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.

dscf2131

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.

dscf4810

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.

dscf4815

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).

dscf4838

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

‘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.

20170102_130309

Church and graveyard at Baptistgrange

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

20170102_130408

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).

baptistgrange

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.

20170102_130615

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.

capture

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.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Killamery High Cross Co Kilkenny

The Killamery  high cross is  a wonderful hidden gem,   just off the main Clonmel to Kilkenny Road, about 5 miles south of Callan. The  cross is located at the site of the early medieval monastery of Killamery. Today  the site is dominated by a Firsts Fruits church, dedicated to St Nicholas. The church was  built in the year 1815 with a gift of £900 from the Board of First Fruits and was in use until the early 1900’s. During the 19th century it was a rectory, in the diocese of Ossory and it  formed the corps of the prebend of Killamery, in the gift of the Bishop; the tithes amount to £280.

dscf6738

St Nicholas First Fruits Church at Killamery

Killamery or Chill Lamraí  in Irish translates as the Church of Lamraighe and it gives its name to the townland and the civil parish where the site is located.

The patron saint the early medieval monastery was St Gobán. The Martyrology of Óengus  records the saints feast day as the 6th of December. In later centuries the site became associated with another saint, St Nicholas of Myra whose feast day is also on the 6th of December. Little is know about the early history of the site  and it is not until the 11th century  that it appears in the historical records. The Annals of Four Masters in 1004  record the death of Domhnall son of Niall the abbot of Cill-Laimhraighe. During the later medieval period site appears to a have had a parochial status. An Anglo-Norman Motte is located c.100m to the southwest of the site.Mottes were earth and timber castles composed of a large artificial pudding bowl shaped earthen mound with a wooden palisade around the summit, enclosing a timber tower known as a bretasche (Farrelly & O’Brien 2006, 289).

According to Grey (2016, 278)

The townland of Killamery appears to have been See lands from an early date, until the bishop exchanged the townland with William Marshal for the townland of Stonycarthy, between 1192 and 1231. Marshal granted the townland to de Albin (Tobin) and it remained in the hands of the Tobins (Brooks 1950, 252-61), until it was forfeited in Cromwellian times by James Tobin. The church of Killamery became the prebendary of the diocese of Ossory on the establishment of the chapter and continued to form the corps of the diocesan chancellor until at least the fifteenth century (Carrigan 1905, iv, 311-20).

Today little remains of the earlier church settlement. During the 19th century much of the remains relating to the early medieval and medieval of Killamery  was destroyed. The Ordnance Survey Letters of Kilkenny (1839, 120) state

The foundation, between three and four feet high, remains on the south-east side of the churchyard or burying ground, measuring 23 feet by 18, walls 2 feet nine inches thick; this part would appear to have been the Quire of the Church, as vestiges of  some more extensive building may be traces, projecting to the west from it. There is a yew three within the area of the choir five feet in circumference , and two white thorns of good growth near it (Herity 2003, 120).

In 1853 the Kilkenny Archaeological Journal recorded a visit by  Mr Dunne who described

A portion of the ancient chancel wall which enclosed the tombs of the family of Lee had been destroyed only the week before he visited it, and the stones had been used for a wall near the police barrack. The body of this ancient place of worship, with its ivy-covered arch, had been taken down in the year 1815 to serve for material for the present parish church, and the moss-covered stones that were uprooted on this occasion were thrown into a common shore (Stokes & Westropp, 1896/1901, 572).

A small number of early medieval features are found in the graveyard beside the First Fruits church. They include an early medieval, cross slab, a bullaun stone, high cross and a holy well.

006

Historic graveyard at Killamery containing  high cross, cross slab and bullaun stone.

The cross slab a large rectangular slab of stone with a large  latin cross set within a frame above the cross is the inscription  OR AR THUATHA. The  slab is set on its side against a large block of stone.

dscf6755

The high cross dates to the ninth century it is elaborately decorated and sits on a stone plinth.

dscf6745

East face of the cross at Killamery

A panel on the base of the western face seems to contain an inscription which MacAlister  transcribed as OR DO  MAELSECHLAILL. “OR DO”  means pray for and he identified Maelsechnaill as high king of Ireland who reigned  AD 846 to 862 (Harbison 1994, 78).

