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You will remember that in one of the beautiful 
works of the great painter, Nicolo Poussin, he has depicted a 
group of shepherds at an ancient tomb, one of whom deciphers 
for the rest the simple inscription engraved upon it : 


And it was a natural and grateful desire of the Arcadian shep- 
herd to be remembered in connexion with the beloved region 
in which he had found tranquillity and enjoyment. 

In like manner, I would wish to be remembered hereafter, 
less for what I have attempted to do, than as. one who, in the 
pure and warm hearts of the best and most intellectual of 
his local cotemporaries, had found, and enjoyed, a resting- 
place, far superior to that of the Greek. 

As two of the dearest of those friends, equally known, 
beloved, and honoured by all, as by me, permit me, then, to 
inscribe your names on this humble monument; so that, if it 


should happily survive the wreck of time, it may be known as 
that of one who, though but a feeble and unskilled labourer in 
the fields of Art and Literature, was not deemed unworthy of 
the warmest regards of such as you, and who was not un- 
grateful for his happiness. 

Believe me, my Lord, and Sir, 

With sentiments of the deepest Respect and Gratitude, 
Your affectionate and faithful Servant, 


February 20th, 1845. 


THE work, of which the first volume is now submitted to the 
Public, was originally written for, and presented to the Royal Irish 
Academy, as an Essay on the Origin and Uses of the Round Towers 
of Ireland ; and that Essay was so fortunate as to obtain a gold medal 
and prize of fifty pounds from the Academy in 1833. It may, 
however, be proper to state that, in its present form, the work con- 
tains not only the original Essay on the Round Towers, very much 
enlarged, but also distinct Essays on our ancient stone churches and 
other ecclesiastical buildings, of cotemporaneous age with the Round 
Towers, now first submitted to the Academy, and for the approval 
of which that distinguished body is in no way committed. For this 
amplification of my original Essay into a work of great national scope, 
I am alone answerable ; and whatever may be the faults found with 
its execution, I trust the Academy and the Public generally will 
give me credit, at least, for the motives which influenced me in thus 
extending the field of my inquiries, and believe that I was actuated 
solely to undertake this additional labour by an ardent desire to rescue 
the antiquities of my native country from unmerited oblivion, and 
give them their just place among those of the old Christian nations 
of Europe. Let me add too, that I was further influenced in ex- 
tending this work by the hope that by making the age and historical 
interest of these memorials of our early Christianity more generally 
known to, and appreciated by my countrymen, some stop might be 


put to the wanton destruction of these remains, which is now, un- 
happily, of daily occurrence, and which, if not by some means checked, 
must lead ere long to their total annihilation. I had long felt that 
such a work, comprising, as a whole, the several classes of early 
Christian architectural remains, was not only essential to the final 
settlement of the question of the origin of the Towers themselves, but 
was also a desideratum in the general history of Christian civilization 
in Europe ; and circumstances, unnecessary to be stated here, having 
thrown the publication of my Essay on the Bound Towers into my 
own hands, I immediately determined to avail myself of the oppor- 
tunity to make that Essay the basis on which to erect it. I soon 
found, however, when it was too late to think of diminishing it, that 
the labour was much greater than I had ever contemplated. On such 
an intricate subject a popular Essay, feebly supported by facts, and 
references to authorities difficult of access, and, for the most part, 
hidden in languages unknown to the multitude, would have made 
little impression on the learned, and have been of no permanent 
value to the country : hence it became imperatively necessary to 
submit to the reader all those passages, derived from manuscripts or 
scarce books, from which my conclusions were drawn ; and, conse- 
quently, the work which I had originally expected would have been 
comprised in a single volume, will, of necessity, extend to two. The 
volume now presented to the Public will, however, be found com- 
plete in itself, as a critical and historical dissertation, not only on 
the Round Towers, but on the Christian architecture of Ireland 
generally, previous to the Anglo-Norman Invasion. It contains all 
the opinions which I have formed on this subject, and all the general 
proofs which I deemed necessary to substantiate them. I have, there- 
fore, considered it proper to meet the wishes of the Academy and of 
my friends by giving it immediate publication, instead of waiting to 
see the second volume through the Press, which must necessarily 
require a considerable time, even if life and circumstances should 


permit me to accomplish it. That volume will be altogether supple- 
mentary to the present, and will contain descriptive and historical 
notices of all the remains of ecclesiastical architecture in Ireland, 
with illustrations similar to those in the present volume, wherever 
they present features of interest or variety ; and it will be closed 
with a statement of my opinions on the origin of the various styles 
found in those remains, the ages and purposes of which are now in- 
vestigated ; for it will be seen that until such materials are laid in 
full before the Public, no conclusions on this point could with safety 
be hazarded. 

The circumstances now alluded to will, I trust, account, to some 
extent, for the length of time which has elapsed between the reading 
of the original Essay to the Academy, and the publication of the pre- 
sent volume. For this delay I have exposed myself to the censure 
of many, but I can truly aver that it was to none a cause of so much 
regret as to myself. The laborious character of the work will, how- 
ever, be my best apology, a work requiring a most intimate ac- 
quaintance with the existing monuments, not merely of a county or 
district, but of the whole kingdom, with its contiguous islands, often 
most difficult of access ; and again, demanding the most diligent 
examination of the whole body of our ancient manuscript authorities, 
as far as they were accessible in the public libraries, as well of 
England as of Ireland ; and lastly, requiring the labours of the 
draftsman no less than those of the literary antiquary. It should be 
remembered, moreover, that works of research of this character are 
amongst the most tedious that man can undertake ; scarcely a page 
of them can be written without a previous investigation of the most 
laborious character ; and the antiquary who is restrained from rush- 
ing prematurely into print by a conscientious desire to make himself 
previously acquainted with every thing conducive to the discovery 
of truth, is, as I conceive, more deserving of praise than censure, and 
will be so judged by posterity. 

viii PREFACE. 

For the object which this work is intended to effect, as well as 
the spirit in which it is conducted, I trust I may lay claim to some 
praise, the pursuit of truth being never lost sight of. Dr. Johnson, 
with his characteristic wisdom, observes, in one of his letters to the 
celebrated Charles O'Conor : "Dr. Leland begins his History too 
late : the ages which deserve an exact inquiry are those, for such 
there were, when Ireland was the school of the west, the quiet habi- 
tation of sanctity and literature. If you would give a history, though 
imperfect, of the Irish nation, from its conversion to Christianity to 
the invasion from England, you would amplify knowledge with new 
views and new objects. Set about it, therefore, if you can ; do what 
you can easily do without anxious exactness. Lay the foundation, 
and leave the superstructure to posterity." 

It is scarcely necessary for me to say that I am not vain enough 
to suppose that I have supplied the desideratum in our history 
which Dr. Johnson has thus ably pointed out. Yet, as the antiquary 
is the necessary pioneer to the historian, clearing the path before him, 
and often opening out vistas of the distant country, without which he 
would have to explore his way through the wilderness of time in doubt 
and difficulty, if not in darkness, so, I may, as I trust, without pre- 
sumption, venture to hope that my humble labours will not be with- 
out some value as contributing to that object. What, I may ask, 
would we know of the true greatness of the Greeks or Egyptians if 
we were unacquainted with their ancient monuments ? What do we 
know of the Etruscans but what we have derived from this source ? 
and, may I not add, would not an erroneous conclusion, such as so 
many have laboured to establish, as to the indefinite antiquity and 
uses of the Irish Eound Towers, while it was suffered to pass with- 
out correction, necessarily pervert, and give a colouring of falsehood 
to the whole stream of Irish history, and lead to the reception, in 
the public mind, of the most visionary notions of the ancient civili- 
zation and importance of the country ? 


That many faults will be found in the execution of this work, I 
am fully sensible. I have little concerned myself with the graces of 
style, beyond the necessary attention to clearness ; and my object 
being to illustrate as much as possible the progress of art in the 
country, I was never deterred from becoming discursive by the dread 
of being deemed wanting in order and consecutiveness. In short, for 
its various imperfections, and for my own incompetency to do bet- 
ter, I can truly aver that I would not have undertaken it, however 
necessary, at this eleventh hour of the existence of our antiquities, if 
I had seen any probability that a more able hand was disposed to 
accomplish it. -That I have been able to throw some considerable 
light on the hitherto neglected antiquities of my country, and to 
remove the very thin veil which involved the origin of her Round 
Towers in mystery, will, I fondly hope, be the opinion of the learned. 
I have not, however, any very sanguine expectations that either the 
evidences or arguments which I have adduced, or those which I have 
still to submit to my readers, will have any very immediate effect 
on the great majority of the middle classes of the Irish people (for 
the lower or agricultural classes have no ideas upon the subject but 
the true ones) in changing their opinions as to their indefinite anti- 
quity and Pagan uses. Among these such opinions have assumed 
the form of a sentiment almost religious, and my dry facts have too 
little poetry in them to reach the judgment through the medium of 
the imagination. Neither do I anticipate that I shall be able to con- 
vince all those who have written recently in support of those erro- 
neous, but popular theories, though I expect to satisfy the more 
intelligent and candid of my antagonists of their errors, as for ex- 
ample, my friends the members of the South Munster Society of 
Antiquaries, most of whom, I have reason to suspect, are more than 
half gained over already. 

I have but one word to add now respecting the illustrations to 
this work. It will be seen that they make but slight pretensions to 



the character of works of art. Where no fine writing was attempted, 
showy illustrations, got up with a view to popular effect, and leading 
to an almost necessary sacrifice of truthfulness, would be very little 
in harmony. For their accuracy, however, I can fearlessly pledge 
myself. This has been the point attended to above all others, and of 
which the absence of all affectation of freedom of handling, or forcible 
effect, will give abundant evidence. They may be considered as quo- 
tations from our ancient monuments, made with the same anxious 
desire for rigid accuracy, as those supplied from literary and other 
sources in the text ; and though slighter or more attractive sketches 
might have sufficiently answered my purpose, they would not have 
been sufficient to gratify my desire to preserve trustworthy memo- 
rials of monuments now rapidly passing away. 

It only remains for me now to express my grateful acknowledg- 
ments to the kind friends, from whom I have received assistance in 
the progress of this work in its amplified form. 

To my able and valued friend, Captain Larcom, E. E., Super- 
intendant of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, my best and warmest 
thanks are, in the first place, due, not only for the most zealous and 
prompt exertions at all times to procure me that local and other 
necessary information, which his position enabled him to obtain, and 
which, otherwise, it might have been difficult, if not impracticable, for 
me to procure, but also for the most cheering encouragement during 
the progress of my labours. 

It is scarcely necessary for me to state, that my greatest obliga- 
tions are, in the next place, due to Messrs. John O'Donovan and 
Eugene Curry, my former coadjutors, for so many years, on the 
Ordnance Survey, and since that connexion has been dissolved, my 
warmest and most attached friends, assisting me by every means in 
their power, and lending the weight of their invaluable authority to 
the translations from Irish MSS. to be found throughout this work. 

To the Librarians of Trinity College, since the period at which 


I commenced my antiquarian investigations, namely, Dr. Sadleir, 
Dr. Wall, Dr. Elrington, and Dr. Todd, I am indebted for the freest 
access, at all proper times, to the valuable collection of Irish and 
other MSS. deposited in the Library of the University; but my 
greatest obligations are due to my respected friends, Dr. Elrington 
and Dr. Todd, on whose time I could make greater demands, on the 
score of a greater personal intimacy ; and I have, moreover, to thank 
Dr. Todd, for the valuable aid of his learning and antiquarian know- 
ledge, whenever I deemed such aid necessary. 

In like manner, I have to thank the gentlemen of the British Mu- 
seum, many of whom I have the honour to number amongst my 
friends ; and more especially, Sir Frederic Madden, K. C., the keeper 
of the manuscripts in that great national depository, through whose 
personal kindness I was relieved from the difficulties I should have 
often experienced in using those manuscripts, in consequence of my 
residence in Ireland. 

With reference to the illustrations which appear in the work, I 
have to acknowledge my deepest obligations to my dear friend and 
brother Academician, Mr. Frederic W. Burton, R. H. A., who, to ob- 
tain me several of these sketches, visited, without regard to loss of 
time or personal inconvenience, at an inclement season of the year, 
some of the wildest districts of Ireland. Such devotion of friendship 
is not to be thanked in words. Nor should I forget my obligations to 
the talented young artist, Mr. Gr. A. Hanlon, by whom nearly the 
whole of the illustrations to this volume have been engraved, with 
an anxious fidelity, such as I might expect from the son of one of 
my oldest and dearest friends. 

Lastly, as regards the publication of the work, I have to express 
my warmest acknowledgments to its publishers, Messrs. Hodges and 
Smith, who have been, through the greater portion of my life, amongst 
my most attached friends, and without whose assistance on the pre- 
sent occasion, I might have found it difficult, if not impossible, to 



bring the work before the Public, in the garb of elegance which it 
lias assumed. Nor can I conscientiously avoid expressing my con- 
viction, that in employing their capital on a work of this character, 
they were less impelled by the ordinary feelings which influence 
publishers on such occasions, than by sentiments of regard for its 
author, and a desire to raise the character of their country. And I 
have also to return my best thanks to Mr. Gill, of the University 
Printing Press, the printer of the work, and, indeed, to all the intel- 
ligent persons of his Establishment, to whose zeal and ability it owes 
so much of its beauty, and to all whom, I may truly say, the work 
seemed a labour of love. 


March 8th, 1845. 







SECTION I. Theory of the Danish Origin of the Towers, 5 

II. Theory of the Phoenician or Eastern Origin of the Round 

Towers, H 

III. Theories of the Pagan Uses of the Round Towers, ... 12 
IV. Theories of the Christian Origin and Uses of the Round Towers, 109 



SECTION I. Introduction, .122 

II. Antiquity of Irish ecclesiastical Remains, 125 

HI. General Characteristics of the ancient Irish ecclesiastical 

Buildings, 160 

SUBSECTION^ Churches, 161 

2. Oratories, 343 

3. Belfries, 353 

4. Houses, 421 

5. Erdamhs, 437 

6. Kitchens, 444 

7. Cashels, _ 445 

8. Well Coverings, Tombs, and Mills, 452 

INDEX, 456 



1 . Nuraghe of Borghidu, in Sardinia, 7<> 

2. Ground-plan of ditto, ib. 

3. Plan of the Level of the second Chamber of ditto, ib. 

4. Section of ditto, ib. 

5. 6. Sections of ditto, . . . ' 77 

7. Nuraghe Nieddu, near Ploaghe, in Sardinia, ib. 

8. Ground-plan of ditto, ib. 

9. Section of the Base of the Round Tower of Cloyne, 86 

10. Round Stone-houae, called Clochan na Carriage, on the great Island 

of Aran, in the Bay of Galway, 130 

11. St. Finan Cam's House, a round Stone-house on an Island in Lough 

Lee, in the County of Kerry, 131 

12. Round Stone-house on Ard Oilcan, off the Coast of Connamara, . ib. 

13. Stone Oratory at Gallerus, in the Barony of Corcaguiny, in the County 

of Kerry, 133 

14. Monumental Inscription, in the Byzantine Character, on a Stone at 

Gallerus, in the County of Kerry, 134 

15. Ancient Alphabet, in the Byzantine Character, on a Stone at Kil- 

malkedar, in the Barony of Corcaguiny, in the County of Kerry, ib. 

16. Ogham Inscription on a Stone at Temple Geal, in the Barony of 

Corcaguiny, in the County of Kerry, 136 

17. Ancient Inscription to Seven Romans on a Stone at Templebrecan, 

on the great Island at Aran, .139 

18. Ancient Inscription found in the Tomb of St. Brecan, at Temple- 

brecan, on the great Island of Aran 140 

19. Ancient Inscription on a black round Calp Stone found in the Tomb 

of St. Brecan, at Templebrecan, on the great Island of Aran, . ib. 

20. Doorway, in the Cyclopean Style, in the Oratory at Gallerus, in the 

County of Kerry, 163 

21. Doorway of Templepatrick, on Inchaguile, in Lough Corrib, in the 

County of Galway ' .- . . 164 



22. Ancient Inscription on a Stone at Templepatrick, on Inchaguile, in 

Lough Corrib, in the County of Galway, 165 

23. Doorway of the Church of Ratass, near Tralee, in the County of Kerry, 169 

24. Doorway of Our Lady's Church at Glendalough, in the County of 

Wicklow, 170 

25. Cross carved on the Soffet of the Lintel of the Doorway of Our Lady's 

Church, at Glendalough, 171 

26. Cross carved on the Lintel of the Church of Killiney, in the County 

ofDublin, ib. 

27. Doorway of the Reefert Church at Glendalough, 173 

28. Doorway of St. Fechin's Church at Fore, in the County of Westmeath, 174 

29. Doorway of the Cathedral of Kilmacduagh, in the County of Galway, 176 

30. Doorway of Templemacduach, on the great Island of Aran, . . . 177 

31. Doorway of the Church of Ireland's Eye, near Howth, in the County 

ofDublin, 178 

32. Doorway of the Church of Sheepstown, near Knocktopher, in the 

County of Kilkenny, ib. 

33. Doorway of the Church of Killaspugbrone, in the County of Sligo, 179 

34. Doorway of the Church of Eachainech, or Aughenagh, in the County 

of Sligo, 180 

35. Doorway of the Church of Britway, in the County of Cork, . . . 181 

36. Window in the east Wall of Trinity Church, at Glendalough, . . 182 

37. Window in the east Wall of the Stone Oratory at Gallerus, in the 

County of Kerry, ib. 

38. Window in the east Wall of the ancient Church of Mungret, in the 

County of Limerick, 183 

39. Window in the south Wall of the Chancel of Trinity Church, at 

Glendalough, ib. 

40. Window in the south Wall of the Church of Kiltiernan, in the 

County of Galway, ib. 

41. Window in the east Wall of the Church of Kilcanannagh, on the 

Middle Island of Aran, 184 

42. Window in the east Wall of St. Mac Dara's Church, on the Island 

of Cruach Mac Dara, off the western Coast of the County of Galway, ib. 

43. Window in the east Wall of the Church of Termoncronan, in the 

County of Clare, ib. 

44. Window of the Oratory near the old Church of Kilmalkedar, in the 

County of Kerry, 185 

45. Window in the east Wall of the Church of Ratass, in the County of 

Kerry, ib. 

46. View of the Interior of Trinity Church, at Glendalough, showing 

the Chancel Arch, 186 



47. Specimen of the Masonry of the inner Face of the west End of the 

Cathedral at Glendalough, 187 

48. Specimen of " long and short" Masonry in the older Church at 

Monasterboice, in the County of Louth, 188 

49. View of the ancient Church of Kilcanannagh, on the Middle Island 

ofAran, 189 

50. View of the Church of St. Mac Dara, on the Island of Crunch Mac 

Dara, off the Coast of the County of Galway, 190 

51. 52. Doorway of the Round Tower of Kildare ; Section showing the 

Ornaments on its Jambs and Soffit, 209 

53 to 55. Bracteate Coins, found imbedded in the Base of the Round 

Tower of Kildare, 210 

56 to 59. Bracteate Coins in the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy, 228 

60 to 62. Coins of Saxon Kings, 229 

63. Doorway of the Round Tower of Timahoe, in the Queen's County, 234 

64, 65. Horizontal and vertical Sections of the Doorway of the Round 

Tower of Timahoe, in the Queen's County, 235 

66. Specimen of Pellet and Bead Moulding on the Soffit of the Arch 

of the Doorway of the Round Tower of Timahoe, ib. 

67, 68. Capitals of the Doorway of the Round Tower of Timahoe, . . 236 

69. View of the outer Division of the inner Archway of the Doorway of 

the Round Tower of Timahoe, 237 

70. Capital at east Side of outer Division of the inner Archway of 

same, 1 b. 

71. Base of Shaft on west Side of same, 238 

72. Bases of the semicircular Shafts at the Angles of the Archway of the 

same Doorway, with intermediate Space, ib. 

73. Capital found in St. Ottmar's Chapel at Nurnberg, 239 

74. Angular-headed Aperture, and Specimen of the Masonry of the 

Round Towor of Timahoe, ib. 

75. Columns of the Chancel Arch of the Parish Church of Rahin, in the 

King's Co 242 

76. Capitals of opposite Side of the same, . . 

77. Round ornamental Window in the Church of Rahin, 244 

78. Ornamental Doorway of the smaller Church of Rahin, . 246 

79. Specimen of Bases of the Semi-column on the north Side of the 

Doorway of the smaller Church at Rahin, 247 

80. View of arched Recess on the east Front of the Priest's House at 

Glendalough, 248 

81. 82. Sculptures on the Two Faces of the Capitals of the arched 

Recess of the Priest's House at Glendalough, 249 

83. Ornaments on the Face of the Architrave and Cornice of same, . . 250 




84. Plan of the Mouldings of the Pilasters, or Mouldings at the Angles 

of same, 250 

85. Existing Remains of these Mouldings, with one of their Bases, . . ib. 

86. Sculptured Ornaments in Tympanum of Doorway of the Priest's 

House at Glendalough, 251 

87. Interior of the east Window of the Cathedral Church at Glendalough, 253 

88. 89. Sculptures on the Frieze of the interior Face of the east Window 

of the same, 254 

90. Moulding on the Archivolt of the same Window ib. 

91. Section of the Pilasters of the same Window, ib. 

92. Doorway in the west Wall of the Cathedral Church of Glendalough, 255 

93. Pilasters of the Chancel- Arch of the Monastery Church at Glenda- 

lough 257 

94 to 98. Devices on the Capitals of the south Side of the same, . . . 258 

99, 100. Capitals of the outer Pier of the same, 259 

101, 102. Ornaments on the Bases of the Columns of the same, ... ib. 

103, 104. Ditto, ditto, 260 

105. Specimen of Bases of the Piers of the north Side of the same, . . ib. 

106. Ornaments on the Base of the same, ib. 

107 to 112. Sculptures on Stones which formed the Arch-Mouldings of 

the same, 261 

113. Sculpture on one of the Stones which formed the Arch-Moulding 

of the same, 262 

114, 115. Sculptures on Stones which formed the Arch-Mouldings of the 

same, 263 

116 to 120. Ditto, ditto, 264 

121. Sculpture on one of the Stones which formed the Arch-Mouldings 

of the same, 265 

122. Ground-plan of one of the Piers of the same Chancel-Arch, ... ib. 
123 to 125. Other sculptured Stones found near the Monastery Church 

at Glendalough, ib. 

126. Ground-plan of one Side of the Church Archway of the Monastery 

Church at Glendalough, 266 

127. Sepulchral Cross at the Reefert Church at Glendalough, .... ib. 

128. Ground-plan of Teampull Finghin at Clonmacnoise, 267 

129. Capitals of the Chancel- Arch of same, 268 

130. Shaft, Capital, and Base of Chancel- Arch of the same, .... ib. 

131. Capitals of the Doorway of the great Church at Clonmacnoise, . . 275 

132. Doorway of the Church of Temple Conor at Clonmacnoise, . . . 276 

133. View of the west Gable (containing Doorway and Window) of the 

Stone-roofed Church at Killaloe, 278 

134. 135. Windows in the same Church, 279 



136. Doorway of the same, 280 

137. View of the Chancel-Arch and Fragment of the Doorway of St. Cai- 

min's Church in Innishcaltra, 282 

138. Capitals of the Piers of the Chancel-Arch of the same; front View, 283 

139. Ditto, ditto, side View, ib. 
140 to 142. Windows of different Forms in the same Church, . . . 284 

143. Ornamented Doorway of the Church of Achadh ur, or Freshford, in 

the County of Kilkenny, 285 

144, 145. Capitals of Piers of the same, -.288 

146. External View of Cormac's Chapel at Cashel, 289 

147. Ground-plan of Cormac's Chapel, 292 

148. Arcade of the southern Tower of Cormac's Chapel, 293 

149. View of the Interior of Cormac's Chapel, 294 

150. South Doorway of Cormac's Chapel, 295 

151. Sculptured Ornament on the Tympanum of the great northern 

Doorway of Cormac's Chapel, 296 

152 to 156. Capitals of the Shafts of the great northern Doorway of 

Cormac's Chapel, 298 

157 to 161. Capitals of the single Columns of the great northern Door- 

way of Cormac's Chapel, 299 

162, 163. Capitals of the smaller north Doorway, 300 

164 to 167. Capitals of the Semi-Columns which decorate the south Side 

of the Nave, ib. 

168, 169. Ditto, ditto, 301 

170 to 173. Capitals of the north Side of the Nave, ib. 

175. Ditto, ditto 302 

176 To 178. Capitals of the outermost double Semi-Columns of the Chan- 
cel-Arch, ib. 

179, 180. Capitals of the double Semi-Columns placed on the Faces of 

the Piers of the innermost Divisions of the Chancel-Arch, ... ib. 

181,182. Capitals of the Chancel, 303 

183. Bases of the single Shafts of the Nave, ib. 

184. Bases of the double Shafts on the Piers of the Chancel-Arch, . . ib. 

185. 186. Sculptured Label or Dripstone, Terminations on the interior 

Face of the smaller northern Doorway, ib. 

187. One of the decorated Arches of the blank Arcade which ornaments 

the sides of the Nave, 304 

188. One of the Arches of the open Arcade which ornaments the Apsis, 

or Recess, at the End of the Chancel, ib. 

189. 190. Examples of the most peculiar of the Windows of Cormac's 

Chapel, ib. 

191. " The Font" in Cormac's Chapel, 305 




192. Stone Cross in the Cemetery adjacent to Cormac's Chapel, . . . 306 

193. Crozier of Cormac Mac Carthy, 313 

194. Inscription on the Base of the great Stone Cross, now lying in the 

Market-place, at Tuam, 315 

195. Base of the great Stone Cross in the Market-place of Tuam, . . 316 

196. Portion of Chancel- Arch of the ancient Church of Tuam, . . . 317 

197. 198. Capitals of the Jambs of the Chancel- Arch of Tuam Church, . 318 

199. Capitals and Arch-Mouldings of one of the Doorways of the Abbey 

of Cong, 319 

200. Doorway of the Church of St. Dairbhile, in Erris, 321 

201. 202. Two of the Bosses of the Crozier of St. Damhnad Ochene, . 323 
203, 204. Obverse and Reverse of unpublished Bracteate Penny, . . . 324 

205. Inscribed Tomb of Maelfinnia, at Clonmacnoise, 325 

206. Inscribed Tomb of Blaimac, at Clonmacnoise, 326 

207. Inscribed Tomb of Flannchad, at Clonmacnoise, 327 

208. Inscribed Tomb of Suibine mac Mailae hvmai, at Clonmacnoise, . 328 

209. Inscribed Tomb of Conaing mac Conghail, and Dubcen mac 

Thadggan, at Clonmacnoise, 329 

210. Inscribed monumental Stone of Aigidiu, at Durrow, 331 

211. Outline of one Side of the Leather Case of the Book of Armagh, . 332 

212. Outline of the lower Side, or Bottom, of the same Case, .... 333 

213. Outline of one of the Sides of the leather Case of the Shrine of St. 

Maidoc, of Ferns, 335 

214. Inscribed Tombstone of Sechnasach, at Clonmacnoise, .... 342 

215. Round Tower of Devenish Island in Lough Erne, 360 

216. Castle of Brunless, in Brecknockshire, 367 

217. Castle of Brunless, and Round Towers of Clondalkin and Rosscar- 

bery, 368 

218. Interior of Doorway of Tower of Roscrea, 369 

219. Ditto, ditto, restored, ib. 

220. Section of ditto, restored, ib. 

221. Jamb of Doorway of Round Tower of Dysert, County of Limerick, 371 

222. Section of the Round Tower of Clondalkin, 397 

223. Section of the Round Tower of Rattoo, County of Kerry, ... ib. 

224. Ground-plan of the Round Tower and Portion of the Church of 

Rattoo, County of Kerry, 399 

225. Section showing Corbels of same Tower, ib. 

226. Cornice under the Roof of Devenish Round Tower, 400 

227. Doorway of the Round Tower of Drumbo, County of Down, . . 401 

228. Lower Doorways of the Round Tower of Swords, 402 

229. Upper Ditto, ditto, ib. 

230. Doorway of the Round Tower of Antrim, . 403 


N0 - PAGE. 

231. Doorway of the Tower of Kilmacduagh, County of Galway, . . 404 

232. Doorway of the Tower of Glendalough, County of Wicklow, . . ib. 

233. Doorway of the Tower of Oughterard, County of Kildare, . . . 405 
'234. Doorway of the Tower on Tory Island, off the Coast of Donegal, . 406 

235. Exterior View of the Doorway of the Tower of Roscrea, .... 407 

236. Doorway of the Tower of Monasterboice, County of Louth, . . . 408 

237. Doorway of the Round Tower of Donaghmore, County of Meath, . 410 

238. Doorway of the greater Tower of Clonmacnoise, 411 

239. View of the greater Tower of Clonmacnoise, 412 

240. One of the upper Apertures in the Round Tower of Cashel, with 

Specimen of Masonry of the same, . . . 413 

241. Specimen of Masonry from the Base of the Round Tower of Cashel, 414 
242 to 244. Apertures in the Round Tower of Kells, ib. 

