Pet Cemetery at Kilkea Castle

Yesterday I paid a visited to the newly opened  Kilkea Castle Hotel and Golf Course , in the company of my good friend, archaeologist and historian, Dr Sharon Greene.  The castle and grounds are full of many interesting features  including  a late medieval church and graveyard and medieval carvings.  Sharon is an expert on the history and archaeology of south Co Kildare and she provided an excellent tour of the church and historic graveyard located behind the castle.

 

Kilkea Castle

Kilkea Castle ( pronouced Kilkay)  was the residence of the renowned antiquarian Lord Walter Fitzgerald.  Lord Walter was a very  active member of the Kildare Archaeological and Historical Society and was a prolific contributer to  the societies journals on archaeology, history and folklore  of the county. Such was his influence and achievements that  Walter is commemorated by the Lord Walter Fitzgerald prize which is awarded biannually by the Kildare Archaeological Society for an essay of original research on some aspect of the county’s history.

 

View of Kilkea Castle from old graveyard and church

A small pet cemetery located under a tree at the back of the castle close to the road leading to the golf club house shows us another side of Lord Walters personality. As well as being a keen archaeologist and historian Lord Walter was also a dog lover as is clearly evident from  his commissioning of stone memorials to mark the passing of his pet dogs.

Memorial stones for Lord Walter Fitzgerald’s pet dogs

The cemetery consists of two finely cut stones.   The one closest to the road is a rectangular limestone  slab which bear the inscription

 

JESSIE

1893

She was a Dandi Dinmont that for 12 years

was more faithful to him than her master’s shadow.

_____________________________________________

There are men both good and wise who hold that in a future stage

Dumb creatures we have cherished here below

Shall give us joyous greeting when we pass the Golden Gate.

Is it folly that I hope it may be so?

For never man had friend more enduring to the end.

Truer mate in every turn of time and tide,

Could I think we’d meet again it would lighten half the pain.

if the thought that my Pet had died.

                                          (Whyte Melville)

______________________________________

Kavanach Carlow

Judging from the sentiment of the memorial stone Jessie a Dandi Dinot ,  now a rare breed of terrier, was sorely missed by her master. I like to think she accompanied him on his archaeological explorations.

Lord Walter adapted  the last verse of the The poem the place where the old horse died by George Whyte Melville to express his loss for his little dog.

Another interesting feature of the stone is that it also records the details of the maker  who is named as  Kavanach of Carlow.  It would be interesting to find out more about this stone mason.

Memorial stone for Jessie the beloved Dandie Dinmont terrier of Lord Walter Fitzgerald.

 

The dogs who followed Jessie are recorded on a second stone which is partially covered in soil and pine needles. The  stone is  rectangular  in shape  and at the top a dog collar has been carved  in relief with the words

1891 SHAUN 1902

The lower part of the stone contains the following inscription

The Faithful companion of

his Master,

W. FITZ G

1902 MURTAGH 1913

1913 TEIGE   19

The date of death for Teige has been left blank which may suggest he outlived his master.

Memorial stone of Shaun, Murtach and Teige the beloved dogs of Lord Walter Fitzgerald

Lord Walter died in 1923 and was buried in the nearby family graveyard a short distance from his beloved dogs.

Fitzgerald family plot at Kilkea Castle graveyard located within the ruins of a later medieval church.

 

Image of Lord Walter Fitzgerald from the Kildare Archaeological and Historical Society

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A visit to Askeaton Friary

A few weeks back I paid a visit to the wonderful Askeaton Friary in Co Limerick.

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Askeaton Friary Co Limerick

The friary is located on the banks of the river Deel, at the edge of town just off the N69.  According to the Monastic Ireland website The friary was founded in the year 1389 by either Gerald Fitzgerald the 3rd earl of Desmond and Lord Justice of Ireland, or in 1420 by James Fitzgerald the 7th earl of Desmond.

The friary seems to have survived the dissolution and a provincial chapter was held here in 1564. Shortly afterwards during the Desmond Wars the friary was taken over by Nicholas Malby and the friars were expelled.

The ruins of the friary are extensive and in a very good state of repair.  The ruins date primarily to the fourteenth and fifteenth century and include a cloister, church and domestic buildings.

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Plan of remains of Askeaton Friary showing building phases.

Today the friary is accessed through a modern graveyard on the east side of the monastic remains.

