Kilkenny's new bridge opened yesterday. Right: Pope Francis.
A local councillor is calling for His Holiness Pope Francis to be invited to Kilkenny to see the new bridge, which has been named ‘The St Francis Bridge’.
On Monday, when the name was approved and confirmed by local councillors, Cllr Joe Malone said he was delighted with it.
The Fianna Fail councillor noted that the Pontiff is expected to visit Ireland next year, and says Kilkenny is just a short hop from Dublin by helicopter. He suggested the council write to the Vatican inviting the worldwide head of the Catholic Church to come to Kilkenny and see the bridge, which shares his papal name.
Speaking to the Kilkenny People today, the Cllr Malone described the choice of name as ‘a good day for the Catholic church’ at a time when he said religious values were under threat, citing a recent push to scrap the Dail prayer and a debate over whether crucifixes are appropriate in council chambers.
Chair of the council’s naming and memorial polic committee, Fidelis Doherty, said that the council was delighted with the interest generated in the naming of the bridge and the fact that so many people made genuine submissions during the process.
“There were many worthy names suggested which were connected with the general area and the adjacent former brewery site,” she said.
“The committee will facilitate these further in the naming of streets within the Abbey Quarter over the coming years.”
St Francis – what’s in a name?
The Franciscan Friary (also now known as St Francis Abbey) was established under the patronage of Richard Marshall (brother of William Marshal the younger) around 1234. The Franciscans were part of the order established by Francis of Assisi. St Francis Well is located close to the friary.
Friar John Clyn (d.1349), associated with the Friary, wrote a widely read first-hand account of the Black Death, which killed nearly half the inhabitants of Kilkenny in 1300s. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in the 1500s, the Friary fell into disrepair. The Franciscans returned to the monastery in the 1600s but moved into parish work in the 1700s.
By the early 1800’s no Friars were left in Kilkenny. Today, only the 13th Century choir, the 14th Century tower, and the restored sacristy remain above ground. The Friary gave its name to St Francis Abbey Brewery founded by the Smithwick family in 1710, and by 1854 the brewery expanded to include the Friary buildings.