245. Angular-headed Aperture in the uppermost Story of the Tower of 

Cashel, 415 

246. Semicircular Aperture in the Tower of Dysert, ib. 

247. Aperture placed directly over the Doorway of the Round Tower of 

Roscrea, ib. 

248. Specimen of Aperture in the small Tower attached to Teampull 

Finghin, at Clonmacnoise 416 

249. View of the Round Tower and Church of Teampull Finghin, at 

Clonmacnoise, ib. 

250. View of St. Columb's House at Kells, 430 

251. View of St. Kevin's House at Glendalough, 432 

252. Doorway of St. Kevin's House at Glendalough, 434 

253. Gateway of the Cashel at Glendalough, 450 

254. Ground-plan of Gateway at Glendalough, 451 

255. Tomb of St. Muireadhach O'Heney at Bannagher, County of Lon- 

donderry, 453 

256. Tomb at Bovevagh, County of Londonderry, 454 




&c. &c. 


HE question of the Origin and Uses of 
the Round Towers of Ireland has so fre- 
quently occupied the attention of distin- 
guished modern antiquaries, without any 
decisive result, that it is now generally 
considered as beyond the reach of conclu- 
sive investigation ; and any further attempt to remove the mystery 
connected with it may, perhaps, be looked upon as hopeless and 
presumptuous. If, however, it be considered that most of those in- 
quirers, however distinguished for general ability or learning, have 
been but imperfectly qualified for this undertaking, from the want of 
the peculiar attainments which the subject required inasmuch as 
they possessed but little accurate skill in the science (if it may be so 
called) of architectural antiquities, but slight knowledge of our ancient 
annals and ecclesiastical records, and, above all, no extensive acquaint- 
ance with the architectural peculiarities observable in the Towers, 
and other ancient Irish buildings it will not appear extraordinary 


that they should have failed in arriving at satisfactory conclusions, 
while, at the same time, the truth might be within the reach of dis- 
covery by a better directed course of inquiry and more diligent 

Hitherto, indeed, we have had little on the subject but specu- 
lation, and that not unfrequently of a visionary kind, and growing 
out of a mistaken and unphilosophical zeal in support of the claims 
of our country to an early civilization ; and even the truth which 
most certainly has been partially seen by the more sober-minded in- 
vestigators having been advocated only hypothetically, has failed to 
be established, from the absence of that evidence which facts alone 
could supply. 

Such at least appears to have been the conclusion at which the 
Royal Irish Academy arrived, when, in offering a valuable premium 
for any essay that would decide this long-disputed question, they 
prescribed, as one of the conditions, that the monuments to be treated 
of should be carefully examined, and their characteristic details de- 
scribed and delineated. 

In the following inquiry, therefore, I have strictly adhered to the 
condition thus prescribed by the Academy. The Towers have been 
all subjected to a careful examination, and their peculiarities accu- 
rately noticed ; while our ancient records, and every other probable 
source of information, have been searched for such facts or notices 
as might contribute to throw light upon their history. I have even 
gone further : I have examined, for the purpose of comparison with 
the Towers, -not only all the vestiges of early Christian architecture 
remaining in Ireland, but also those of monuments of known or 
probable Pagan origin. The results, I trust, will be found satisfac- 
tory, and will suffice to establish, beyond all reasonable doubt, the 
following conclusions : 

I. That the Towers are of Christian and ecclesiastical origin, 
and were erected at various periods between the fifth and thirteenth 

II. That they were designed to answer, at least, a twofold use, 
namely, to serve as belfries, and as keeps, or places of strength, in 
which the sacred xitensils, books, relics, and other valuables were 
deposited, and into which the ecclesiastics, to whom they belonged, 
could retire for security in cases of sudden predatory attack. 


III. That they were probably also used, when occasion required, 
as beacons, and watch-towers. 

These conclusions, which have been already advocated separately 
by many distinguished antiquaries among whom are Molyneux, 
Ledwich, Pinkerton, Sir Walter Scott, Montmorenci, Brewer, and 
( )i\\ ay will be proved by the following evidences : 

For the FIRST CONCLUSION, namely, that the Towers are of Christian 

1. The Towers are never found unconnected with ancient 

ecclesiastical foundations. 

2. Their architectural styles exhibit no features or peculiarities 

not equally found in the original churches with which 
they are locally connected, when such remain. 

3. On several of them Christian emblems are observable, and 

others display in the details a style of architecture univer- 
sally acknowledged to be of Christian origin. 

4. They possess, invariably, architectural features not found in 

any buildings in Ireland ascertained to be of Pagan times. 
For the SECOND CONCLUSION, namely, that they were intended to 
serve the double purpose of belfries, and keeps, or castles, for the uses 
already specified : 

1. Their architectural construction, as will appear, eminently 

favours this conclusion. 

2. A variety of passages, extracted from our annals and other 

authentic documents, will prove that they were constantly 
applied to both these purposes. 

For the THIRD CONCLUSION, namely, that they may have also been 
occasionally used as beacons, and watch-towers: 

1. There are some historical evidences which render such a 

hypothesis extremely probable. 

2. The necessity which must have existed in early Christian 

times for such beacons, and watch-towers, and the perfect 
fitness of the Round Towers to answer such purposes, will 
strongly support this conclusion. 

These conclusions or, at least, such of them as presume the 
Towers to have had a Christian origin, and to have served the purpose 
of a belfry will be further corroborated by the uniform and concur- 
rent tradition of the country, and, above all, by authentic evidences, 

B 2 


which shall be adduced, relative to the erection of several of the 
Towers, with the names and eras of their founders. 

Previously, however, to entering on this investigation, it will be 
conformable with custom, and probably expected, that I should take 
a summary review of the various theories of received authority from 
which I find myself compelled to dissent, and of the evidences and 
arguments by which it has been attempted to support them. If each 
of these theories had not its class of adherents I would gladly avoid 
trespassing on the reader's time by such a formal examination ; for 
the theory which I have proposed must destroy the value of all those 
from which it substantially differs, or be itself unsatisfactory. I shall 
endeavour, however, to be as concise as possible, noticing only those 
evidences, or arguments, that seem worthy of serious consideration, 
from the respectability of their advocates and the importance which 
has been attached to them. 

These theories, which have had reference both to the origin and 
uses of the Towers, have been as follows : 

FIRST, as respects their origin : 

1. That they were erected by the Danes. 

2. That they were of Phoenician origin. 
SECONDLY, as respects their uses : 

1. That they were fire-temples. 

2. That they were used as places from which to proclaim the 

Druidical festivals. 

3. That they were gnomons, or astronomical observatories. 

4. That they were phallic emblems, or Buddhist temples. 

5. That they were anchorite towers, or stylite columns. 

6. That they were penitential prisons. 

7. That they were belfries. 

8. That they were keeps, or monastic castles. 

9. That they were beacons and watch-towers. 

It will be observed, that I dissent from the last three theories, 
only as far as regards the appropriation of the Towers exclusively to 
any one of the purposes thus assigned to them. 





OF the various hypotheses which I have now to notice, the earliest 
put forward is that which ascribes the erection of the Towers to the 
Danes. This hypothesis appears to have originated in an observa- 
tion of the celebrated John Lynch, the author of Cambrensis Ever- 
sus, to the effect, that " the Danes, who entered Ireland, according to 
Giraldus, in 838, are reported (dicuntur) to be the first builders of 
these towers." But, as it will be necessary to refer to this passage 
hereafter, I shall transcribe the whole of it in this place. 

"Exiguas tamen illas orbiculares arctasq; turres Dani Hiberniam Giraldo authors 
anno Dom. 838 primum ingressi, primi erexisse dicuntur; non vt pro campanili, sed 
pro speculo haberentur, vnde prospectus ad longinqua late protenderetur. Postea 
tameu vsus inualuit vt campanis in earum culmine appensis, Campanilium vices ge- 
rerent : Tametsi non e media Ecclesiee fabrica extantes fornicibus innixa; in altum 
tendant, vt modo fit, sed e csemeterij solo in idoneam altitudinem extollantur. Vel 
norainis enim tetymon illas indicat illi vsui accomodatas fuisse ; Cloctheach enim 
perinde est ac domus campanse, voce Cloc campanam, et teach domum significante." 
Cambr. Eversus, p. 133. 

This hearsay testimony loses much of whatever little weight it 
might, at first sight, appear entitled to, when we consider the pri- 
mary object which its author had in view, in the work in which it 
occurs, namely, to dispute, or cavil at, every assertion in the work of 
Giraldus, wherein it is stated that the Towers were built more patrice, 
or in a mode peculiar to the country. 

Lynch's timid surmise was followed by the bolder assertions of 
Peter Walsh, who, in his Prospect of Ireland, published in 1684, 
translates nearly word for word the observations of the former, only 
so altering them that what Lynch mentions merely as a report he 
assumes as a certainty. The following are his words : 


" It is most certain, that those high, round, narrow Towers of stone, built cylinder- 
wise, whereof Cambrensis speaks, were never known or built in Ireland (as indeed 
no more were any Castles, Houses, or even Churches of stone, at least in the North 
of Ireland) before the year of Christ 838, when the Heathen Danes possessing a great 
part of that Countrey, built them in several places, to serve themselves as Watch- 
Towers against the Natives. Though ere long, the Danes being expuls'd, the Chris- 
tian Irish turn'd them to another and much better (because a holy) use, that is to 
Steeple-Houses or Bell-Fries, to hang Bells in for calling the People to Church. 
From which latter use made of them, it is, that ever since to this present, they are 
call'd in Irish Cloctlieachs, that is Bell-Fries, or Bell-Houses; Cloc or Clog, signifying a 
Bell, and Teach a House in that Language." Prospect of Ireland, pp. 416, 417. 

In the following century this hypothesis received the abler sup- 
port of the celebrated Dr. Molyneux, the friend of Locke, whose 
opinions, delivered with the modesty of a sincere inquirer after truth, 
I shall present in his own words : 

" It may not be improper to add to these remarks upon Danish mounts and forts, 
some observations on the slender high round towers here in Ireland, tho' they are less 
antient ; since they are so peculiar to the country, and seem remains of the same 
people the Ostmen or the Danes. These we find common likewise every where, spread 
over all the country, erected near the oldest churches founded before the conquest ; 
but I could never learn that any building of this sort is to be met with throughout 
all England, or in Scotland. 

" That the native Irish had but little intercourse with their neighbours, and much 
less commerce with these at greater distance, before the Danes came hither and settled 
among them, is pretty certain : and that the Danes were the first introducers of coin, 
as well as trade, and founders of the chief towns and cities of this kingdom, inclosing 
them with walls for safer dwelling, is generally agreed on all hands ; and it seems no 
way less probable, that the same nation too must have introduced at first from coun- 
tries where they trafKck, the art of masonry, or building with lime and stone. 

" For that there were lime and stone buildings here, before the conquest by the 
English, in Henry IPs reign, is certain ; notwithstanding some, and those reputed 
knowing men in the affairs of Ireland, have hastily asserted the contrary. For it ap- 
pears, beyond all controversy, that those high round steeples we are speaking of, were 
erected long before Henry IPs time, from a plain passage in Giraldus Cambrensis, 
that was in Ireland in that prince's reign, and came over with his son king John, 
whom he served as secretary in his expedition hither: he speaks of them in his ac- 
count of this island, as standing then, and I am apt to think, few of these kind of 
towers, have been built since that time. 

" That author mentioning these steeples gives us this short description of them, 
Turres ecclesiasticas, quce more patrice arctce sunt et altce, nee non et rotundce. Church- 
towers built slender, high and round, and takes notice of their model, as being fashioned 
after a singular manner, and proper to the country. 

" And since we find this kind of church-building, tho' frequent here, resembling 
nothing of this sort in Great Britain ; from whence the Christian faith, the fashion of 


our churches, and all their rites and customs, 'tis plain, were first brought hither ; 
the modi -1 nf those towers must have boon taken up some other way: and it M-OIM-; 
probable the Danes, the earliest artificers in masonry, upon their first conversion to 
Christianity, might fancy and affect to raise these fashioned steeples in this peculiar 
form, standing at a distance from their churches, as bearing some resemblance to the 
round tapering figure of their old monumental stones and obelisks, their pyramids, their 
mounts and forts, of which they were so fond in time of paganism. 

" And Sir James Ware cursorily speaking of one of these round steeples at Cork, 
in his antiquities of Ireland, chap. 29. pag. 328, says, there prevailed a tradition in that 
country, that ascribed the building of that tower he mentions, to the Ostmen, who were 
inhabitants of Cork; and we might well presume, that had the old native Irish been 
authors of this kind of architecture, they surely would have raised such towers as 
these in several parts of Scotland also, where they have been planted and settled many 
ages past; but there we hear of none of them." Natural Hitt. of Ireland by Boate and 
Molyneux, pp. 210, 211. 

Dr. Molyneux next proceeds to describe the situation, form, and 
peculiarities of construction of the Towers (which description I shall 
notice in another place), and then returns to his theory of their Danish 
origin, which he endeavours to support by tracing the etymology of 
their name in Ireland to a Teutonic or German-Saxon origin : 

" Clogachd, the name by which they still are called among the native Irish, gives us a 
further proof of their original, that they were founded first by Ostmen : for the Irish 
word Clogachd is taken from a foreign tongue, and being a term of art, imports the 
thing it signifies must likewise be derived from foreigners, as, were it necessary, might 
be made appear by many instances ; now, the Irish word does plainly owe its etymology 
to Clugga, a German Saxon word, that signifies a bell, from whence we have also bor- 
rowed our modern word a clock.' 1 '' Ib. p. 211. 

After this he offers some arguments to show that the Towers 
were erected for belfries, which, as they agree with the hypothesis 
which I trust I shall prove, need not be inserted here. 

The hypothesis of the Danish origin of the Round Towers, is one 
which has obtained so little attention latterly, that it may, perhaps, 
be thought wasting time to shew the weakness of the evidence adduced 
by Dr. Molyneux to. support it. A few words, therefore, will suffice. 
It will have been seen that this hypothesis rests chiefly on the proba- 
bility that the Danes might " fancy and affect" to raise such steeples, 
" as bearing some resemblance to the round tapering figures of their 
old monumental stones and obelisks, their pyramids, their mounts 
and forts, of which they were so fond in time of paganism !" But, it 
may be asked, where in Ireland are such Danish monumental stones, 


obelisks, or pyramids to be found ? and where are the Danish mounds 
and forts ? It appears certain from our authentic historical records, 
that the obeliscal pillar-stones, sepulchral mounds, and earthen mili- 
tary works, so numerous in this country, are of Irish and not Danish 
origin ; and for the fact, that no remains similar to these are found in 
Denmark, we are furnished with the testimony of a Danish antiquary, 
the grandson of Olaus Wormius, as communicated to Dr. Molyneux 
himself by his brother William, in a letter written to him from Hol- 
land, in 1684. In this letter William thus writes : 

" I am intimately acquainted here with a young gentleman that comes from Den- 
mark, though he is a Norwegian by birth ; his name is John Scheldrop ; he is very 
inquisitive after antiquities, especially of his own country and of Ireland. I have often 
discoursed with him concerning both, and especially of our great Danes' mounts ; 
I have told him your thoughts of them, and the reasons you ground them on, taken 
out of Olaus Wormius, who was his grandfather, but he will by no means allow of 
them ; assuring me that those mounts erected over soldiers killed in battle, of which 
he has seen several, are not (even the largest of them) above ten foot high. He says 
he never saw any such as ours in all Denmark; wherefore I question they be rightly 
called, or whether they be the works of the Danes." Molyneux's Correspondence, Dublin 
University Magazine, vol. xviii. p. 483. 

Thus it appears that Dr. Molyneux's reasoning, as to the Danish 
origin of the sepulchral mounds and forts, had failed to make an im- 
pression, not merely on the minds of the learned in Denmark, but 
even on that of his own most intelligent brother; and hence the 
whole superstructure as to the origin of the Towers, which is raised 
on this basis, must necessarily fall to the ground. Indeed, from the 
Avhole tenor of the Irish annals, it may be seen that the Danes, a 
rude and plundering people, were so far from being the builders of 
ecclesiastical edifices, except in a few of their own maritime towns in 
Ireland, that almost invariably, during their settlement in the coun- 
try, they were the remorseless destroyers of them ; and though it 
might be conceded, that on their conversion to Christianity, in the 
tenth century, they may have founded a round tower belfry in Cork, 
or in any other town which they inhabited, yet the probability is 
quite against such a supposition, as we are altogether without proof 
of their having done so. The Tower of Cork was connected with 
the ancient church of St. Finbar, founded in the sixth century, and 
perhaps coeval with it ; and no Bound Towers of this kind have 
been discovered in connexion with any of the edifices which the 


Dailies are said to have founded in Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, 
Limerick, or elsewhere. Had the Towers been of Danish origin, 
it is quite inconceivable but that some traces of such buildings would 
have been discovered in the north of Europe, or in England, Nor- 
maudy, Sicily, or other countries in which the Northmen had settle- 
ments ; and that none such have ever been discovered seems certain, 
as even Dr. Ledwich, the ablest supporter of the theory under consi- 
deration, is obliged to allow. As to the Saxon etymology of the word 
clog, it is one that will not prove anything ; for, as Dr. Lanigan well 
observes, " the word clog was used by the Irish long before the 
Germans or Saxons had churches or bells. We find it Latinized 
into clocca, and it was used by Columbkille, and generally by the 
ancient Irish writers as signifying a bell ; so that instead of giving 
Saxon etymology to clochachd" a form of the word, by the way, 
never used in any Irish book or MS., " the Saxon clugga was most 
probably derived from the cloc or dug of the Irish teachers of the 
Saxons." Eccl. History, vol. iv. p. 406. 

In latter times this hypothesis was zealously advocated by Dr. 
Ledwich, a writer, who, although learned and ingenious, was less 
honest, or more prejudiced, than those who had previously given it 
their support. According to this writer, indeed, every tiling indi- 
cating the least pretension to civilization in Ireland, previous to the 
arrival of the English, should be ascribed to the Danes, the Irish 
being a race of uncivilized savages. But it will be seen, that to 
substantiate such opinions, Dr. Ledwich was necessitated to resort to 
an imposition on the credulity of his readers, quite unworthy of his 
learning and ability. Thus, after quoting those passages from Lynch, 
Walsh, and Molyneux, which are given in the preceding pages, he 
proceeds : 

" Let it now be remarked, that the opinion of every author, who has spoken of 
our Round Towers for the space of 542 years, that is, from Cambrensis to Molyneux, is 
uniform in pronouncing them Ostmau or Danish works. No silly conjectures or ab- 
surd refinements had as yet been introduced into the study of Antiquities ; writers 
only sought after and recorded matters of fact. All these authors, it will be said, 
follow Cambrensis, I grant they do ; but would any of them adopt his notions w,as it 
possible to substitute better or more authentic in their room ? The answer is posi- 
tive and direct, that they would not, and here is the proof. In 1584, Stanihurst led 
the way in severely criticizing many of his positions. In 1662, John Lynch, in his 
Cambrensis Eversus, entered on a formal examination of his Topography ; not a page, 



scarcely a paragraph escaping his morose and carping pen, and yet Lynch was a good 
scholar and antiquary. In his time Irish MSS. were more numerous and collected than 
since, consequently the means of information more ample, and yet he discovered 
nothing in his extensive reading to contradict what Cambrensis had delivered. "- 
Antiquities, pp. 158-159. (Second edition.) 

Nothing, but its artfulness, can exceed the audacious mendacity 
of the foregoing passage. " Let it now be remarked," he says, " that 
the opinion of every author, who has spoken of our Round Towers 
for the space of 542 years, that is, from Cambrensis to Molyneux, is 
uniform in pronouncing them Ostman or Danish works." Would 
not the reader imagine from this that there had been a long list of 
writers summed up in favour of the hypothesis, of which Cambrensis 
and Molyneux were but the first and last ? Such, surely, would be 
his impression ; but let us see whether the facts are of a nature to 
justify it. In the first place, Cambrensis himself has not written a 
syllable indicating his belief that the Round Towers were of Danish 
origin ; on the contrary, he expresses his conviction that they were 
erected more patrice, after the manner of the country ; and, secondly, 
from that writer to John Lynch, who was endeavouring to controvert 
every position of Cambrensis (and thus probably originated the con- 
jecture relative to the Danes), not a single writer has said one word 
upon the subject. To this he adds, with great apparent simplicity : 
" All these authors, it will be said, follow Cambrensis, I grant they 
do; (!) but would any of them adopt his notions was it possible to 
substitute better or more authentic in their room ?" Most admirable 
candour ! No one could have ever written this but a person desirous 
of supporting an erroneous hypothesis by false assertions. This at- 
tempted imposition of Ledwich has been so well exposed by the 
generally acute Dr. Lanigan, that I shall make no apology for pre- 
senting to the reader his remarks upon it in his own words : 

" Ledwich has shamefully imposed on his readers by representing Giraldus Cam- 
brensis as having asserted, that the Round towers were built by the Danes. Now 
Giraldus says no such thing, nor in the little that he has said relatively to their mode 
of construction, which is all comprised in the few words quoted above, does he make 
any mention of Danes or Ostmen. On the contrary he plainly hints, that the archi- 
tecture of them was purely Irish, more patrice. Besides, from his having looked upon 
at least some of them as very ancient, it is evident, that he coiild not have imagined, 
that they were erected by the Danes, whereas he supposed that they existed in 
Ireland before the arrival of that nation. Ledwich squeezed his misrepresentation of 
Giraldus out of another of Lynch's meaning in the above quoted words. Lynch says, 


that the Round towers are reported to have been first erected by the Danes, whose 
first arrival in Ireland was, according to Giraldus, in the year 838. The sense of this 
plain passage is twisted by Ledwich, as if Lynch had stated that Giraldus said that the 
Danes not only first came to Ireland in 838, but that they were likewise the first 
builders of the Round towers. Lynch could not have even thought of attributing such 
an assertion to Giruldus, whereas his object was to refute the supposition of Giraldus, 
that there were such towers in Ireland at times much earlier than those of the Danes. 
Lynch was arguing against what Giraldus has about Round towers being seen in 
Lough Neagh, and strove to refute him by showing, that there were not any such 
towers in Ireland at the very ancient period alluded to by Giraldus, whereas, he says, 
they are reported to owe their origin to the Danes, who, according to Giraldus him- 
-\f, did not come to Ireland until A. D. 838." 

" The reader will now be able to form an opinion of Ledwich's logic and critical 
rules, and to judge of his fidelity in referring to authorities." Ecc. ffitt. vol. iv. 
pp. 405, 406. 

To these remarks it would be useless to add any thing further ; 
and, taking it for granted that the reader is now satisfied that the 
hypothesis of the Danish origin of the Towers is one which has not 
been proved, or even made to appear probable, I will proceed with- 
out further delay to the next section. 




THE romantic notion of ascribing the origin of the Round Towers 
of Ireland to the Phoenicians, Persians, or Indo-Scythians, originated 
in the fanciful brain of General Vallancey, an antiquary who, in his 
generous but mistaken zeal in support of the claims to ancient civi- 
lization of the Irish, has done much to involve our ancient history 
and antiquities in obscurity, and bring them into contempt with the 
learned. In support of this conjecture, however, General Vallancey 
has adduced scarcely a shadow of authority, but in place of it has 
amused his readers partly with descriptions of the fire-towers of the 

Persians which only prove that these were not like the Round 

Towers of Ireland and partly with a collection of etymological dis- 
tortions of the most obvious meanings of Irish words, intended to 
prove that the Round Towers received their local names from being 
temples of the sacred fire ! 



As these supposed proofs rest altogether on the uses to which it 
has been assumed that the Towers were applied, it will be most ex- 
pedient, and prevent repetition, to present them to the reader in the 
following Section, in which I have to treat of that subject ; and as the 
more ingenious arguments of Doctors Lanigan and O'Conor, Miss 
Beaufort, Mr. D'Alton, Mr. O'Brien, Mr. Moore, and, recently, Mr. 
Windele of Cork, in support of this hypothesis, are of nearly a similar 
kind, they shall be considered in the same place. 


1. That they were Fire-temples. 2. That they were used as places 
irom which to proclaim the Druidical festivals. 3. That they were 
Gnomons, or astronomical observatories. 4. That they were Phallic 
emblems, or Buddhist temples. 

The theories of the Pagan uses of the Round Towers above enu- 
merated, have been so blended together by their most distinguished 
advocates, that I have found it impossible to treat any one of them 
separately from the others, without involving myself in repetitions, 
which would be tedious to the reader, and unessential to my purpose. 
I shall, therefore, take the arguments adduced to sustain them, in the 
order as to time in which they appeared, commencing with those of 
General Vallancey, their great originator. 

The earliest conjecture as to the Phoenician or Indo- Scythian 
origin of the Round Towers, and their uses as fire-temples, appears in 
Vallancey's Essay on the Antiquity of the Irish Language, first pub- 
lished in 1772, and afterwards reprinted in the eighth number of the 
Collectanea de Reb. Hib. in 1 781, and is to the following effect: 

" The Irish druids caused all fires to be extinguished throughout the kingdom on 
the eve of May day, and every house was obliged to light his fire from the arch-druid's 
holy fire, kindled on some elevated place, for which they paid a tribute to the druid. 
This exactly corresponds with Dr. Hyde's description of the Parsi or Guebri, descen- 
dants of the ancient Persians, who have, says he, an annual fire in the temple, from 
whence they kindle all the fires in their houses, which are previously extinguished, 
which makes a part of the revenues of their priests ; and this was undoubtedly the 
use of the round towers, so frequently to be met with in Ireland, and which were cer- 
tainly of Phoenician construction. 


" I will here hazard a conjecture. I find blTl gadul to signify magnut ; I find nl-. . 
that the oriental nations at length so named the tower of Babylon, &c., nV?TID nutyit- 
dalttlh, turrcs ah aniplitudine dicta. Bochart. p. 42. Geog. Sacr. Gadi. e, gadulturri* ; 
may not our Irish name cloyhad for the round towers built in Ireland, which appa- 
rently were of PhuMiician workmanship, be derived from this word gad, and clog/i, stone. 
It must be allowed I hat <//'</ is a bell, and hence these towers have been thought to 
have been belfries ; but we have many places called dogh, L e. saxum. 

" Again, the druids called every place of worship cloy/tad, alluding to the circles of 
stones they usually set up in those places ; there is therefore no positive authority to 
say that these doghads or towers were used as belfries only, or that they took their 
name from that use." pp. 285, 286. 

To reply to assertions resting on such puerile conjectures as the 
preceding, would be but a waste of time, and I shall only observe, 
that there is not a shadow of authority to be found in the Irish his- 
tory for the statement, that the Druids called every place, or any 
place of worship, cloghad, or that the Round Towers of Ireland were 
ever so called, as I shall prove hereafter. 

The theory thus dogmatically put forward by Vallancey having 
been combated by Dr. Ledwich in his Essay on the Round Towers, 
first published in the fifth number of the Collectanea, the former was 
followed by some remarks on the Round Towers of Ireland in the 
succeeding volume, number 10, for the purpose of supporting it. But, 
as this paper only shows that a tower somewhat similar in size and 
form to the Irish towers exists in Bulgaria, and asserts from a conjec- 
tural etymology of its name, Misgir or Midsgir, that it was a fire- 
temple, I do not feel it necessary to insert it here. 

On this paper, Dr. Ledwich makes the following remarks : 

" I had almost forgot our author's Bulgarian round tower, which was a Turkish 
minaret. He should have known that the Turks or Magiars colonized Bulgaria in 

889 Gibbon's Rom. Hist. v. 6. p. 34, note 2. that then they were tolerably civilized. 

Forster's Northern Voyages, p. 39, note. That Arabic inscriptions in Turkish mosques 
are common. Tollii Epist. Itiner. p. 150. And that those on the Bulgarian tower are 

not old Forster, supra. The Turks received the idea of belfries or their minarets 

from the Greeks A. D. 784 Sabellic Ennead. 9-L 1. Here are materials for a dis- 
sertation to convict our Author of the grossest ignorance, or unpardonable inatten- 
tion." Antiquities, p. 166, note. (Second Edition.) 

But reasoning of this kind would make but little, if any, impres- 
sion on the mind of an author like Vallancey ; he would acknowledge 
that the Bulgarian tower, or any other, was a minaret, but what of 
that ? " The minarets," he answers, " were originally fire towers !"- 


See MS. comment on Ledwich's Dissertation on the Round Towers 
of Ireland in Vallancey's corrected copy of the Collectanea de Reh. 
Hib., preserved in the library of the Royal Irish Academy. 

In the twelfth number of the Collectanea, General Vallancey 
returns to the Round Towers again, and finds them employed for 
various purposes not previously thought of. Thus, in the preface to 
this number, he tells us they were first erected in Ireland by the 
African sea-champions : 

" Potter in his Grecian antiquities, says, the Pelasgi were Tyrhenians born, and 
(speaking of the building of Athens) taught the Greeks the art of building houses of 
lime and stone, and from them, walls and castles were called Turrit. [Tt>r]. Is it pos- 
sible that Potter could be ignorant that the Hebrew and Chaldee ~)1tO Tur, was a cir- 
cular building, a tower, from the origin of languages? Observe the ancient history of 
the Irish in this particular, ' African sea-champions landed in Ireland, conquered the 
country, introduced their language, and taught the inhabitants to build with lime 
and stone,' to build what? Round towers undoubtedly, for no other buildings were 
erected in Ireland of lime and stone, for many centuries afterwards." p. iv. 