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Door leading into the cloister in the south wall.

To enter the interior of the ruins  and  the cloister  one must pass through a finely  fifteenth century pointed doorway in the south wall. This doorway is opposite a spiral staircase that provides acces to the upper story of the east range.

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Doorway on the east side south wall providing access to the cloister and the east  range at Askeaton Friary.

As you enter this doorway and turn left you find an extremely well-preserved to the cloister.

The cloister consists of a central rectangular area surrounded by a covered walkway. The cloister was  the heart of the monastery, a place of quiet contemplation and the means of communication between the  monastic church and domestic buildings.

At Askeaton the cloister walkway has very finely carved arches. Each arch is composed of columns with moulded bases and capitals. In the northeast corner of the cloister, there is a carving of St Francis the patron saint of the Franciscan order. The saint is depicted in monastic robes with stigmata.

The cloister provides access to the church and the domestic buildings through a series of doors.  The nave of the church is entered through a lovely pointed doorway with beautiful carvings on the base.

The church is a long building of fourteenth century date with an undivided nave and chancel.

The church has some very interesting features, including a triple sedilia and choir stalls in the east end of the south wall.

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Triple sedilia and choir stalls in the east wall of the church.

Above the sedilia is a large plaque sixteenth century date, contemporary carved stones some and a second plaque (later insertions) and a finely carved tracery window.

The walls of the church still retain a number of  hooded tomb niches, three in the south wall and one in the north wall.

The  church also has some very finely carved tracery windows.

 

The remains of a later fifteenth century transept are found at the northwest end of the church building.

The transept provided space for additional altars dedicated to various saints and serving as mortuary, burial or chantry chapels for the community’s benefactors. In friaries the transept was often the location of a shrine to the Virgin Mary and was known as the Lady Chapel. (Monastic Ireland website)

A pointed  doorway in the north wall connects the chancel to the sacristy.  At the base of the doorways is a spiral carving. I wonder if it is a masons mark.

The sacristy has two floors. The ground floor was roofed with a barrel vault.  The partial remains of the vaulting can still be seen in the north wall  and a fireplace survives in this wall. The  east gable gable wall is the most intact part of this room and contains a fine twin-light window,

 

Behind the sacristy is a large green area marked as the ‘old graveyard’ on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map is located behind the church and sacristy.  There are some large chunks of masonry from the transept walls scattered around the graveyard.

The domestic building of the friary also survive and are found on the east and west side of the clositer.

The east range includes the monastic kitchen. It is a two stories and the ground floor is roofed with a long barrel-vaulted ceiling. A finely carved fireplace is located towards the north end of the east wall.

The refectory or dining room,juts out of the southeast corner of the cloister. It is two stories in height and dates to circa fifteenth century.

 

The chapter room where monks conducted business  also survives and is in good condition. It was locked when I visited so I could only peek in through the metal gate.  with in the area are the tombs of the martyrs Bishop Patrick O’Healy and Fr Conn O’Rourke.

According to the wonderful Monastic Ireland website

A very fragmentary painting survives in the upper floor of the domestic ranges – a space that would have been reserved for the friars. It depicts a devotional image of the ‘Man of Sorrows’- showing Christ surrounded by the instruments of his Passion (http://www.monastic.ie/tour/askeaton-franciscan-friary/).

For a more in-depth discussion of the site check out the wonderful Monastic Ireland website.

References

http://www.monastic.ie/tour/askeaton-franciscan-friary/

 

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Holy Cow. The miraculous animals of the Irish Saints: Part 7, St Ciarán of Saighir and his cow

This is part seven in my series of posts about the saints and their animals. This post features St Ciarán of Saighir, the founder of the great monastery of Seir Keiran in Co Offaly and his cow.

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St Ciaran of Saighir.

Like earlier posts about St Ciarán of  Clonmacnoise, St Manchan of Lemanaghan and St Patrick the theme of the story relates to the theft of the saints cow.

 

 

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Site of St Ciaran’s monastery Seir Keiran Co Offaly

 

This story was recorded in the Irish  Life of St Ciarán of Saighir, compiled in the seventeenth century. The text recalls

a thief came westward over the Slieve Bloom, and stole a cow from Ciarán.

Below is a location map showing the  location of Slieve Bloom Mountains and the monastic settlement of Seir Keiran.

