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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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).

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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

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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.

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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.

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Bullaun stone at Myshall

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

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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.

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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).

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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.

 

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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/

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The Birthplace of St Colmcille

Tradition holds St Colmcille was born at  Gartan in Co Donegal. The exact location of the saints birthplace is open to discussion. One tradition says the saint was born on a stone called the Leac na Cumha in the townland of Lacknacoo.

Leac na Cumha or the Stone of Sorrow is stone set into a large  oval-shaped mound with a U-shaped setting of stones that opens to the north.

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Leac na Cumha in Lacknacoo

The Leac na Cumha is located along th south-eastern edge of the mound. It is a flat slab of stone and its surface is covered in prehistoric rock art. The art  consists of cup-marks c. 0.1m in diameter.

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Leac na Cumha is covered in rock art

It is here on this stone that the saint is said to have been born.  The site was marked on the 1st ed. (1836) OS 6-inch map as St Colmcille’s stones. Close to the mound is an enormous stone cross erected by Cornelia Adair in 1911.

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Stone cross at Leac na Cumha in Lacknacoo

In the nineteenth century

it became commonplace for emigrants to spend their last night here on the Leac na Cumhadh – the Stone of Sorrows. As Colmcille had decided to exile himself to Scotland, they thought that sleeping here – where he was born – would make their sadness easier to bear (http://www.colmcille.org/gartan)

 

A short distance away are the ruins of an early medieval ecclesiastical site at Churchtown – Ráth Cnó . Tradition holds this was the  place where St Colmcille’s family lived.  It was said his family gave this land  to the church so that a monastic settlement could be built here. The site over looks  Lough Akibbon and Lough Gartan.

The site is still used as a turas by pilgrims who walk barefoot between the five marked stations. Believers follow the turas between Colmcille’s feast day on 9th June and the end of the turas season on 15th August, performing a series of prayers and actions at each stop (http://www.colmcille.org/gartan/3-03).

The most prominent features on the site is a small church marked as St Colmcille’s chapel on the 1st ed (1836) OS 6-inch map.

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Medieval church at Gartan

According to the Donegal Archaeological Inventory this is probably the chapel described in 1622 as being in repair and having a thatched roof.

To the north of the church is a graveyard, at the  centre of which  are the foundations of a building  said to be a monastic building.

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Possible foundations of a monastic building

Two stone crosses also survive at the site and are part of the pilgrim stations.

 

Below the site is a holy well dedicated to the saint.

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St Colmcille’s holy well at Gartan

 

Both of these sites are part of the Slí Cholmcille  and directions can be found on this website.

Useful Links

http://www.colmcille.org/gartan/3-03

http://www.colmcille.org/gartan/3-02

Pilgrimage at Kilgeever Church and Holy Well Co Mayo

Last year I was delighted to write a  guest blog post about of  the pilgrim site of Kilgeever in Co Mayo. This post was a guest blog for the very informative heritage blog The Standing Stone.ie. This is a great blog and worth checking out as it has lots of varied and interesting content. At the moment I am working  on some research concerning this area of Mayo and as the site is fresh in my mind  I have decided to repost my guest post.

Pilgrimage at Kilgeever Co Mayo.  Originally posted on the Standing Stone Blog

Kilgeever/Cill Ghaobhair is located in the most scenic of setting on the slopes of Kinknock around 3km outside of Louisburg in Co Mayo. The site is part of the Clew Bay Archaeological Trail.

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View of the medieval church at Kilgeever from the small laneway that leads to the site.

Local folklore holds that St Patrick came to Kilgeever having completed his fast of forty days and nights on the summit of Croagh Patrick. It is said that Patrick decided to build a church here and that he later sent St Iomhair one of his disciples completed the task. Some traditions would suggest that “Kilgeever” is the anglicised version of “Cill Iomhair” or the church of Iomhair. The Ordnance Survey Letters of 1838 translates the name as St. Geever’s Church.  Curiously neither variants of the saint’s name are found in Ó’Riain’s Dictionary of Irish Saints.

