Okyle church in Co Waterford

At the moment I am writing a talk about the Rian Bó Phádraig an ancient road connecting , Co. Tipperary to Kilwatermoy in the county of Co Waterford .  Last  weekend I was out walking along part of the Waterford route. I also managed to  dropped by one of my favourite sites, the ruins of a medieval Church in the townland of  Okyle.  The name Okyle or Ógchoill  translates as  “Young Wood” ( http://www.logainm.ie/50107.aspx).

The only surviving wall of Okyle church.

The townland  is located in the ancient parish of Lismore and  Mocollop. I have not been able to find a saint associated with the site.  At present all that remains  of the church is the east gable. According to the   information plaque at the site, this church functioned as a chapel-of-Ease  for  Mocollop parish. A chapel of ease,  was a church building other than the parish church, built within the bounds of a parish for the attendance of those who could not reach the parish church conveniently.

15th-century, twin-light tracery window

The surviving east  gable has a lovely 15th-century, twin-light tracery window. A small cell is attached to the north end of the gable.

Cell attached to the north-east gable of the church

The cell most likely functioned as an anchorite cell and is one of the very few examples found in  Ireland. The  cell was  entered from inside the church through a small doorway with a flat lintel.  The roof of the cell is slightly corbelled.

Possible gun-loop at the NE side of cell

The cell is sub-oval  in shape. It is very curious   that  there are three gun loops in the walls.

Gun loop in the east wall

Power in 1898,  recorded that the cell was known locally as Tigh Chloiche or the stone house.

Interior of cell showing the gun loops

In 1840 the ordnance survey letters described the church as follows:


Only its east gable and thirty feet of the length of the north wall remain. It was twenty one feet in breadth, but its length cannot be ascertained as no part of the west gable is traceable. The east window is formed of cuts and stone and pointed on both sides; it measures on the inside nine feet seven inches in height and five feet four inches in width and on the outside, where it was divided into two lights by a stone mullion, seven feet three inches by two feet nine inches, each division (light) one foot two and a half inches. In the north-east angle is a small apartment, apparently a hermit’s cell or Duirtheach…There was a window in the north wall of this Church at the distance of four feet from the east gable; it was formed of cut stone and was two feet six inches wide in the inside but it is destroyed at top and on the outside. The north wall is nine feet high, three feet four inches thick and built of pebble stones of all shapes, kinds and sizes laid in irregular courses in a very rude style; it nods a good deal from the perpendicular, the foundation having given way…(O’Flanagan 1929, 144-145).

The third ed.   6-inch map  1927  records a holy well called  Tobar an Turais – the well of the pilgrimage c. 700m to the SW of the church (Power 1898, 218). The Waterford Inventory recorded that it is not visible at ground level .  In 1900’s Power notes its presence in the book the Placenames of the Decies but noted that ‘it was not much visted now’.  I think this is a site I will have to look into further.

11 comments on “Okyle church in Co Waterford

  1. Fascinating! Well done! Any connection with Eo choill ?

    • Thanks for your kind comments, glad you enjoyed it. As far as I know know the Irish for Okyle is Ógchoill translates as “Young Wood”. The irish for youghal is Eo chaill/choill which means yew wood.

      • I think there is a graveyard on the hill beyond the church, called the religeen . Is it possible there is some connection with diseases ?

      • Hi kieran i do recall Power mentioning a graveyard near the church, but I havent ever gone to see it or tried to find it . Have you been to see it ? religeen means little graveyard. you do get early medieval and post medieval graveyards on there own, away form churches so i doubt it has anything to do with disease. Louise

      • The disease element is suggested by the architecture , possibly communion was distributed through the little openings.

      • Oh sorry I thought you meant the graveyard was associated with disease. I think the cell attached to the church is an anchorite cell. They are very rare in Ireland. An anchorite was a type of hermit, who instead of going off and building a cell away from everyone the anchorite would withdraw into a cell in a church and stay there in prayer. Anchorite cells were very popular in the medieval period. The cells were usual built against the site of the church. In some cases the cell was walled up . whoever was in the cell could still hear mass and recieve communion but live a life of isolation and prayer. I think this was whats happening in Okyle . thats just my opinion. What is interesting though is that the cell windows look like gunloops

  2. Hello Louise = Thanks for the interesting and helpful article on Okyle church. Here is another article on Okyle church and district.


    Yours sincerely,

    Niall O’Brien

  3. Tom Veale says:

    Saw your very interesting piece on Okyle church Camphire for the first time today. I was most interested in your description of the church etc. I visited there about 50 years ago. What struck me was the little cell attached to the main building. My late father, who was with me at the time said it was a place where a Leper would be confined in times past as a means of isolating both the victim and disease, no cure being available. The unfortunate would live out her/his remaining time, fed but untouched. Your explanation is more civilised but I don’t discount the possibility that maybe my dad’s theory had a grain of truth.
    The way we are being treated during this pandemic brings it all home

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