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After Google Earth location map of Seir Kieran monastic settlement and the Slieve Bloom Mountain range.

There is no mention of the cow having any miraculous abilities like the cows of the other saints, however, divine intervention stops the progress of the thief allowing the cow to escape and return to her rightful owner.  As the thief is crossing a river the waters rose and drowned him and the cow to the saint.

Mist and unspeakable darkness rose against him, and a river so strong in flood, so that he was drowned, and the cow returned to Ciarán again (BNÉ, Vol. II, 105).

irishmoiledcowcalf

 

Reference

Plummer, C. (ed.) 1922 reprint 1997 Bethada Náem nÉrenn. Vol.1, 2 Oxford.

 

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Holy Cows. The Miraculous Animals of the Irish Saints: Part 6, The Magical Cows of Kilmalkedar

Last year I began a series of post on the saints and their animals. Continuing with this theme this post will look at the folklore and legends of cows associated with the great ecclesiastical complex of   Kilmalkedar /Cill Maoilchéadair in the Dingle Peninsula, Co Kerry.

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Kilmalkedar medieval church part of the the Kilmalkedar Ecclesiastical Complex

The site of Kilmalkedar  consists of  a large ecclesiastical complex with archaeological remains dating from the early medieval to late medieval period.  It is dedicated to a little known saint called  Maolcethair, whose death was recorded in the martyrology of Donegal (Cuppage 1986, 308). The site was also linked to St Brendan and was  part of the  pilgrim landscape of the Mount Brandon. Unlike the previous tales about the saints and their animals ( Ita and her donkey, Patrick and his cow, Ciaran and his cow, Manchan and his cow), St Maolcethair  is not directly associated with any animal  but ecclesiastical complex has two interesting folk tales that relate to miraculous events associated with cows. These stories are embedded in the physical landscape.

The Cow and Thief’s Stone

One of the stories concerns the theft of a cow, a familiar theme from  the earlier posts in this series. The story goes that a thief tried to steal a cow from the community at Kilmalkedar. The cow bellowed, which woke up one of the monks.  One of the monks

‘caused the thief to stick in the stone  which he was climbing and the hoof of the cow to get embedded in the stone on which she had alighted from the fence. The thief set up a howling form pain and fright and prayed humbly for mercy and forgiveness. The holy man released him and warned him to sin no more. The imprints of the thief’s knees are to be seen to the present day and the impress of the cow’s hoof is also discernible’ ( Dingle Survey Files  after mss of John Curran, unpublished  OPW file).

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1st ed OS map of Kilmalkedar (1842) showing the site of the Cow stone and Theifs stone.

Until 1967 two stones  known as the cow  and thief stone were located on either side of the road close to the church and graveyard at Kilmalkedar,  they were set 150m south of the graveyard and some 350 yards northeast of (KE042-028). Both were recorded on the 1st edition OS map of 1842. Unfortunately the cow stone  has now disappeared, both stones  were set on either side of the roadway until at least 1967.  The  cow stone (KE042-02701) was located on the west side of the road and the thief stone (KE042-027) on the east. Killanin & Michael (1967, 96) described the two stones as standing stones and the Dingle Survey notes that the theif stone ‘stood 0.81m high at the base’ (Cuppage 1986, 323). However descriptions in the Dingle Survey Files suggest that the  cow stone was a flat stone.

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View of the road outside if Kilmalkedar Graveyard the Cow and Thiefs Stones were located 150m to the south.

A story recounted  by Mary Jane Leadbeater Fisher in her book Letters from the Kingdom of Kerry: In the year 1845 also records the tale but in her account the story is linked to another archaeological feature of the landscape, a large multi basin bullaun stone know as the Keelers or na Beirtí (Milk Coolers).

A cow is the subject of this legend—a cow of size and breed suited to provide milk for the giant race of those days. We saw the milk vessels, and if she filled them morning and evening, she was indeed a marvellous cow. In a huge flat rock were these milk pans; six large round holes, regular in their distances from each other, and nearly of equal size; they could each contain some gallons of liquid. This said cow gave sufficient milk for one whole parish; and was the property of a widow—her only wealth. Another parish and another clan desired to be possessed of this prize; so a marauder, endued with superior strength and courage, drove her off one moonlight night. The widow followed wailing, and he jeered her and cursed her as he proceeded. The cow suddenly stopped; in vain the thief strove to drive her on; she could neither go on, nor yet return; she stuck fast. At length, aroused by the widow’s cries, her neighbours arrived, and the delinquent endeavoured to escape. In vain—for he too stuck fast in the opposite rock; he was taken and killed. The cow then returned to her own home, and continued to contribute her share towards making the parish like Canaan, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” The prints of her hoofs, where the bees made their nests, are still to be seen in one rock ; and those of the marauder’s foot and hand in another, where he was held fast by a stronger bond than that of conscience (Leadbeater Fisher 1847, 48).

