Record Date: 
24 July 2024
Exact wording of epitaph: 


Grave location
Additional details
Cooke (1895), 294. Higgins in Fleetwood Berry (Ed. Higgins) (1989), XIII (Introduction). Mitchell, Rev. J. (1985-6). "Fiction and 'The Empty Frame' Gyor and Galway", J. Galwav Archaeol. Hist. Soc. 40 (1985-6), 20-49. /
People commemorated: 
LYNCH and ATHY (and possibly FRENCH')

Only the underworks of this elaborate tomb which has traditionally been associated with James Lynch FitzStephen senior, Mayor of Galway, now survive. This tradition, as will be seen below is without foundation. The tomb and its attribution will be discussed in further detail in the writer's Ph.D. thesis and will also be published in Higgins (1992). A close examination of the tomb and the legends associated with it however do not support this traditional attribution. In a forthcoming article by one of the present editors (Higgins (1992)) it will be argued that the tomb has Lynch and Athy associations and that the heraldry and merchants' marks on it can be linked directely to the so-called "Empty Frame" which is located above it in the South wall of this transept. The "Empty Frame" itself had nothing to do with the so-called Weeping Madonna of Gyor and is much more likely to have held (a) funerary hatchments or (b) a series of inscriptions commemorating those buried in the tomb below. The same merchants' marks, and the Lynch arms are repeated on both items of sculpture and the two blank shields on the "Empty Frame" can be matched with two shields, one on either side of the tomb below. It will be argued that, though now "blank", these shields bore the same arms as are found on the tomb. Of the shields on the tomb one has a chevron (possibly part of a Lynch or Athy or French arms) but originally also had other charges, partly incised and then painted in their proper heraldic colours which allow them to be identified as those of Athy. A "matching" shield on the left hand side on the bottom of the "Empty Frame" has very slight scratches which may correspond with the arms just mentioned. The remaining pair of shields (one on the tomb and one on the frame) are both completely blank but like the rest of the heraldry on both items must originally have had painted- on coats of arms. The Lynch/Athy association can be carried further. The pier at the entrance to this Transept bears along with a merchant's mark in a shield, a pair of impaled arms of Lynch and Athy. These are impaled using an early heraldic method whereby the charges (objects, devices or symbols) in each arms are divided completely down the middle and the resulting arms which has been cut up in this manner, is then joined together with another arms which has been similarly treated. By contrast, the more modern method is to take each complete arms without cutting up any of its elements and place them, complete, within each half of a shield. (In this instance the Cat. No. 386. old method is used and the trefoils of the Lynch arms have been partly cut up). Here again the Lynch and Athy arms occur. The Athy arms is again incised and was painted over. Traces of the original paint also remain on this stone. The same combination of arms (also impaled by dimidation) is found on a stone reused in the outside wall of the South Aisle of the church. The tomb then has Lynch and Athy associations. Mitchell (1985-6), 20-49 has already shown that the "Empty Frame" is unlikely to be associated with the painting now at Gyor. One of the present editors (J.H.) would now make the case that the tomb and the frame can be linked, (the frame had a funerary function), and that the tomb is to be associated with the Lynch and Athy families. The arguments for these points will be dealt with in detail elsewhere (Higgins (1992), forthcoming). The tomb itself is set at an awkward angle in the comer of the Southern (Lynch) Transept. The top of the tomb, which is bevelled inwards is a modern concrete one. The original top of the tomb is completely gone and it is now impossible to say whether it bore a decorated mensa, an effigy or a pair of such effigies, or whether it simply bore heraldry and/or an inscription. No fragments of effigies survive from tomb mensas from Galway City - though it is possible that the tomb of Sir Peter French at the Franciscan Graveyard might have borne one (Higgins (1992 A)). A semi-effigy from the grounds of the Convent of Mercy Galway, published by the writer Higgins (1989), 14-15 is the only one to survive, but this was made to stand in an upright position. (Higgins ibid Cat. No. 19, 14-15, 40-41 and Plate 4). It seems possible (though it is difficult to prove), that this tomb is partly rebuilt. The crudely worked plain slab on the Southern end of the tomb may be an insertion or a repair. As it survives the monument consists of a moulded base and a series of decorated side-panels with blank, ogee-shaped arcading and elaborately decorated spandrels. It is highly probable that the blank arcades were originally painted. English and German