Alternatively the name may derive from Cill gaobhar, ‘the near Church’ (Corlett 2001, 130) or as the Schools’ Manuscripts Essays  for Louisburg(1937/38) state

Kilgeever- according to the interpretation of most people means “the windy church”.

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View of Kilgeever Church and graveyard.

Almost nothing is known about the history of the site but it appears to have functioned as a parish church in the late medieval period. Today the site consists of the ruins of a multi-period medieval church surrounded by a historic graveyard, a holy well and penitential stations. At least three early medieval cross slabs are associated with the site suggesting some sort of early medieval activity. If there was an early medieval monastic settlement here as the name ‘abbey’ would imply no physical remains survive above ground.

Traditionally pilgrims visited here on the 15th of July the Feast of the Apostles and on Sundays.  The Ordnance Survey Letters of 1838 refer to a pattern formerly held on the 15th of July. There was also a tradition of visiting the site on the last Sunday of July. For some pilgrims it is a key component of their pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick and having completed their pilgrimage on the summit of Croagh Patrick they descend the mountain and end their pilgrimage at Kilgeever.  The ITA Files 1944 also makes reference to pilgrims visiting here from the 15th of August to the 8th of September with the annual pilgrimage day being the 15th of August.

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Holy well at Kilgeever

The main focus of devotion at Kilgeever is a small holy well located in the northwest corner of the historic graveyard that surrounds the medieval church.

The Ordnance Survey Letters of 1838 state

It is a good spring and much frequented by pilgrims especially for Sundays and on the 15th of July when a pattern is held, now at Louis Borough but which was formally held at the this well.

The traditional pilgrim stations begin at this holy well, located just inside the entrance to the historic graveyard. The well is known locally as “Tobar Rí an Dhomhnaigh” or “Our Lord’s Well of the Sabbath” and the 1st ed. (1839) Ordnance Survey Map record the name of the well as Toberreendoney (Anglicisation of the former).

The Pilgrim Rounds

The pilgrimage begins with the pilgrim walking clockwise around the well forming his/her intentions. The pilgrim then kneels at the well and recites 7 Our Fathers (Paters) & 7 Hail Mary’s (Aves) and the Creed.

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Holy well Kilgeever

The pilgrim stands and circles the well 7 times while reciting 7 Our Fathers, 7 Hail Marys and the Creed.  Once the perambulation is completed, the pilgrim kneels again at the well and recites 7 Our Fathers, 7 Hail Marys and the Creed. It was not uncommon for pilgrims to pick up 7 stones from the well as an aid to counting the rounds dropping one stone as each circuit of the well was completed.  The use of stones to count prayers is a common practice at Irish many Irish pilgrim sites especially those with complex prayer rituals.

The pilgrim then walks to the three flagstones located to the south of the well where he/she recites 5 Our Fathers, 5 Hail Marys and the creed while kneeling.

The pilgrim then proceeds to a small rock outcrop known as St Patrick’s rock where he/she kneels and rites 3 Our Fathers, 3 Hail Marys and the Creed. This stone is reputed to bear the tracks of St Patrick’s Knees (ITA Files). In modern times some pilgrims have inscribed crosses on this rocks and others around where the stations are performed.

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St Patrick’s Rock

The pilgrim then walks to and enters the medieval church at the centre of the graveyard.

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Kilgeever church is a multi-period church with a fifteenth doorway.

Within the interior of the church the pilgrim kneels and again recites 7 Our Fathers, 7 Hail Marys and the creed and pray for the souls of the dead.  In the 1940s it was common for pilgrims to leaving the church following along the west wall (ITA Files).

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Pilgrim cross carved by modern pilgrims on 19th century graveslab within Kilgeever Church.

Some pilgrims continue a modern practice of scratching a cross into a late 19th century graveslab belonging to  the Mac Evilly family. When I visited the site in 2014, a number of  tiny stones were left on the edge of the slab. Other accounts suggest that in the mid-twentieth century pilgrims were in the habit of leaving votive offering in the aumbry within the church. This tradition was not noticed on my visit but a number of religious objects were left at the well.