The ‘huge  flat rock’ she refers to seems to be  a large stone known as the Keelers or ‘Beirti’.  This is a large irregular, shaped bullaun stone (KE042-026007)  located 50-60m northwest of the Romanesque church at Kilmalkedar. The stone  has seven depressions of oval and circular shape with depths of 0.04-0.25 diameters 0.22-0.42m diameter. This stone is associated with a magical cow known who is known in folklore form other parts of the country.

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The  legendary cow was the  Glas Ghoibhneach,  she was said to a have been a marvellous milker.  The Glas Ghoibhneach translates as ‘the grey of Goibhniu’. Goibhniu was a mythical smith who likely derived from a god of the same name. The legend of the cow  is  very old and widespread across Ireland. According to O’hOgain

legend told of her all over Ireland describes how she filled with milk every pail put under her by her unnamed owner. However, a jealous woman claimed that she had a vessel which the Glas could not fill, and accordingly she brought a sieve and began to milk the great cow. The Glas yielded a continuous stream of milk, enough to fill a lake, but it all ran through the sieve. Eventually, she became exhausted by the effort and died.

The tradition from Kilmalkedar tells that the glas was milked into the basins of the rock by the monk from the monastery (An Seabhac 1939, 117). Interestingly additional stones associated with the magical cow are found a few miles to the southwest, the stones are  a pair of standing stones known as ‘Geata an Glas Ghaibhleann’ or the gate of Glas Ghaibhleann.

I would like to thank the wonderful archaeologist Isabel Bennett  for all her help with  pointing out sources for these  stones

References

An Seabhac. 1939. Triocha-Chéad Chorca Dhuibhne. Cuid IV. Dublin: An Cumann

le Béaloideas Éireann, 117.

Cuppage, J. 1986. Archaeological Survey of the Dingel peninsula. A description of

  the field antiquities from the Mesolithic Period to the 17th century A.D. Oidhrecht

  Chorca Dhuibhne. Ballyferriter: Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne, 308

Dingle Survey Files.

Ó hÓgáin, D. 1991. Myth, legend & romance an encyclopaedia of the Irish folk tradition

New York: Prentice Hall Press.

Killanin, M. & Duignan, M. 1967. The Shell guide to Ireland. London: Ebury Press.

Leadbeater Fisher, M. J in her book Letters from the Kingdom of Kerry: In the year 1845. pub 1847. Dublin: Webb and Chapman

http://www.voicesfromthedawn.com/gate-of-the-cow/

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The St Mary’s medieval parish church, Cahir Co Tipperary

Each year thousands of tourist come to to the town of Cahir in Co Tipperary  primarily to see the wonderful castle.

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Cahir Castle

The town has many other amazing historic sites including  St Mary’s Priory and St Mary’s parish church.

St Mary’s  church  is  tucked away at the bottom of Chapel Street just off the town square. The church sits at the centre of a large historic graveyard, entered through an imposing gateway with large limestone built pillars.

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Entrance to St Mary’s church and graveyard in Cahir

The  church is a multi-period building, rectangular in shape. The  change and nave are divided by a chancel arch. This was the medieval church for the town and  the reformation   the building was used as a place of worship by the established church  and continued as such until 1820 (Killanin and Duignan 1967, 133). Interestingly Catholic  worship also continued here too and the church was divided to accommodate both Protestant and Catholic worship (Farrelly 2011).

The church building is of multi-period date. Some of the  fabric  dates to the 13th-century  and there is also evidence of extensive rebuilding in the 15th/16th century.  The church has a number of interesting features. The western end is dominated by a double bellcote.

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St Mary’s Parish Church Cahir

The east gable has traces of early windows. These windows were  replaced in the 15th/16th century by a mullion and transom four-light limestone window. This window  has three interlace patterns, possible masons marks, carved on the external side of the masonry. The interlace patterns are very similar to others found at Cahir Priory  and the Augustinian Abbey in Fethard.