Again : 

" The ancient Irish Seanchas say, that Gan, Geanan, Conuing and Faovar, were 
African generals who drove the Nemedians out of Ireland. That they first settled at 
Toirinis, which was called Tor Conuing, or tower of Conuing, from the tower he built 
there : this is the first round tower mentioned in Irish history." p. xxxvi. 

And again : 

" With Nemed came many Tuatha Dadanan, and in his reign the Africans arrived : 
these Africans were the Phoeni another tribe of the Pelasgi : it is not surprizing then, 
that our Irish historians observe, that these Africans spoke the same language as the 
Irish. They conquered the country and taught the inhabitants to build round towers, 
having first landed at the island of Tor or Tor-inis called also Tor-Conuing from the 
name of the Carthaginian general (Conuing) and here is the first account we have of 
our round towers." pp. Ixix. Ixx. 

On these passages it will be sufficient to remark, that if, as Val- 
lancey asserts, the ancient Irish historians state, that the Irish were 
taught by the Fomorians, or African sea-champions who came here 
a few centuries after the deluge to build with lime and stone, it 
would only show that such authorities were of little value. But the 
fact is, that they make no such statement : and as to the story of 
Tor-Conuing, or Tory Island, it appears to be a legend originating 
in the natural formation of the island, which presents, at a distance, 
the appearance of a number of towers, and hence in the authentic 


Irish annals, and the lives of Coliunbkille, the patron saint of the place, 
it is called Torach, or the towery island, and Latinized Torac/iin. 
and Toracha insula. It is true, indeed, that there is a Round Tower 
still remaining on Tory Island, but it would require a more than or- 
dinary share of credulity to enable one to believe that this is the 
Tor-Conuing of the Africans ; or that its age is anterior to that of 
St. Colurab, to whom its erection is attributed by the common tradi- 
tion of the islanders, and the inhabitants of the opposite coasts. 

Farther on in the same Preface, the learned General informs us, 
that the Round Towers were sorcerers' towers. Thus : 

" That the oriental aub were sorcerers, the learned Millius has very clearly demon- 
strated ; that the Irish abh were sorcerers also, is evident from the common verb ubh- 
faidhim, to prophecy, where faidh a prophet, is compounded with abk. These were at 
the head of the Irish sorcerers, and I shall hereafter shew that there was a presiding 
aub at each tower, and that the first name for Christian, a bishop in the Irish lan- 
guage, was aobk-ill-toir, or, an aub of many towers, or places of worship, for t6r not 
only implies a tower but every thing belonging to a church. 

" Hence toir-dealbach, a proper name, now written turlogh ; it originally signified 
a tower-sorcerer ; see dealbha or tealbha, sorcery." p. cxxxiv. 

Still farther on, he informs us that the Towers were made for 
celestial observations, a notion subsequently adopted even by Doctor 
O'Conor and other learned men. The passage is as follows : 

" Thus Lucian tells us, that they had in the porch of the temple at Hicrapolis which 
' stood on the knob of a hill, Priapus's three hundred cubits high, into one of which a 
man gets up twice a year, and dwells seven days together iu the top of the phallus, that 
he may converse with the gods above, and pray for the prosperity of Syria ; which 
prayers, says he, are the better heard by the gods for being near at hand.' This was 
the opinion of Lucian, but the fact is, these pillars, or round towers, were made for ce- 
lestial observations, as those still standing in Ireland, were by our Druids." p. clxv. 

A few pages after this, General Vallancey presents us with what 
he calls " Further illustrations on the Round Towers," in which we 
find a new use to which they were applied : thus, in speaking of the 
dancing festivals of the Canaanites and other ancient nations in ho- 
nour of the Heavens, he writes : 

" In Syriac, chugal, a circuit, to turn round. One of the services paid to this attri- 
bute, by the heathens, was, to dance, or move in circles ; and, in this manner, our 
Irish Druids observed the revolution of the year, festivals, &c., by dancing round our 
round towers ; and from the Syriac chugal, the word dog was formed, implying, any 
orbicular form, as, the skull, a round tower" &c Vol. iii. p. 482. 

General Vallancey, in a few pages after, furnishes us with a quo- 


tation from an ancient Irish MS. the Glossary of Cormac, Arch- 
bishop of Cashel, in the tenth century which would appear to set 
the question of, at least, the Pagan antiquity of the towers at rest for 
ever. It is as follows : 

" Gull or gaill, i. e. carrtha cloche, a stone column, or pillar, that is, one of the 
ancient round towers, (Cormac's Gloss. Vet.) is a ire is bearor gall, (says Cormac) disuidhi 
fo bit/i ceata ro suighidseal in Eire, i. e. they were so called, gall, by the colonists who 
settled first in Ireland." Ib. p. 485. 

He next adduces the authority of Dr. O'Brien, the learned author 
of the Irish Dictionary : 

" Cuil-ceach, or Ci'd-kak corrupte claiceach, a round tower ; as Cuilceac Cluana- 
iimlia, the tower or steeple of Cloyne. O'Brien. This word, adds he, seems to be 
corrupted of clog-theach, that is, the bell-house. I have had occasion before, to shew, 
that Dr. O'Brien, had very little knowledge of the roots of his mother tongue, for clog 
is a contraction of cugal. 

" CuiU-kak, is evidently the annunciator, instructor, or proclaimer of the festivals. 
See ail, gul, and kak, in the preceding list of Oriental and Irish words. Hence, it is 
rather more than conjecture, that our Irish round towers, which Cormac tells us, were 
built by the first people who came to this island, were the buildings from which the 
approaching festivals were announced." Ib. pp. 486, 487. 

General Vallancey next tells us : 

" Another name for the round towers, is sibheit, sithbheit, and sithbhein. See O'Brien 
and Shaw's Lexicons." Ib. p. 488. 

He then compares this word with what he considers cognate 
words in the Hebrew, Arabic, and Syriac, and resumes : 

" The Irish word, Sith-bheit, is literally, the Beth, or house ofSM ; which may imply, 
the house of peace, of pointing out the seasons, or, the house of adoration. Sith, par- 
ticularly, expresses every place established by the Druids in Ireland for devotion. 
Sith-drum, was the ancient name of Cashel, or Caisiol, that is, the Sith upon a hill: the 
tower of Caisil is thus situated; Caisiol, implies also, a house built of lime and stone. 
Sith, is pronounced See, the t being aspirated: I think it bids fair to be the root of the 
Latin, sedes, and the English, see; i. e. the diocese of a bishop. Ainsworth, derives the 
word from the Greek, t$>, edes. Sith-bhein, in Irish, will imply the place of the bene- 
diction, of pointing out, or proclamation, of the anniversary, or of the vigils, the even- 
ing place of prayer, and, lastly, binn, is also a bell, used by the Romish church in 
excommunication. Gur beanadh binnean Chiarain, air. Chron. Scot, ad an. 1043. 

" Caiceach, the last name I find for the round tower, is supposed by the Glossarists, 
to be compounded of cat, a house, and theac, a house ; this is tautology with a witness! 
The word may be compounded of cat, a house, and ceac, instruction, &c. but I rather 
think it should be written, caig-theac, or caig-each, i. e. the house of solemnity, or of 
the feasts or festivals, an chag, in Hebrew, as we have already shewn, is a circle, 
festival, anniversary. Exod. x. 9- we have a (chag) festival day, xxiii. 18. nor shall the 


fat of my (c/iag) annual sacrifice, remain till morning. The Hi-brew, rhaq, is the root 

of the Irish, cai/aug, a name of lent. Cargus, I e. Cag-aos, the season of Chag. Vet 


" These towers were certainly belfries in after ages ; and, probably, were not only 
obsen atnrics, but belfries too, at the time of their construction. It is worthy of obser- 
vation, that all festivals are proclaimed in the eastern countries from the top of the 
misffir, or diz-ghale, or round towers of the mosque: Bells might also have been used 
by our Druids: the hand bell is of a very ancient construction ; and the Latin name I'm- 
a bell-ringer, viz. tintinaculus, seems to be of Scythic origin ; and also, ftVrfinabuhun, a 
bell. Tein, in Irish and Arabic, is noise, a ringing noise: tein-tein, is doubled in both 
languages, to express the greater noise.: bualim, in Irish, is to strike, which was the 
ancient mode of sounding the bell. Cul, as we have shewn, is an anniversary, a round 
tower, a steeple; in Persic, Kuli: but keol, in Irish, is a musical note, music. I submit 
these observations to the notice of the Irish antiquary, and flatter myself, they merit 
his researches. 

" Nor does it appear, that the modern name of these towers, viz. doghad, or cloig- 
tfieac, supposed to signify a bell-house, are any inducement to think they are modern 
buildings. Clog is certainly a bell in Irish, so named, from dog, the cranium or skull; 
in which form, our first bells were made, and those to this day used in clockt are cast ; 
but clog, the skull, owes its name to its orbicular form, as we have shown before. 

" It is evident, that all our doyhads have not been belfreys: in many there are no 
marks of the wall having been broken within for hanging a bell ; nor are they always 
annexed to churches. There are many in the fields, where no traces of the foundations 
of any other buildings can be discovered round them. Had the primitive Christians 
of Ireland possessed the art of building these towers with lime and mortar, it is rea- 
sonable to think, they would have preferred building the churches of the same durable 
materials ; but we are positively told, that Duleek, or Dam-Hoy church, was the first thnt 
was built with such materials ; and was so called, from leac, a stone. Near to the 
church, is a Druidical monument, or hue of enormous size, to which probably it owes its 
name." Ib. pp. 490, 491, 492. 

The last passage in this volume bearing on the subject of the 
Round Towers in any intelligible way, occurs two pages after, and is 

as follows : 

" The name duan, was, I believe, originally given to all these towers : it appears 
to be a contraction of ciil-luan ; i. e. the return of the moon : duan, certainly signifies 
a lawn ; duan, says O'Brien, is a name given to several of our bishops' sees, as Cluan 
Umha, now Cloyne ; Cluan Haidhneach, Cluan Mac Nois, in Leinster, &c. We meet 
with many places in this kingdom, named Cluan, that are situated on hills, conse- 
quently, they did not derive their names from a plain or level country. 

" A plain, in Irish, is expressed by machaire, magh, leirg, cathan, achadh, faithche, 
faithemeid, maighneas, raodh, reidhlein; and, dogad, can no more be derived from 
Tlachdga, than homo from Adam. Le Brun describes a tower, in Turkey, which the 
Turks name kiss-kolce, i. e. the tower of the virgins: in a few pages after, he says, 
they call it kses-calisi, i. e. the castle of the virgins. He saw, also, the tower of the 
patriarch Jacob, near Bethlehem, but it was so ruinous, he could form no idea of its 



magnitude: he gives a plate of the ruin, by which we may see, it was then about 20 
feet high, circular, and exactly resembling the state of many of our Irish towers. The 
kiss-kola; or Virgin's tower, of the Turks, carries the air of Oriental romance in the 
name: cais-caili, in Irish, is, indeed, the virgin's tower, but I am inclined to think the 
name is a corruption of cais-cuile, or of ceach-cuile, i. e. the tower of proclamation of 
anniversaries, &c. See Le Bran's Voyage de Levant. Kiss, in Arabic and Persic, is 
holy, religious." Ib. pp. 494, 495. 

I have now done with this third volume of General Vallancey's 
Collectanea, having omitted nothing in my extracts from it which 
could be deemed of the slightest importance in this inquiry. I shall 
not, however, trespass on the reader's time or patience by -any formal 
refutation of theories, supported by such evidences or arguments as 
have been now laid before him : to do so gravely would, I feel, 
equally involve me in ridicule with their author ; and to treat them 
Avith levity would be foreign to my tastes and the spirit of this in- 
vestigation. Besides, if there be any that could be convinced by 
such reasonings, they would not be likely to have their faith shaken 
by any commentary that I could make upon them. There is, how- 
ever, one portion of his remarks, which it may not be improper to 
notice, namely, that in which he appeals to Irish authorities for facts 
in support of his hypothesis, but which I shall prove to be wholly 
fallacious. The first authority so adduced is that of the celebrated 
Cormac Mac Cullenan, who, according to General Yallancey, states, 
in his ancient Glossary, that the word gul or gaill was the name of 
the ancient Round Towers, and, that they were so called by the co- 
lonists who settled first in Ireland. I regret to be obliged to state 
that there is no passage in Cormac's Glossary to that effect, and that 
the passage from which he gives a garbled quotation, will not bear 
his interpretation. I here present it to the reader at full length, 
from my own copy of Cormac's Glossary, which has been collated 
with all the vellum MS. copies of the work, preserved in our public 
or private libraries: 

^oll .1. coipce cloice, uc epc: nip cmcaij comaioce comeca pelo puioiti 
coiccpice co companouio gall. 

^jull, cerapoa pop omjaip .1. jail cloice ceoamap, uc ppeoiximup: ip cnpe ip 
bepap jail oipuioiu, po Bir ip 5'll ceca po puioi^pec i n-Gpe. ^ al ^ ' ppainc : 
^aill, oan. amm DO paepclanouiB ppanc .1. cpep pallia ; acup ipa canoope cop- 
popip po h-aininnije6 ooib ; ^a\\ enim J5l iece l ac acme oicicup ; inoe ^uU-'ue 
niapca. Sic Din jail ip amm ooela: inoe pep Wuvhun DIXIE : cocall cop n-jall, 
janh in opam. 

<>K TIM: uoi-xn TO\VEI:S OF IKKI.AND. 1<) 

, oon, dintn DO cailec, omoi ip jullup, acup ip <i jaliu capicip po h-uinm- 
D .1. u cacKupp a cmo. 

Thus translated by Mr. O'Donovan: 

" Gall, L e. a standing stone, ut est 'Neighbours taking care of cattle are not in 
fault by marking a conterminous boundary with pillar stones.' 

" Gall has four meanings, viz., in the first place a pillar-stone, ut pr<rdiximtis: tli- 
reason that such stones are called gall*, is because it was the Gatti that first fixed them in 
livland. Gall, i.e. Frank. Gall then is a name for the nobles of France, so called 
(rum gallia, i. e. a candore corporis; for gall [recte y\\ in Greek is lac in Latin; 
hence Gallice masta. Thus also gall is a name for a swan : inde Fer Mumhan dixit: 
Cochall cos n-yall, gaimh in bhrain, L e. the swan's foot is webbed, the raven's fanged. 

" Gall is also a name for a cock, from gallus, so called a galea cupitis, i. e. from the 
crest of his head." 

This word, gall, is explained rock in all the Irish dictionaries, and 
its diminutive gallun (corruptly dalldn) is still used all over Munster 
to denote those pillar-stones, which are so numerous in that province. 
The word coirthe, by which it is explained in Cormac's Glossary, is 
still well understood, and always applied to a large standing stone, as 
to that on Cnoc a choirthe, or, the hill of the pillar-stone, near James- 
town, in the county of Roscommon. The reader will now be able to 
see the true value of the authority, which General Vallancey, by a 
garbled quotation, so confidently put forward as a conclusive evidence 
of the antiquity of the Round Towers, and I need make no further 
comment upon it. 

General Vallancey next quotes the authority of Dr. O'Brien for 
the meaning of the word Cuil-ceach, or Cul-kak, " Cuil-ceach, or 
Cul-kak, corrupte clai-ceach, a round tower; as Cuilceac Cluana- 
Umha, the tower or steeple of Cloyne. O'Brien. This word, adds he, 
seems to be corrupted of Clog-theach, that is the bell-house." 

This is another characteristic example of Vallancey's mode of 
quoting authorities; he first makes O'Brien say, that Cuilceach be- 
comes corruptly Claiceach, and then that the word seems to be cor- 
rupted of Clog-theach. But O'Brien does not say that Cuilceach is 
corruptly Claiceach, nor has he the word Culkak or Claiceach in 
his book; neither does he say that Cuilceach seems to be a cor- 
ruption of Clog-theach, but states positively that it is so. The fol- 
lowing are the passages which Vallancey has so misquoted and 
garbled : 

u 2 


" CUILCEACH, a steeple ; cuilceacli Cluana-umha, Cloyne steeple. This word is a 
corruption of Clog-theach. 

" CLOIO-THEACH, a steeple, a belfry ; corrttpte, Cuilgtheach." 

Our author next tells us, that another name for the Round Towers 
is Sibheit, Sithbheit, and Sithbhein, and for this he refers us to 
O'Brien's and Shaw's Lexicons ; but this quotation is equally false 
with those I have already exposed, for the words Sibheit and Sithbheit 
are not to be found in either of the works referred to. The word 
Sithbhe is, indeed, given in both Lexicons, but explained a city, not a 
round tower. The word Sithbhein is also given in both, but ex- 
plained a fort, a turret ; and the real meaning of the word, as still 
understood in many parts of Ireland, is, a fairy hill, or hill of the 
fairies, and is applied to a green round hill crowned by a small se- 
pulchral mound. 

He next tells us that Caiceach, the last name he finds for the 
Round Towers, is supposed by the Glossarists to be compounded of 
cat, a house, and teach, a house, an explanation, which, he playfully 
adds, is tautology with a witness. But where did he find authority 
for the word Caiceach ? I answer nowhere ; and the tautology he 
speaks of was either a creation or a blunder of his own. It is evident 
to me that the Glossarist to whom he refers is no other than his fa- 
vourite Cormac ; but the latter makes no such blunder, as will appear 
from the passage which our author obviously refers to : 

Cm .1. reac: unoe oicicup ceapo-ca .1. reac ceapoa; cpeap-ca .1. ceac cuirianj. 
"Cai, i. e. a house : unde dicitur ceard-cka, i. a the house of the artificer; creas-cha, i. e. 
a narrow house." 

Lastly, he tells us that the name Cluan was, he believes, origi- 
nally given to all these towers, and that it appears to be a contraction 
of Cul-luan, i. e. the return of the Moon ! For this new meaning of 
the word, it would, however, have puzzled him to find an authority, 
though he evidently wishes us to believe that he had such, by quoting 
O'Brien to shew that cluan is a name given to several of our bishops' 
sees. But O'Brien knew the meaning of the word too well to have 
had any such notion in his mind, and correctly explains it as follows : 

" CLDAIN, a plain between two woods, also any fine level fit for pasture ; Lat. planum, 

Angl.-Saxon. laten, visibly of the same root with cluain Vid. Lhuyd^s Compar. Etym. 

pag. 10. col. 1., for an initial letter being expressed in one Celtic dialect, and omitted in 
another. Note that several towns and bishops' sees in Ireland derive their names from 


this word Cltiain ; ex. Cluoin umha, now the town of Cloyne, a bishop's see in the 
County of Cork ; Cluain-haidhneach and Cluain Mac Nois, in Leinster, &c." 

Tlmt this is the true and only meaning of the word cluain, can be 
proved by reference to the localities bearing the name in every part 
of Ireland. In many places there are twenty-four cluains together, as 
in O'Conor Faly's Country in the King's County, and in O'Conor Roe's 
Country in the County of Roscommon ; and the cluain is invariably 
found to be a fertile piece of land surrounded by a bog or moor, or 
on one side by a bog, and on the other by water. On this conjecture 
of Vallancey it may also be remarked, that, if every place in Ireland 
bearing the name Cluain had received that name from aground tower, 
there must have been several thousands of Round Towers in the 
country, and in many places they must have been so congregated 
together, as to have required the wand of a magician to call them 
into existence, since they would be too numerous for the population 
of Ireland, at any period, to erect them. But the assumption is so 
visionary, that it is puerile to treat it seriously. 

In the succeeding volume of the Collectanea, containing a Vin- 
dication of the ancient history of Ireland, General Vallancey again 
returns to the subject of the Round Towers, and presents us with 
several names for them, and new evidences in support of their anti- 
quity. In this volume, however, he abandons many of his former 
theories theories which he had put forward as incontestible both 
as to their origin and uses. They are now not African or Phoenician 
towers, but towers of the Persian or Chaldean Magi. They are no 
longer towers for celestial observations, or, for proclaiming the anni- 
versaries, or, sorcerers' towers, or, towers for the Druids to dance 
round, they are now only fire-towers of the restored religion of Zer- 
dust or Zoroaster ! 

It is a difficult and rather unpleasant task to follow a writer so 
rambling in his reasonings and so obscure in his style, but, as his 
followers are still the most numerous class of my readers, I must get 
through the labour as well as I can, consoled by the conviction, that 
little more is necessary to prove the visionary nature of his hypo- 
theses, than to present the arguments on which they rest, in conse- 
cutive order. 

" In the Sadder of Zerdusht as given us by Dr. Hyde, we find the fire-temple or 
Tower, or House of Prayer, named Aphrinaghan ; the sacred festivals had the same 


name : The Persians in India Lad a stated festival once a month. Hoc convivium seu 
ha; Epulse plurali habet nomen Afrinaghan, i. e. Benedictalia seu benedicendi Epula?, 
in the singular number it is Apherin; or Affrin. In the Chaldee we find fVlCK 
Aphriun, Templum. In Irish Afritl/gnam is to bless (gnam or gnim is the verb agcre 
vel facere). The Chappel, Mass-house, or House of prayer, is known at this day in 
Ireland, by no other name than Ti-Afrion^ i. e., the house of benediction. 

" There can be no doubt of the round towers in Ireland, having been Fire-towers ; 
the Ti-aifrionn, the house of benediction. The Arabs call them Perkin, i. e. a fire 
hearth, in Irish Breocan. The construction of them was well adapted to the purpose : 
the door being always from 12 to 15 feet from the base, the sacred fire at the bottom 
could not be molested by the wind : it was covered by a Cupola at top, and four small 
windows in the sides near the top, let out the smoke. The diameter of them is no 
more than sufficient for the Cai-Culane, or Draoi to perform his sacred office : his 
Zend or prayers were not to be heard by the congregation, as in the service, his mouth 
was covered lest he should breath on the holy fire, so that he mumbled or muttered 
his words. When he had done, he probably ascended to the door or to the top, and 
gave his Aphrin. The sacred fire was fed by the wood of a sacred tree ; in Persia the 
name of that tree is Haum al Magjug, i. e. Hauin Mayorum : In Irish Om and Gmna 
was Crann-naomha or sacred tree : we translate it an Oak. 

" The Perso-Scythi of Ireland named these Towers, Tuir Bell, or the Towers of 
Baal or Belus, a name sacred to the Sun ; whence Bel-ain, a year, i. e. the Circle of 
Bel. In Pharh. Gj. a Persian author, we are told that Ardeshir Babek, a Persian King, 
constructed a certain lofty building which he named Terbali, to the East of the City of 
lharaghun in Persia, alia etiam veterum Templorum Persicorum nomina in sequen- 
tibus memorantur, et eorum omnium nomina hodie recuperare et recensere, est plane 
impossibile, Hyde, 1 08. 

" The sacred fire was named Hyr, in Irish Ur, it was also named Adur, whence 
the Adair of Ireland, names of places where some sacred building is always to be 
found ; our modern churches are commonly annexed to these old fire- towers ; a strong 
argument that they were originally sacred buildings. The Prsefectus ignis was named 
Hyr-bad, in Irish Ur-Baidli. scil. Ignis Sacerdos; we now translate laid, a prophet. 
The Urbad continued night and day in the fire tower, and all other Priests were sub- 
ject to him ; we have the same accounts in the Irish MSS. This order was also 
named Mogh. Primus ordo antea vocabatur Mogh et postea Hyrbad. (Hyde). Mogh 
Mugh or Magh was the name in Ireland, hence Ard-magh the Metropolitan See of 
Ireland, and all those old family names beginning with the Epithet Mag, as Muq 
Mathghamna, Mag uidir, Mag Cana, Mag Giolla Eiabha, Mag Kaghnuil, Mogh Luigh, 
Mac Luchta, &c. &c. and this name was borrowed of the Chaldeans, another strong 
circumstance from whence Zerdiist came, corresponding with our Irish traditions. 
Olim in Chaldajorum Curia horum Rector supremus (Jerem. 29. 3. 13) dicebatur 
2Q~2~) Rab mag i. e. Magorum Prafeetus." Vol. iv. pp. 202-3-4-5. 

And again: 

" It may be said that the few fire towers existing in Ireland, plainly evince that this 
fire-worship was not an established religion, and that they must have been applied to 
some other use : to this objection, I answer, that many have been pulled down, and 


that tlicM' \\ere. only Cathedrals ; that other buildings of wattles and straw, (or Corri- 
doiv*) in oorer the congregation, may have been erected round them, and we shall find 
nicist <>f the Irish Towers connected with our Cathedrals, as at Cloyne, Cashdl, Glan- 
ilnlniiil/,, &C.-&G. Notandum est, quod omne Pyreum fuit Ecclesia Cathedrulis dotuta 
ml alcndum EpUOOpton, et Sacerdotes necessaries (Hyde, 106), and like the Ghcbret of 
India, tliey often prayed to Culinary fires, where a tower was not conveniently at 
hand." Ib. pp. 206, 207. 

I do not feel it necessary to make any comment on the preceding 
passages, as Vallancey's new Irish names for the Round Towers, toge- 
ther with the Irish authorities to which he refers, are, as all Irish 
scholars must be aware, mere creations of his own fancy. I proceed, 
therefore, to his sixth volume, in which we are presented with a se- 
cond Essay on the Irish Round Towers, and from this I shall extract 
whatever passages I can find directly bearing on the question. He 
commences as follows: 

" From my first knowledge of Irish history, and of the mythology of the pagan 
1 rish, I did conceive, that these towers were erected to contain the sacred fire, and I 
have had no reason to alter my opinion. From that history it appeared evident, that, 
as in ancient Persia, so, in ancient Ireland, there were two sects of fire worshippers ; 
one, that lighted the fires on the tops of mountains and hills, and others in towers ; mi 
innovation said to be brought about by Mty/t Ntuulhat, or the Magus of the new law, 
otherwise called Airgiod-lamh, or golden hand, who was the Zcrdost or gold hand of 
the Persians, who is said to have lost his life by a Touranian Scythian, in a tumult 
raised by this innovation ; so Mogh Nitadhat had his hand cut off' in the struggle, but 
one of the Tuatha-dadan colony, or Chaldean magi, supplied the loss with a silver or 
golden hand. 

" These towers were evidently named by the Chaldeans p"H5H aphriun, i. e. tem- 
plum, a name that exists at this day in Irish for the house of prayer or benediction, 
viz. 7V aifrion, a mass-house ; Ar. ._ i\ nfrian, P. aferin, praise, glory, benediction, 
blessing. In Cantico Canticorum, <pejii> sibi fecit Salomon, i. e. fVISH ajihriun sibi 
fecit Salomon. (Aldrete Antig. de Espana, p. 203.) By the ancient Hindoos they were 
named Coill, whence the Gill and Ceall of the Irish, of which hereafter. 

" The pagan Irish worshipped C'rom cruait, the same God Soratter adored, in fire, 
first on mountains, then in caves, and lastly in towers : this fire worship, says Irish 
history, was introduced by a certain draoi, named Midhghe, a corruption of Magiiitcli, 
which in Persian signifies, nailed by the ears, not cropt eared, as some have imagined, 
but the Zoroastrians changed it to Megiitsck or Magiusch. 

" ' The Brahmins kept a portion of the sacred fire constantly and fervently glowing 
in caves, continually ascending in pure bright pyramidal flame, fed with the richest 
gums ; this was prior to the Pyraeia, or fire temples, which were always round, and 
owed their origin, according to the Magi, to the zeal of Zoroaster.' (Maurice. Ind. Ant., 
V. II. p. 279.) 

- This pyramidal flame seems to have given the idea of the round towers, which 


were conical, and ended in a point at top, both in Hindoostan and in Ireland, as we 
shall shew hereafter. 

" The tower of Ireland, dedicated to Brigit, a saint, who took on her the heathen 
name, is one of the highest in the kingdom Brigit inghean Daghda, bandea, agus ro 
mor an afrihnam, i. e. Brigit, daughter of Daghda or Apollo (the Daghda-rath of the 
Brahmins) a goddess, and very great was her Aifrion tower, or house of benediction. 

" Zerdhusht extruxit domicilia ignis, et fecit ea cum cupola excelsa, et ignem gladio 
non fodiendum. (Buudari, an Arabian.)" VoL vL pp. 121 123. 

" ' The Persians, says Prideaux, first made the holy fires on the tops of hills, but 
Zoroastres, finding that these sacred fires in the open air, were often extinguished by 
rain, tempests and storms, directed that fire towers should be built, that the sacred 
fires might the better be preserved.' 

" We find these towers still exist in Caucasus, the first settlement of our Ara- 
coti, particularly in the tribe of Dalguis, now called Ingushi. Those mountains were 
explored by Guldenstaedt by order of Catharine ; in Vol. I. he says, ' They call 
themselves Ingushi; they are Christians. They believe in one God, whom they call 
Daile (in Irish Duile). Many of their villages have a stone tower, which now serves 
them, in time of war, as a retreat to their women and children.'" Ib. p. 124. 