tombs frequently had painted weepers or depictions of saints in this sort of position and most Irish Late Medieval panelled tombs had carved (and originally painted) figures as well. Each recess has an ogee-shaped head and the spandrels which flank these have vine-scroll foliage with twisted stems, heraldry, merchants' marks and pairs of leaves. Heraldry occurs in three of the spandrels and two merchants' marks occur. On the Western side of the tomb there are five full and two half-spandrels. The two halfspandrels (at the ends), contain vine leaves joined by twisted stems. The third, fourth, fifth and sixth (full spandrels) from the left contain foliage consisting of composed pieces of vine-leaf foliage, berries and twisted stems. The second spandrel from the left contains a blank shield which may be paired-up with one of the blank shields on the bottom of the "Empty Frame". By Jennifer McKenna. The Northern side of the tomb has two half-spandrels and eight full ones. The half-spandrels at either end contain foliage with twisted stems and some berries. The second, third and ninth spandrels from the left contain opposed pairs of vine scroll foliage with twisted stems and some with berries. The fourth spandrel from the left on this side bears a large rosette and foliage. The fifth example contains a shield with a chevron as a charge, which, when the incised lines in the background are taken into account, can be identified as the Athy arms. (Higgins (1992), forthcoming). The sixth spandrel bears a merchant's mark which can be paired-off with the same mark which occurs on the first shield on the left on the "Empty Frame". The seventh spandrel bears a shield with the Lynch arms which can be matched with that on the middle shield on the top of the "Empty Frame". The merchant's mark in the eigth spandrel can clearly be matched with that in the shield on the top right side of the "Empty Frame". The ninth full spandrel and the adjoining half-spandrel contain vine leaf foliage and some berries of the same type as have already been described above. Each spandrel is divided, one from the other, by a small crocketed finial. Traces of paint remain on segments of the tomb, especially on the spandrels. In 1991 an area of bright red paint was visible in the background to the shield on the West side of the tomb. Traces of blue can also be distinguished under good lighting conditions on the Lynch arms. 386a LYNCH and ATHY "Empty Frame" The so-called "Empty Frame" is a plain limestone plaque surrounded on three edges by a moulded frame. This moulding tapers to a point on either side. The bottom of the stone is rimmed by a piece of twisted cable moulding. The frame itself surrounds two separate pieces of flat stone. These are plain, one is broken and a number of repairs in cement have been made to it in modem times. One, or possibly two holes seem to have been filled in and a crack running across the comer of the larger stone appears to have been pointed-up. Six small shields occur. Three of these are carved across the moulding at the top of the frame. The other three occur on the lowermost of the two flat stones which are actually enclosed by the frame. Each of the shields has a five-pointed chief or top, slightly concave sides, and an ogee-shaped base. Each of the shields is defined by a narrow frame which follows the shape of the actual shield. The topmost shields, (reading from left to right), bear a merchant's mark, the Lynch arms, and a further merchant's mark. On the bottom the shields on the left are blank, but they originally bore painted heraldry. That on the left bears a number of small scratches which may possibly have been lay-out lines for a piece of heraldry. That in the centre bears slightly scratched vertical and horizontal lines which seem to have formed the sketchy outlines of the Athy arms. The shield on the right bears a merchant's mark which is identical to that on the top of the frame. All the merchants' marks, the Lynch arms, and probably the heraldry which the "blank" shields originally bore can be matched with the same number or shields as are found on the Lynch tomb immediately below it and as will be shown (Higgins (1992) forthcoming) the "Empty Frame" and the tomb are clearly associated. The frame may have borne a wooden or metal plaque commemorating the deceased who lay in the tomb below. It must be admitted that without removing the modem repairs it is difficult to find evidence of how such items could have been attached. The stone itself may have been painted, presumably over some type of primer or guesso. The Lynch tomb (No. 386) below bears numerous traces of paint. The Flamboyant Lynch tomb (No. 385) bears numerous traces of paint also as do some of the later monuments like the Stannard plaque (No. 365). Non-funerary sculptures within the church also bear traces of paint like for instance several corbels on the piers. These and other Galway examples are being studied as part of the writer's Ph.D. on the Sculpture of Medieval Galway. The