016.JPG

West face of high cross at Killamery

Above the whorl at the centre of the head of the west face is a panel showing one figure holding a child as another approaches from the right-perhaps Adam and Eve at Labour. Beneath the whorl is a figure flanked by angels, possibly God creating the Seventh  Day…The hunting scenes on the arms of the cross (Harbison 1994, 79).

The eastern face of the  high cross depicts interlaced animals.

The sides of the cross are also highly decorated. The ends of the arms  have scenes from the bible the southern arm  Noah in the Ark and the northern arm a scenes from  the life of St John the Baptist.
dscf6769

Northern side of the high cross at Killamery

According to the Ordnance Survey Letters (1839) stations were performed  there on Good Friday during the mid 19th century. It was

frequently visited by persons afflicted with head ache, on which occasion the mitre, which is loose is taken off the cross and put three times on the patient’s head, at the time reciting some prayers, after which a cure may be expected to follow (Herity 2003, 120)

 

021

The ‘mitre’ cap stone on top of the high cross was used to cure headaches in the 19th century.

A large bullaun stone  is located close to the high cross. Its base is worn through . Megalithic Ireland blog makes note of a second bullaun stone at the site which I did not see. I really hope I missed it and it has not disappeared from the site.

 

dscf6749

Stokes & Westropp (1896/1900, 378) recounted the presence of a third bullaun stone at the site and that it marked the grave of St Gobban.

There is a tradition that a bullaun, i.e. a cup-marked stone, probably
a rude font, lay at the side of the grave of Saint Goban at one time, but
that it was broken in pieces by the Palatines of New Birmingham, in the
County Tipperary.
A small and very unusual holy well is found on the north side of the graveyard.
The well is marked by a large granite boulder. One side of the  stone has been shaped in to  gable shape over a recess.
dscf6773

St Nicholas holy well Killamery 2014

When I visited the site in the summer of 2016 the well  was dry and a rectangular recess normally filled with water from the well was visible at the base.  The well was dedicated to St Nicholas of Myra. In the past a pattern or patron day was held here on December 6th  the feast day of the saint. The tradition of pilgrimage here has long died out. Evidence of the saints importance to the area is illustrated by dedications of the nearby church and school at Winegap to the saint. Interestingly the feast day of the founder St Gobán, coincided with that of Saint Nicholas of Myra. St Nicholas was a very popular Norman saint and it is possible that his association  with the site was linked to the establishment of the Anglo-Norman  settlement of Killamery and  was used to replace the earlier cult of St Gobán.
Although not directly related to the early medieval monastery. In 1850’s a sliver pin brooch was found  by a labourer digging in a field within the parish of Killamery. It was said the man accidental broke the pin with a blow from the spade.The broach dates to the ninth century and was made in Ireland but the design was influenced by Viking design (Whitfield & Oskasha 1991).  The pin shows evidence of Viking-style stamped ornament on the pin. The broach  has an inscription  on the back which probably reads: CIAROD[UI]RMC[.R]. According to  Whitfield & Oskasha (1991, 59) ‘text contains a male personal name, probably CIAROD[UI]R MAC [.R]. It can be interpreted as ‘[the possession] of Ciarodur son of [-]’ It is likely Ciarodur was the owner of the broach (ibid, 60).
c_brooch_killamery_2

Killamery Broach from  The History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory http://rootsweb.ancestry.com/~irlkik/pics/index.htm

Reference

Crawford, H. 1913. A Descriptive List of Early Cross-Slabs and Pillars (Continued). The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 3(3), sixth series, 261-265.

Farrelly, J. & O’Brien, C. 2002.  Archaeological inventory of County Tipperary.  Vol. I, North Tipperary.  Dublin: The stationary office.

Grey, R. 2016.Settlement clusters at parish churches in Ireland, c. 1200-1600 AD. Thesis NUI Galway.https://aran.library.nuigalway.ie/handle/10379/6061

Harbison, P. 1994. Irish High Crosses.Drogheda: The Boyne Valley Honey Company.