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Some votive offerings left at the Kilgeever Holy Well

Having left the church the pilgrim walks back to the well via a stream that runs the length of the western side of the graveyard.  If the pilgrim’s stations are being performed on behalf of a living person the pilgrim is to walk in the waters of the stream to the well. If the pilgrimage is being performed for the dead, the pilgrim walks along the edge of the stream.

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Stream running along the western side of the site.

The pilgrimage is completed when the pilgrim circles the well a further 3 times prayer in honour of the Blessed Trinity. Before leaving the Holy Well pilgrims  are invited to pray for Henry Murphy of Castlebar who had the cross erected over the well (as indicated by an inscription on the cross).

A photo dating to the 1890s and part to the Wynne Collection at Mayo County Library shows pilgrims kneeling in prayer at the holy well in bare feet. This photo confirms what was a common practice at the time for people to complete such pilgrimages barefoot and even today at a small number of pilgrim sites pilgrims continue this practice.  The photo also shows that the well has changed little over the years with the exception of the  addition of the  cross which now surmounts it.

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Early Medieval Cross Slab with an outline Greek cross found at Kilgeever. This is one of three cross slabs from the site.

Kilgeever is one of the most peaceful and tranquil places  to visit and it is just one of many interesting sites around Clew Bay area.

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View of the east gable of Kilgeever church.

References

Corlett, C. 2001. Antiquities of west Mayo: The Archaeology of the Baronies of Burrishoole and Murrish. Bray: Wordwell.

Higgins & Gibbons 1993: J.G. Higgins & Michael Gibbons. ‘Early Christian monuments at Kilgeever, Co Mayo’. Cathair na Mart, 13, 32–44.

Irish Tourist Association Files for Mayo 1944.

The Schools Collection, Louisburgh (roll number 5128/9), Volume 0137, Page 005, 006,  026, 027 (http://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/4428011/4368055)

http://www.louisburgh-killeenheritage.org/page_id__85.aspx

http://www.logainm.ie/en/37369

http://www.thestandingstone.ie

 

 

Seskinane Church at Knockboy Co Waterford

The medieval  church of  Seskinane/Seskinan is located in the townland of Knockboy Co Waterford about 3/4 mile from Bearys cross, just off the Clonmel-Dungarvan road.  Although a little out-of-the-way the site is signposted from the Clonmel-Dungarvan road so can be found relatively easily.
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Location map showing the site of Seskinane church

In medieval times this church functioned as the parish church for the parish of Seskinane and was part of the prebend of Lismore. It is located in the ancient territory of  Sliabh gCua. By the late sixteenth century it was in a state of ruin and was recorded as derelict in 1588.
According to Power (1952, 56) the placename  Seskinane signifies “Little Sedgy Moor. The  townland today is made up of rough pasture.
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View of mountains from carpark

Medieval Parish Church

 The church is found at the end of a long  narrow winding bohereen.  It is surrounded by a historic graveyard enclosed by a modern earth and stone bank.
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Seskinane medieval parish church surrounded by a historic graveyard

 

The graveyard  surrounding  the church  is filled with graves ranging in date from the 18th century to the present and it possesses  quiet a number of  very finely carved 18th and early 19th century gravestones. The interior of the church is also filled with gravestones of 18th and 19th century date.

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 The church has a rectangular plan  without any internal division. The west gable had a double belfry with pointed arches.  The belfry was badly damaged in storm in the early 1990s and what remains   is covered in ivy. The majority of the wall is still standing although without some intervention it is difficult to know for how much longer.  The west gable wall is in poor condition and slightly bowed,  the ivy that covers it is probably holding it together. The wall has a sign ‘danger falling stones from church building’ . The sign tells of the risk to anyone approaching the church. Those who access the site and enter the church do so at their own risk.
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One of several signs at the sight illustrating the dangers of falling masonry from the church walls.