so-called Empty Frame (Cat. No. 386a) has no proven link whatsoever with the painting now at Gydr (of which there is a copy positioned below it). The heraldry and merchants' marks on it link it firmly with the Lynch tomb underneath it. The apparently "blank" shields on both the frame and the Lynch tomb originally bore painted heraldry for which the evidence of some fine incised lines remain. The indications are that the tomb, and this plaque or frame, also bore the Athy arms, along with those of Lynch and an unidentified arms with a chevron as a charge. Both features also bear two identical pairs of merchants' marks. The tomb may, furthermore, be linked with pairs of impaled arms of Lynch and Athy at the entrance to the Lynch Transept and on the South facade of the church. Drawing by Jennifer McKenna. Merchants' marks like those shown on both the "Empty Frame" and the Lynch tomb are relatively common in Galway. Some occur on sculpture which is stylistically of late 15th - early 16th century date. Most of the examples from Galway City date from the loth century onwards, however. Examples occur on windows, doorways, a gargoyle (on St. Nicholas' church itself) and on a variety of plaques of uncertain function. The Athy Doorway from Abbeygate St., which is now located on the top of the Spanish Arch at Galway City Museum has a merchant's mark flanked by the date 1577. A panel above an entrance between O'Connors and the Chinese Restaurant is dated 1595 while the doorway beneath it is dated 1616. The panel and doorway form a composite piece however and were moved to their present position. Somewhat earlier merchants' marks occur elsewhere in Ireland. Those on the Galway-Billingfort tomb in St. Mary's Cathedral Limerick date to the 15th century. (Killanin and Duignan (1967) (2nd edn.), 351). Other undated examples at the same site may be equally early. By comparison with some of the English and Continental examples many of the Irish examples are quite late, though on the Continent, especially in Germany and Holland the use of such marks continued down to recent times as both personal and company marks. Such marks are commonly found on goods of all kinds and they sometimes were used as the personal mark of an individual merchant. In Germany they often became to be used as company marks and modem trade marks. They were very commonly used on all sorts of architectural sculpture as well as on lead bale seals, (which were common down to the 18th century and beyond in England), and on manufactured goods of all sorts. Similar marks became potters' marks and many are still in use in Germany and Austria. Tradesmen's tokens, tavern tokens were also decorated with these and a variety of other forms of symbolic marks. Closely related to these are monographs bearing combinations of letters and numbers juxtaposed on a common stem or combined in some manner. While all such monograms are not necessarily merchants' marks, many merchants' marks do combine these and other motifs and symbols. The Christian cross, alpha and omega, the sign of the number 4 and other motifs like stars, letters and numbers are frequently combined to form merchants' marks. Merchants' marks are very common in Galway were at least 60 examples survive. The legends associated with the "Empty Frame" centre around a painting (depicted in facsimile underneath the object), which is now in Gyor in Hungary. A recent tradition (from the 1960's onwards) suggests that the picture now at Gyor was once housed within this frame. The picture known in Gyor as Consaltrix Afflictorium (Our Lady of Consultation) is said to have been brought there from Ireland by Rev. Dr. Walter Lynch (1593-1663). According to a manuscript now at Gyor on the 17th of March 1697 "On this day the picture of the Blessed Virgin in the Cathedral began to weep copiously" and despite being wiped with cloths continued to weep and as a result became a focus of intense devotion. (Mitchell (1985-6), 20 ff). Dr. Lynch had been appointed to St. Nicholas' but since the church had been appropriated for Protestant worship he had to celebrate mass in a small separate chapel in Galway. He played a role in the Confederation of Kilkenny and in the church which was again in Catholic hands in 1643. In 1647 he was appointed Bishop of Clonfert. As a result of the Cromwellian take-over of the city he fled to Inishbofin in 1651, and when that island surrendered on the 14th of February 1653 he along with the Confederate Governor and a thousand others were transported to Ostend from where he went to Gyor, where, at the invitation of the local bishop he began to minister there. He intended to return to Ireland in 1668 to try to resolve a dispute which had arisen over an appointment to the See of Clonfert but died on the 14th of July 1668 before he could make the journey. (Mitchell ibid, 22-3). Cooke (1895), 294 referes to the "Empty Frame" as follows "On the South wall is a slab of the Lynch family. Above this used to be the organ, now removed to the choir".