St Patrick’s well and Cloghaphuill in the parish of Rathvilly Co Carlow

The parish of Rathvilly ( Ráith Bilech  ‘fort of the old tree’) in Co Carlow has two really interesting pilgrimage sites,  still venerated by local people; St Patrick’s well in Rathvilly townland and  Clogh-a-phuill (the stone with a hole), a roadside shrine,  in neighbouring townland of Ladystown.

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Location map of St Patrick’s well and Cloghaphuill ( from Google Earth)

St Patrick’s well

St Patrick’s well is located  on private land in the townland of Patrickswell (Tobar Phádraig) at the bottom of a long sloping field.

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St Patrick’s well at Patrickswell, Rathvilly Co Carlow

According to tradition St Patrick baptised Crimthann the  King of Leinster along with his wife and child at this spot.

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The large flat capstone which covers St Patrick’s well

The well itself is a natural spring capped by  a large flat slab. The water follows  away from the well through a stone lined channel.  The area surrounding the  well was  enclosed in 1953 with a hexagonal fence. More recently the  ground surface surrounding the well was covered in gravel.  I didn’t see any drinking cups or votive offerings at the site but there were some coins in the waters of the well. The wells water is renowned as a cure for warts. People still visit the well especially around St Patrick’s day.  I am currently looking into the medieval and post-medieval pilgrimage at the site so I will keep you posted on what I find out.

Waterstown church & Cloghaphuill

A short distance from St Patrick’s well is  the ruins of a medieval church at Waterstown. On the 1st edition ordnance survey map of Co Carlow 1840 the site is recorded as church, graveyard and cross.  The map shows the  church  as a rectangular building within a rectangular enclosure. The Ordnance Survey  25 inch map for the area recorded in the early 1900’s, shows the site as sub-oval mound with a cross at the summit.

In  Ryan’s  The History and Antiquities of the  County Carlow  in 1883 the site is described as  follows

is a rude stone cross, embedded in a socket of like material and about seven feet in height. It is supposed that  the parish church formerly stood at this place.

Today the site  is a mound  covered in thick vegetation with two crosses on the summit. On the southeast side of this mound are traces of walls of a structure (most likely the church).

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Waterstown church in the parish of Rathvilly

On the summit of the mound are two  medieval crosses. The larger of the two,  is a high cross made of granite, it is undecorated cross with a solid wheel and edge moulding and sits in  a large rectangular cut stone.

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Granite high cross at Waterstown

The second smaller cross  is made of limestone. It  has a solid wheel but the arms of the cross have been damaged and it is decorated on both sides.  The front face depicts the crucifixion of Christ and back has an abstract design. The cross sits in a large earth-fast boulder.

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Late Medieval cross at Waterstown

These two crosses may suggest that this was more then just a parish church in  the early medieval. I have not come across  any reference to pilgrimage taking place here at Waterstown or  a dedication to a saint  but given the areas connection with St Patrick perhaps we can speculate the  site was associated this saint.

A short distance away in the townland of Ladystown at the side of the  Rathvilly-Balintglass  road is the  shrine  called Clogh-a-phuill  (stone with the hole). The shrine is the base of a cross that  most  likely came from the nearby church site at Waterstown. It may even have  supported smaller decorated cross mentioned above.

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Clogh-a-phuill the wayside shrine at Ladystown in the parish of Rathvilly

The shrine is still visited by people and while  I was at the site a man came along and stopped his car, got out and said some prayers here before heading away .

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Clogh-a-phuill

There is an array of votive offerings  holy statues, rosary beads and coins left here by pilgrims.

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Votive offerings at Clogh-a-phuill, Ladystown

I am continuing to do research on this site so I will keep you posted on any new findings. I would also be delighted to hear from anyone who has any information on the modern pilgrimage at either site

References

Ryan, J. 1838. The History and Antiquities of the County of Carlow. Dublin: Richard Moore.

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5 comments on “St Patrick’s well and Cloghaphuill in the parish of Rathvilly Co Carlow

  1. Roy Murray says:

    Always interested in the votive offerings that people leave behind at sites. In the meantime I have nominated you for an illustrious blog award (sorry, no trophy) where you get to answer some personal heritage based questions – http://roymurray.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/archaeological-bloggers/

  2. Es says:

    Thought you might like to hear that the Cloghaphuill is still used. I was over in September 2014. My cousin, born and bred on the outskirts of Rathvilly, was saying that her son had a bad set of warts which weren’t responding to whatever the doctor gave him, so my cousin suggested he visit the Clogh. You bless yourself with some of the water in the hole, then say several Hail Marys. You have to go to the stone three times in total and repeat that pattern. And yes, the warts disappeared…

  3. Adufe says:

    I lived in Rathvilly for over 20 years and its wonderful to read about the place again

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