Askeaton Franciscan Friary is located in the village of Askeaton beside the River Deel in CountyLimerick. This National Monument is one of the most beautiful complete ruins in the country. It was founded in 1389 by Gerald, 4th Earl of Desmond, a famous poet who is said still to sleep in a cave waiting to ride back on his silver-shod steed in Ireland’s time of ultimate need. St Francis of Assisi (who founded the Franciscan Order) expected his friars to follow a complete vow of poverty and objected to the building of houses or churches. By the time this impressive friary was built however, the order had become powerful and wealthy. It was plundered and later abandoned by Sir John Malbie in 1579 when some of the friars were killed. It was revived in 1627 until it was later abandoned in 1648 when Cromwell’s forces neared. It was up and running again 10 years later and continued to be used by the friars to 1714. Its design is arranged around a central cloister where the monks would walk and pray. Although the original bell tower has collapsed there are still excellent examples of carved windows, stone seats, and a triple niches for a tomb. Interestingly, there is a representation of St Francis (showing his stigmata) that has been kissed so much that it is almost worn away!