Herity, M. 2003. Ordnance Survey Letters of Kilkenny. Vol.1 & 2. Dublin: Fourmasters Press.

Whitfield, N., & Okasha, E. (1991). The Killamery Brooch: Its Stamped Ornament and Inscription. The Journal of Irish Archaeology, 6, 55-60.

Lewis,  1837 Topographical Dictionary of Ireland Vol. 1, 123.

Stokes, M. & Westropp, T. J/ 1896/1901.’Notes on the High Crosses of Moone, Drumcliff, Termonfechin, and Killamery. (Plates XXVIII. to LI.)The Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy , Vol. 31 (1896/1901), pp. 541-578.

A Day Trip to the Parish of Kilmovee Co Mayo

Last summer I spent a day exploring some of the archaeology sites in the parish of Kilmovee Co Mayo. Kilmovee is located a short distance from the town of Ballaghadreen in  Co Roscommon.  Local man, Tommy Horan  was kind enough to act as my guide for the day.

The parish gets its name from St Mobhí. Kilmovee or Cill Mobhí in Irish, means the church of St Mobhí. It is said he  came to the area as a missionary, continuing on the work of St Patrick.

IMG_8447

Bullaun stone known as Na Trí Umar Bheannaith in townland of Rushes

The day began in the townland of Rusheens West with a visit to one of the largest bullaun stones I have ever seen. The stone is known as Na Trí Umar Bheannaithe/The Three Holy Water Fonts.  The  bullaun stone is a large boulder with three large depressions.  It sits on a plinth against a wall at the side of a small byroad. Folklore tells that the stone was transported from Killericín and placed in its current position.

255

Bullaun stone known as Na Trí Umar Bheannaith in townland of Rusheens West

From the bullaun stone we travelled on to the site of a holy well called Tober na Bachaille/The Well of the Crozier. The holy well is located in marshy field. As the site is  on  a working farm so permission should be sought before gaining access.

205

Field where Tober na Bachaille/ The Well of the Crozier is located.

Folklore tells that when St Mobhí came to the area as a missionary he needed somewhere to baptise new converts.  Not having a suitable water source the saint struck the ground three times with his crozier and three wells sprung up on the spot.

It is thought there was originally three wells  here but today only one well is visible.  The well is very overgrown  and a small blackthorn tree  grows beside it. The well is a spring  enclosed by a low stone wall.  The location of single well is marked on the 1st ed. (1839) OS 6-inch maps which could suggest that the three springs are within the well enclosure. Unfortunately the Ordnance Survey Letters  relating to Mayo fail to mention the well.  The Folklore Commission National Schools Essays provides an origin tale for what it calls the three Blessed Wells in the parish.

St Movee’s sister was a nun and she lived in Sligo. One day she came to Kilmovee to see her brother and the church. She was passing down through Barralackey and there was a boy minding cows. He told her he would help her and he told her that the Ardeull people thought she was a witch and that they were to follow her. He said he would go with her to the church only he had a long way to bring water to his cows. She was very thankful to him and said he would never again be short of water and she — [can’t read the word] on a rock and water filled in it and is there still. In three long steps she reached the church and every step she gave a well sprang up three well in succession and these are called the ‘Blessed Wells’ (NFSC  Cloonierin 114:52).

 

Tober na Bachaille is no longer visited by pilgrims and as a result it has become overgrown.  Local knowledge may shed more light on the well(s) and traditions relating to pilgrimage.

View Tobar na Bachaille.

View of Tobar na Bachaille

To the north of the well is a large stone built penitential cairn or leacht. Sitting on top of the cairn is a stout Ogham Stone.

View of penitental cairn with ogham stone beside Tobar na Bachaile

View of penitential cairn with ogham stone beside Tobar na Bachaile

Macalister noted that the ogham stone, once acted as a ‘kneeling stone’ and sat on the low wall surrounding the holy well. The stone had moved to its current position by the 1940’s (Macalister 1945, 7-9).  An ogham inscription is found along one of the edges of the stone. Macalister identified this inscription as AlATTOS MAQI BR…. He also suggests that the top of the stone was deliberately cut away by a mason during the building of the wall around the well (ibid).