The  west wall is lit by two ogee-headed windows, placed one above the other.
The east gable of the church is  lit by a central ogee head window and the lower section of  this window has been turned into a small shrine incorporating a  statue of the blessed virgin.
 The walls of the church are built of rubble stone with dressed stones  used for windows and doors.  Two  opposing pointed doorways  provide access into the interior of the church in the north and south walls. At present door in the north wall is partially blocked with masonry from the church.
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Doorway in the south wall of the church

 

Windows survive at the eastern end of the  north and south walls.  Other features include a  cut water stoup inside the south door and an amubrey at the east end of the south wall.

 

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View of the south door in the interior of the church and holy water stoup.

Ogham Stones

This little ruined church is very special as it incorporates six ogham stones within its fabric.
The presence of these ogham stones  has led some  to suggest the  church stands on the site of an earlier church. In the late 19th century traces of a possible ecclesiastical enclosure, no longer  upstanding, were recorded in the field to the south of the church and within the graveyard (Brash 1868-9, 127; Power 1898, 84). There is also very pronounced curve in the field boundary  to the east of the church that along with the 19th century evidence may tentatively suggest the presence of an enclousure.
The majority of  ogham stones at  Seskinane were reused as lintels  and are found in the windows in the north, south and west walls and  in the south door. Two other free-standing stones were also found at the site only one of which is still present at the site. The inscriptions  from the stones were transcribed by Brash (1868-9) and Macalister (1945, vol. 1, 286-9).

The South Wall 

A large greenstone ogham stone acts as the lintel of the southern doorway.  The ogham script is visible along the lower edge of the stone.  A circular hole  pierces the stone at the western end it appears to post date the ogham script as it cuts the some of the ogham letters. Macalister (1945, 287) records the inscription as
Q[E]CC[IAS] M[U]C [OI   B] R[O] E[ NIONAS]
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Ogham stone used as a lintel in the southern doorway. The ogham script is found on the lower edge of the stone.

 seskinane ogham

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A second ogham stone has been used as a lintel in the southern window beside the east gable. Macalister (1945, 286)   transcribed the inscription as
…]RG[…]BRENE [….
One of the voussoirs that make up relieving arch above this lintel also features some ogham script which Macalister transcribed as   CROB (Macalister 1945, 287).
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Ogham stone used as lintel in the southern window beside east gable. The second voussoir on the left also has ogham script.

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Close up of ogham script on the lintel and voussoir in the southern window.

 The North Wall

The  window at the east end  of the north wall of the  church also incorporates a ogham stone of as a lintel. Macalister (1945, 286)recorded the inscription as
…]ER[A]T[I] M[U]C[OI] NETA-S [EGAM] ONAS

The West Wall

The west wall  of the church is covered in thick ivy at present. It contains two windows both of which have ogham stones as lintels.
Macalister (1945, 287-288) noted the upper stone of the  top window had the inscription
…]CIR   MAQI   MUC[…..
and the lower window had the inscription
VORTIGURN
A seventh ogham stone is  located in the northwest corner of the church. Macalister (1945,  286)  recorded the inscription as
…]ER[A]T[I] M[U]C[OI] NETAS[EGAM]ONAS
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Ogham stone in the northwest corner of the church

There was an eight ogham stone at the site, in the past it was moved to a house near Cappoquin but it  has since been lost. It was read by Redmond (1885-6, 418-19) as OMONG EDIAS MAQI MUI BITE, and by Macalister (1945, vol. 1, 289) as [MAQI?] MOnEDIAS MAQI MUIBITI

 The Church and Community in modern times

 The parish of Seskinane was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.  In the past a pattern was held here, it was known locally as La Féilé Mhuire Chnoc Bhuí  and it was celebrated on the 8th of September but over time the tradition died out.
Since 1978 the local community has celebrated mass outside the ruins of church on or as close to the 8th of September (the feast of the nativity of the Blessed Virgin) as possible. It is also a time for the local communities to visit their graves.