The preceding passages are followed by an extract from Dr. Baum- 
garten, concerning the religion of the Scythians, in which, however, 
there is nothing about fire, but that they worshipped an invisible 
deity, and admitted of no images, but, like the Magi, made use only 
of symbols. This again is followed by an extract from the Horte 
Bibhcoe of Mr. Butler, concerning the religion of the ancient Persians, 
and another from the same work concerning the Edda: after which 
he compares certain words in the Zend and Brahminical languages 
with the Irish, to shew their similarity, and for others refers to the 
Preface to the Prospectus of his Irish Dictionary, and then says : 

" From all which I conclude, with certainty, that the Old Irish, or Aire-Coti, the 
primitive inhabitants of Britain and the western isles, were the Ar-Coti of Caucasus, 
and the Ara-Cotii of Dionysius, from the borders of the Indus, whence they were 
called Indo-Scythce ; that they were mixed with the Brahmins, who at that period built 
round towers for the preservation of the holy fire, in imitation of which those in Ireland 
and Scotland were built."/*, p. 133. 

I have given the arguments and evidences of General Vallancey 
thus fully, lest it might be thought that I did him injustice by their 
abridgment: and I am satisfied, that with the learned and unpreju- 
diced reader it will be deemed unnecessary to offer a word of com- 
ment on them that it will be but a waste of time to reply to argu- 
ments resting on conjectural etymologies unsupported by authority 


of any kind, and vague references to Irish history, without any inti- 
mation in what author, manuscript, printed book, or library, they may 
be found. But as I shall have many readers to whom such evidences 
have been " strong as proofs of holy writ," and who will not be thus 
easily satisfied, it is imperative on me, however painful, to present 
them with such demonstrative proofs of their insufficiency to sustain 
the conclusions drawn, as even they must receive as incontrovertible. 
In the first paragraph above quoted, General Vallancey tells us, 
that it appears evident from Irish history that, as in ancient Persia, so 
in ancient Ireland, there were two sects of fire-worshippers, one that 
lighted the fires on the tops of mountains and hills, and the other in 
towers. This last form of worship, he continues, was an innovation, 
said to have been brought about by Mogh Nuadhat, or the Magus 
of the New Law, otherwise called Airgiod-lamh, or Golden-hand, 
who, as he states, was no less a personage than the Zerdost or Gold- 
hand of the Persians, who is said to have lost his life by a Touranian 
Scythian, in a tumult raised by this innovation. On these assertions I 
have first to remark, that Irish history furnishes us with no such facts 
as are here stated. It is true, that it states that fires were lighted by 
the Druids on the tops of mountains and hills ; but there is not one 
word to be found in that history respecting fires having been lighted 
in towers, nor about the innovation, said to have been brought about 
by Mogh Nuadhat, nor about any innovation introduced by any Magus 
whatsoever. Secondly, it does not appear from Irish history that 
there was any prince, or Magus, called Mogh Nuadhat, to whom the 
cognomen of Airgiod-lamh was applied, nor would such a cognomen 
mean Golden-hand, but Silver-hand. We are told, indeed, in Irish 
history, of a leader of the Tuatha De Danann colony, who was called 
Nuada Airgiod-lamh, or Nuada of the Silver-hand, from a hand of 
silver with which he supplied the place of a hand lost in the battle 
of Magh Tuiredh, near Cong, in the present county of Mayo, fought 
against the Fir-Bolgs, according to OTlaherty's corrected Irish chro- 
nology, in the year 2737; and we also find in that history mention 
of a provincial king of the Milesian colony, named Eoghan, who bore 
the cognomen of Mogh Nuadhat, and who was slain by the celebrated 
monarch Conn of the Hundred Battles, in the battle of Magh Lena, 
in the year of Christ 192. Thus it will be seen, that General Val- 
lancey makes the cognomen of one prince be the name of another, 


who lived many centuries before him, in order to give probability to 
a fanciful etymology of this cognomen necessary to his purpose, but 
which, after all, it will by no means bear ; for we have the authority of 
Irish history itself, that the cognomen Mogh Nuadhat did not mean 
Magus of the New Law, but strong labourer. See an ancient Irish 
tract on the etymology of the names of celebrated Irish personages, 
preserved in the Book of Lecan, fol. 221, and Mac Curtin's Vindi- 
cation of the History of Ireland, p. 102. 

General Vallancey next tells us, that these Towers were evidently 
named by the Chaldeans Aphriun, i. e. templum, and that the Tower 
of St. Bridget, at Kildare, one of the highest in the kingdom, was 
nailed her Aifrion Tower, or house of benediction ; and as authority 
for this name he quotes the Glossary of Cormac Mac Cullenan. But 
in this, as in an instance recently quoted, he has most shamelessly 
garbled and falsified the text of that writer, as will appear from the 
following accurate transcript of it from the oldest copies : 

6pijir ban-pile, mj;en in tDajoae; ip i inpm 6pijic be n-eicpi, .1. ban-oea no 
uopacip pilio, ap ba po riiop, ocup bu po an a ppirjnarh. loeo cum t)eatn uocunc 
poecapum ; cump popopep epanc &piic be leijip, ocup fipijic be joibne, injenu 
uitDajoae; oe quapum nommibuppenep hominep hibepnenpep oea&pijic uocaba- 
cup. &pijic, Dm, .1. bpeo-pai jic. 

" Brighit the poetess, the daughter of the Dagda; she was the goddess of poetry, 
i. e. the goddess whom the poets worshipped, for very great and very noble was her PRE- 
SIDING CARE. Ideo earn Deam meant poetarum; cujus sorores erant Brighit, the god- 
dess of physic, and Brighit, the goddess of smiths, the daughters of the Dagda ; de 
yuarum nomiidbus penes homines Hibernenses Dea Brighit vocal/atui: Brighit then 
means an arrow of fire." H. 2. 16. 

That the word pjnrjr.cun in the preceding passage, which General 
Vallancey has manufactured into Afrilinani by joining the posses- 
sive pronoun a, her, to the noun, to make it resemble the Chaldee 
Aphriun, can only be understood as implying the diligent care, or 
attention, with which the goddess was supposed to watch over the 
inspiration of the poets, can be proved by numerous examples from 
ancient Irish MSS., and among these from Cormac's own work, in 
which the word occurs twice under the word lefec, thus : 

13o bui colleicc; in c-eccep oc acallam mo ecpine, ocup oc cup pulae cup a 

" The poet was at the time conversing with the tyro-poet, and keeping an eye over his 


Ro purmj icipam in r-e'cep mop menmam in ecpne, ocup lai^ee a p 

" The port :ii'tmMinN<.l. T\rd the great mind of the tyro-poet, and the smallness 
ofhis ASSIDUITY." 

And under the modern spelling, pjnocnarh, this word is explained 
care, diligence, in the Dictionaries of O'Brien, O'Reilly, and in what 
is superior to either the MS. Dictionary of Peter O'Conm-ll, piv- 
scrved in the British Museum. Under the modern spelling the word 
is also used in the sense of " caring, presiding over, or superintend- 
ing," by the Four Masters, as in the following passage. 

A. D. 1 174. plann .1. plopenc Ua JJopmam, uipo-peap lecchmn CTpoa TDaclui 
n 5 u P Gpenn uile, paoi epjnu, eolac, ipm eaccna oiaoa, a^upooinanoa, lap in -bur 
bliaoam ap pitic i b-ppancaiB 0511 p I Suiaib ace pocclaim, a^up piche bliaoan 
ele 05 ppiochnarii njup aj; pollariinacchao pcol Gpenn, ar bar co pomrheac ip 
in Cearcaom pia ^-Cmpj Ktpp on f eactmojao blinoam a aoipi. 

Thus translated by Colgan : 

" 1174. B. Florentius Gormamts, Arc/timagister, sett siipremtts moderator Kliolcr 
Ardmachance, acomnium totius Hiberniiv Doctor egregitis, in diuinis 8f humanit scientijs 
peritissimus ; postquam annis viginti uno in Francia et Anglia operam studijs nauusset, 
Sf aliig postea viginti annis scholas Hibernice tanqnam Prcpfectut rexisset, ipsa feria quarta 
ante Dominicam Resurrectionis, pie inDomino obdormiitit." Tria* Thaum. p 310. 

The reader has now materials laid before him from which to judge, 
whether Vallancey was justified in stating that the above passage in 
Cormac's Glossary refers to the Round Tower of Kildare, or to the 
Christian St. Bridget, and that ba po (in a priirjnarh means " very 
great was her Afrion tower, or house of benediction." 

General Vallancey next tells us that " the pagan Irish worshipped 
Crom cruait, the same god Soraster adored, in fire, first on mourn 
tains, then in caves, and lastly in towers : this fire-worship, says 
Irish history, was introduced by a certain draoi, named Midhghe, 
a corruption of Magiusch, which in Persian signifies, nailed by the 
ears," &c. 

On this I have to remark, that, as I have already stated, Irish 
history says nothing about the worship of fire in towers, nor that 
Crom Cruait (recte Crom Cruach) was worshipped in fire in any 
manner, but on the contraiy, that he was worshipped under the form 
of a large idol ornamented with gold and silver, and surrounded by 
twelve lesser ones of brass, typical emblems, as it might be conjec- 
tured, of the sun and the twelve signs of the zodiac. See the legend 
given in full in the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick, as published by 

E 2 


Colgan in Trias Thaum. p. 133. Neither does Irish history state 
that fire-worship was introduced by a certain draoi, or Druid, named 
Midhghe, though it must be confessed, that an inference to that effect 
might be drawn from the romantic history of the first colonies of 
Ireland, in which it is stated, that on the landing of the Nemedians, 
the second colony after the deluge, who came hither from Greece, a 
certain Druid, named Midhe, lighted the first fire for them in the terri- 
tory of Meath, which is said to have thence received its name from 
him; and that all this colony were obliged to pay him and his suc- 
cessors a tribute for the liberty of lighting their fires annually from 
this original fire. This story is preserved in the Book of Leinster, 
a vellum MS. of the twelfth century, in the Library of Trinity Col- 
lege, Dublin, H. 2. 18, fol. 157, a, b ; and, whatever may have been the 
origin of the custom, it appears, from a statement in another ancient 
MS. in the same library, to have been perpetuated even long after 
the introduction of Christianity into the country. As the passage to 
which I refer has not been hitherto noticed, and will throw a curious 
light on the nature of this custom and the history of the times, I shall 
present it to the reader in this place : 

daccja, ona, TTluriia oo nich h-i, ocup ip lac maccpaij Rluman DO cotneoao 
Claccja co n-a tenncaib, con nach oencaf ceine o'paooo a n-Gipino no co ceannaij- 
rea uacha-pum h-i; ocup pcpepall oip jacha h-aen chuaiche a n-Gipmn uoib' ap 
in cemio; Tniach cpuiehneachca ocup cope ap each ppim-ceallach a n-Gpinn oo 
comapba TTlioe ap in cemuio pin, .1. O'Camoealb'am. 

" TLACHTGHA ; Munster celebrated it (i. e. its fair) and it was the youths of Muns- 
ter that kept Tlachtgha with its fires, so that no fire was lighted in Erin until it was 
purchased from them ; and a screpall of gold was paid them out of every territory in 
Erin for the fire ; a sack of wheat and a hog from every chief hearth in Erin to the 
Comharba of Midhe (Meath), i. e. O'Caindealbhain (O'Quinlan), for this fire." Class 
H. 3. 17, p. 732. 

In addition to the passages which I have already quoted from 
General Vallancey, there are many others connected with his hypo- 
thesis on the Round Towers, interspersed through his works, which, 
as being wholly of a visionary etymological character in reference to 
the local names of Towers, I do not feel it necessary to notice in this 
place, as I shall present them to the reader, in connexion with the 
Towers to which they refer, in the third part of this work. There 
is still, however, one point which it is incumbent on me to notice, 
namely, the supposed similarity which the Persian and Hindoo fire- 


temples, bear to the Irish Round Towers ; and, as this similarity has 
been much dwelt upon by subsequent writers, and appears to have 
had considerable weight with them, it will be well to put the reader 
more fully in possession of the facts on which it rests. They are thus 
stated by General Vallancey: 

" Mr. Pennant, speaking of the Polygars of the Circars of India, says, ' All the 
people of this part of India are Hindoos, and retain the old religion, with all its super- 
stition. This makes the pagodas here much more numerous than in any other part 
of the peninsula. Their farm too it different, being chiefly buildings of a cylindrical, 
or round toieer shape, with their tops either pointed, or truncated at the summit, and 
ornamented with something eccentrical, but frequently with a round ball stuck on a 
spike ; this ball seems intended to represent the SUN, a'n emblem of the deity of the 
place.' (View of Hindoostan, V. II. p. 123.)" vol. vi pp. 133, 134. 

" Ilanway, in his travels into Persia, says, there are yet four temples of the Guebres, 
or worshippers of fire, who formerly inhabited all this waste. It seemed inconsistent, 
that the Persians suffered these temples to remain unmolested, after the abolition of a 
religion, which they now esteem grossly idolatrous ; but they are made of most durable 
materials. These edifices are round, and above thirty feet diameter, raised in height 
to a point near one hundred and twenty feet." Ib. p. 137. 

" In the Histoire des descouvertes dans la Russe et la Perse, there is an account of 
many round towers, said by the inhabitants to be the work of very remote times. At 
Bulgari, not nine worsts distant from the Wolga, where our Aire-Coti first settled un- 
der Casair, the most remarkable of the ancient buildings, says Pallas, is a round tower, 
called Misger, which appears to be a corruption of e ~~'^" muzgi, signifying, to make 
the holy fire burn bright (Richardson). 

" In the midst of the ruins of Kasimof, on the Oha which falls into the Wolga, is 
a round and elevated tower, a sort of temple of stone and bricks, called in their lan- 
guage Misquir (Guthrie). 

" In the country of the Kisti and Ingushti, very ancient nations of Caucasus, most 
of the villages have a round tower." Ib. p. 145. 

" Lord Valentia, in his late Travels in the East Indies, met with two round towers 
near to each other, 1 mile N. W. of Bhaugulpour ; he was much pleased with the sight 
of them, as they resembled those Towers in Ireland, which have puzzled the antiqua- 
ries of Ireland ' but they are a little more ornamented the door about the same 
height from the ground. It is singular, says he, that there is no tradition concerning 
them. The Rajah of Jyenegar considers them as holy, and has erected a small building 
to shelter the great number of his subjects, who annually come to worship here. I have 
given an engraving of them, adds his lordship, as I think them curious.' " Account 
of the Stone Amphitheatre, c., p. 41. 

Of these extracts I may observe generally, that with the single 
exception of that from Ilanway relative to the four towers of the 
Guebres, none of them prove that the towers noticed may not have 
been what is far more probable ancient Mahometan minarets, or, 


belfries of the early Christians ; and, with regard to Hanway's in- 
stance, on which so much stress has been laid, it may be remarked, 
that even supposing these towers to have been erected for the purpose 
stated a thing after all very doubtful yet no point of exact con- 
formity between them and the Irish Towers has been established, 
excepting that of rotundity ; while, on the other hand, the Persian 
towers are proved to differ essentially from the Irish, in being nearly 
three times their average diameter. This want of established agree- 
ment was so strongly felt by Dr. Lanigan, that notwithstanding his 
zeal in supporting Vallancey's hypothesis, he is obliged to confess a 
wish that Hanway had been more particular in his description. On 
this subject Dr. Ledwich has made the following judicious remarks : 

" Our author begins his career by affirming our towers to be the same as the Per- 
sian Pyrathe'ia, and that merely from Mr. Hamvay's saying there were round towers 
in the country of the Gaurs. Now if the Gaurs came hither, their monuments would 
have been similar to those described by Strabo, which 'were inclosures of great com- 
pass [|<o>oy( worthy of mention, egregious], in the middle were altars, and on them 
the Magi preserved much ashes and a perpetual fire.' The Greek words throw not the 
smallest light on the figure of the Pyrathe'ia, much less can it be inferred they were of 
lime and stone, or of the altitude of our towers. Even Hyde, from whom he takes the 
shape of the modern Parsee tire-temples, would have informed him, that the ancient 
Persians had no temples, nor even a name for them in their language. What the 
Parsees now use were taken from Christian or Mahometan archetypes." 

" ' Nulla erant templa veterum Persarum, quippe qui omnia sua sacra sub dio 
peragebant. ideoque in sua religione et lingua non habebant templi nomen.' Hyde de 
Relig. vet. Pers. p. 359-" Antiquities, p. 166. 

To these remarks I shall only add, that I am far from wishing to 
deny that a remarkable conformity is to be found between many of 
the Round Towers noticed by travellers, whether Christian or Ma- 
hometan, and our Irish Towers ; but on the contrary, hope to make 
that conformity more evident, and to be able to show, in the con- 
cluding section of this inquiry, that they are all equally derived from 
the same source, namely, the early Christians. 

In connexion with this hypothesis of the Persian origin of the 
Round Towers, and their use as fire-temples, I have next to notice the 
opinions of Mr. Beauford, another English antiquary, who was cotem- 
porary with Vallancey, and one of the learned Triumvirate of Irish 
antiquaries, who were permitted to publish their works in the Col- 
lectanea de Rebus Hibernicis. This gentleman's opinions are given 
under the word CLOGHADH, in an Essay on the ancient Topography 


of Ireland, published in the eleventh number of that work, and are as 

1'ollows : 

"Ci.ooHADH, orClofftia, the Hibcrno-celtic name of those slender round towers at 
tliis day found in several parts of Ireland. The word is derived from the old Irish 
Tlachgo from Ttac/tt, the earth or universe. The Druidic temples of Vesta in which 
were kept the sacred or eternal fire, were called Tlachgo or temples of Cybele, being 
of the same construction with the Pyrathea of the ancient Persians, and the Chammia 
of the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, some of which are still remaining in Persia and 
Bulgaria. The Hibernian Druids erected these temples in their sanctuaries, as is 
evident from the ruins of several still remaining in different parts of the kingdom, 
particularly at Ballynasliebh in the County of Kilkenny, Navan near Armagh, &c. 
They were constructed of rock stone without cement, and were of the same diameter 
with those towers now remaining, but to what altitude they were carried is not cer- 
tain ; little more than the foundations being now visible. After the establishment of 
Christianity in Ireland, among a number of Druic [Druidic] superstitions, the sacred or 
eternal fires were preserved for several centuries, and the Tlachgo by the Christian 
clergy removed from the sanctuaries of paganism to those of the true faith, and be- 
came appurtenances to churches and monasteries, though still retaining their ancient 
denomination of Tlachgo or temples of Vesta. On the abolition of these fires, about 
the twelfth century, and the introduction of bells, the Tlachgo were in general con- 
verted into belfries, whence the modern name for a bell in Irish is clogh, from being 
placed in the Tlachyo or vestal temples. As these round towers are neither found 
in Britain or the European continent, they were most probably introduced into this 
island by the Persian Mugi or Gaiirs, who in the time of Constantine the Great ran 
over the world, carrying in their hands censors containing the holy fire; escorting their 
God should destroy all other Gods, which in some measure they effected by lighting 
fires under them, thereby burning those of wood and melting those of metal. In this 
period the christian religion had made considerable progress in the southern and wes- 
tern parts of Europe, but in Ireland druidic superstition remaining in its original 
purity, whose tenets not being widely different from those of the Gaiirs, these pagan 
philosophers found a ready assent to their doctrines ; whence Pyratheias or vestal towers 
became universal throughout the island, in the place of the ancient Tlachgo, which we 
have shewn under that word were mounts of stone containing the remains of their 
ancient heroes, and on which fires were occasionally lighted from the sacred vaults at 
the times of sacrifice. The Cloghmlh now remaining in Ireland were all erected by 
the Christian clergy, and are none of them older probably than the beginning of the 
seventh century, nor none of a later date than the close of the eleventh, though evi- 
dently derived from structures of a similar nature used by the pagan priests ; they 
were however continued as belfries to the close of the fourteenth century, for which 
reason a belfry in the Irish language is termed Cloghatlh, from being originally tem- 
ples of Tlucht. Ware Ant. Dufrene's Gloss, torn. 3. Jurieu's critical Hist, of the 
Church, vol. 2." vol. iii. pp. 308310. 

On the preceding statement it will be sufficient to observe, that 
the story of the Gaurs, or Persian Magi, overrunning Europe in the- 


reign of Constantino, is altogether a fabrication of the author's own, 
and that the ecclesiastical historian, Jurieu, to whom he refers as his 
authority, states nothing from which such an inference could be drawn. 
The passages in Jurieu's Critical History of the Church, on which 
this mendacious statement was founded, are given by Vallancey in 
the fourth volume of his Collectanea [pp. 406, 407], who enjoyed a 
triumph in exposing the dishonesty of his former literary associate. 
Mr. Beauford's statements with respect to the derivation of the word 
Cloghad from Tlachgo, of the original Round Towers having been 
constructed of rock stone without cement, and of the ruins of several 
of those still remaining being of the same diameter with the Round 
Towers now remaining, are given without any authority, and are pure 
fallacies. And the statement as to the conversion of these Towers 
into belfries, on the introduction of bells about the twelfth century, 
is equally fallacious, as it is certain from the whole body of our eccle- 
siastical history, that bells were in use in Ireland from the period of 
the first introduction of Christianity into the country, as I shall show 
in its proper place. 

I have next to notice the arguments in support of this hypothesis 
of the eastern origin of the Towers, of a writer who was greatly supe- 
rior in solid learning, honesty, and general acuteness, to any of those, 
whose reasonings I have hitherto combated, namely Dr. Lanigan, the 
able author of the Ecclesiastical History of Ireland. That such a 
writer should have followed in a track so visionary as that of Val- 
lancey, can only be accounted for by his slight acquaintance with the 
subject of architectural antiquities. His reasonings are as follows : 

" The great similarity of these towers in the interior of Hindostan to our Irish 
Round towers has convinced me, that, as my worthy and learned friend General Val- 
laucey had long endeavoured to establish in various tracts of his, that this mode of 
architecture was introduced into Ireland in the times of paganism by a people, who 
came to this country from some far distant part of the East. The patterns, from which 
the construction of our towers was imitated, were most probably the fire-temples of the 
Persians and others, who followed the Magian religion as reformed by Zerdusht, or, 
as he is usually called, Zoroastres. Those temples were usually round, and some of 
them were raised to a great height. That fire was in pagan times an object of worship, 
or, at least, great veneration in Ireland, and particularly the sun, which was considered 
the greatest of all fires, is an indubitable fact. Now the lower part of an Irish Eound 
tower might have answered very well for a temple, that is, a place in which was an 
altar, on which the sacred fire was preserved, while the middle floors could have 
served as habitations for the persons employed in watching it. The highest part of the 


Tower was an observatory intended for celestial observations, as, I think, evidently ap- 
]H 'iirs Iron) the lour windows being placed directly opposite to the four cardinal points. 
The veneration in which the pagan Irish held the heavenly bodies and, above all, the 
MIII, must have led them to apply to astronomical pursuits, which were requisite also 
for determining the length of their years, the solstitial and equinoctial times, and the 
precise periods of their annual festivals. I find it stated, that the doors of most of 
these towers face the West. If this be correct, it will add an argument to show, that 
they contained fire-temples ; for the Magians always advanced from the West side to 
worship the fire. According to this hypothesis the Round towers existed in Ireland 
before churches were built I see no reason to deny, that they did ; and the particular 
style of their construction shows, that they are very ancient. But then, it is said, how 
does it happen, that they are usually found near old churches? In the first place this 
is not universally true. Secondly it is to be observed, that these towers used to be 
built in towns or villages of some note, such, iu fact, as required churches in Christian 
times. Thus, wherever there was a Round tower, a church was afterwards erected ; 
but not vice versa, whereas there were thousands of churches in Ireland without any 
such towers in the vicinity of them. Thirdly, there was a prudential motive for the 
teachers of Christian faith to build churches near the sites of the Round towers, that 
they might thereby attract their new converts to worship the true God in the very 
places, where they had been in the practice of worshipping the sun and fire. It may be, 
that some of these towers were built after the establishment of Christianity in Ireland 
for penitential purposes, as already alluded to, although I have some doubts about it ; 
but I think it can scarcely be doubted, that the original models, according to which 
they were constructed, belong to the times of paganism, and that the singular style of 
architecture, which we observe in them, was brought from the East, between which 
and this country it is certain that there was an intercourse at a very ancient period of 
time." Eccl. Hist. vol. iv. pp. 406 408. 

In this laboured and ingenious effort to establish a theory on in- 
sufficient data, there appears a consciousness of the weakness of the 
proofs on which it rests. A very few words will, I think, shew that 
they amount to nothing. 

In the first place, granting even that the Persians at a particular 
period may have worshipped fire in rotundos of above 30 feet diameter, 
which might have answered very well for the purpose, it does by no 
means necessarily follow that the ancient Irish must have done so 
likewise in towers of nine or ten feet in diameter, which would not 
be at all adapted to such a purpose. Besides, I must repeat, there is 
not even a shadow of proof that the Irish worshipped fire at all in 
towers. " The lower part," he gravely states, " ivou/dhave answered 
very well for a fire-temple," and, as he adds in a note, " to guard against 
the objection that might be made of how those covered temples were 
kept free from smoke, that might easily be contrived by the help of 
the loop-holes which we find in them, or of the door" Now as the 



fact is that no loop-holes, or other apertures, are ever found in the 
lower part of the Towers, except the doorways, the latter must have 
been the only expedient ; and it is one, I confess, so truly Irish, that 
I am forced to acknowledge the strength of the argument which it 
furnishes, and am only surprised that the Doctor did not think of 
strengthening it by an allusion to the known perpetuation of the cus- 
tom among the fire-worshippers still remaining in Ireland. 

Secondly, as to its appearing evident, " that the highest part of 
the tower was an observatory intended for celestial observations, from 
the four windows being placed directly opposite to the four cardinal 
points," it is to be observed, that the four windows do not always 
face the cardinal points, nor do the windows always consist of the 
number four. In some instances, as shall be hereafter shewn, they 
are fewer than that in number, and in many instances more. Besides, 
to make celestial observations from windows a foot or two wide in a 
wall three or four feet thick, would be manifestly impossible. 

Equally incorrect is the assertion, that the doorway in most of the 
Towers faces the west : on the contrary it most generally faces the 
east, but it is also sometimes found facing the north-east and south- 
east, its situation, in fact, depending altogether, as I shall hereafter 
shew, on the position of the Tower with reference to the church with 
which it was originally connected. The fact, therefore, that the Ma- 
gians always advanced from the west side to worship the fire, does 
not furnish an argument to prove, that the Irish Towers were fire- 

Dr. Lanigan next says, that he sees no reason to deny that the 
Round Towers existed before Christianity, and that their style proves 
them very ancient. To this I reply, that I see every reason to deny 
that they did so, for not the slightest evidence has ever been adduced 
to prove, that the Irish were acquainted with the art of building with 
lime cement before they received the Christian faith ; and the archi- 
tecture or masonry of the towers and that of the ancient churches 
erected before the twelfth century, of which some hundreds still exist, 
is the same in every respect, as I shall hereafter shew. 

After this, he says, it is not universally true that the Towers are 
found near old churches; but in this he also errs, as shall be shewn 
in the proper place : they are, without a single exception, found near 
old churches, or where churches are known to have existed. 


Finally, he argues that it was the policy of the Christians to build 
their churches near the ancient fire-temples, and that the Round 
Towers, having been built in towns, or villages of some note, re- 
quired churches in Christian times. Why, then, I may ask, are not 
churches found near the Pagan altars or cromleacs, which, Yallancey 
states, were also dedicated to the sun? But, in truth, if the Doctor, 
who was so well acquainted with the Acta Sanctorum Hibernhr. 
had reflected a little before he allowed himself to be carried away 
by his zeal in support of a favourite theory, he would have been 
ashamed to make this assertion ; for he must have known, that so 
far from the churches adjacent to Round Towers having been built 
in places in which, previously to the introduction of Christianity, 
there had been " towns or villages of note," they were, in most in- 
stances, erected in the most desolate and unfrequented places that 
could be found ; as the Avords " Cluain" and " Disert," prefixed so 
generally to their names, sufficiently indicate, and the lives of their 
founders incontestibly prove. It was, in fact, the monasteries that 
usually gave birth to the towns, not the towns to the monasteries ; 
and the destruction which fell upon the primitive establishments has, 
in most instances, been followed by the decline of these, their con- 
stant appendages. 

As to the argument that there were thousands of churches in 
Ireland, without Round Towers in their vicinity, it hardly deserves 
notice. It was not every religious establishment that could afford to 
erect a round tower belfry, or that might require one ; and I will 
hereafter shew, from the annals and other authorities, that very many 
cloigteachs, or Round Towers, existed in Ireland, which are no longer 
to be found. 

Let the reader now judge how far Dr. Lanigan had solid ground 
for his final conclusion, viz. " that it can scarcely be doubted that the 
original models, according to which they were constructed, belong to 
the times of Paganism, and that the singular style of architecture 
which we observe in them was brought from the East." 