Ogham stone beside Tobar na Bachaile

Ogham stone beside Tobar na Bachaile

From the holy well we  traveled on to  the ruins of a medieval parish church called An Teampall Nua also known as St Patrick’s church.  Local folklore recalls that  when the church was first built it was called the ‘New Temple’.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All that remains of the church are the chancel and parts of the nave walls. The walls of the church have been rebuilt and incorporated architectural fragments of windows and doors.  A chancel arch still survives in relatively good condition and appears to have been remodelled in the past. The original arch was rounded and built of cut sandstone, it was later altered and filled with masonry and replaced with a smaller  to a pointed arch defined by vousoirs. The exterior of the church is surrounded by rubble masonry that likely came from the church. In 1838 the Ordnance Survey Letters for Mayo described the church as on

on the East gable of which there is a window about 6 feet and 6 inches broad. Part of side walls remain, West gable is perfect (Herity 2009, 288).

DSCF2062

The church is surrounded by a historic graveyard and mass is said here once a year.

Our day concluded with a visit to a large ringfort called  An Caiseal located in the townland of Kilcashel/Coill an Chaisil, which means ‘the wood of the stone fort’.

The ringfort is very well-preserved and is on private land so permission must be obtained before entering.  The fort   measures 30m in diameter and is constructed of a single circular wall which is 5m thick and 3m high.

View of exterior of Caiseal ringfort

View of exterior of Caiseal ringfort

The fort is entered through a formal linteled entrance.

Linteled entrance

Linteled entrance

The interior contains the ruins of two house sites and a souterrain.

379

The top of the walls are accessed from the interior via four sets of V shaped stone steps.

Stone steps in interior walls of ringfort

Another interesting feature of the fort is  a creep-way that links two internal wall-chamber within the walls.

The wall  chambers appear to be aligned to the morning sun.

For three mornings, light goes into the back of the chambers which are two meters deep and joined at the back by a six meter passage way. Each morning the new sun has moved on half a meter on the back of the wall. There is about 20meters of the back wall (of the Caiseal) that is traversed by the sun. This means that the sun shines only for about  40 days  on the back wall twice a year. This is between Winter solstice and both equinoxes…  The first  chamber was lit on the 5th of October, the Second was lit on or about the 21st of October, but due to the curvature of the wall it is still in the chamber on the 24th …

Two months later the sun will again be shining in the this chamber on the 20/21 February as the days lengthen (Mac Gabhann no date 10-11).

20160330_104123

Image of the chamber being illuminated by light (Mac Gabhann no date 10-11)

For a more detailed discussion of the archaeology of this site see the Kilcashel project website. My day in Kilmovee was a brilliant experience and  it reminded me of the  wealth of local archaeological and historical sites that are to be found within and around all Irish villages. So really you don’t need to travel very far to find wonderful historic and archaeological sites to visit.

As many of the sites we visited were on private land, permission was always obtained before going to the sites.  If anyone is interested in visiting the area please contact the Kilmovee Community & Heritage Centre, the people who work here are so helpful and will be able to help you find out if  access is possible. Contact details and opening hours can be found on the Kilmovee website  and Facebook page (see links below). The community centre also houses a wonderful Heritage Centre called ‘Cois Tine’ (beside the fire). The  centre is design is based  on a traditional Irish cottage  and holds lots of information, photographs about the parish history, archaeological sites and folklore connected to the area. I recommend a visit to the Heritage Centre  before any exploring as it is a great way to begin a trip around the parish.

If you are in the area I would also highly recommend a visit to Urlaur Abbey located just a few miles from Kilmovee. Located on the edge of Urlaur lake the Friary built circa 1432 is one of Ireland’s best kept secrets.  Its setting alone is worth a visit.

References and useful links

Herity, M. 2009 (ed) Ordnance Survey Letters of Mayo. Dublin: Fourmasters Press.

Macalister, R. A. S. 1945. Corpus Inscriptionum Insularum Celticarum,Vol I. Dublin: Stationery Office.

Mac Gabhann, S. no date. Cill Mobhí. A handbook on local history and Folklore.

