A Late Medieval statue of the Pietà from Kilcormac Co Offaly

Kilcormac is a small village in Co Offaly, situated on the N52 approximately 13 miles south-west of Tullamore and 10 miles north-east of Birr.

Located within the  Catholic church, The Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary,  built-in 1867, just off the main street, is a late medieval statue of the Pietà.

images

16th century Statue of the Pietà at Kilcormac church Co Offaly. Image taken https://www.offalyhistory.com/reading-resources/history/history-by-place/kilcormacs-hidden-treasure

The statue is carved from a block of solid oak and measuring five feet by three.  It was created by very a skilled craftsmen. Today the statue is covered in layers of modern paint which obscure some of the intricacies of the carving but

In the anatomy of the Christ every muscle and vein are deftly shown; while the rich broken-edged folds of the Virgin’s drapery express and exuberance suggesting that the statue dates  no earlier then the late 16th century (MacLeod 1947, 62).

Local tradition holds the Pietà came from Italy through a member of the Magawley family of Tremona, in Kilcormac.  It originally stood in the old parish church administered by the Carmelites.  A Carmelite priory had been founded at Kilcormac in the late 1430s by the O’Molloy family, it was later dissolved during the Reformation and reverted to the role of parish church.  The date of the statute suggests it was likely donated after the dissolution of the priory after St Mary’s became the parish church.

Following  a  period of persecution during  the penal times the  statue was taken from the church by a group of local men and hidden in  Derrydolney Bog about a mile from the medieval  chapel of Kilcormac, to protect it from iconoclasts.   At the time Emancipation  the last surviving member of the group now a very old man was carried into  to the bog  on his deathbed where he pointed out the hiding place. The statue was  then dug up and returned to the local community and was  at a later date placed in the modern church at Kilcormac.   According to the Irish Own

It almost left the parish some years after that when a priest, who was moving to Borrisokane, took it with him! However the parishioners brought it back and it has remained in the parish church of Kilcormac to this day.

Today it is housed in the modern church (MacLeod 1947, 62) and  there is great devotion to the statue in the area.  The statue is well worth  a visit if you are in the area and give a glimpse of the  type of objects the one adorned our late medieval churches.

References

MacLeod. 1947. Some Late Medieval Wood Sculptures in Ireland. JRSAI Vol. 77, No. 1, 53-63.

Ireland’s Own Summer Annual 1988  article on the statue reprinted by the Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society . https://www.offalyhistory.com/reading-resources/history/history-by-place/kilcormacs-hidden-treasure

 

4 comments on “A Late Medieval statue of the Pietà from Kilcormac Co Offaly

  1. Finola says:

    Gosh – the treasures we’ve never heard of!

  2. rafterd1972 says:

    What a beautiful statue and what an amazing history! Thank you, Susan again, for your wonderful research.

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