The arguments in support of this hypothesis adduced by Miss 
Beaufort, in her very elaborate and valuable " Essay upon the State 
of Architecture and Antiquities previous to the landing of the Anglo- 
Normans in Irc'land," are much less tangible than those I have just 
examined, and rest almost entirely on the supposed Persian origin of 

F 2 


the Irish, and the consequent agreement in manners, customs, and 
religion between the ancient ' Iran and Erin.' " This talented lady, 
indeed, following in the track of Vallancey, has been indefatigable in 
reading the travels of Eastern tourists, in search of evidence to sup- 
port his views, but the new instances which she has gleaned from 
their works, of towers in the East, always excepting the minarets, 
have scarcely any agreement with those in the West, and, also ex- 
cepting Hanway's eternally quoted instance of the " Rotundos of the 
Ghebers," all the supposed temples of the Fire-worshippers present 
forms which have not the slightest similitude to the Round Towers 
of Ireland. 

Miss Beaufort's etymological evidences shall be examined in their 
proper places, in the course of this investigation, but a few general 
assertions, which she has hazarded, seem to require particular exa- 
mination here an examination which, however, I must say, from 
feelings of respect for the talents and acquirements of that estimable 
lady, I should gladly have avoided entering on, if the course of this 
investigation did not demand it, and if silence on the arguments arid 
authorities which she has adduced might not, perhaps, be taken as 
evidence of inability to refute them, or, what I should still more 
regret, of a want of proper respect for the value of her labours. 

The assertions to which I have alluded are as follows : 

1. " The object for which the towers were built is distinctly mentioned in the 
ancient history called the Psalter of Cashel, and that oi' Tara to be for the preservation 
of the sacred fires of Baal, ' the Baal-Theine.' 

2. " It is stated in the Psalter of Tara, that in the year A. D. 79, there was a so- 
lemn convocation at Tara, where it was ordained that the sacred fire should be exhi- 
bited from the tower of Thlachtga in Munster, and from all other fire repositories, on 
the thirty-first of October; and that if by any accident the holy flame had been extin- 
guished, it should be relighted from thence. It was also enacted that a tower for fire 
should be built in each of the other provinces of Connaught, Leinster, Meath, and 
Ulster; and a tax called Scraball equal to about three-pence per head, was laid upon 

all adults to provide a fund for that purpose. (Psalter of Tara, by Comerford, p. 41 

Cited Parochial Surveys, III. p. 319 A genuine copy of this Psalter is said to be now 
in the British Museum Trans. Iberno Celtic Society, p. xxii.) 

3. " Fire worship having been persevered in by the King Lugaid, the son of Lao- 
gaire, his death by lightning was considered as a direct punishment from heaven for 
having preserved the Baal-Thiene in opposition to the preaching of St. Patrick. (Psalter 
of Cashel, p. 68. Cited Parochial Surveys, III. p. 320. The original Psalter of Cashel 
is now in the British Museum. Ibid. p. LX.) 

4. " It is recorded in Irish history that Rosa Failgee, the son of Cathair More, 


who was made monarch of all Irvlund, A. D. 175, was a prince deeply learned in all 
the knowledge of his times, and thut he built the tower of lioscnullis, which derives its 
name from him, a proof of the antiquity of this tower at least (Parochial Surveys, III. 
1>. 328.)" Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, voL xv. pp. 206, 207. 

These bold assertions would seem sufficient to set the question 
for ever at rest, and with uninquiring readers, must doubtless have 
had great weight; but, I beg leave to ask, where are either the 
Psalters of Cashel or Tara now to be found? Miss Beaufort answers, 
" in the British Museum," and gives as her authority for the fact, the 
Transactions of the Iberuo-Celtic Society. But that work, which 
was compiled by my friend, the late Mr. O'Reilly, merely states, that 
they are said to be in that national depository ; and, speaking of the 
Psalter of Tara, he adds, "perhaps not truly" "Well, indeed, might 
he make that admission, for there is not the least evidence to sup- 
port such a hearsay, as he was himself obliged in conversation to 
confess to me. 

It may, however, be very properly said that, though no entire 
copies of those celebrated works can now be found, authenticated 
extracts may exist, which should be taken as evidence ; and that 
Miss Beaufort's authorities may be of this description. Let us inquire, 
then, how far they are worthy of attention. 

1. For the first assertion, that the object for which the Towers were 
built, namely, the preservation of the sacred fire is distinctly men- 
tioned in the Psalters of Cashel and Tara, Miss Beaufort gives no 
authority, and 1 might, therefore, let it pass without observation. But 
it is worthy of remark, that in the curious and valuable ancient Irish 
Glossary of Cormac Mac Cullenan, the supposed compiler of the 
Psalter of Cashel, the word Bell-tinne is explained in such a man- 
ner as to preclude the possibility of supposing that writer could con- 
nect the May-fires of the Druids with towers of any kind. 

&ellcame .1 bil-rene .1. rene Bil .1. cene pomriiec .1. oa rene pommec DO jjnfrfp 
na opaice co cinceclaib mopaib popaib, ocup DO bepoip na ceqia ecupa ap ceo- 
manouib cecha bliaona. 

" Belltaine, i. e. bil-tene, i. e. tene bil, i. e. the goodly fire, i. e. two goodly fires, which 
the Druids were used to make, with great incantations on them, and they used to bring 
the cattle between them, against the diseases of each year." 

A somewhat different explanation of the Baal-tinne is given in 
another MS. in Trinity College (H. 3. 18, p. 596), but, as will be seen, 
it makes no more allusion to Towers than that already quoted : 


6elcume, .1. 6el-oine : bel, our,, amm DO loal : if ann DO caipf ec.lbca oine cacha 
cecpa pop peilb 6heil; unde 6eltine. Mo, 6elcme .). 6il-cme .1. cene c-poinmsac 
.1. oa cenio DO jjniotp Dpuio co cincetlaib mopu, ocup oe lejoip na cecpa ecuppu 
ap ceomanoaib cucha bliuona. 

" Beltaine, i. e. Bel-dine : Bel was the name of an idol : it was on it [i. e. the fes- 
tival] that a couple of the young of every cattle were exhibited as in the possession of 
Bel; unde Beltine. Or, Beltine, i. e. Bil-tine, i. e. the goodly fire, i. e. two goodly fires, 
which the Druids were used to make with great incantations, and they were used to 
drive the cattle between them against the diseases of each year." 

It may be remarked, that remnants of this ancient custom, in 
perhaps a modified form, still exist in the May-fires lighted in the 
streets and suburbs of Dublin, and also in the fires lighted on St. John's 
Eve in all other parts of Ireland. The Tinne Eigen of the Highlands, 
of which Dr. Martin gives the following account, is probably a rem- 
nant of it also, but there is no instance of such fires being lighted in 
towers or houses of any description : 

" The Inhabitants here [Isle of Skye] did also make use of a Fire call'd Tin-Egin, 
(i. e.) a forced Fire, or Fire of necessity, which they used as an Antidote against the 
Plague or Murrain in Cattle ; and it was performed thus : All the Fires in the Parish 
were extinguish'd, and eighty one marry'd Men, being thought the necessary number 
for effecting this Design, took two great Planks of Wood, and nine of 'em were employ'd 
by turns, who by their repeated Efforts rubb'd one of the Planks against the other 
untill the Heat thereof produced Fire; and from this forc'd Fire each Family is sup- 
plied with new Fire, which is no sooner kindled, than a Pot full of water is quickly 
set on it, and afterwards sprinkled upon the People infected with the Plague, or upon 
cattle that have the Murrain. And this they all say they find successful by Expe- 
rience." Description of the Western Islands of Scotland (second edition), p. 113. 

2. As authority for Miss Beaufort's second assertion, relative to 
the Tower of Thlachtga, &c., we are referred to the " Psalter of Tara, 
by Comerford, p. 41, cited in the Parochial Survey, Vol. III. p. 320."; 
and certainly in the latter work we do find a passage in nearly the 
same words which Miss Beaufort uses. But if the lady had herself 
referred to Comerford's little work, she would have discovered, that 
the author of the article in the Parochial Survey had in reality no 
authority for his assertions, and had attempted a gross imposition 
on the credulity of his readers. The passage in Comerford is as 
follows : 

" A. D. 79. This prince [Tuathal Teachtmar], as soon as he was in quiet pos- 
session of the throne, convened the general assembly of Tarah, where several wise re- 
gulations were made for the better governing the state. It was by the authority of this 
assembly, that Tuathal separated a tract of land from each province, and made the 


country of Mcath, as it appears at this day ; he also erected a ttately palace in each 
of these proportions, viz. in that of Munster, the palace of Tlachtya, where the fire of 
Tlachtga was ordained to bo kindled, on the 31 of October, to summon the priests 
and augurs to consume the sacrifices offered to their gods; and it was also ordained, 
that no other fire should be kindled in the kingdom that night [P. of Tara, in margin], 
so that the fire to be used in the country, was to derive from this fire, for which privi- 
lege the people were to pay a scraball, which amounts to three-pence, every year, as an 
acknowledgment to the king of munster. The second palace was in that of Connaught, 
where the inhabitants were assembled once a year upon the first of May, to offer 
sacrifices to the principal deity of the island, under the name of Beul, which was called 
the Convocation of Visneach ; and on account of this meeting, the King of Connaught 
had, from every lord of a niannor or chieftain of lands, ahorse and arms. The third was 
at Tailtean, in the portion of Ulster, where the inhabitants of the kingdom brought 
their children, when of age, and treated with one another about their marriage. From 
this custom the king of Ulster demanded an ounce of silver from every couple married 
here. The fourth was the palace of Teamhair or Tarah, which originally belong'd to 
the province of Leinster, and where the states of the kingdom met in a parliamentary 
way." History of Ireland, pp. 49, 50 Second edit. pp. 4 1 , 42. 

Where, in the above extract, do we find even the slightest men- 
tion of fire-towers, or a word from which an inference could possibly 
be drawn that they ever had an existence in Ireland ? Palaces are 
spoken of, not towers ; and there is not even a vestige of a tower, or 
ancient stone building of any kind, now to be found at any of the four 
places mentioned ; and it will further appear, by a reference to my 
essay on the History and Antiquities of Tara, that no tower of this 
kind was known to the most ancient authorities to have ever existed 
there. Even as to the marginal reference to the Psalter of Tara, it 
is of no account whatever, for the writer, Comerford, was quite igno- 
rant of Irish authorities, his whole work being nothing more than 
an abridgment of the English translation of Keating's Ireland, in 
which, however, no such marginal reference occurs. An allusion, 
indeed, is made in the latter work to this Psalter, but it is only to 
state, in describing the Palace of Tara, that the pedigrees, &c., were 
there transcribed into the royal records. See this question examined 
at length in my essay on the History and Antiquities of Tara. 

But it should also be observed, that Keating, in this very account 
of the four palaces of Tuathal, which Comerford has abridged, clearly 
shows that the fires lighted at the convocation of Uisneach, on the 
first of May, could not have been in towers, for he states that " upon 
this occasion they were used to kindle two fires in every territory of 
the kingdom in honour of the Pagan God" (Baal), and that " it was a 


solemn ceremony, at this time, to drive a number of cattle between 
these fires ; this was conceived to be an antidote and a preservation 
against the Murrain, or any other pestilential distemper among cattle, 
for the year following." Keating 's General History of Ireland, vol. i. 
p. 326, Dublin edition, 1813. 

'3. For Miss Beaufort's third assertion, that " the death of King 
Lugaid was considered as a direct punishment from heaven for having 
preserved the Baal-Theine in opposition to the preaching of St. Pa- 
trick," we are referred to the " Psalter of Cashel, p. 68. Cited Pa- 
rochial Surveys, III. p. 320." The Parochial Survey docs, it is true, 
refer for its authority for this assertion to the Psalter of Cashel, but 
it is only as quoted by Comerford, in page 68 of his history; and, 
on referring to that page in the latter, we find no mention whatever 
either of the Psalter or of the Baal-tlieine. The passage referred 
to is as follows: 

" This prince (Lughaidh) was killed by a thunderbolt, as a punishment from heaven, 
for opposing the preaching of St. Patrick." Comerford, second edition, p. 68. 

4. Lastly, Miss Beaufort asserts, that " it is recorded in Irish his- 
tory that Rosa Failgee, the son of Cathair More, who was made mo- 
narch of all Ireland, A.D. 175 , built the tower of Rosenallis, 

which derives its name from him, a proof of the antiquity of this tower 
at least:" and, as authority for this statement, she refers us to the 
Parochial Surveys, vol. iii. p. 328. It will be seen, however, on refe- 
rence to the authority quoted, not only that it states nothing of the 
kind, but also that, even if it had, the authority of a writer so utterly 
unacquainted with Irish history and chronology should be held as of 
no value whatsoever. The passage is as follows : 

" The village of Rosenallis, is said to derive its name from Rossa Failgea, eldest son 
of Cathaoir More Charles the Great. The father being in his own hereditary right 
King of Leinster, was elected supreme monarch on the decease of Fedlimus Legifer, 
anno Christi 175. He attained to this high dignity by his many and great virtues, but 
chiefly by his bold and successful opposition to the Danes [ !], who piratically infested 
the coasts, though they had not yet attempted an invasion : he was distinguished by 
his impartial justice and heroic valour, till he fell in the memorable battle of Tailten. 
This monarch had many sons, polygamy being then tolerated, and Rossa his eldest and 
favourite, was deeply skilled in the learning of these days. He is said to have built the 
round tower mentioned in sec. IV." 

Let us now turn to the section referred to, and we shall find the 
following passage : 

OF THE ROUND T()\VK!:.S oi- IIJKI.AM). 41 

" Rosenallis has the ruins of an old church that was dedicated to the Virgin Mnry : 
the inhabitants still observe the 1st of February, in commemoration of their patroness. 
A round tower, connected with the ruins of Rosenallis, still remains." pp. 319, 3'JO. 

It will be scon that all this is given on the writer's own authority, 
without any reference to Irish records whatsoever; nor is there a 
word in Irish history that would warrant assertions so absurdly falla- 
cious. What, for instance, would be thought of that Irish history, if it 
stated, that the coasts of Ireland were infested by the Danes in 175, 
when the name of Dane is unknown to all authentic historians for 
several centuries later. This writer tells us, that Rossa Failgea is 
said to have built the Tower of Rosenallis, but he has not shown 
that Irish histoiy says so, or given us any authority for such an as- 
sertion but his own. Neither has he given us any authority for the 
equally absurd statement, that Rosenallis derives its name from Rossa 
Failgea ; nor is there any reason whatever to suppose that the name 
was so derived. He is not even correct in his statement as to the 
patroness of the old church with which the Tower was connected, and 
which he tells us was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the inhabitants 
still observing the first of February in commemoration of their pa- 
troness. The writer should have knoAvn that none of the festival 
days of the Virgin Mary falls on that day, which is so well known 
to the Roman Catholics in Ireland as the festival day of St. Bridget, 
that they have no other name to express this day than La peile 
6|iijoe, i. e. the day of the festival of Bridget: and that it was to this 
great patroness of Ireland the church of Rosenallis was dedicated, 
and probably owed its origin, and not to the Virgin Mary, we have suffi- 
cient evidence from the Avork of Colgan, the learned editor of her pub- 
lished lives, who, in his lu'th chapter "De Ecclesiis & locis S. Brigidai 
in Hibernia dicatis," inserts this very church in the following words : 
" Templum S, Brigida; in vicode Rosfinnglas in Hyriegain," And this 
leads us to the true etymology of the name of which Rosenallis is a 
corruption, and not of Rossa Failgea, as this writer absurdly states, 
l?op pmnglap signifies the wood or shrubbery of the bright stream. 
It is true that Colgan also gives it, in the same list, under its Anglicized 
name as if it were a different one, thus : " Ros-analluis Eccl : par : Diec. 
Killdarien. in Decanatu de Kill-eich, vel rectius Kill-achuidh." But 
this error, if it be one, of supposing that the places were not the 
same, can easily be accounted for in a writer living out of the coun- 



try, and depending for his information on the lists of the churches 
and parishes dedicated to St. Bridget sent him by the Roman Catholic 
prelates of the several dioceses. There can be no doubt, however, 
that llos Finnglas and Rosenallis are the same name, from the inti- 
mation given of Templum Brigidce being in the village of Ros Finn- 
glas in Hyriegain, as there was at the time no other village in that 
ancient territory. 

I have dwelt at greater length on these erroneous statements in 
Miss Beaufort's valuable Essay than I, and perhaps the reader, could 
have wished; it will, however, render unnecessary any lengthened 
examination of the proofs, advanced in support of this hypothesis in 
the more recent essay by Mr. D' Alton the evidences relied on being 
often the same in both. Besides, Miss Beaufort's authority has added 
weight to those evidences, and even increased the difficulty of sifting 
them. Thus, when Mr. D' Alton states that " the Psalter of Cashel 
expressly declares that they (the Towers) were used for the preser- 
vation of the sacred fire" (p. 139), he judiciously refers us to Miss 
Beaufort's Essay; and that lady refers us to the inferior authority of 
a Parochial Survey; and that again, in regular progression down- 
wards, cites an abridged history of no character, in which, after all, 
no such statement is to be found ! And thus, if any reader should, 
in the face of such bold assertion, still feel disposed to be sceptical, 
he would if unaccustomed to the mode in which, unfortunately, 
antiquarian questions are so often investigated find himself entangled 
in a net, out of which he might have neither opportunity nor inclina- 
tion to extricate himself. 

One or two assertions of Mr. D' Alton's own, relative to the sup- 
posed antiquity of the Towers, must not, however, be allowed to pass 
without observation. These assertions are : 

1. That " the Irish Annals can alone support the investigation, . 
and in the most ancient of these the Round Towers are recorded." 
Essay, p. 136. 

For this statement Mr. D' Alton refers to Dr. O'Conor's Rer. Ilib. 
Script, vol. i. Proleg. p. 2. p. ccvii., but the passage referred to does 
not bear out Mr. D' Alton in his assertion. It only shows, from Irish 
authorities, and those not the ancient Annals, that Towers existed 
in Ireland at a very remote time, but offers no evidence as to their 
shape, or that they were of the description of those now the subject 


of investigation. On the contrary, tlic instances quoted the 7V/-- 
('i/<ii//i>\ Tnr-Iiri'ogun. and the Towers of Ma^lilnirri-iKlli. or 
Cniiiju/x Titrriinn, in .Mayo and Sligo, must, as our whole luMorv 
shows, and as even Mr. D'Alton himself would be necessitated to 
allow, have evidently been of a totally different description. The.-e 
Towers have been sufficiently preserved to our own times to enable 
us to ascertain their exact character, and that they were of the class 
of Cyclopean forts so common in this country, as I have shown in my 
( -say on Military Architecture in Ireland. 

2. After the unqualified assertion, on the authority of Miss Bean- 
fort, that the Psalter of Cashel expressly declares that they (the 
Towers) were used for the preservation of the sacred fire, Mr. D'Al- 
ton adds : 

" And the brief but emphatic mention of them by Giraldus Cambrensis, which 
Dr. Ledwioh has so misquoted, does fully confirm this opinion. It occurs where he 
speaks of the consequences of the alleged inundation of Lough Neagh. ' It is no im- 
probable evidence of this event, that the fishermen of that sheet of water at times plainly 
behold the rrl!</ious towers, which, according to the custom of the country, are nar- 
row, lofty, and round, immersed under the waters; and they frequently s/ietc them to 
strangers passing over them, and wondering at the causes of the phenomenon. It is 
quite immaterial to the present purpose, whether OC not such an inundation did actually 
happen. It was the opinion in Ireland at tluit time that it did ; it was matter of his- 
tory in the country, for the annals of Tigcrnach, which relate it, were then extant 
upwards of a century; and these annals, with which Giraldus must have been well 
acquainted, fix its date to A. D. 62, a time when he knew Christianity had not dawned 
in Ireland; yet he, believing the report, expressly says that these towers, denomi- 
nating them " religious," were of such antiquity, that some of them might have l>ceu 
overwhelmed in that visitation; that the fishermen of that lake actually distinguish 
them under the water, (" sub undis conspieiunt,") and repeatedly shew them to strangers, 
("extrancis frequenter ostendunt,") that they were towers for ecclesiastical uses, ne- 
cessarily meaning for the uses of a religion general at that retrospective date, as sun- 
worship was, though he uses a term which in its more ordinary application is confined 
to Christianity, (" ecclesiasticas turres,") while he adds that they were built agreeably 
with the custom of Ireland, " more patriw." Were they belfries he would naturally 
have termed them " campanilia," were they for any other then known Christian pur- 
pose, he would have been sure to name it ; but he saw, as every one must see, that these 
" ecclesiastic-SB turres," were for the uses of a religion peculiar to Ireland, and that part 
of Scotland colonized from Ireland.'" Essay on the Ancient History, Sfc. of Ireland: 
Transact 11. LA. vol. xvi. pp. 139 141. 

Now, whatever may be the value of this allusion of Giraldus to 
the Towers, it will be obvious to every dispassionate inquirer that Mr. 
D' Alton has assigned to it a degree of importance, to which it is by 

G 2 


no means legitimately entitled. The remark of Cambrensis was ob- 
viously a mere incidental one, made without any view to the question 
of the age or uses of the Towers ; and the only safe conclusion that 
could be drawn from it would be, that the Towers were considered 
as ancient in his time. And, what places this beyond controversy is, 
that the same writer makes a similar incidental allusion from what- 
ever cause it may be, not hitherto noticed to the Tower of Kildare, 
which still exists, and which is characterized by features of Christian 
architecture that will leave no doubt of its real era : but, while he 
applies to this Tower the very identical epithet, turris ecclesias- 
tica, given by him to the imaginary towers of Lough Neagh, he says 
not one word that would imply his supposing it of pagan times ; 
whereas, his words, on the contrary, clearly show that it was then 
one of a group of Christian edifices. Mr. D' Alton, therefore, had no 
ground for translating the word " ecclesiasticas" by " religious," or 
for supposing that so skilful a Latinist as Giraldus could have used 
the word in a sense alike unwarranted by its etymology, its pagan 
acceptation, and its universally received meaning in his time. The 
words must be understood in their established meaning as eccle- 
siastical Towers, that is, Towers connected with, or belonging to, 
Christian churches, and in no other, because the word ecclesia, from 
which ecclesiasticus is formed, was never applied by any Christian 
writer but to a Christian congregation, or the building in which such 
a congregation assembled. Neither is there greater weight in Mr. 
D' Alton's remarks, that were they belfries, he (Cambrensis) would 
naturally have termed them " campanilia," and that were they for any 
other then known Christian purpose, he would have been sure to 
name it. As already stated, it will be shown that these ecclesiastical 
Towers were intended to serve for more than one purpose ; and 
under such circumstances it would have been impossible for Cam- 
brensis to have characterized them more properly than by the general 
phrase which he has in both instances employed. And, as to Mr. 
D' Alton's bold assertion, that if they were for any other then known 
Christian purpose, he would have been sure to name it, the reply is 
obvious, that if Cambrensis had been writing a distinct treatise on 
the subject he would indeed have been sure to name the purpose, or 
purposes, for which the Towers had been built, whatever they might 
have been, but that it would have been altogether unreasonable to 


expect a detailed explanation of those purposes in an allusion merely 
incidental to the subject he had in hand. That Lough Neagh was 
indued formed by an inundation, though not, in the way stated by 
Cambrensis, on the authority of a legend still applied to almost every 
lake in Ireland, and that this inundation actually took place in tin- 
first century, there is no reason to doubt, because it is recorded by 
the most ancient and trustworthy of our annalists, and the names of the 
very tribes, who occupied the plain so covered, are also given in very 
ancient documents. But it by no means follows, and indeed it is not 
at all probable, that Cambrensis, when he made his statement, was 
acquainted with such authorities, for, if he had been aware of the true 
circumstances and period of that inundation, he would surely have 
adduced them in support of the truth of his statements, rather than 
rest their credibility on a popular supposition, which could not be 
true ; and, if Mr. D' Alton will have it that he was acquainted with 
such authorities, he should also allow that the disgusting cause as- 
signed by Cambrensis for this inundation was equally derived from 
that source, though the whole existing body of Irish literature might 
be searched in vain for a single evidence to show that the Irish were 
acquainted with the existence of, much less addicted to, such crimes 
as those ascribed to them by that political traducer. 

That the legend of the Towers seen in Lough Neagh, was current 
among the Irish in the time of Cambrensis, as this writer states, I do 
not by any means wish to deny : they preserve it to this very day ; 
but with this important difference, that the architectural objects they 
now imagine to be visible are chimneys of houses, tops of castles, and 
spires of churches, the lofty objects that are now most familiar to 
them as the round belfries of earlier date were in the time of Cam- 
brensis ; and we would have just as much reason to attach importance 
to the delusive imaginings of the peasantry at the present time as to 
those of their predecessors in ages so remote. 

3. That " the Ulster Annals even mention the fall of no less than 
fifty-seven of these Towers in consequence of a dreadful earthquake, in 
A. D. 448." (O'Couor, ibid. vol. 4. p. 2). The passage referred to is 
as follows : 

" i&lt. rrml bill. Ingeiiti terremotu per loca varia imminente, plurime urbes au- 
guste, muri, reccnti adliuc re-editicatione construct!, cum Ivii turribus corruerunt." 

On this passage, however, which Mr. D' Alton so boldly pronounces 


to relate to the Round Towers of Ireland, Dr. O'Conor, with all his 
zeal to support the same hypothesis of their pagan origin, only ven- 
tures in a note to propound the following conjecture : 

" Quaere utrum hsrc referenda sint ad turres Tliberniw, de quibue Giraldus inquit 
' arctse suut, et alta?, necnon ct rotunda;, more patrio.' " 

But, I may ask, do not the Annals of Ulster often record foreign 
events, and quote as their authorities the chronicles of Marcellinus, 
Isidorns, and Beda ? and with this example of Dr. CXConor's cautions- 
ness before him, should it not have occurred to Mr. D' Alton, before 
he hazarded so confident a conclusion, that these Towers might not 
have been Irish, and particularly as a reference to the commonest 
popular works on general chronology, or universal history, would have 
been sufficient to enlighten him ? For example, in the Chronological 
Tables of the Abb 5 Lenglet Dufresrioy at the year 446, as well as in 
the Universal History (vol. xvi.) at the year 447, he Avould have 
found the very same statement as that given in the Annals of Ulster, 
with this difference only, that these authorities designate the locality 
of the event as Constantinople, while the Irish annalist uses the 
phrase urls augusta, being the title always applied by the ancient 
continental chroniclers to that capital of the eastern empire, and the 
appellation by which Constantinople is always designated in the 
Chronicle of Marcellinus. And what will be thought of the value 
of Mr. D' Alton's assertion, when it shall be shown, that if he had re- 
ferred to that ancient authority he would have found, that the pas- 
sage in the Ulster Annals was bxit a transcript, to the very letter, 
of the original Avords in Marcellinus ? That the reader may see the 
truth of this at a glance, I here present him with the passage, first, 
as it appears in the edition of Marcellinus, published in the Magna 
Bibliatheca Veterum Patrum, Parisiis, 1654 (torn. xv. p. 716, col. i. 
line 53), and again in the more correct edition edited by the cele- 
brated Joseph Scaliger, and published in the Thesaurus Temporum, 
Amstelodanni, 1658 (p.41, col. i. line 45) : 

" Ingenti terras motu per Locaria imminente, plurimse vrbes, Augusta 1 muri re- 
centi adhuc a-dificatione construct!, cum Ivij. turribus corruerunt."- Jl/arw/. Chron. in 
Mag. Bibliotheca Vet. Pat. 

" Ingenti terra; motu per loca varia imminente plurimi urbis Augusta? muri re- 

centi adhuc resedifiVatione construct!, cum LVII. turribus corruerunt." Marcel. Citron. 

in Themur. Temp. 


It may be observed (although scarcely necessary), that the text. 
as given by Scaliger, is by far the more correct one ; and it may be 
iiddcd, that the true reading of this passage is also quoted, as referring 
to Constantinople, in Reading's edition of Evagrius's Church History, 
lib. i. c. 17, notei. p. 272. 

It is true indeed that the text of this passage, as published by Dr. 
O'Conor from the MS. in the Bodleian Library, more nearly agrees 
with that published in the Magnn Bihliotheca Vrf. Pat., 1054 ; but 
it is a curious fact, that the text of the College MS. copy of the Annals 
of Ulster, though originally the same as that in the Magna BibJiuthecu 
Vet. Put., has been corrected in a more modern hand, by interlinea- 
tion, to the very reading published by Joseph Scaliger in 1058, and this 
apparently before either edition was published: It runs thus : 

" Ano. Dni. cccc. xl. uiii. 

" Ingenti terrae motu per locaria [corrected by interlineation to loca uaria~\ immi- 
nente plurime [plurimi] urbis auguste muri receiiti adhuc rea-'dificatione conslructi cum 
.l.uii. tnrribus corrueruut." 

Will it be again asserted that this passage refers to the Round 
Towers of Ireland ? 

