building and maintenance of the walls and gates was financed from taxes paid by market traders.

That explains how it was possible to make ongoing improvements of these structures over the centuries. The present gate dates to the 16th century.The walls frame an area of no less than 69 acres. The town walls are about four foot wide and fourteen foot tall. They feature a walk way at the top aided by a small parapet wall on the top where guards could move along.

Medieval town walls at Athenry, County Galway, Ireland.

The remarkably well-preserved town wall of Athenry, County Galway, Ireland held out through two significant battles in medieval Ireland that took place in its very shadow.

Following along the wall, you will find a lot of sections that are still intact including some almost windowless watch towers. These towers have entrances from either side of the adjoining wall sections. Inside, there are rooms with loop windows splaying towards the inside designed to shoot arrows through at anyone attacking the town.

The Dominican Priory

The priory was financed by the De Bermingham's. It was constructed between 1220 and 1241 bringing together Norman and Irish craftsmen.

The ruin of the Dominican Priory at the medieval Irish heritage town of Athenry, County Galway, Ireland.

The most unique piece of history of the priory is that in 1644 it was turned into Ireland’s first university. Cromwellian soldiers however, destroyed the building after it was turned into a garrison in 1652. Only a ruin remains these days. A local man holds the keys and can be contacted by phone to let visitors in.

Medieval IrelOne of the earliest medieval Irish castles west of the Shannon, Athenry Castle built in 1235.and at Athenry Castle

Athenry Castle

Medieval Ireland was full of castles as every war lord or land owner needed their own fortification. Imposing Athenry Castle seen above was built by the De Bermingham's who were Norman war lords. The castle has been beautifully reconstructed under the care of the Office of Public Works. The castle is a Norman tower house which was probably of predominantly military function. The build started in 1235 and was extended a couple of times over the centuries making it a very tall structure. At an entrance fee of 3 Euros, the castle is well worth visiting. A fifteen minute audio-visual presentation pulls together the story of the Normans in County Galway and that alone is worthwhile. Find out more facts about features of the castle here.

Read More About Medieval Ireland

Athenry Town Tourist Information

The Norman Invasion

Norman Castles- why and how fortify?

Medieval Castle Vocabulary

How to build a medieval castle

How to defend a medieval castle

How to attack an Irish castle

The Heritage Centre

The Heritage centre really ‘makes’ Athenry for the tourist. The centre offers a medieval experience guided by friendly and ever so helpful staff that involves dressing up in fantasy homemade medieval costumes. Visitors will be shown torture instruments and weapons found here at Athenry, (replicas of course) and there is a demonstration on how each of those was used (not for ladies). There is archery in the garden with trained instructors. School tours will be given the opportunity to stage a medieval play. And there is a photo opportunity when you’re all dressed up- one for the family album for sure.

Medieval Irish history comes to life at the heritage centre at Athenry, County Galway, Ireland with a demonstration of medieval torture tools.
Medieval Irish history comes to life at Athenry Heritage Centre, County Galway, Ireland, with models of medieval street scenes.

See the stocks in action (left) at the heritage centre, a common punishment in medieval Ireland for minor offenses such as not keeping to deals struck at the market. The photo on the right shows one of the displays at the centre, a lady emptying her chamber pot into the streets below. Nice one.

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