I recently was reminded about a really interesting carving I noticed on my last visit to Kilmacduagh, Co Galway.
Kilmacduagh is an early medieval monastic site founded by St Colman son of Duagh in the seventh century. The site is located a short distance from the town of Gort Co Galway. Today the surviving ruins of the monastic settlement consist of a round tower, a cathedral, two smaller churches and a small Augustinian abbey. I am planning to do a much more detailed post on the site in the coming months.
The cathedral is the largest of the surviving buildings and also possibly the oldest structure at the site. It was probably originally built in the tenth or eleventh century it was extended in the twelfth century and remodelled again in the fifteenth century.
The church has many interesting features that are worth discussing in more detail but for the purpose of this post I will only highlight a very unusual carving.
The carving can be seen just inside the doorway of the north transept, on the right-hand side as you walk into the transept from the nave.
The carving consists of a large face cut into a sandstone block of stone. It is an oval shaped face, of a bald male, with two large ears, almond shaped eyes and a broad smiling mouth. All of his features combine to giving the figure a rather happy expression and when I first noticed the face I could not help but smile back.
The carving is most unusual and I have not seen anything comparable in all my travels. Are any of you aware of similar type carvings at other church sites in Ireland or Britain? If I find out anything else about the happy face I will let you all know.
We’ve visited many thousands of churches and other ecclesiastical sites across Britain, Ireland and parts of the continent and we’ve never seen anything like this chap at Kilmacduagh. When we first saw him, back in the 1980s, our children were young and our son (especially) was deeply into the Asterix books. We called him Obelix and that’s what he’s been ever since.
Keep up the good work, thoroughly good blog — always interesting and informative!
Thanks so much for getting in touch Moira, i think the Obelix is a good name for him. Thanks so much for your support and I am delighted you ejoy the blog
These places you share seem simply magical! I wish I could move there and live it, but alas life gets in the way!
Thank you 🙂