So much, then, for the confident assertions of Mr. D' Alton. 1 
have now to present the reader with the observations in support of 
this theory of the pagan origin of the Towers, adduced by a writer 
whose opinions on every matter connected with the ancient history 
and literary antiquities of Ireland are justly considered of great weight, 
and certainly deserve the most respectful attention ; I need scarcely 
add, that I speak of the late Rev. Dr. Charles O'Conor. He is indeed, 
in my opinion, from his literary diameter, and the respect paid to his 
authority by subsequent writers even of the highest class, the only for- 
midable supporter of this hypothesis that has hitherto appeared ; and, 
as his works are in but few hands, and lest it might be thought that 
I gave his arguments but a partial examination, I shall give the 
whole of what he has written on this subject in his own words : 

" Quod si conjecturis indulgcrc liceret, antiquas Turres Hibernicas, quas nonnulli, 
auiles i'abulas sectantes, Anachoreticas appullarunt, ad uinbrain ita capiendam, et 4 Anni 
Hibcriiici Ruthus sic dufiniendas, et pra>terea ad Igncin Sacram servandum, rodificatas 
fuisse existiniarcin. Earum antiquitatem Etlmicatn indicat Giraldus Sseculo xii, ubi 
inquit extitissc eas antequam Lacus Neath crumperet in Ultonia. ' Piscatores Turres 
istas, qua 1 more Patrise, arctce sunt, et altas, nee non et rotundtp, sub undis manifeste, 
sereno tempore, congpiciunt.'' (Giraldi Topogr. Dist. 2, c. 9, p. 720.) Poterant certe 


Turres istas postcrioribus Sicculis, ad Anachorcticum usum accomodari, ut in nota ad 
Annales IV Mag. ami. 898, et in Annalibus Inisfal. p. 148, itemque in Ultoniensibus ad 
Annum 996 At in istis Annalibus appellantur Fiadh-Nemeadh, i. e. Indicia Ccelestia. 
Sic in Annalibus Ultoniensibus ad ann. 995' Tene diait do gabail Airdmacha cona- 

farcaibk Dertack, na Damliacc, na h Erdam, na Fidhnemead, ann cen loscadh.' i. e. 

.Fulgur corripuit Ardmacham, ita ut non relinqueret Nosocomium, nee Ecclesiam Ca- 
thedralem. (sive Basilicam) nee Domum Nobilem, nee Indieem Coelestem, quod non 
combureret Eadem habet Tigernachus ad eundem annum, itemque Quatuor Magistri ; 
excepto quod pro Erdam, non autem pro Fiadh-neamead, habent Cloicteacha, Campa- 
nilia, his verbis 'Ann. 995.Ardmacfia do loscc do tene saighnein, ettir tighib, 7 Domhu-, j Cloicteacha, 7 a Fiadhneimhedh.' 1 

" Ad haec IV Magistrorum verba respexit Colganus in Actis, p. 297, his verbis 
' Anno 995 Ardmaeha cum Basilicis, Turribus, aliisque omnibus ajclificiis, incendio ex 
fulinine generate, tota vastatur.' Hasc autem versio non literalis est, neque voces 
explicat, neque conveniunt quae in Annalibus nostris alibi de Campanilibus dicuntur, 
cum forma ant constructione Turrium antiquarum Hibernia3. Sic, exempli causa, in 
Annalibus Ultoniensibus ad ann. 949, hac leguntur ' Cloicteach Slane do loscadh do 
Gall Athadiath. Bacatt ind Erlamha, 7 doc badec do cloccaibh, Caenechair Ferleyhinn, 
1 sochaidhe mor inbi do loscadh.'' i. e. Campanile Slanense combustum ab Alienigenis 
Dublinii, (a Danis) Lituus Pastoralis (sive Baculum Patroni) petris pretiosis ornatus, 
et Campana praecipua, et Canecar Projector Scholar, et multi ibi cum eo combusti. 

" Eadem referentes ad eundem annum IV Magistri aiunt Cloicteach Slaine do los- 
cadh can a Ian do mhionnaibh 7 degkdhaoinibh, im Ckoinechair Fearleighinn Slaine, 
Bachatt an Erlamha 7 clocc ba deach do chloccaibh.'' i. e. Campanile Slanense combustum, 
simul cum pluribus rebus pretiosis, et Religiosis viris, qui ibi erant, cum Chonecharo 
Prselectore Slanense, Baculo Patroni, (i. e. S. Erci,) et Campana omnium quse ibi erant 

" Jam vero haac qua3 de Campanilibus in Annalibus referuntur, minime conveniunt 
vel cum forma vel cum materia Turrium Hibernensium de quibus agitur. Itaque non 
pro Campanilibus sedificatas fuisse, sed eorum originem aliunde petendam esse mani- 
i'estum est ... Non conveniunt cum forma, tarn arctse enim sunt, ut tot res pretiosas, et 
tot homines capere non possent, et quoad materiam, e Saxis ingentibus sedificataa, nullibi 
e ligno, fulgure quidem dejici, sed non comburi potuerunt." Rer. Hib. Scriptores, vol. i. 
Proleg. part i. p. xxxii. 

" Turres veteres Hibernicas, conditas fuisse ad 4 anni Rathas Gnomonice indican- 
das, conjiciens scripsi. i. 32 Fateor quidem Apicem umbra;, profectse a Styli alicujus 
vertice acuto, deprehendi non posse accurate in linea Meridiana, cum propter Penum- 
bram, turn quia, Sole ad certam altitudinem evecto, acuti verticis umbra cum umbra 
trunci confunditur, neque respondet cum Soils centre, sed, in latitudine septentrionali, 
cum Solis Margine Septentrionale. Attamen cum Ludi Taltinenses et Temorenses 
spatio dierum 15, ante et post sequinoctia et solstitia ^Estiva celebrarentur, fieri vix 
poterat quin, eo intervallo, Druidas, Solis et Stellarum cultores, Gnomonis ope jEqui- 
noctia, et Solstitia definirent, ac vertentis anni Cardines quatuor, intercalatione quadam 
juxta Solis altitudinem facta, Populari Decreto proclamarent. Procul dubio Turres in 
antiquissimis Hibernorum Carminibus memorantur, ut in Carmine Martha Magh Tur- 
readh, et in Prcelii Lenensis Historia Metrica scripta a Senchano Eigceas Saculo vii. 


Inclusoria Anaehoretica quod attinet, longe diversa erant a tiirribusistis. Inclusoriuui 
in quo Marianus Scotus Fuldre inclusus est, Cella erat, muro externo circuravallata, 
neque ullibi turrurum extitere unquam Inclusoria Anaehoretica Turribus Hibernicis 
similia. Quatuor apertura: prope Apicem, quatuor orbis Cardines respiciunt, neque 
ullatenus credibile est, hominem potuisse, non dico 20 annis, sed vel Una hyenie in ulla 
ex istis turribus inclusum supervexisse. Vide Carmina Vetera Hibernica supra 'Afarta 
Magh tuirreadh? ' Torinis Init an Tuir,' 1 et Calh Moighe-Tura, supra in Indice, item 
Temoriam Turrium in Coemano, supra voce Temoria, et alia plum, qua; plane indicant, 
Turres in antiquissimis Hibernorum Scriptis Traditionibus, tamquam ab inimemorabili 
conditas, mumorari." Index, voL i. p. ccviL 

The preceding extracts are in one respect at least of much im- 
portance in this inquiry, they are the observations of a man who, in 
comparison with the others, was preeminently skilled in the ancient 
literature of Ireland, and whose whole life, it may be said, was devoted 
to its study ; and they may therefore be considered as furnishing the 
entire of whatever evidences he could discover, in support of this 
hypothesis, in the whole body of our Irish historical documents. Let 
us now see to what regard these evidences are entitled. 

Dr. O'Conor's conjectures relative to the astronomical uses of the 
Towers might perhaps be sufficiently met by the fact already stated, 
and of which repeated proofs shall be afforded in the third part of 
this inquiry, namely, that the apertures at top do not invariably face 
the cardinal points, and by the consideration that they are not always 
foui' in number, as he supposed, but sometimes more, and sometimes 
even less. However, for the sake of argument, I shall waive this fact 
for the present, and proceed to examine separately the several pas- 
sages in our Annals to which he has referred. The first is found 
in the Annals of the Four Masters at the year 898 ; and here it will 
be observed, that if we allow Dr. O'Conor's translation of this pas- 
sage to be correct, it will furnish a contradiction to his own state- 
ment, that the Towers are called, in all the passages referred to in the 
Irish Annals, " Fiadh-Nemeadh" or " Indicia Ccelestia." Thus : 
"A. D. 898. Cosccrach frit araite Turaghan Angcoire Imi Cealtra decc." 

Which Dr. O'Conor translates : 

" A. D. 898. Coscrachus a quo dicitur Turris anachoretica Insulaj Celtrae obiit" 

To this passage Dr. O'Conor appends the following note : 

" Turaghan, a Tur turris, et aghan vel adkan accensio ignis, ut in Vocabulariis 
Hibernicis, forsan a more Druidico ignes sacros in his turribus accendendi, et quibus 
alios igues solemnes accendebant in quatuor anni temporibus, ut in veteri Glossario 



apud Llhuydtim in Archajologia, voce Baal-tinne. list turres, postea a Giraklo Ecde- 
xiasticce appellatse, a Christianis ad usum Anachoretarum acconuuodata; fuisse videutur, 
ut in textu apparet. Vide Annal. Inisfal. p. 148." 

Thus we are to infer from the passage in the text, that the Towers 
were used for anchorites in Christian times, and from the etymology of 
the word Turaghan, as given in the note, that they were originally 
designed to contain the Druidical sacred fire. I might acknowledge 
the accuracy of this translation of the text, and the probability of the 
etymology, and yet deny the justness of the inferences, drawn from 
them, for the anchorite Tower of Iniscealtra may not have been a 
Round Tower ; and, notwithstanding Dr. O'Conor's reference in proof 
of the contrary, there is no other passage in the Irish Annals in 
which anchorite Towers are mentioned, or in which the word Tura- 
ghan occurs. But I have a far weightier objection to urge. From 
the first moment that I read the passage, I doubted the accuracy 
either of the text, or of the translation, and, being anxious to have 
these doubts resolved, I addressed a note to the late Mr. O'Reilly, 
the distinguished Irish lexicographer, requesting his examination of 
the text in his MS. copy of the Annals of the Four Masters, and his 
opinion of the translation given by Dr. O'Conor. From the reply 
with which he favoured me I extract the following observations : 

" I have, as you requested, examined my manuscript copy of the Annals of the 
Four Masters, and I find that you had, as I have myself, good reason to doubt the cor- 
rectness of Doctor O'Conor in his publication of the Irish Annals. The words of the 
text in the MS. agree with the printed text in every thing but one ; but that one 
makes a material difference in the affair. The words of the MS. are these : ' Copccpac 
fpip apcnce Cpua^an an^cmpe Inp Cealcpa....oecc.' The word Truaghan the 
Doctor has, upon what authority I know not, but I believe without any, converted 
into Turaghan, as you have it, and as it is in print, and this he has made an Anchorite 
Toicer in his translation, and a Fire Tower in his note. 

" I do not know what design the learned Doctor may have had in falsifying the 
Annals ; but that he has done so, in this instance, is incontrovertible, and that he 
may have done so in others there is strong reason to suspect. The translation of the 
text of the MS. is literally thus : 

" Cosgrach of whom is said (called) the Miserable, Recluse (or Anchorite) of Inis 
Cealtra, died." 

" That this is the true translation of the MS. will hardly be disputed, and that my 
MS. agrees with the College copy I am positive, and that it is agreeable to the original 
I am convinced. There would be no sense in calling a man an Anchorite Tower, but a 
man totally given up to fasting, mortification, and retirement from the company of 
man, as Cosgrach was, might very fairly be called a Truaghan, or a miserable creature." 


From another accomplished Irish scholar, my friend Mr. O'Dono- 
vau, I subsequently obtained the following remarks on the above 
passage, from which it will appear that, even granting the text in Dr. 
O'Conor's work to be untouched and accurate, still the translation 
could not be so : 

" Dr. O'Conor's translation of this passage in the Annals is very incorrect, viz. 

" A. D. 898. Cosccractt fris a raite Turayhan Angcoire Insi Cealtra, (fecc." 

" A. D. 898. Coscrachus a quo dicitur Turris anachoretica Insuhc Celtrw obiit." 

" The original Irish cannot at all bear this translation. p| ip u puice cupu^un 
cannot express a quo dicitur tuirii, because the preposition ppip being the ancient form 
of the modern leip or pip does not signify from but with or to. If the Four Masters had 
intruded to convey the idea expressed in Dr. O'Conor's translation, they would have 
writeu 6 a paiceap, &c., not ppip a puice, &c. 

" This shows that Doctor O'Conor is wrong in making Ctnjcoipe an adjective, 
qualifying Turayhan, instead of making it a noun placed in grammatical apposition to 
Coscruch. The following is the literal and indisputable translation of the passage as 
printed by Dr. O'Conor : 

" Coscrachus, cui dicebatur Turayhan. Anachoreta Insulae Celtne, obiit. 

" Coscrach, who was called TURAGHAN, Anchorite of Iniskeltro, died. 

" But why he was so called cannot be traced from the text as thus printed, without 
reference to the original MS. Dr. O'Conor translates the passage as if the original Irish 
stood thus : 

" Copccpac 6 a paiceap Cup-dnjcoipe Inpi Cealcpa, o'ecc." 

In fairness, however, to Dr. O'Conor, whom I am extremely un- 
willing even to suspect of a wilful falsification of the text of the 
Annals, I am happy to add that, on referring to the copy of the An- 
nals of the Four Masters, in the library of the Royal Irish Academy, 
I find the disputed passage so contracted that he may have possibly 
made an unintentional mistake in deciphering the word : and, as the 
volume in which it occurs was transcribed from the original work 
now at Stowe, I have little doubt that the contraction is the same in 
both, the Doctor having, in the printed work, changed the text from 
its abbreviated form, as was frequently his custom. It runs thus : 

"A.D. 898. Coyvch [pa paice Cajan Qngcoijie mpi Cealj, o'ej." 

Here it may be observed that the wordUajcm appears at first sight 
doubtful ; for, according to the rule for deciphering Irish contractions, 
when a vowel is placed over a consonant the letter p (r) is under- 
stood to come before or after it, so that c may be read either cjiu or 
cup, though it is almost invariably the former, and it might therefore 

u 2 


be denied that cajdn is to be read cpuajdn. But it is very easy to 
prove from the context that cajjorn cannot be read cuyia^cm ; for any 
one at all acquainted with the idiomatic application of Irish prepo- 
sitions will see that ppip a means cui to whom, not a quo, from whom, 
as Dr. O'Conor renders it ; and when this is established it will be 
seen that cajjdn was a cognomen of Cosgrach, and not the name of a 
Tower or any other building. This is a fact so obvious to an Irish 
scholar that it may appear puerile to dwell upon it ; and I shall only 
add, that in a copy of these Annals in Trinity College, made by Mau- 
rice Gorman, and also in that made for Dr. Fergus, by the celebrated 
Hugh Mac Curtin, this word is correctly lengthened into cpuajdn. 
The adjective cpuctj signifies pitiful, and also lean, meagre; and from 
it, by adding the termination cm, is formed the noun cmm^ctn, signi- 
fying a meagre, lean, emaciated, macerated ascetic, who by mortifi- 
cation had reduced himself to a living skeleton. 

But, though I have acknowledged my unwillingness to believe 
Dr. O'Conor capable of falsifying the text of our Annals, to support 
any favourite hypothesis, yet I must confess that he has laid himself 
quite open to the suspicion of having done so, not only in the instance 
already noticed, but still more in the references which follow. Thus, 
in support of his theory of the Anchorite use of the Towers in Chris- 
tian times, he refers to the authority of the Annals of Innisfallen, 
p. 146, and to the Annals of Ulster at the year 996 ; yet in neither 
place is there a word to support that hypothesis. We have indeed in 
the page referred to a dissertation of the Doctor's own, in which 
the sacred fire of the Druids, but not the Round Towers, is men- 
tioned ; and, in his second reference, the Annals of Ulster, at the 
year 995 [996], there is no allusion to Anchorite Towers, or to 
Towers of any description, unless we adopt Dr. O'Conor's dictum on 
the fanciful etymology of a word. The passage is as follows : 

" 3lll. tJCCCC XC b. Tenediait do gabail Airdmacha con afarcaibh dertach, nadarnliacc, 
na h Erdam, nafidhnemead ann cen loscadh." 

Thus translated : 

" Fulgur corripit Ardmacham, et non relinquit Nosocomium, nee Ecclesiam Ca- 
thedralem, nee domum altam, nee turrim, in civitate, quod non incendio deleret." 

And to this he appends the following note : 

" Eadem habet Tighernach ad ann. 995 IV Magistri, pro Erdam, habent cloic 
teacha (campanilia.) Ergo diversa erant Campanilia a turribus rotundis, de quibus, 


vide not. ann. 949- Fiadhnemeadk Turris ; a Fiadh testimonium, vel Index, et nemeadh 

As the correctness of the etymology of the words given in the 
above note constitutes the stronghold in which, in support of his 
hypothesis, the Doctor has entrenched himself, it will be necessary to 
trespass on the reader's time, at more than my usual length, in exa- 
mining his proofs and arguments. I shall first give the original pas- 
sages from the Annals to which he refers : 

I. " A. D. 996. me Caipill co pepcub Pepnmmji 7 con Gipjiallcnb DO apjain 
Qpomaca co pucpuc n.c. b " Gpomaca DO lopcao ec. cijib ajjup tDamliaj ajup 
cloicceach, u^up pioneo (recte pionemeo) uili oiljen, na came piamh a n 6p. 7 na 
cupja co la mbpaca oijail umluio." 

"A. D. 996. Filius Carilli, cum Fernmagiensibus et Argialliis, vastat Ardmachani, 
et auferunt bis mille boves. Ardraacha combusta penitus, domus, et Ecclesise lapidwt 
et Campanilia, et Indicia Coelestia omnia eversa. Non evenit unquam in Hibernia, 
neque eveniet usque ad diem Judicii, vindicta similis." Annul. Tighernachi. 

II. " A.D. 995. Ardmacha do loscc do tene Saighnen ettir tighib, ague Domhuliacc, 
agus Cloicteacha, agus a fidhneimhedh do huiJe dilyend" 

" A. D. 995. Avdmacha combusta a fulmine, domus et Ecclesiaj lapidew, et campa- 
nilia, et ejus turres coolestes omnes destructa:." Annul. Quat. Mag. 

Now on the slightest examination of the above passages it must 
appear evident that Dr. O'Conor's assertion, that the word cloicteacha 
(belfries) has been substituted by the Four Masters for the word 
erdam of the Annals of Ulster, but not for fiadh nemeadh, has not 
the slightest probability for its support ; and if Dr. O'Conor had any 
knowledge of the true meaning of the word erdam, which he guess- 
ingly translates domum altam, he would not have hazarded such a 
strange assertion. That the word erdam signifies a building attached 
laterally to another building, as a sacristy, and not a belfry, as Dr. 
O'Conor supposes, I shall incontrovertibly prove when I treat, in the 
second part of this Inquiry, of the various ecclesiastical edifices an- 
ciently in use in Ireland, and therefore I shall only observe here, that 
Dr. O'Conor should have remembered that he was constrained him- 
self to translate this very word by sacra domo, in the following 
passage in the Annals of the Four Masters, which sufficiently proves 
that the erdam, or erdornh, was not a belfry. 

"A. D. 1006. Soisccel mor Cholaimchitte do dubhgoid is in oidhche as in erdomh 
iatharach [recte iariharach\ an Doimldiacc moir Cenannsa, SfC. 

" A. D. 1006. Evangelium Magnum Columba?-Cille a fure ablatum nocte ex sacra 
domo inferiori Ecclesiw lapidese magna Cellensis, &c." 


The truth unquestionably is, that there was no substitution by the 
annalists, as Dr. O'Conor supposes, of one synonymous word for ano- 
ther, and that the difference of language used by them was only such 
as might be expected among writers living in different ages and dif- 
ferent localities. But in none of them is there any evidence to be 
found that the word pioneirheb was applied to a tower; nor had any 
Irish writer, before Dr. O'Conor, ever understood the term in that 
sense. In proof of this I shall first adduce the translation of the pas- 
sage, relative to this event, in the Annals of Ulster, from the copy 
of those annals made in the commencement of the seventeenth cen- 
tury, and now preserved in the British Museum. Ayscough's Cata- 
logue, No. 4795, Clarendon MSS. No. 49, fol. 2, b. 

"995. Y e fyre dial taking Ardmach, and left neither sanctuary hawses or places, or 
churches vnburnt." 

It will be seen, then, that, whatever may be the word understood 
by the translator in the sense of sanctuary, he did not at least un- 
derstand any word of the original as signifying a celestial index or a 
tower of any kind. 

In the next authority which I have to adduce, namely the Chro- 
nicon Scotorum, which was compiled from the old Annals of Clon- 
macnoise, it will be seen, that, while the Annals of Ulster omit noticing 
the burning of the belfry or belfries, this older authority, on the other 
hand, omits the pibneirhe6 and epocim. The passage is as follows : 

" A. D. 996- Gipjialla o' opjain Opomacha 50 pucpac pice ceo bo eipce. 
Qpomachu DO lojcao raijib, cemplaib, ocup a cloigceacli." 

And this passage is not inaccurately rendered by Connell Mageo- 
ghcgan, who understood the Irish language perfectly, in his trans- 
lation of the Annals of Clonmacnoise, made in 1627, thus : 

" A. D. 989, [recte 996.] They of Uriel preyed Armach, and took from thence 
2,000 cows. Armach was also burnt, both church, houses and steeple, that there 
was not never such a poor spectacle seen in Ireland before." 

Thus Colgan, also, translates the passage of the Annals of the Four 
Masters, which were compiled chiefly for his use, and which it would 
be folly to suppose he did not thoroughly understand : 

" A. D. 995. Ardmacha cum Basilicis, turribus, aliisque omnibus cedifaiis incendio 
exflumine [fulraine] generato, tota vastatur, tyc." Trias Thaum. p. 297. 

Dr. O'Conor, however, who defends his hypothesis with all sorts of 


weapons, objects to Colgan's version of this passage, as being neither 
literal, nor explanatory of the words, nor reconcileable with what is 
written in the Annals about other belfries, as regards either the form 
or construction of the ancient Round Towers (Proleg. ubi supra, p. 49); 
but these assertions are not borne out. Colgan, who had no line-spun 
theory to uphold, gave what he knew to be the general meaning of 
the passage in the Annals of the Four Masters, as far as he considered 
it necessary to his purpose, which was to record the destruction of 
the sacred edifices of Armagh; and he leaves the word pi6neirh~6 
untranslated, because, as I shall presently prove, it was not a building 
of any kind. If then, bearing this in mind, we analyze his translation, 
it will be as follows. For the words Qjiomacha no lopccar> DO rene 
yaijjnen, he gives us very correctly, leaving the verb to close the 
sense at the end, ArdmacJia incendin ex fulmine generato ; lie then 
inverts the order of the words of the annalists, to bring the buildings 
into their proper place, according to their relative importance, and 
translates eccip Oovhuliacc, by cum Basilicis; next cloicreacha, or 
belfries, by turribus ; and lastly ci^ib, or houses, which he thought 
of the least importance, by aliis omnibus cedificiis; then, passing over 
the word pioneirhen, as unnecessary to his purpose, he translates Do 
h-uile Diljjeno, by tota vastatur. 

That the preceding analysis is the true one will appear incon- ottjh* 
trovertible, when I have shown hereafter the true meaning of the word 
pfbneimen, and that Dr. O'Conor himself knew he was attempting 
an imposition on his readers by giving a different meaning to Colgan's 
words, would almost appear certain, from our finding him elsewhere 
actually falsifying the text of this very passage in Colgan, to support 
his hypothesis. Thus, in a note on the original passage in the Annals 
of the Four Masters, he writes : 

"Notanda est distinctio inter Cloicteartta (campanilia) et Fidneimhedh (turn's,) vox 
derivata a fiad (index seu testimonium,) et neimhedh (coelorum.) Colganus, ad hunc 
textum referens, destructionem enarrat Efdesia>, Campanilitim, et Turrhim Ardniaeha?, 
anno hoc, unde sequitur turres non campanilia fuisse, sed potius indicia cceleetia ad 
Solstitia, ^Equinoctia, et Ccelorum motus indicandos!" 

Most strange ! And Lanigan (vol. iv. p. 412), D' Alton (Essay on 
Ancient Hist, of Ireland, fyc., p. 138), and Moore (Hist, of Ireland, 
vol. i. p. 34, note), repeat the same passage, and draw the same infe- 
rence, evidently without referring to the passage in Colgan, for if they 


had done so, they would have instantly seen that, though Colgan no- 
tices the destruction of the basilica?, turres, and other cecUficia of Ar- 
magh in the year 995, he has not the word campanilia, and therefore 
makes no distinction between it and turres! And it is scarcely pos- 
sible to imagine that Dr. O'Conor could have been ignorant that 
Colgan constantly translates the word cloictheach of the Irish Annals 
by the word turn's, for it is so rendered by him within three pages 
of the passage, which Dr. O'Conor thus so shamefully corrupted, 
viz. : 

" A. D. 1121. Athach gaoitlie moire do ticktain in Decemb. na bliadhna so, co ro la a 
bhendcobhar do cloictheach Ardamacha." 

Thus translated by Dr. O'Conor : 

" A. D. 1 121. Tempestas venti ingens evenit in mense Decembri anni hujus, quse 
destruxit tectum Campanilis Ardmachani." 

Thus by Colgan : 

" A. D. 1121. Ingens venti tempestas hoc anno in mense Decembri sup-emum tectum 
TUEKIS A rdmachanoe deiecit." Trias Thaum. p. 300. 

But more than this the word turris is also used by him as a 
translation of cloictheach, in his version of the passage in the Annals 
of the Four Masters relative to the burning of the belfry of Slane ; 
and this Dr. O'Conor must have known, as he has adduced it (ut 
supra, p. 49) as a proof that the cloictheacha, or belfries, of the Irish 
Annals could not be the Round Towers. Thus : 

"A. D. 948. Cloicdiech Slame DO lopccao DO ^lia^aiB co n-a Ian DO linon- 
naib', ajjup oe^oaoimb, im Chuomechaip, peap-leijinn felame, ajup bachull an 
Gplama, ajup clocc ba oeach oo cloccaib." 

" A. D. 948. Coeneachair, id est Probus, Prcelector sen Prcefectus Scholce Slanensis, 
in ipsa TUKRI Slanensi fluminis \_Jlammis] per Danos enecatus interijt, cum multis alijs 
pijs socijs Sanctorum Reliquijs, $ baculo ipsius Sancti Antistitis, nempe Sancti Erci pa- 
troni loci." Trias Thaum. p. 219. 

Having now, I trust, fully examined Dr. O'Conor's authorities, 
and proved their insufficiency, I proceed to an investigation of his 
etymological evidences, which, I have no doubt, I shall show to be 
equally visionary ; and in this investigation I gladly avail myself of 
the assistance and authority of one, infinitely more deeply versed in 
the ancient language and literature of Ireland than I can pretend 
to be I allude to my friend, Mr. O'Donovan. From the first mo- 
ment that I read Dr. O'Conor's explanation of the word Fidhnei- 
mhedh, I felt assured that he had given it a meaning utterly erro- 


neous, and that the true explanation would be sam-il frees, or frees 
of the sanctuary; and, having expressed this opinion to Mr. O'Dono- 
van, lie was induced to collect, from the most ancient MS. authorities 
in the libraries of Trinity College and the Royal Irish Academy, 
such a number of examples of its application as must leave no doubt 
of its true meaning. I have now to lay these examples before the 
reader, and I trust they will prove, beyond the possibility of doubt, 
not only that my original impression was a correct one, but that Dr. 
O'Conor exhibited, in this instance, a carelessness of investigation, 
which would never have been expected in one who had such ample 
access to the sources from which the truth could be elicited, and 
possessed the critical skill that should have enabled him to make 
use of them. 

In the passage, as given in the different Irish Annals, in which the 
compound term Fidhneimhedh occurs, Dr. O'Conor explains it, 
sometimes by the words index ccplorum, and sometimes by indicia 
ccelestia, because, as he says, fiad signifies an index, or witness, and 
neimhedh, of the heavens ; and at other times he explains it by tur- 
res ceelestes, and again, simply, by turn's. Thus it will be seen, that 
by .a singular process of induction, out of two words which, as he says, 
literally mean witness and of the heavens, he makes a Round Tower 
after the following formula : 

1. Fidh, a witness. 

2. , an index. 

2, Jilsrn r{*-4 3. Fidh Neinihedh, an index of the heavens. 

7L4*** *x 4. , a celestial index. 

5. , an astronomical gnomon. 

6. , a celestial tower. 

7. , a Round Tower! 