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Local Folk Tale:  Seskinane Church and the Bell

A local folk tale recounts that when this the church  was  built it lacked a bell
  to call the faithful to Mass.  It was decided to take a bell from the nearby church at Kilkeany (this church has not survived to the present although its location is still remembered) and  use it at Knockboy. Thus the bell was removed from the belfry of Kilkeany church  and brought to the church at Knockboy.
However, when the bell was brought to Knockboy, it was found that no matter  how hard it was rung the well would not chime. It was  said  that the bell broke from where it was hung and made its way back to Kilkeany, in the middle of the night, chiming the length of the journey and that shrieks of mocking laughter could be heard (Keane 2015, 36).

 To sum up

Seskinane church  preserves  physical evidence of medieval devotional practices within the medieval parish of Seskinane.    The presence and survival of such a large collection of ogham stones is culturally significant at a local and  national level. The presence of the ogham stones within the fabric of the church also tells us a little about medieval ideas of re-use and recycling. Given the state of the fabric of the church and the constant barrage of storms our country is currently experiencing, I do worry for the  future of the site, I really feel that this site is significant to warrants a program of conservation.
If anyone is interested in finding out more about ogham stones check out the wonderful Ogham in 3D website. The site  details the work of the Ogham in 3D project  that is currently  carrying out a  laser-scan  of as many as possible of the approximately four hundred surviving Irish Ogham stones and to make these 3D models available online.  The results of the project to date can be seen on the website.
References
Brash, R. R. 1868-9 ‘On the Seskinan ogham inscriptions, County of Waterford’, JRSAI 10, 118-30.
Keane, T. 2015. ‘Churches Old and New ‘ Sliabh gCua Annual  No.21, 35-36.
Macalister, R. A. S. (1945) (reprint 1949) Corpus inscriptionum insularum Celticarum, 2 vols. Stationery Office, Dublin.
Moore, F. 1999. Archaeological Inventory of County Waterford. Dublin: Stationery Office.
Ogham in 3D:  https://ogham.celt.dias.ie/menu.php?lang=en&menuitem=00
Power, Rev. P. 1898 ‘Ancient ruined churches of Co. Waterford’, WAJ 4, 83-95, 195-219.
Redmond, G. 1885-6. Proceedings – ‘Remarks on an ogham stone lying in Salterbridge Demesne’, JRSAI 17, 418-9.

Writing on walls in 18th century Kilkenny

I was sorting through old photos and came across this one of  graffiti dating to the 18th century  on the wall of St Mary’s church in Kilkenny city.  Most of the writing are initials HL MG  JD  but there is one name and date,  T Hoyne Feb 1777.  A second stone has the initials T.H.

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Graffiti in the wall of St Mary’s  Cemetery surrounding St Mary’s church Kilkenny city

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Part of a tomb in wall of St Mary’s cemetery.

I am going to do some investigating to see if I can find out anything about T Hoyne and I will keep you posted on what I find.  Another interesting feature in the graveyard wall is part of late medieval  tomb.

At present the site is off limits to the public as St Mary’s church is currently being restored and a team of archaeologists led by Cóilín Ó Drisceoil of Kilkenny Archaeology are currently excavating at St. Mary’s in advance of a new museum being constructed.

 

A flying visit to Ballymore Eustace

Last weekend I paid a visit to  a number of sites located along the  Wicklow/ Kildare border.  I began my mini road trip,  which was cut short by the rain, with a visit to Ballymore Eustace. This is a small village located  in Co Kildare.