NFSC  Cloonierin 114:52 after http://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/4427915/4357560

http://www.kilcashel.com/archaeology.html

http://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/about-mayo/archaeology/archaeology-overview.html

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Templecronan and the Relics of St Cronan Co Clare

Templecronan  is one of my favourite pilgrim sites.  The site is an early medieval monastic settlement dedicated to St Cronan.  It is located on farmland in Co Clare near the village of Carran. To get to the ruins you need to cross through some fields but a number of signposts guide the way.

IMG_4470

View of Temple Cronan Co Clare

Very little is known about the history of Templecronan or  the people who lived here and most of what we know about the site  is gleamed from the archaeological record.  The  site  is located  in a townland  called Termon/ An Tearmann  which means church or glebe lands.

Today the most prominent feature at the site is a small rectangular shaped multi-period church. The fabric of the walls  contain traces of cyclopean masonry, a common masonry style for churches in early medieval Ireland  and  a  blocked up linteled west doorway with inclined jambs. These features, suggest an early stone church was  at the site  and was remodelled in during the  Romanesque period (1020-1170 A.D).

IMG_4475

View of the  west gable of Templecronan church

Romanesque features within the church include a round-headed  window in the east gable and corbels decorated with Hiberno-Romanesque animal heads in the west gable. There are also a number of Romanesque heads incorporated into the fabric of the walls.

Further remodelling was carried out in the fifteenth century with the addition of a pointed  finely carved doorway in the north wall.

 

IMG_4477

Fifteenth century doorway in the north wall of Templecronan

Traces on an ecclesiastical enclosure can still be found in the surrounding landscape.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Archaeological evidence for pilgrimage at Templecronan is represented by two outdoor reliquaries located  close to the church.  Outdoor reliquaries were  built to house the relics of a saint or holy person who was normally the founder saint. Some may have been built over the original grave of the saint.  At Templecronan the reliquaries/shrines are a type known as  gable shrine. They are triangular-shaped structure made up of two long flat flag stones and two smaller triangular-shaped stones arranged like a tent and orientated east-west. The short length of the shrines suggests they were used to house disarticulated skeletons/corporeal remain (Edwards 2002, 240).

Most  scholars agree that the gable shrines are among of the earliest types of outdoor reliquary and suggest a date of seventh or eighth century.  However  Carlton Jones (2006, 138-139) suggest that both the shrines at Templecronan  were  contemporary with Romanesque carving at oratory. Only targeted excavation would answer this question definitively although excavation of a gable shrine at Illaunloughlan Island, Co. Clare  dated the shrine to  second half of the eighth century .

IMG_4499

View of  gable shrine known as St Cronan’s Bed at Templecronan.

The shrine located southeast of the church is known as St Cronan’s Bed and local tradition holds this was  the burial -place of St Cronan.  The second shrine is found  northeast of the church in the adjacent field defined by modern field boundaries.

IMG_4516

Gable shrine to the northeast of the Templecronan church

The presence of the gable shrines strongly suggests that pilgrimage was taking place here as early as the eight century  and the construction of the shrines represents a period of great devotion to the saints associated with the site. The site appears to have fallen out of use in the late medieval period and devotion the the shrines gradually ceased.

Further evidence of pilgrimage is found at a holy well located a short distance from the church. The well is  also dedicated to St Cronan and known as  St Cronan’s holy well/Tobar Chronain.

IMG_4522

Pathway leading to St Cronan’s holy well

The holy well is  located at the base of a rock outcrop and defined by a dry-stone circular wall.

IMG_4525

Stone wall surrounding St Cronan’s holy well

The  holy well  is a simple spring. A large  penitential cairn of unknown date  is found beside the well within the enclosure. It is not possible to know if the well was part of early medieval pilgrimage at Templecronan but it was a place of pilgrimage in the nineteenth century.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Ordnance Survey Letters for Clare 1839 state that ‘stations are performed but no distinct patron day is remembered‘. A quick search of nineteenth century sources has failed to turn up any further information about the well.  Today the well and its surrounding are well cared and I noticed some coins left beside a small modern religious statue which suggests it may be still visited.

Templecronan is one of many wonderful site in Co Clare and is certainly worth spending some time exploring.

References

Edwards, N. 1999. The Archaeology of Early Medieval Ireland. London: Routledge.

