The medieval site, known as ‘The French Church’ is about a quarter of a mile from the present friary (to-day the site of the Greyfriars Municipal Art Gallery).
Waterford friary was one of the first in Ireland, being founded by Hugh Purcell about 1240. It was the scene of the surrender of four Irish chieftains (the O’Conor Don, de Burgo, O’Brien and O’Kennedy) to Richard II in 1395. The community did not adopt the Observant reform until 1521. The friary was suppressed on 2nd April 1540, but
the friars were able to remain in the city. Henry VIII granted a charter in 1544 to convert part of the building into a hospital-cum-alms-house, this being the original Holy Ghost Hospital. The church was used for burials, then (in 1693) by some French Huguenots, and later by the Methodists. These latter afterwards built a church on the site of the convent.
Following suppression, the friars moved into hiding in Johnstown, although some of them acted as chaplains to the Holy Ghost Hospital. An official residence was set up in 1612. The friars were forced out of the town in 1652, but returned to Johnstown in 1660. From then on the community numbered two or three. Not having a public church, the priests helped in the parish church. In addition, individual friars became parish clergy in other parts of the diocese. The residence was changed to the area of South Parade and Water Street about 1790. The friars moved to their present site in 1830 and opened a small chapel and residence in 1835. The church was expanded in 1905-8 and again in 1931-3 and consecrated in 1944. The present friary was built in 1928.