The interior of the church is filled with  modern burials  and their are a number of interesting architectural features such as  a corbel depicting the head of a cleric and a finely carved piscina. Following the reformation the church was later altered and divided to accommodate both Protestant and Catholic worship (Farrelly 2011).

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Piscina in St Mary’s Parish Church

The corbel  with the head of a cleric is my favourite feature at the site. It is very finely carved but the nose and mouth are now damaged.

Here are some photos of the rest of the church.

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The graveyard that surrounds the church has many interesting historic graves which I think deserve a post of their own. This would be a wonderful graveyard for Historicgraves.ie project.

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References

Farrelly, Jean. 2011.’ TS075-048003, church Townparks’ http://webgis.archaeology.ie/historicenvironment/( accessed 05/01/2017).

Killanin, M.M. and Duignan, M.V. 1967 (2nd ed.) The Shell guide to Ireland. London. The Ebury Press.

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‘Achadfada’ Baptistgrange, a medieval monastic grange in Co Tipperary

A few weeks back I paid a flying visit to the site  Baptistgrange  the site of a medieval  monastic grange or farm located a short distance from the village of Lisronagh, in Co Tipperary. Baptistgrange is often referred to as Achadfada or Achfada in historical sources.

The grange was owned by  the Augustinian monastery of St John the Baptist, Dublin (Power 1938, 6; Gwynn and Hadcock 1988, 216). Food and other raw materials were produced here in Tipperary for consumption in at the main monastery at St John’s in Dublin.

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Church and graveyard at Baptistgrange

As with most places in south Tipperary the grange enjoys a great view of  wonderful Slievenaman.

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View of Slievenaman from Baptistgrange

I didn’t get much time to walk around the site. The remains of a deserted village are located to the northwest of the grange church while a the site of a castle is located to the west .  The Civil Survey (1654-6) refers to this castle as ‘an old broken stump of a Castle with an old broken Bawne’ (Simington 1931, vol.1, 193).

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Aerial view of Baptistgrange taken from Bing Maps

Following the dissolution  the grange was leased out and in 1541 it leased to the countess of Ormond (Simington 1931, vol.1, 193). By the  16th century Baptistgrange was described as having a

‘fortilage or castle, with a hall, etc. 51 acres and 12 cottages, leased in 1541 to the countess of Ormond at £4’ (Gwynn and Hadcock 1988, 216).

The grange church still survives and it situated at the centre of a historic graveyard.

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Church and graveyard at Grangebaptist

The church is covered in dense vegetation so it was impossible to inspect closely.  Only part of the west gable is visible but as the west end of the  church is very close to a field boundary it was difficult to photograph.

According to Power the church  was divided between the nave and chancel with ‘a triple chancel arch’ which had collapsed by 1930’s.

At either side of the former altar, in north and south side walls respectively, is the usual lighting ope. An unusual detail at this place is a projecting slab evidently a credence or a statue plinth; this is set in the east gable…corbels project from the side walls near their western end; these, instead of putlocks, supported wooden gallery beams… (Power 1938, 60).

The presence of a triple chancel arch is very rare  in Ireland and it is such a pity that  the Baptistgrange  arch is no longer intact. Power (1938, 60) goes on to say

By triple arch here is not meant as an arch of three receding orders as in so many Hiberno-Romanesque example, but an arcade, or series of three arches, which run right across the church interior to form division into nave and chancel. Only two other examples of this arrangement are known to the writer, scil: in the Cathedral of Clonmacnoise and in the ruined church of Templeoan, Co Cork, respectively. Doubtless there are other Irish examples unrecorded.

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Image of triple arch at Baptistgrange taken from Power, P. 1938 ‘Some old churches of Decies’, JRSAI, Vol.68, 55-68 Fig.2

References

Gwynn, A., & Hadcock, R.N., 1970. Medieval religious houses of Ireland. Dublin. Irish Academic Press.

Power, P. 1938 ‘Some old churches of Decies’, JRSAI, Vol.68, 55-68.

Simington, R.C., 1931. The Civil survey, AD 1654-1656. Vol I: county of Tipperary: eastern and southern baronies. Dublin. Irish Manuscripts Commission.

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