Jones, C. 2004. The Burren and The Aran Islands. Exploring The Archaeology. Cork: The Collins Press.

Marshall, J. & Walsh, C. 2005. Illaunloughan Island: An Early Medieval Monastery

  in County Kerry. Bray: Wordwell.

http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/folklore/folklore_survey/chapter14.htm

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Kilmolash Church Co Waterford

Kilmolash church  is  one of my favourite  places to visit. It is located close to the Cásan na Naomh (path of the saints) an off-shoot of the ancient road from Lismore to Ardmore called  St Declan’s Road. Its roughly  about  5 or 6 miles from the historic town of Lismore,  the site of the great monastery of St Cathage/Mochuada .  Kilmolash started out its life as an early ecclesiastical site dedicated to St Molaise who was  venerated locally on the 17th of January.  There is no evidence written or physical  to suggest that the site was at any time a place of pilgrimage, although this can not be ruled out completely. The annals record that the site was plundered by Norsemen in AD 833.  In AD 912 Cormac Mac Cuileannan, bishop and vice abbot of Lismore, King of Déisi is also recorded as the abbot of Cell-Mo-Laise (Kilmolash).  Suggesting Kilmolash was in the sphere of influence of Lismore.  By the later medieval period the church had become the parish church for the parish of  Kilmolash.

Today the site consists of the ruins of a  multi-period church surrounded by a  D-shaped graveyard. The graveyard is defined by a  wooden fence and an earth and stone bank. The   modern by-road follows the curve of the graveyard.

006

Kilmolash church Co Waterford

The church  is  rectangular in shape and consists of a nave and chancel divided by a rounded chancel arch.  The nave and east wall are largely late medieval in date while the chancel walls appear to be much earlier,  possibly even 12th century in  date (O’Keeffe 2003, 171).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This little church has many interesting architectural features and the west wall is particularly striking with its finely carved doorway with hooded moulding and  holy water stoup.

DSCF6615

West gable of Kilmolash church

The  fabric of the building is constructed from sandstone and is in a poor state of repair and in need of some form of conservation especially the north and south walls.

 

A  double belfry  survives in the west gable  positioned  over an ogee-headed gallery window.

DSCF6616

 

The nave and chancel are divided by a chancel arch. The  arch is made of dressed stones, one of which bears  the  inscription Feare God, Honer the Kinge, Anno Dom 1635. Beneath the chancel arch is a large ogham stone. The inscription is worn but only the letters   ‘NN’ can be identified (MacAlister 1945, vol. 1, 285-6). The stone also has two  inscribed crosses located close to the ogham text. For more information on ogham stones  visit Ogham in 3D project website.

The most unusual feature at the church is rare piece of Romanesque sculpture positioned  over a flat linteled door  in  the west end of the north wall.  The carving in question is a finely carved rosette stone (Power 1898, 91; O’Keeffe 1994, 129-32).  A similar type rosette stone is found at Coole Abbey.

022

A flat lintel door in the north wall of the church. Note rosette stone over the lintel

Unfortunately the  rosette stone is not in-situ and was it was originally part of a larger composition. The carving is ‘rendered in low relief, the flower is carved onto a block of square stone and was highly stylized  within a frame of  beads‘  (O’Keeffe 2003, 171).  The stone likely dates to first part of the 12th century.
024

Rosette stone at Kilmolash church

The graveyard surrounding the church contains many fine examples of eighteenth and nineteenth century gravestones and one late medieval gravestone with a figure carved on it found on the north side of the church. Today only the head can be discerned with some difficulty. The ITA files state that the head was believed to be the head of St Molaise (ITA files).

 

A fragment of a font is also  found in the graveyard and likely the same as the one identified by Buckley in 1898  and found in the graveyard wall  and  kept in the church (Power 1898, 92). In 1894 Redmond recorded that ‘… a holy well exists in a field adjoining the church, but that it was covered in many years ago, and now no trace of it can be found’ (Redmond 1894-95, 155).

DSCF6647

Fragment of medieval font in the graveyard at Kilmolash

Given its roadside location Kilmolash is easy to get too and a wonderful place to pass a some time and I highly recommend a visit.