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Ballymore Eustace village

During the medieval period Ballymore was  part of a manor under the control of  the Archbishop of Dublin and the land around the eastern edge of the village is still known as Bishop’s land.  Historical sources record that a castle was built here in the 12th century.  In the 14th century  Thomas FitzEustace was appointed by the then archbishop as the constable of the castle.  This position was held by a number of his descendant and so  began the areas association with the family.   Ballymore was no backwater and was situated in a strategic location linking Kildare and the Wicklow mountains.  A  parliament was held here in the year 1389.  The castle no longer survives but evidence for an early medieval monastic settlement and later medieval church, is found  on the eastern outskirts of the village, at the site of the  modern Church of Ireland church, dedicated to St John. The earliest historical reference to a church at Ballymore dates to  1192.  Historical sources indicate this medieval church was  dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.  The presence of two high crosses and a number of early medieval grave slabs indicate that there was an important religious settlement  located at this site  from a much earlier  date.

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25″ OS Map of St John’s Church of Ireland church at Ballymore Eustace

Today the site consists of a 19th century church built in 1820  surrounded by a  historic graveyard and mature trees.  This  is a very picturesque site and I would love to come back here on a sunny day.

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St John’s church at Ballymore Eustace

The early medieval remains are scattered around the graveyard.   The most spectacular is a large granite high cross over 2m in height, located on the north side of the 19th century church.   The cross  has a narrow  shaft that  holds up  a solid ring and short arms and  it sits in a large undecorated rectangular base.

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West face of high cross located on north side of church

The west face of the cross  has a central boss located at the centre of the  ring  of the cross head and a second boss at the top of the shaft.   A secondary inscription was inscribed onto the head of the cross and reads (anticlockwise) AMEN/NO (r) THE 9 ERECTED in 16/89/ BY/ AM WALL/ IHS.  The inscription  commemorates the crosses re-erection in 1689.

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Inscription on west face of intact high cross

The east face of the cross  is plain with a boss at the top of the shaft  and moulding around the circle of the cross head.

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A second  smaller high cross is located to the southeast  of the modern church.  This plain cross is also made of granite  but is not in as good repair as the larger cross.  The head of the cross was broken in the past and all that remains today is  the rectangular   shaft  which sits in a triangular base.

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High cross at SE of graveyard at Ballymore Eustace

Traces of the medieval church  mentioned above still survive with  the footing of a wall in the south and a fragment of part of a window opening in the east wall still visible.  The  church was described as  being in good repair in the accounts of the Royal  Visitation of 1615 but it deteriorated greatly over the centuries.

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Partial remains of a window in of the east wall of medieval church. Fragments of the window mounding found beside wall.

Along with the high crosses and the church there are  seven  early medieval grave slabs located around the graveyard.  The stones are very similar to those found    in the nearby graveyard of St Kevin’s Church of Ireland church and date to  around the 12th century.  One of the nicest examples is found close to the west wall of the modern church.

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Early medieval cross slab at Ballymore Eustace

Apart from the  early medieval remains there are many interesting 18th and 19th century graves stones scattered around  the graveyard including the burial place of  the uncle of the Irish revolutionary Theobald Wolfe Tone  (1763 –1798).

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The grave of Wolf Tone’s uncle at Ballymore Eustace

There are also  a number of  distinctive granite crosses  dating to the early 19th century.  I have seen similar  examples at other graveyards in the area.

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19th century grave marker made of granite

Finally at the east end of the graveyard there  is a small stone,  located beside a large table top tomb,which looks like the base of a cross.  The water  from the stone   was used by local people as a folk cure to cure warts   (pers comm CJ Darby).

1-DSCF6151Unfortunately my  time here was brief but I look forward to returning again and spending more time looking  around . According to an information plaque at the site within the 19th century church there are additional medieval features  such as  a medieval font  which came from Coughlanstown and a  16th century effigy of a FitzEustace knight  brought here  from Old Kilcullen.  Unfortunately the church was not open on my visit but I hope to arrange a visit another day.

References

Corlett, C. 2003, The Hollywood Slabs – some late medieval grave slabs from west Wicklow and neighbouring Counties, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 133, 86-110.Corlett, C. 2003, The Hollywood Slabs – some late medieval grave slabs from west Wicklow and neighbouring Counties, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 133, 86-110.

Grogan, E & Kilfeather, A. 1997. Archaeological Inventory of County Wicklow. Dublin: The Stationery Office.