The Franciscans are believed to have arrived in Wexford in the year 1255. Since this time they have played an important role in the lives of the people and the culture of this beautiful town. The Friary was suppressed in 1540 following the English Reformation after which the friars went into hiding. Nothing remains of their medieval friary.
Seven Franciscan friars were killed when Oliver Cromwell’s forces invaded Wexford in 1649; with another four members of the community killed in 1655. The martyred friars are depicted on the crucifix, which hangs near the church’s sanctuary. Friars who were not present during the massacre returned and were able to continue the Franciscan tradition in secret until the political situation had improved. The Franciscans made a public return in 1660 and the church was re-opened in 1673. The new church was built on the site of the old medieval friary in 1690 and was the only church open in Wexford during the long and harsh Penal period. However, in 1698 the friars were banished from Ireland. The present friary was built in 1802 and has been home to the Franciscans ever since. The Observant Franciscans (Brown Franciscans) made a decision to reduce the number of friaries in Ireland in 2004. They decided to leave Wexford due to the aging of their friars and a lack of vocations.
Fortunately the Conventual Franciscans (Greyfriars) were able to take over. For over seven hundred and fifty years the sons of St. Francis have been present in Wexford in good times and bad. The church itself is a reminder of this. Upon its sacred walls are listed the names of the Friars who gave their lives as martyrs for the faith and the faithful of Wexford. The relics of another martyr of an earlier period in church history, the 3rd century St. Adjutor lie encased in a glass casket at the rear of the church nave. It too is a reminder to the people of Wexford to be steadfast in the faith.
Within these walls hundreds of thousands of souls have been fed with the word of God and nourished with the Holy Eucharist, and similar number have been reconciled to God and given courage to begin again. Indeed the friars past a present have striven to make a sound contribution to the spiritual life of Wexford. They hold a revered place in the hearts of the people, hundreds of whom continue to come daily to pray in the Friars’ Conventual Church.