It is to be observed, however, that in this process there is only 
one part of the compound that can be substantiated by authority, 
namely, the word neimhedh, which was, indeed, sometimes under- 
stood as signifying of the heavens, as if formed from neamh, heaven 
(the nimbus of the Latins), with the termination of the genitive 
plural ; and, it was also used as an adjective signifying celestial, hea- 
venly, or holy, and is understood in this sense by Colgan, who, in 
translating the name of a place in Ulster, called Slig/te Neimheadh, 


iw 6 


renders it by via coelestis sive sancta. Trias Tliaum. p. 165. But 
the word neimheadh is also used in ancient Irish MSS. in the sense of 
sanctuary, and also of glebe lands, because, as it would appear, the 
glebe lands had often, anciently, the privilege of sanctuary ; and hence 
Colgan always translates the word, when used subs'tantively, by the 
Latin sanctuarium, as in the following examples : 

First, in translating a passage in the Annals of the Four Masters, 
relating to the church of Knocknasengan at Louth, under the year 

"A. D. 1148. Ueampull Cnuic na Sen^an DO popbao lap an Gppcop O'Caol- 
laioe agup la Donnchao ua j-Cepouill, u^up a coippeccao la h-uu rflopjaip, 
Comapba paccpaicc, ajup NfcTTIheDh, .1. culurii Gcclupou, DO opoucchao DO i 

" A. D. 1148. Ecclesia Lugmagensis constmcta per Episcopum Hua Coellaidhe et 
Donchadum Hua Keruaill (Orgiellice Principem) & consecrata per (Malacliiam) Hua 
Morgair, Comorbanum (id est successorem) S. Patricij ; qui & SANCTUARIUM Lugmagiae 
constituit." Ada SS. p. 737, col. i See also Trias Thaum. p. 305, col. ii. 

Again, in translating a passage in the same Annals, under the year 
1196, he renders "Uujigbalaibe ceall agu]- NGlTnheaOh," by 
"Basilicarum et SANCTUAKIORUM fundator." Trias Thaum. p. 405 
\recte 505], col. 2. 

That Colgan is correct in this translation can be proved by the 
highest authorities extant. The word is thus explained in Cormac's 

" Nerher .1. nem-iar .1. anup oip DO eclaip." 

" Nemheth, i. e. Nemh-iath, [heavenly or sacred ground] i. e. which belongs to the 

Thus also in an ancient Glossary in a MS. in the Library of Trinity 
College, Dublin, H. 2. 16, Col. 120: 

" NemiD, in can ip ppi h-eclaip, .1. nem-iar .1. lar netne." 

" Nemid, when belonging to the Church, i. e. heaven-land, i. e. land of heaven." 

And thus again more distinctly in O'Clery's Vocabulary of ancient 
Irish words : 

" Neirheao .1. neam-iac .1. peapann eajlaipe, no calarii ip olirceac oo'n enr- 

" Neimheadh, i. e. neamh-iath [heaven-land] i. e. church-land, or ground which is 
lawful [due] to the church." 

It will also be seen, from the preceding authorities, that in this sense 


the word was supposed to have been differently formed from the 
word Hi-iwIii-aiUi, used adjectively the latter part of the word being 
understood to be a corruption of mr, land; and it is a singular fact 
in tliis inquiry that Dr. O'Conor was himself obliged to understand 
and translate it in this sense, as Colgan had done before him. Thus, 
in translating the passage above given under the year 1148, he has 
rendered the word nemhedh by terra sancta. 

" Ecclesia Collis Sengan tecto cooperta ab Episeopo O'Caolladhio et a Doimcliado 
O'Carroll, et consecrata ab O'Morgaro Vicario Patricii, et TERRA SANCTA, Le. TERRA 
ECCLESIASTICA assignata ei iu Lugmadia." Rerum Hib. Script, vol. iii. p. 761. 

Thus it may be considered as proved beyond question, that the 
word neimhedh was not restricted to the sense of holy, or celestial, 
in which Dr. O'Conor translated it in the compound term Fid/i- 
neimhedh ; and that the true interpretation must depend on the cor- 
rect understanding of the word fidh, and its fitness to be joined to it. 
If, for instance, the word fidh could bear the translation of witness, 
or index, which Dr. O'Conor has attached to it, the compound term 
might, indeed, mean, as he has it, celestial witness, or index, though 
even this would not necessarily imply either a Gnomon, or a Hound 
Tower, for such phrase might with far greater propriety be used to 
designate the crosses which, in obedience to an ancient canon of the 
Church, were always erected to mark the limits of the neimhedh, or 
sanctuary. But if it can be shown that the wordjidh will not bear 
the translation given of it by Dr. O'Conor, while it can be explained 
with certainty in a sense consistent with the application of the word 
neimhedh, either substantively, in the sense of sanctuary, or, adjec- 
tively, in the sense of holy, his explanation of this compound term 
must be rejected altogether. To investigate the meaning of the word 
fidh is therefore my next object. 

Dr. O'Conor states that the word FIAD, or FIADH, signifies a witness, 
or index ; and it is quite true that it does mean a witness, but not an 
index, being of the same root as the Saxo-English word wit, as in the 
phrase to wit, and the word witness, which has also an Irish cognate in 
the word fiadhnaise. But the word in question is not written fiadh by 
the Irish Annalists in any one instance, but fidh or Jiodh, which is a 
totally different word, signifying wood, and cognate with that Saxo- 
English word. To adduce authorities to prove that this is the mean- 

i 2 


ing of the word would be superfluous, as it is so explained in all the 
ancient Irish Glossaries and modern Dictionaries, and always trans- 
lated nernus or sylva, by Colgan ; but the following example of its 
use will be striking and interesting, as containing an example also 
of the word neimheadh, with which it has been combined in the 
term Fidhneimhedh, under discussion. 

" A. D. 1583. Nip 6fon ap an j-capcm pin na pop a riiumcip, NGJTTlhGGtDh 
naoirii na pilio, flOOh na poicip, gleann, na baile, na babboun, no gup cojlao 
an cip uile laip." 

" A. D. 1583. From this Captain [Brabazon] and his people, neither the Neimheadh 
of the saint nor of the poet, the wood nor the forest, the valley, the town, nor the bawn 
afforded shelter, until the whole country was destroyed by him." Annal. Qieat. May. 

It is obvious then that fidh signifies wood, and not witness, and 
that the second word, neimheadh, if understood adjectively, must 
simply mean holy, or sacred, and, if understood substantively, a sanc- 
tuary, or glebe land, and thus the term would mean holy wood, or 
wood of the sanctuary or glebe. And, as Dr. O'Conor's translation 
must thus be regarded as demonstratively incorrect, I might be sa- 
tisfied to let the question rest here. But I can go further, even to 
prove that if Dr. O'Conor had studied the MSS., in which the term 
Fidhneimhedh is used and explained, he could not have even for a 
moment dreamed of its signifying either Gnomon or Round Tower, 
for it is used in the most authentic vellum Irish MSS. in the sense 
of sacred grove, or wood of the sanctuary, and in no other in Chris- 
tian times, though it may have been, and, I have little doubt was, 
originally applied to designate the sacred groves of the Druids. 

The most curious passages in which this term is found occur in 
the Brehon laws, in a tract treating of the classification of trees, and 
the fines levied for committing trespass upon them. The first runs 
thus : 

" Gpe" caccc" pecma c achc d pmnemeao, e no Oegpit/." 

- Succidantur omnes sylvse preeter sylvam sacrann seu sauctam sylvam. 

Gpe is interpreted by the Glossographer as equivalent to the more modern word 
lecpao, to cut. 

b Cacu is the ancient form of jaca, each, every. 

c feaoa is the plural of pio, or pioo, a wood. According to the modern ortho- 
graphy the o would be aspirated in the singular and plural. 

d Gchc, but, except, is so written and understood at this day. 

c Pionemeao is interpreted by the Glossographer f ID cilli, i. e. WOOD of the church. 


In like manner the same laws, in specifying the fines for cutting 
down the fourth or lowest class of trees, called lopa peaoa, contain 
the following curious reference to Fulhncmedh. 

" topa peaoa, patch, aiceano, opip, ppuech, eioeano, jilcach, ppm. Cupa u 
n-oipe each ae. .1. cpi pcpipail inocib icip uichgm ocup oipe innctb pin, in can ip a 
pio coimicheapa, ocup ni pil ni Via n-jablaib, &c. ITlao a pionemeo beioe imoppu 
.1111. pcpipail inoceib ap oipe, ocup ou~ pcpipul ap aichjin, ocup a cpi'Jti ma n-^ubla, 
ocup a pe'ipeao , n a cpaebaib." E. 3. 5. fol. 3, b, a. 

" The Losafeada, [slirubs] am fern, furze, briar, heath, icy, broom, thorn. A cura 
is the fine for each, that is, three screpah for both restitution and fine, when in a common 
teooJ, and there is no fine for their branches, &c. If they be in a Fidhnemedh, then 
shall four screpals be paid for fine, and two serepals for restitution, a third [of a screpal] 
for their limbs, and a sixth for their branches." 

Again, in a note in the margin of the same law tract (fol. 3, a, b.) 
the following reference is made to Fidlineiinedk, which, like that 
just quoted, proves to a demonstration that it meant sacred wood, 
not Round Tower. 

" Decbip cpamo a pio comaiccepa, ocup can oecbip jrpaio ; oecbip jpaioa pio 
neimeo, ocup cm oecbip cpumo. Smucc a pio nenneo no co m-bencup uile, ocup 
enechlunn mo o bencup." 

" There is a difference of tree in the common wood, and no difference of rank ; there 
is a difference of rank in the Fidhneimedh, and no difference of tree. The restriction of 
the law is on the Fidhneimedh until it be all cut down, and a fine for it when cut" 

Though not essentially necessary to my purpose, but as a matter 
which cannot fail of being interesting to the general reader, I am 
induced to add here a few examples of the application of tlu's term 
to a pagan sanctuary, or grove, in which there was an altar, or oracle, 
as it will go far towards proving that the word is of pagan origin. 

Surely, if Dr. O'Conor had seen this, ho could never have thought of translating pib- 
neimeo Round Tower! According to the modern Irish orthography this would be 
written rib neiriieao, which is the very form of the term adopted by the Four Masters 
at the year 995. Vallancey, in translating this passage in the Brehon Laws (Collec- 
tanea, Vol.111, p. 107), renders fid neimcad, HOLY WOODS. 

f Oe^po the Glossographer interprets by ; 10 oepio, which would be very obscure, 
were it not found explained on a loose sheet of paper in the handwriting of the cele- 
brated Duald Mac Firbis, inserted in a MS. in Trinity College, H. 2. 15. p. 208. This 
leaf is a fragment of Mac Firbis's first draft of his Glossary of the Brehon Laws, of 
which several fragments are to be found scattered among the College MSS. The 
phrase pioo oef 10 up oun is thus explained on this leaf: " pioo oepio ap oun .1. 
coill oee up no aj un oun .1. pio nirheao," L e. Fiodh defid on the Dun, i. e. the sa- 
cred vrood on or at the dun, i. e. a Fidh nimheadh. 



J X '^ 


The first passage is from an abridged prose translation of Virgil's ac- 
count of the destruction of Troy, preserved in the Book of Ballymote, 
and relates to the death of Polites and his father Priam by the spear 
of Pyrrhus, at the altar of Jupiter, over which hung a very ancient 
laurel, embracing the household gods in its shade. I here give the 
passage as it stands in the Book of Ballymote, with a literal transla- 
tion by Mr. O' Donovan, and under it the passage in Virgil, to which 
it corresponds : 

" TTlupo bai in cpeb' pin aioci co haiobmo, la bponac 01 in aioci pin. Ro elu 
poloimoep, nvic phpiaim, lap n-a juin DO P>pp ip in up pin, oapo opt'p lapcupac na 
pijj-ouine, ap cac aupoum ma paili, co h-aipm a paibi Ppiam h i plt)N6)T)Ut) 
loib ; cijjup pipp jac conaip no cejio ma oiaio, conio ano puj paip in can po piaccco 
tn-bai i piaonaipi a achap, .1. Ppiam ; ajup DO beip ppp puipmio paip ou'n learan 
ftui lan-moip bai ma oetp, co puj uppumo epic, cup cuic mapb cen annv'in. i 
piaonaipi a achap. Qcpacc annaioi conacaib a eppio coroutine ; ajupcia cheap- 
baoap ni ceapbaio a opoc-ai^ne; ajup popopbaip aithipiuyjao Pipp o bpiacpuib, 
a S u F irr eao I 10 P aiD PT : a cuilioe, appe, ip mop in jnimoopijnip, mo imoeupftab- 
pa ajjup mo mac DO mapbab im piaonaipi, ajup hi piuonaipi alcoipi na n-oe h-i 
plt)NemiD loib! ajup DC nime oia oijail popc."_Fol. 245, a, b. 

" Happy as this family was one night, sorrowful to them was that night. Poloi- 
nides, the son of Priam, after having been wounded by Pyrrhus in that slaughter, fled 
through the western door of the royal palace, and from one apartment \aurdani\ to 
another, until he came to the place where Priam was in the Fidnemud of Jupiter ; and 
Pyrrhus followed him in every way through which he passed, and overtook him just 
as he came into the presence of his father, i.e. Priam; and Pyrrhus gave him a thrust 
of the large broad spear which was in his right hand, and pierced him with its head, 
so that he fell dead without a soul, in the presence of his father. The old man rose 
and put on his battle-dress ; and though it had become rusty, his warlike mind had 
not ; and he commenced abusing Pyrrhus in words, and in this wise spake he to him : 
' Wretch,' said he, ' how monstrous is the deed thou hast committed, to enrage me by 
killing my son before me, and before the altar of the gods in the Fidnemid of Jupiter ! 
May the gods of heaven revenge it upon thee!"' 

The following description of the death of Polites and Priam, as 
given by Virgil, will convey an exact idea of what object the Irish 
translator intended to designate by the term Fidnemud, or Fidnemid. 

" jEdibus in mediis, nudoque sub a?theris axe, 
Ingens ara fuit; juxtaque veterrima laurug 
Incumbent arce, aiqite umbra cumplexa Penates, 
Hie Hecuba, 

Ecce autem elapsus Pyrrhi de cade Polites, 
Unus natorum Priami, per tela, per hostes, 


Porticibus longis fugit, et vacua atria lustrat 

Saucius. Ilium ardens infesto vulnere Pyrrhus 

Insequitur, jam jamque manu tenet, et premit hasta. 

Ut tandem ante oculos evasit et ora parentuin 

Coucidit, ac multo vitam cum sanguine fmlit. 

Hie Priamus, quanquam in media jam morte tenetur, 

Non tamen abstinuit, nee voei ineque pepercit. 

At tibi pro scelere, exclainat, pro talibus ausis, 

Di, si qua est coelo pietas, quaj talia curet, 

Persolvant grates dignas, et prgeniia reddant 

Debita : qui nati corain me cernere letum 

Fecisti, et patrios fuidasti funere vultus." j&neid. Lib. 11.512 539. 

Thus again, the followihg passage, taken from an Irish translation 
of some ancient account of the siege of Troy, in a vellum MS. pre- 
served in the library of Trinity College, has the term FidJineimhedh 
in the sense of sacred wood, or wood containing an oracle. 

" Ip i pin aeip ajj-.ip uaip oo puachoaoup laochpaio Innpi timin 6 retail na 
Cpo^ia moipi. Ro Bi plt)hNG17)l 6O!l oo-imcvchca ip in c-pleb ba coimneapa 
ooib, ajup DO cuaoap mna Innpi ,emm mo o'lnppaio fpeajpa ap na oeuiB, 5up 
ranjaoup baoBa bel-oeapjja a curhaip Ippinn o'ci m-buaiopeao-pun co nmje pin : 
oip oobi Uenip ben-cumachcach, ujup Gm oupbabuch, piup ITlaipc, oea in chaca, 'i 
05 pup6il uilcc ap na mnaib pin." H. 2, 17, p. 123. 

" This is the time and hour that the heroes of the Island of Lemnos were re- 
turning from the siege of great Troy. There was a FiJhnetnhedh of difficult passage 
in the mountain next to them, and the women of the Island of Lemnos went into it to 
ask a response from the gods, and red-mouthed ravens came thither from the city of 
Infernus to disturb them ; for Venus the woman-powerful, and Eni [Bellona] the fu- 
rious, the sister of Mars, goddess of war, were inflicting evils upon those women." 

One other example of the application of this term, and I have 
done : it will show that, even if Dr. O'Connor had been so little ac- 
quainted with the Irish language as to be unable to understand its 
meaning from the passages already quoted, he might yet have dis- 
covered it through his knowledge of Latin. Thus, in an ancient Irish 
MS. Glossary in the Library of Trinity College, to which the Doctor 
had access, the word nemhedh, a poet, is explained in such a manner 
by allusion to Fidhneimliedh, that it would have been impossible not 
to see the proper meaning of the latter : 

Herheo, .1. pilio, a nemope: up ip a plt)N6)Tiet)Q16 po jniclp pileoa a 
n-5peppa. H. 2. 16. Col. 120. 

" Nemed, i. e. a poet, from Nemus (a grove) : because it was in Fidnemeds (sacred 
groves) poets were used to compose their works." 


After such evidences as I have now adduced, the reader 
I trust, have little doubt as to the true meaning of the Fidhneimhedh 
of the Irish Annals. I may however add, that those Annals and the 
Lives of our ancient saints show, that trees were a usual ornament 
in the immediate vicinity of the ancient Irish churches, and, having 
been often planted by the hands of the very founders of those build- 
ings, were preserved with the most religious veneration, and their 
accidental destruction deplored as a great calamity. Thus the An- 
nals of the Four Masters, at the year 1162, commemorate the burning 
of the yew tree planted by St. Patrick at Newry, the memory of which 
is still perpetuated in the name of that flourishing town. And the 
remains of the yew tree supposed to have been planted by St. Kevin, 
at Glendalough, have been preserved even to our own time. 

Having now, as I trust, satisfactorily disposed of Dr. O'Conor's 
proofs, as derived from etymological conjecture, I proceed to combat 
his arguments a task of much less difficulty. 

We are called on to conclude that the cloict/ieachs, or belfries, 
noticed in the Annals, were not the Bound Towers, because those 
Annals also show that the belfry of Slane, containing the holy trea- 
sure of the monastery and several of its ecclesiastics, was burned 
a circumstance which, according to the Doctor, could not possibly 
refer to a Round Tower, first, on account of " its form, which, being 
round, could not hold so many persons and precious things ; and, se- 
condly, of its material, which, being of stone, and in no part of wood, 
could not be burned, though it might be broken down by lightning." 
The fallacy of these arguments can be very easily exposed. 

1. So far from the rotund form of the Towers being inconsistent 
with the capacity to contain a number of persons and things, the very 
contrary is evident. There are few, if any, of the Towers, which 
would not have held from fifty to eighty persons, at the moderate 
average of ten to each floor ; and it is remarkable that their peculiar 
fitness as places of safety for the clergy and their holy utensils, &c., 
on occasions of sudden invasion, has been so apparent to many most 
distinguished antiquaries, that, without any other evidence than that 
which their construction afforded, they supposed them to have been 
erected for that purpose solely. 

2. When Dr. O'Conor asserts that the Round Towers could not 
be burned becaiise they were in no part (millibi) of wood, he must 


have been strange! v forgetful of the mode of their construction, in 

which the floors, and, we may suppose, the doors also, were in every 

instance of that material; and though their combustible portion might 

not be easily ignited by lightning from above, they could evidently 

be fired by a hostile hand from below, as in the case of the belfry 

of Slane, and many other belfries, recorded in our Annals to have 

been burned. The destruction of their inflammable parts is the only 

injury which we are to suppose the cloictheachs suffered on those 

occasions ; and we have no more reason to conclude that they were 

wholly of wood, than that the damliliags or stone churches were so, 

which are so constantly mentioned in those Annals as having suffered fi A i 

the same fate. Besides, can any thing more absurd be imagined than 

that the ecclesiastics should fly for safety with their holy treasures 

from a band of savage plunderers to a wooden belfry, while they 

had a stone edifice of any kind to shelter in ? Such an improbability 

would hardly obtain credit from any one but a person ready to 

believe any thing for the sake of a favourite theoiy. 

Dr. O'Conor, however, was so deeply intent on establishing his 
hypothesis, that he lost no opportunity of pressing these puerile ar- 
guments on his reader's attention. Thus, in a note to a passage in 
the Annals of the Four Masters, at the year 1097, which records the 
burning of the cloictheach, or bell-house of Monaster-Boice in the 
County of Louth, he repeats these arguments, to divert, as it would 
appear, the reader from the obvious conclusion at which he should 
otherwise arrive, namely, that the Round Towers were unquestion- 
ably the cloictheachs or bell-houses of the Annalists. 

" Ex his sequitur, valde diversa fuisse, non solum nomine, verum et re ipsa, Hi- 
bernorum Campanilia a Turribus rotundis antiquissLmis, more patrio constructs, juxta 
Giraldum, qui usque hodie per Hiberniam, e vivo saxo adificata, conspiciuntur. Cam. 
panilia enim C'loiccteac/t, Turres autem rotundi Fiadh-ncimhe dicebantur, i. e. Indicia 
ccelestia, uti supra ad ann. 994, et neque comburi poterant turres isti, neque pro 
bibliothecis aut rebus pretiosis servandis apti erant, vel ad finem istum construct! 
censendi sunt, repugnante forma, altitudine, arctitudine, et interna constructione." 
Annales IV. Magistrorum, p. 670. 

These indefatigable efforts of Dr. O'Conor's zeal may well excite 
a smile. The Round Tower Belfry of Monaster-Boice, in which the 
books and other precious things are stated to have been burned, still 
exists to demonstrate the absurdity of his conjectures. It is yet known 
only by the name given it by the Annalist, namely, the " cloictheach ;" 



and, with such a strong and lofty tower attached to their monastery, 
it is quite ridiculous to suppose the monks of St. Boetius would have 
deposited their little library and other precious things in a wooden 
edifice for safety. 

But I have yet to show, that notwithstanding all Dr. O'Conor's 
ingenuity in defence of a weak position, he must, or at least should 
have been himself aware, from the very same Annals from which 
the preceding passages are quoted, that the cloictheachs or belfries 
were unquestionably not of wood but of stone. What could he have 
said to a passage in the Annals of the Four Masters, at the year 1 121, 
which occurs but a few pages after that last referred to, stating that 
the cloictheach, or belfry of Telach n ionmainde in Ossory sup- 
posed to be the present Tullamaine, near Callan, in the county of 
Kilkenny was split by lightning, and that a stone which flew from 
that belfry killed a student in the church ? The passage, as printed 
and translated by Dr. O'Conor himself, is as follows : 

" A. D. 1121. Cloicteaeh Thflcha n ionmainde in Osraicch do dluige do chaoirteinn, 
ftgus clock do sgeinm as an ccloictheach ishin, co ro mharbh. me leighinn isin till." 

" A. D. 1121. Campanile Telcliiomnandense in Ossoria dijectum a fulmine, et 
lapis divulsus e Campanile isto occidit juvcnem lectorem in Ecclesia." 

More to the same effect might be still adduced, but I trust it will 
be considered as unnecessary, and that I have now sufficiently re- 
futed the authorities, etymologies, and arguments, adduced by Dr. 
O'Conor in support of these theories. I have reluctantly entered the 
lists with that celebrated man, and I have combated his assertions, 
only because the sacred cause of truth required the contest. But I 
should be sorry to have it supposed that I would insinuate an unfa- 
vourable opinion of his general accuracy, or attach a harsher cha- 
racter to his valuable labours than that, which the historian Warner 
tells us the Doctor's grandfather acknowledged to be applicable to 
his own, namely, " that the Amor Patriae might have inclined him to 
extend the matter (of the Antiquities of Ireland) somewhat beyond 
the rigour, to which he should have confined himself." 

To the preceding notices I have now to add the arguments of 
two gentlemen, who have lent their talents to sustain the hypothesis 
under consideration, since this Inquiry was originally written and 
presented to the Academy, namely our great national poet, Moore, 
and the ingenious Mr. Windele, of Cork. In the arguments of the 


former, indeed, I find little but a repetition, embodied in more grace- 
ful language and a more logical form, of the evidences which I have 
already examined ; yet, as it will be satisfactory to the reader to have 
every thing bearing on the question brought together for his con- 
sideration, I shall insert them in this place. 

" How far those pillar-temples, or Round Towers, which form so remarkable a part 
of Ireland's antiquities, and whose history is lost in the night of time, may have had 
any connection with the Pyrolatry, or Fire-worship, of the early Irith, we have no cer- 
tain means of determining. That they were looked upon as very ancient, in the time 
of Giraldus, appears from the tale told by him of the fishermen of Lough Neagh point- 
ing [out] to strangers, as they sailed over that lake, the tall, narrow, ecclesiastical round 
towers under the water, supposed to have been sunk there from the time of the inun- 
dation by which the lake was formed. This great event, the truth or falsehood of 
which makes no difference in the facts of the period assigned to it, is by the annalist 
Tigcrnach referred to the year of Christ 62 ; thus removing the date of these struc- 
tures to far too remote a period to admit of their being considered as the work of Chris- 
tian hands." History of Ireland, vol. i. p. 26. 

Mr. Moore then proceeds to examine the various theories, which 
have been advocated in connexion with their Christian origin and 
uses, to which he makes objections, which shall be examined in their 
proper place, and then resumes as follows : 

" As the worship of fire is known, unquestionably, to have formed a part of the an- 
cient religion of the country, the notion that these towers were originally fire-temples, 
appears the most probable of any that have yet been suggested. To this it is objected, 
that inclosed structures are wholly at variance with that great principle of the Celtic 
religion, which considers it derogatory to divine natures to confine their worship within 
the limits of walls and roofs ; the refined principle upon which the Magi incited Xerxes 
to burn the temples of the Greeks. It appears certain, however, that, at a later period, 
the use of fire-temples was adopted by the Persians themselves ; though, at the same 
time, they did not the less continue to offer their sacrifices upon the hills and in the 
open air, employing the Pyreia introduced by Zoroaster, as mere repositories of the sa- 
cred fire. A simple altar, with a brazier burning upon it, was all that the temple 
contained, and at this they kindled the fire for their worship on the high places. To 
this day, as modern writers concerning the Parsees inform us, the part of the temple 
called the Place of Fire, is accessible only to the priests ; and on the supposition that 
our towers were, in like manner, temples in which the sacred flame was kept safe from 
pollution, the singular circumstance of the entrance to them being rendered so difficult 
by its great height from the ground is at once satisfactorily explained. 

" But there is yet a far more striking corroboration of this view of the origin of 
the Round Towers. While in no part of Continental Europe has any building of a 
similar construction been discovered, there have been found, near Bhaugulpore, in 
Hindostan, two towers, which bear an exact resemblance to those of Ireland. In all 
the peculiarities of their shape, the door or entrance, elevated some feet above the 

K 2 


ground, the four windows near the top, facing the cardinal points, and the small 
rounded roof, these Indian temples are, to judge by the description of them, exactly 
similar to the Bound Towers ; and, like them also, are thought to have belonged to a 
form of worship now extinct and even forgotten. One of the objections brought 
against the notion of the Irish towers having been fire-temples, namely, that it was 
not necessary for such a purpose to raise them to so great a height, is abundantly an- 
swered by the description given of some of the Pyrea, or fire-temples of the Guebres. 
Of these, some, we are told, were raised to so high a point as near 120 feet, the height 
of the tallest of the Irish Towers ; and an intelligent traveller, in describing the re- 
mains of one seen by him near Bagdad, says, ' the annexed sketch will show the resem- 
blance this pillar bears to those ancient columns so common in Ireland.' 

" On the strength of the remarkable resemblance alleged to exist between the pillar- 
temples near Bhaugulpore and the Round Towers of Ireland, a late ingenious his- 
torian does not hesitate to derive the origin of the Irish people from that region ; and 
that an infusion, at least, of population from that quarter might, at some remote pe- 
riod, have taken place, appears by no means an extravagant supposition. The opinion, 
that Iran and the western parts of Asia were originally the centre from whence popu- 
lation diffused itself to all the regions of the world, seems to be confirmed by the tra- 
ditional histories of most nations, as well as by the results both of philological and 
antiquarian enquiries. To the tribes dispersed after the Trojan war, it has been the 
pride equally both of Celtic and of Teutonic nations to trace back their origin. The 
Saxon Chronicle derives the earliest inhabitants of Britain from Armenia ; and the 
great legislator of the Scandinavians, Odin, is said to have came, with his followers, 
from the neighbourhood of the Euxine sea. By those who hold that the Celts and Per- 
sians were originally the same people, the features of affinity so strongly observable 
between the Pagan Irish and the Persians will be accounted for without any difficulty. 
But, independantly of this hypothesis, the early and long-continued intercourse which 
Ireland appears to have maintained, through the Phoenicians, with the East, would 
sufficiently explain the varieties of worship which were imported to her shores, and 
which became either incorporated with her original creed, or formed new and distinct 
rallying points of belief. In this manner the adoration of shaped idols was introduced ; 
displacing, in many parts as we have seen, in the instance of the idol Crom-Cruach 
that earliest form of superstition which confined its worship to rude erect stones. 
To the same later ritual belonged also those images of which some fragments have 
been found in Ireland, described as of black wood, covered and plated with thin gold, 
and the chased work on them in lines radiated from a centre, as is usual in the images of 
the sun. There was also another of these later objects of adoration, called Kerman 
Kelstach, the favourite idol of the Ultonians, which had for its pedestal, as some say, 
the golden stone of Clogher, and in which, to judge by the description of it, there were 
about the same rudiments of shape as in the first Grecian Hermse. Through the 
same channel which introduced these and similar innovations, it is by no means 
improbable that, at a still later period, the pillar- temples of the Eastern fire-worship 
might have become known ; and that even from the shores of the Caspian a colony 
of Guebres might have found their way to Ireland, and there left, as enigmas to pos- 
terity, those remarkable monuments to which only the corresponding remains of their 
own original country can now afford any clue. 