References

Buckley, M. J. C. (1896) Notes on Kilmolash Church, Near Cappoquin, Co. Waterford, WAJ vol. 2, 212-20.

Buckley, M. J. C. (1896) Notes on Kilmolash Church, Near Cappoquin, Co. Waterford, WAJ vol. 2, 212-20.
Buckley, M. J. C. (1899) Ecclesiological gleanings and jottings in Waterford and elsewhere. (continued) WAJ vol. 5, 44-8.

Macalister, R. A. S. (1945)  Corpus inscriptionum insularum Celticarum, 2 vols. Stationery Office, Dublin.

O’Keeffe, T. (1994) Lismore and Cashel: reflections on the beginnings of Romanesque architecture in Munster. JRSAI vol. 124, 118-52.

O’Keeffe, T. 2003. Architecture and Ideology In the Twelfth Century.  Dublin: Four Courts Press.
Power, Rev. P. (1898) Ancient ruined churches of Co. Waterford, WAJ vol. 4, 83-95, 195-219.

ITA Files

http://www.crsbi.ac.uk/site/2317/

http://www.libraryireland.com/topog/K/Kilmolash-Decies-Without-Drum-Waterford.php

Save

Save

Save

The Pilgrim sites of Myshall Co Carlow

Carlow is a wonderful county full of amazing archaeology  and historic sites.  I recently visited the village of  Myshall  located at the foothills of the Blackstairs Mountains a short distance from the Carlow/Wexford Border. Myshall is  traditionally held to be the birthplace of the great Irish saint St Finian, founder of the celebrated monastery of Clonard in Co. Meath.  An early medieval church dedicated to the saint sits at the centre of the  village.

DSCF6376

St Finian’s  church at Myshall

The church now in ruins is a pre-Norman  structure and only the west gable of the church survives to any great height. Within this wall is a very fine semicircular arch doorway.

The site is also associated with St Brigit. A short distance from the church is  two-basin bullaun stone known as St Brigit’s Stone.

DSCF6382

Bullaun stone at Myshall

Local folklore  connects this stone to a series of parallel ridges called the ‘Witch Slide’ on the nearby Blackstairs Mountains.

1024px-Blackstairs3

Blackstairs Mountain overlooking Ballymurphy, County Carlow. By Sarah777 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

It was said that a Carlow witch had a falling out with her neighbour in Co Wexford and she decided to throw a stone at her. As she began to throw the stone she slipped and fell creating the ridges.  A standing stone in the townland of Clonee was said to be the stone she was trying to throw. It was said the  marks of her knees where she  landed were preserved in the bullaun stone at Myshall.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Outside the graveyard circa 18m from the church is a holy well dedicated to St Brigit. The  well is now dry and its structure has been incorporated into a modern grotto. Both the well and grotto are dedicated to St Brigit.  The Ordnance Survey Letters for Co Carlow state that a  pattern was held here annually on the 14th of September the feast of the exultation of the Holy Cross, the Titular feast of Myshall. The pattern day coincided with the Myshall Sheep fair which was held in the village up to the 1960’s. By the 1930’s  all memory of the traditions of stations or cures had been lost (O’Toole 1933, 13).

DSCF6369

St Brigid’s holy well at Myshall

According to O’Toole writing in 1933,  the spring from which the well was supplied came from the graveyard and the spring water flowed from here through a drain under the boundary wall. Three stone steps lead down to the well, and there was a large opening for the overflow.

A few yards from the well there is a large flag set obliquely in the ground; in the centre of this flag there is a round aperture, which apparently was meant to let water pass through while at the same time, acting as a dam (O’Toole 1933, 13).

The area around the well has undergone some landscaping and it is now a feature of an amenity park which incorporates a large pond and water wheel.

 

DSCF6368

Shrine and holy well at Myshall

References

O’Toole, E. 1933. The Holy Wells of County Béaloideas, Iml. 4, Uimh 1 pp. 3-23

Ordnance Survey Letters for Co Carlow. http://www.askaboutireland.ie/reading-room/digital-book-collection/digital-books-by-subject/ordnance-survey-of-irelan/

Save

Save

Save

Save