Two stones dedicated to St Patrick, in South Co. Tipperary

Over the course of my research on pilgrimage in south County Tipperary, I came across two curious stones associated with St Patrick.

Map showing the location of St Patrick stones and Cahir town in Co. Tipperary, taken from Google maps


The first, St Patrick’s stone at Grangemore  is located in the middle of a T-junction of a small by-road leading the Cahir Equestrian centre, a short distance from the town of Cahir. The stone is embedded in a diamond-shaped island in the middle of the junction, probably not the safest place for such an ancient monument. I could see traces of green paint on the stone, suggesting it was painted green to make it more visible.

St Patrick’s stone in diamond-shaped island

The stone is a what archaeologist call a ‘bullaun stone’. Bullaun stones are artificial basins or hollows/depressions in rocks, boulders and stone and are held to be of early medieval date. The majority are found at early medieval ecclesiastical sites but some like this stone are found in isolation. There is some question over the original use and function of bullaun stones in early medieval times. Some scholars believe that they are medieval pilgrimage stations/ monument pestles to ritual or devotional use of turning stones within the hollows. Others advocate a more practical use such as grinding metal ores or herbs. Whatever their original use many of these stones over time developed associations with saints. St Patrick’s stone has two,  circular depression, the largest (diam. 0.19m x 0.2m; depth c. 0.1m) and the smaller (diam. 0.17m x 0.15m; depth c. 0.7m).

St Patrick’s stone, a bullaun stone with two hollows


As its name suggest the stone is associated with St Patrick the national saint. According to Power in 1908,  the stone was held with veneration  as it was believed to have been  used  as a cushion by St Patrick and the depressions were made by his knees.

St Patrick’s stone, Killaidamee townland

A few miles away close the ruin medieval church of Ballybacon, is another stone known as St Patrick’s stone located in the townland of Killaidamee. It is located opposite the junction of the Ardfinnan to Goatenbridge road and the Ballybacon road, it is not a bullaun stone but a natural shaped limestone e boulder  c.  .40m in height and  .70m in length.  It has a natural shallow curved groove in the upper surface on top of the stone.

The upper surface of St Patrick’s stone Killaidamee


It was formerly located in the ground in a roadside location and an OS bench mark is located on the side. It was moved to its present location, a concrete slab  when the road was widened in the 1980s. There is no tradition of local veneration of the stone.


Both stones are located in isolation and there is no  tradition of  modern pilgrimage to either stone, although we know the Grangemore stone was held in some regard in the early 1900’s  however the  stones do represent the spread of the cult of St Patrick in South Tipperary.

A quick note on a medieval baptisimal font at Ballybacon, Co. Tipperary

About two weeks ago I finally got to visit the beautiful medieval baptismal font at Ballybacon Co. Tipperary. I first came across an article on the font (M. Cahill and E. Twohig, Baptismal Font from Ballybacon Old Church, Co. Tipperary , Journal of the Cork Archaeological and Historical Society , 81, 1976, 92-3, fig.1) when I was doing research for my MA thesis on the Rian Bó Phádraig in 2000. I have always wanted to see the font    in person and after several failed attempts  I finally managed to achieve my goal.

The front panel of the medieval font, showing floral decoration.

The font  is smaller than I imagined but very impressive. It is rectangular in shaped and carved from a single piece of fine grained granite it measures 32cm in height x 58cm wide x 56cm deep. The interior is also rectangular with a central drain hole. All the outside faces of the font are decorated in low relief with circular and floral pattern which is very pretty. The underside of the font has a large circular depression 0.32 m in diameter which could suugest  that it rested on a single columnar base.  Pike (1979, 9) suggests that the font is ‘pre-conquest’ while Cahill and Twohig (1976) date it to the mid-to late- 13th century. Today the font sits on a small wooden table in the modern parish church at Ballybacon.

Side panel of the medieval font, showing a floral motif

Originally  the font was located at the nearby medieval parish church of Ballybacon in the townland of Raheen. The church is today covered in ivy it has a simple undivided plan and is aligned E-W, and probably of 13th-century date, built of roughly coursed limestone and sandstone rubble, with a base-batter (Farrelly 2011).

Google earth map showing the modern and medieval parish churches of Ballybacon, Co. Tipperary.

Ballybacon or Baile Uí Phéacháin in Irish means  “O’Peakin’s Homestead”. It is interesting to note that there is a site  dedicated to a saint to St Peacáin/Beagán at Toureen Peakaun (Kilpeacan)  located in the parish of Kilardry, Co Tipperary. It may be possible to speculate that Ballybacon church was originally dedicated to this saint and there was an earlier church here prior to the 13th century.  Tentative evidence to support this idea  is the  presence of a possible early medieval cross slab at the site and the fact that the church is located beside the  townland boundary of Glebe and Raheen. Many early medieval churches were located in boundary positions and the kink in the road beside the site is very curved and may suggest the presence of a circular enclosure.

the ruins of the medieval church at Ballybacon.

According to a local man Francis Carrigan the font was removed at some point to a nearby farm where it was used as a tough for pigs.  It was later rescued and returned to the medieval church before it was moved  in 1975 a few hundred yards away to the modern parish church where it resides today.


Cahill, M. &. Twohig, E. 1976. ‘Baptismal Font from Ballybacon Old Church, Co. Tipperary’ , Journal of the Cork Archaeological and Historical Society , 81, 92-3, fig.1.

Farrelly, J. 2011. ‘Church at Ballybacon ‘. 28/02/2012.

Garton, T. 2008. ‘Ballybacon, Tipperary’, accessed 18/09/2012.

Pike, J. 1979. Medieval Fonts of Ireland, privately published, Greystones, 9.

Power,P. 1937. Waterford and Lismore – A Compendious History of the United Dioceses, Cork, 71.