" The connection of sun-worship witli tin; science of astronomy has already been 
brie'flv adverted td ; und tin- tour windows, facing the four cardinal points, which are 
found in tin- Irish as well as in the Eastern pillar-temples, were alike intended, no 
duiilit, for the purposes of astronomical observation, for determining the equinoctial 
and solstitial-times, and thereby regulating tlu: recurrence of religious festivals. The 
Phoenicians themselves constructed their buildings on the same principle ; and, in 
the temple of Tyre, where stood the two famous columns dedicated to the Wind and 
to Fire, then- wen- also pedestals, we are told, whose four sides, facing the cardinal 
points, bore sculptured upon them the four figures of the zodiac, by which the position 
of those points in the heavens is marked. With a similar view to astronomical uses and 
purposes, the Irish Round Towers were no doubt constructed; and a strong evidence 
of their having been used as observatories is, that we find them called by some of the 
Irish annalists Celestial Indexes. Thus in an account, given in the Annals of the Four 
Masters, of a great thunder-storm at Armagh, it is said that ' the city was seized by 
lightning to so dreadful an extent as to leave not a single hospital, nor cathedral 
church, nor palace, nor Celestial Index, that it did not strike with its flame.' Before 
this and other such casualties diminished it, the number of these towers must have 
been considerable. From the language of Giraldus, it appears that they were com- 
mon in his time through the country ; and in thus testifying their zeal for the general 
object of adoration, by multiplying the temples dedicated to its honour, they but 
followed the example as well of the Greek as of the Persian fire- worshippers. 

" There remain yet one or two other hypotheses, respecting the origin and pur- 
poses of these structures, to which it may be expected that I should briefly advert. 
By some the uses to which they were destined have been thought similar to that of the 
turrets in the neighbourhood of Turkish mosques, and from their summits, it is sup- 
posed, proclamation was made of new moons and approaching religious festivities. A 
kind of trumpet, which has been dug up in the neighbourhood of some of these towers, 
having a large mouth-hole in the side, is conjectured to have been used to assist the 
voice in these announcements to the people. Another notion respecting them is, that 
tlu-y were symbols of that ancient Eastern worship, of which the God Mahadeva, or 
Siva, was the object ; while, on the other hand, an ingenious writer, in one of the most 
learnedly argued, but least tenable, of all the hypotheses on the subject, contends that 
they were erected, in the sixth and seventh centuries, by the primitive Coenobites and 
Bishops, with the aid of the newly converted Kings and Toparchs, and were intended 
as strong-holds, in time of war and danger, for the sacred utensils, relics and books, be- 
longing to those churches in whose immediate neighbourhood they stood. To be able to 
invest even with plausibility so inconsistent a notion as that, in times when the churches 
themselves were framed rudely of wood, there could be found either the ambition or 
the skill to supply them witli adjuncts of such elaborate workmanship, is, in itself, no 
ordinary feat of ingenuity. But the truth is, that neither then nor, I would add, at 
any other assignable period, within the whole range of Irish history, is such a state of 
things known authentically to have existed as can solve the difficulty of these towers, 
or account satisfactorily, at once, for the object of the buildings, and the advanced civi- 
lisation of the architects who erected them. They must, therefore, be referred to 
times beyond the reach of historical record. That they were destined originally to 
religious purposes can hardly admit of question ; nor can those who have satisfied 


themselves, from the strong evidence which is found in the writings of antiquity, that 
there existed between Ireland and some parts of the East, an early and intimate inter- 
course, harbour much doubt as to the real birth-place of the now unknown worship of 
which these towers remain the solitary and enduring monuments." History of Ireland, 
vol. i. p. 29 36. 

As in the preceding arguments I find nothing requiring an answer, 
which has not been already noticed, I shall gladly pass on to the ar- 
guments more recently adduced by Mr.Windele in a tone of confidence, 
which contrasts strikingly with the cautious spirit of inquiry exhibited 
by Mr. Moore. The first article in support of this hypothesis, put for- 
ward by Mr. "Windele, appears in a work entitled Historical and 
Descriptive Notices of the City of Cork and its Vicinity, <fyc., Cork, 
1840, and is as follows : 

" The origin and use of these towers are still, as they have been for nearly two 
centuries past, 'quest/ones vexatce? and are likely so to continue, dividing the leisure 
of archaiologists, with such useful objects of enquiry, as Hannibal's vinegar, Homer or 
Ossian's birth place, or the Mysteries of the Babylonian bricks ; absurdities innu- 
merable have been brought forth in the discussion. One writer has found their original 
in the square, solid pillar of Simon the Stylite, where from, by way of close copy, a 
round, hollow tower was formed. O'Brien, one of the latest authorities, has discovered 
the Hindoo Lingam, in their form ; and, their use he says, ' was that of a cupboard,' 
to hold those figures, sacred to that very decent deity the Indo-Irish Budlia. Grave 
writers, too, have not been wanting who ascribed their construction to the ' Danes,' to 
serve as watch towers ; and a recent essayist, has, by way of climax, declared his belief, 
that they were erected in order to serve, as indices to the cathedral churches. But 
amidst all these follies, the ground of debate has been gradually narrowed, and the 
parties belligerent, at present, may be classed into two, one contending for their Pagan, 
and the other for a Christian origin. 

" Vallancey was the first who held the former opinion. He was ably sustained by 
Dr. Lanigan, and followed by O'Brien, Dalton, Beaufort, and Moore. The other side, 
reckons amongst its adherents, the names of Ledwich, Milner, Hoare, Morresand Petrie. 
To us, it seems, that all the force of argument, authority, and analogy, is with the 
former. The advocates of the Christian origin, have, in vain, sought for a prototype, 
in Christian lands ; whilst their opponents have found it in India, Persia, and Ba- 
bylonia; and, perhaps, we may add amongst the remains of the ancient Phoenician 
colonists of Sardinia; thus indicating to the antiquary, that connexion or affinity of the 
early inhabitants of Ireland, with the ' Golden Orient,' which their antiquaries are fain 
to claim. 

" Their Irish names, Tur-aghan or adttan, Feidh-neimhedh and Cilcagh are of them- 
selves conclusive as to their Pagan origin, and announce, at once, a fane devoted to that 
form of religion, compounded ofSabooism, or star- worship, and Budhism, of which the 
sun, represented by fire, was the principal deity in all the kindred mythologies of India, 
Persia, Phenicia, Phrygia, Samothrace, and Ireland. This idolatry in many respects, 
differed from that of Gaul and Britain. Zoroaster was its grand reformer in Persia, and 


the reformation scorns to have been accepted in Ireland. He it was, who caused Pyreia, 
or Fire temples, to be erected. Hanway tells us, that four of them which he saw at 
Sari, arc of the most durable materials, round, about [above] 30 feet in diameter, and 
raised in height to a point of about 120 feet. It is objected to our Pyreia, that there was 
no necessity tor carrying them up to so great a height. The objection equally lies 
against those at Sari. Fire temples, also constituted part of the Brahminical worship. 
They were called like ours, Coil from Chalana, to burn. Mr. Pennant, speaking of the 
Indian Pollygars, says, that they retained their old religion, and that their Pagodas are 
very numerous, ' Their form, too,' he says, 'are different, being chiefly buildings of a 
cylindrical or round tower shape, with their tops, either pointed or truncated.' Lord 
Valencia describes two round towers, which he saw in India, near Baugulphore. He 
says, 'they much resemble those buildings in Ireland ;' the door is elevated; they pos- 
sess a stone roof and four large windows near the summit. From India, we pass more 
to the westward, and in Babylonia, the ancient cradle alike of the religion of India, 
Persia, and of Druidism, we find remains of the pillar tower. Major Keppel, in his 
' Personal narrative,' has given us a sketch of a portion of a pillar, as he calls it, which 
he observed between Coot and Bagdad, near the Tigris. It was composed of sun-burnt 
bricks, twenty feet two inches high, and 63 feet in circumference. It was evidently 
detached from other ancient buildings near it. He concludes by stating, that ' the 
annexed sketch will shew the resemblance this pillar bears to those ancient columns, so 
common in Ireland.' 

" Following in the track of the old Phenician navigators, we find Sardinia, an is- 
land once colonized from Iberia and Phenicio, strewed with very singular buildings, of 
high antiquity, called Nuraggis, a name deemed to be derived from Norax, the leader 
of the Iberian colony. These are conical towers, constructed of large cubic stones, 
whose sides fit each other, without being connected together by either lime or cement. 
The largest are from fifty to sixty feet high. The interior is divided into three dark 
chambers, one above the other. Under several of these structures, burying places and 
subterranean passages have been discovered, leading to other Noraghs. Several hun- 
dreds of these monuments, between large and small, are scattered about Sardinia. 
' There are,' says the writer in the Foreign Quarterly Review, ' we believe, structures 
of a similar description in some parts of Ireland.' In some places, the Nuraggis are 
called, ' Domu de Orcu? or house of death, in the belief of their monuments of the dead. 
This would not be very inconsistent with the character of the Irish towers ; human 
bones having been found interred within that at Kam-Island in Antrim, and similar 
relics, but having undergone the ancient pagan process of Cremation, were recently 
discovered in the tower of Timahoe. 

"From our still imperfect acquaintance with the literary remains of ancient Ireland, 
we are not aware of many notices of our Round towers occurring in the early documents, 
yet preserved. In our annals, the names of such places as Mtiighe Tuireth-na-bh Fo- 
morach, the plain of the Fomorian tower ; Moy-tura, the plain of the Towers, in 
Mayo ; Torinis, the island of the tower ; the tower of Temor, and many others are men- 
tioned with reference to the most remote periods of our history. The Ulster Annals, 
at the year 448, speak of a terrible earthquake felt in various parts, in that year, by 
which, seventy-five towers were destroyed or injured. The ' annals of the Four Masters' 
mention, at the year 898, the Turaghan Angcoire, or Fire- tower of the Anchorite, at 


luiscailtre, in the Shannon ; and the same annals, as well as those of Ulster, note at 
the year 995, the destruction, by lightning, of Armagh, its hospital, cathedral, palace, 
and Fidhnemectd, or celestial index, i. e. Round tower. 

" These two last names ought to be decisive of the controversy. Turaghan literally 
signifies a Fire-tower; the addition Angcoire refers to an appropriation for anchoretical 
uses, long posterior to the erection of the edifice. This accords with the general prac- 
tice of the early Christian clergy, who placed their churches on the site of the Druid 
fanes. Ryland, (Hist. Waterford,) mentions a Cromlech, or altar, which stands in the 
church-yard, near the sugar loaf hill, in the Barony of Gualtier. It is stated in the old 
life of Mocteus, (a work of the seventh century,) that when that saint came to Lotith, 
he found the place in possession of the Magi, whereupon he lighted a fire, which they 
seeing, endeavoured to extinguish, least their own Idolatrous fire should fail, but 
Mocteus, proving the victor, founded his monastery there. 

" That Anchorites may have shut themselves up in some of the then deserted and 
unoccupied towers, is not now to be questioned. The tower at Inniscailtre was so 
seized on and used ; but it is very ridiculous to suppose that this body adopted a style 
of building here, unlike any thing in use among them in any other country. In fact 
the Anchorite Inclusorii were very different from those towers ; that in which Ma- 
rianus Scotus was confined at Fulda, was a cell with an external wall. The Anchorite 
habitations are invariably called cells by the old writers, not towers. Such cells are 
still extant near several of the most ancient of our churches, as at Ardmore, where 
that of St. Declan is called the Monachan, or dormitory ; and at Ardfert and Scattery, 
where there are several similar structures. And yet at each of these places, there still 
remains, or there has been, a Round tower. 

" The architectural features of the Round tower are objects of the highest impor- 
tance in the enquiry ; the forms of the windows and doors, in general, are of high 
antiquity, forms out of use at the time that their alleged Christian founders could 
have commenced their erection. The style belongs to that period, when the subter- 
ranean chambers of the Raths were of every day construction, and their style is Pe- 
lasgic. The windows and doors of the towers are in general of that form ; broad at 
base, narrow at top, i. e. sloping or battering inward ; and, then, the lintel arch so 
prevalent in them, so entirely Pelasgic. As for the presence of the semicircular 
arch, we no longer deem that of the comparatively late date, until recently supposed 
of it. The arch was known at an early period in China. It has been found in the 
ancient baths and palaces of Mexico; in Egypt, in the great pyramid, and in other 
tombs of a date reaching as high as 1540 years B. C. ; in Etruscan works, as the 
gates of Pestum, Volterra, the Cloaca maxima, &c. The Chevron and Bead ornaments, 
which occur on one or two of the door- ways of our towers, have been found on some 
very antique cinerary urns, dug up out of old pagan cairns, and tumuli, as well as on 
gold ornaments found in Bogs, &c. and as to the solitary crucifixion, carved on the 
door of Donoghmore tower, it has been shewn to be quite modern. Added to all 
these proofs, let the general form of the tower, so Asiatic, and so Un-european, be 
duly borne in mind, and difficulties must present themselves to our opponents of no 
ordinary dimensions or character indeed. To pursue this subject farther would carry 
us far beyond our proposed limits, and we must therefore give over." p. 179 


Such then is the sum of " all the force of argument, authority, and 
analog}'," which appeared to Mr. Windele to be with General Val- 
lancey and his followers. " The advocates of the Christian origin," 
he says, " have, in vain, sought for a prototype, in Christian lands ; 
whilst their opponents have found it in India, Persia, and Babylonia ; 
and, perhaps, we may add amongst the remains of the ancient Phe- 
nician colonists of Sardinia." But, I must still ask, where have 
examples of such prototype been found in any of the countries re- 
ferred to ? Not surely in Lord Valentia's Towers at Bhaugulpore, in 
India, which are not proved to have been fire-temples, or of any very 
remote antiquity ; nor in the four towers of the Guebres in India, so 
vaguely described by Hanway, which could not have been like our 
Round Towers ; nor in Major Keppel's pillar of sun-burnt bricks, 
twenty-two feet six inches high, and sixty-three feet in circumference. 
And, as to the prototype which Mr. Windele, " following in the track 
of the old Phenician navigators," finds in Sardinia, I believe he is en- 
titled to the whole merit of the discovery. The buildings in which 
he finds this prototype are those " called Nuraggis, a name deemed 
to be derived from Norax, the leader of the Iberian colony," and 
which, in some places, " are called ' Domu [Domos] de Orcu,' or 
house of death, in the belief of their being monuments of the dead" 
a rather singular appellation for temples of the sacred fire. But 
this Norax, according to the best ancient authorities, colonized Sar- 
dinia about 1250 years before the Christian era; and, I should like 
to be informed how these works of a Greek people could have pre- 
served the form of the fire-temples of the Persian Magi, which were 
first constructed by Zerdusht, or Zoroaster, about seven centuries 
afterwards ? This is indeed " following in the track of the old Pheni- 
cian navigators" in a very singular and somewhat retrograde man- 
ner; but I suppose Mr. Windele will only find in it an evidence of the 
identity of our countrymen with the Iberian and Phoenician colonists 
of Sardinia. The real question, however, is, Is there any similarity 
between these Nuraghes of Sardinia and the Irish Bound Towers ? 
Mr. Windele would have us believe there is, and describes the Nu- 
raghes in such a manner as would impress us with this belief. " These 
are," he says, " conical towers, constructed of large cubic stones, 
whose sides fit each other, without being connected together by either 
time or cement. The largest are from fifty to sixty feet high. The 



interior is divided into three dark chambers, one above the other. 
Under several of these structures, burying places and svibterranean 
passages have been discovered, leading to other Noraghs." And, 
lastly, to crown all, he quotes a writer in the Foreign Quarterly Re- 
view, who states that there are, he believes, structures of a similar 
description in some parts of Ireland ; from which Mr. Windele ob- 
viously wishes us to suppose, that that writer meant the Round 
Towers. But, in the first place, I answer, that the writer in the 
Foreign Quarterly Review could not have meant any thing of the 
kind, or he would have expressed himself in clearer terms ; and, in 
the second place, that if Mr. Windele had described those Nuraghes 
more fully, his readers would have discovered that they had scarcely 
a feature in common with the Irish Round Towers. That no doubt, 
however, may remain on this point, I shall present the reader with 
the general description of these singular structures, as given in the 
best work which has been written on the subject, the Notice sur les 
Nuraghes de la Sardaigne, &c., by M r - L. C. F. Petit-Radel, Paris, 


" Les Nuraghes ou Noraghes de la Sardaigne, sont des monumens de plus ou de 
moins de cinquante pieds de hauteur, dans leur etat d'integrite, sur un diametre 
d'environ quatre-vingt-dix pieds, mesures de dehors en dehors a la base du terre- plain, 
sur lequel les plus considerables sont fondes. Le sommet de ceux qui ne sont point 
ruines, se termine en cone surbaisse, et dans ceux que le temps a tronques a leur 
sommet, la courbure exterieure de la batisse existante, doit faire supposer qu'ils 
etaient jadis couronnes de la meme maniere et dans les memes proportions que ceux 
qui se trouvent encore dans un etat parfait de conservation ; ce qui n'est pas tres 

" Les materiaux employes pour leur construction sont tires des roches voisines, et 
se composent de pierres calcaires dures et grenues ; de porphyre trachytique et de 
roches volcaniques cellulaires ; on en rencontre quelques-uns en granit. Chaque bloc 
a communement un metre cube, particulierement dans les assises les moins elevees ; 
les architraves plates, qui surmontent les portes et les lucarnes de ces edifices, sont 
d'une dimension double, c'est-a-dire deux metres de long, et meme davantage, sur la 
hauteur d'un metre. La ligne que decrit la peripherie de chaque bloc, a toute 1'irre- 
gularite que produisent des cassures faites, par le marteau, sur des pierres dures. Quel- 
quefois les pierres en sont plus exactement parallelipipedes, sans cependant atteinclre 
a la regularite parfaite, qui pourrait faire supposer 1'emploi simultane de la regie, du 
niveau et de la scie, comme dans les ouvrages les plus soignes de 1'antiquite grecque 
ou romaine. Enfin, les parois, tant exterieures qu'interieures de ces edifices, sont ap- 
pareillees sans ciment ; on y a trouve des marteaux en bronze. 


" Les Nuraghes sont le plus souvent batis en plainc, sur des tertres naturels 
ou sur des collincs; qurlqm-fois ils sont entoures d'un terre-plain tres etendu, de 
plus ou de moins de cent vingt metres de circuit, fortifie d'un mur de dix pieds de 
haut, ct du meme style de construction que 1'edifice qu'il entoure ; on en connait plu- 
sieurs qui sont flanques de cones plus petits, et d'une forme absolument semblable a 
celle du cone principal qui occupe toujours le centre. Ces cones accessoires sont re- 
unis autour du cone central, au nombre de 3, de 4, 5, 6 et 7, et le plan de leur dis- 
position respective est presque toujours symetrique. Le mur commun qui les ren- 
ferme est quelquefois traverse dans toute sa longueur par une communication qui 
conduit de 1'un a 1'autre cone, et qui repond a 1'usage de nos casemates, etroits, bas 
et bien batis. Enfin, ce mur commun est surmonte d'un parapet d'environ trois pieds 
de haut, qui defend la plate-forme au milieu de laquelle domine le cone principal. 
Quand le nombre des cones accessoires est impair, le mur de cloture, et d'epaulement 
a-la-fois, obeit aux sinuosites que necessite le dessein qu'on a eu de les disposer syme- 
triquement, et fournit des exemples sans doute bien anciens, de cette eurhythmie dont 
Vitruve a parle. (Lib. i, cap. n.) 

" Les murs de ces monumens se composent, pour la plupart, de deux paremens, 
dont les blocs s'ajustent 1'un a 1'autre par approchement, sans aucun parpaing, c'est- 
a-dire, sans aucune pierre qui traverse le mur de part en part, sans aucun blocage in- 
termediaire, et, comme je 1'ai deja dit en parlant des parois exterieures, sans aucun 
ciment. L'epaisseur totale de ces deux paremens est, de bas en haut, traversee en 
spirale par une rampe, dirigee tantot en pente douce, tantot taillee en degres de pierre, 
et pratiquee pour servir de communication entre les etages de trois chambres disposees 
1'une au-dessus de 1'autre, et dont chaque voute se termine en ogive ovoide. II parait 
que la chambre la plus basse ne sera devenue souterraine, que par 1'effet de 1'addition 
des quatre cones angulaires et du terre-plain qui en recouvre 1'exterieur. Ceux-ci 
n'ont que deux chambres, dont les voutes sont egalement coniques. On y voit aussi des 
pentes disposees interieurement en spirales, et toutes ces spirales decrivent, dans lexir 
coupe, une abside, dont la ligne courbe se combine, a son sommet, avec une ligne pres- 
que verticale, ce qui a du causer quelque difficulte dans 1'appareil d'une batisse executee 
sans ciment et sans autre outil que le marteau. 

" Tous les Nuraghes ont leurs entrees terminees par des architraves plates. M. de 
la Marmora observe que, dans la region de Macomer et de Saint-Lussurgiu, les entrees 
sont assez hautes pour qu'on puisse s'y introduire debout ; mais que dans tout le reste 
de File, 1'entree, de ceux meme qui sont les plus considerables, est si basse, qu'on ne 
peut s'y introduire qu'a plat-ventre, et que leur ouverture, comme celles des soupiraux 
de nos caves, ne s'elargit et ne s'eleve qu'a mesure qu'on avance, en s'y glissaut dans 
Pattitude la plus penible." pp. 31 34. 

To render the preceding description more intelligible to the ge- 
neral reader, it may not be uninteresting to present him with illus- 
trations, from the same work, of two of the most characteristic ex- 
amples of these singular monuments; and I do so the more willingly, 
inasmuch as that they have not, at least to my knowledge, been hitherto 
made known to the British public. The two wood-cuts annexed will 

L 2 


give a good idea of the usual construction of a Nuraghe, consisting 
of a central cone containing three chambers, one over another, and 
standing on a square base having small cones at each of its angles, 
connected with each other by a parapet wall, as in the Nuraghe of 
Borghidu, which is here illustrated. This monument is situated 
in the plain of Ozier, on a moderately elevated rock of very hard 
" breche trachytique," of which the Nuraghe is formed. The pre- 
sent height of the central cone is about forty-five feet, but in its 
original perfect state it would have been about twenty-one feet higher, 
or in all sixty-five feet ; and its greatest diameter is about forty feet. 
The square base or plinth, at the angles of which the smaller cones 
are placed, is about fifty-seven feet in diameter. 

The first of these cuts gives a general elevation of the structure 
restored ; and the second its ground plan : 

The cuts which follow represent a plan on the level/g- of the second 
chamber, and a section through de on the ground plan, exhibiting the 

internal arrangement of the building, and the peculiar construction 
of its window. 



In the two next sections will be seen the means of ascent, from the 
lower to the upper chamber, by a spiral gallery, constructed within 
the thickness of the wall, and ascending in a gradually inclined plane 
from one story to the other. 

The first of these sections is taken on the line a b on the ground 
plan ; the second, in part on the same line, but diverging in a semi- 
circle through the point c to show the course of the gallery : 

The cuts which follow will afford an example of a Nuraghe of the 
simplest form, that is, without a plinth and external cones, and 
exhibit the usual construction of the window c and doorway a in 
those structures generally. The elevation represents the Nuraghe 
Nieddu, near Ploaghe, which is constructed of volcanic rocks of the 
neighbourhood; and the ground plan shows its internal arrangement: 

It will be observed, as a peculiarity in this specimen, that the gal- 
lery which affords a communication between the lower and upper 
chambers does not rise, as in the former example, from the first 
chamber, but commences immediately within the external doorway 
a by an ascent to the left. This Nuraghe is about twenty-eight feet 
in diameter, and, in its present state, about twenty-five feet in height. 


That in the style of masonry observable in these ancient sepul- 
chres, for such they undoubtedly are, there is a striking agreement 
to be found with that of many ancient monuments in Ireland, as well 
as with the Cyclopean remains of Greece and Italy, I am far from 
denying. On the contrary, I can claim the merit of having been the 
first to direct the attention of the learned to this interesting circum- 
stance a fact which I consider as of far greater value and impor- 
tance, to the history of the British Islands, than even the settlement 
of the question of the origin of the Round Towers in my Essay on 
the Ancient Military Architecture of Ireland, presented to the Royal 
Irish Academy in 1836, and which was honoured with the gold me- 
dal of that distinguished body. But, as I shall hereafter show, there 
are radically distinctive characteristics in all these remains, which 
are not found in our Round Towers. To Mr. Windele, however, 
the resemblance of the Round Towers to the Nuraghes of Sardinia 
appears so striking that he jumps at once to the conclusion that the 
former were not only fire-temples of the Guebres, but also in part 
sepulchres or monuments of the dead, as the latter are known to 
have been. " This," he states, " would not be very inconsistent with 
the character of the Irish towers ; human bones having been found 
interred within that at Ram Island in Antrim, and similar relics, 
but having undergone the ancient pagan process of Cremation, 
were recently discovered in the tower of Timahoe." But, I would 
ask, where are the evidences of either of these facts? and I must add 
that I utterly disbelieve the statement, respecting the recent discovery 
of the burned bones in the Tower of Timahoe. Mr. Windele, how- 
ever, was fortified in his conclusion, not only by the Sardinian Nu- 
raghes, but also by an opinion advanced by O'Brien, the author of 
" The Round Towers of Ireland," that amongst their other uses these 
buildings were occasionally, in part, applied to sepulchral purposes, 
like some of the Guebre Towers in Persia, and the Ceylonese Dagobs, 
and also by the fact, that " Sir William Betham at once declared 
that he fully adopted that opinion." Thus doubly armed, Mr. Win- 
dele, communicating a portion of the enthusiasm so excited to the 
gentlemen of the South Munster Society of Antiquaries, inflamed that 
zealous body with such ardour to substantiate his hypothesis, that 
they set out on journeys of discovery to the principal Round Towers 
remaining in their own province, to excavate the very foundations 


of those Towers in search of the wished-for human remains. The 
result will be best told in Mr. Windele's own words, as given in the 
Cork Southern Reporter : 


" The public attention has lately been directed, through the press, to the discovery 
of a human Skeleton, within the basement of the Round Tower of Ardmore, in the 
County of Waterford. Since then the lower portion of a second Skeleton, consisting of 
the femoral and tibial bones, were found at a little distance from the former. And, in 
the nave of the ruined church adjoining, Mr. Windele discovered a fragment of an 
Ogham inscription, containing nine letters ; this had, probably, been removed at some 
distant time from the cemetery. These discoveries opened up a new subject of specula- 
tion to the antiquaries. An opinion advanced by O'Brien, the author of " the Round 
Towers of Ireland," that, amongst their other uses, these buildings were occasionally, 
in part, appropriated to sepulchral purposes, like some of the Gheber Towers of Persia, 
and the Ceylonese Dagobs was now regarded of greater value than it was supposed it 
was originally entitled to. Sir William Betham at once declared that he fully adopted 
that opinion ; he was fortified in it by the facts previously known, that in the Towers 
of Ram Island and Timahoe evidences of ancient interment had been found. Others 
again, unwilling to abandon previously cherished hypotheses, suggested that Ardmore 
Tower may have been erected in a more ancient Christian cemetery, belonging to 
Declan's Monastery ; and the absence of the head and feet of one Skeleton, and of the 
whole trunk of the second, they alleged proved, that in digging for a foundation for 
the Tower, the builders merely cut a circular trench, amongst the graves, leaving 
undisturbed the narrow space within its periphery, and consequently, such portion of 
human remains as lay interred therein. This was certainly an ingenious solution, but 
then why all this hermetical sealing of that portion of the Tower above these remains, 
first laying down a concrete floor, then four successive layers of solid mason work, 
and finally above these a second floor of concrete. Even rejecting this, as of no ac- 
count, it is contended that it is not a necessary consequence that the Tower must have 

been Christian, altho' it had been erected within a more ancient cemetery Men died 

and were buried before Christianity, and there were Pagan as well as Christian burial 
grounds. But in this case, laying aside all the strong and stubborn arguments in fa- 
vour of the pillar tower having been a Heathen Temple, dedicated to the Sun, or fire, 
there are two or three special considerations peculiar to Ardmore. In the first place, 
the lands on which it is situate are called Ardo, the height of the_/?re, secondly, the 
ancient life of St. Declan, whilst it is particular in its mention of the churches and 
monastic buildings, is totally silent as to the Cuilcagh or Tower, which it would not 
have been, did this, the most remarkable of all the structures at Ardmore, owe its 
origin to that saint or any of his successors. Then again, the finding of the Ogham 
fragment. In a question of this kind this may be considered as of importance. The 
Ogham writing has been generally considered as Druidical, as the original literary 
character of pagan Ireland, whose descent has been traced back to Babylonia and 
Persepolis the ancient of days. In Ireland the majority of inscriptions in this charac- 
ter, hitherto brought to light, have been obtained from localities of decidedly a heathen 


origin. Bealahamire (' the place of the field of adoration') near this city, possesses 2 
Beallanrannig in Kerry, where 7, and Coolcoolaught in the same county where 6 re- 
main, were both ancient pagan cemeteries ; 5 inscribed stones form the imposts of 
an old Pelasgico-Irish cave at Dunloe ; 2 similar stones occupy a like situation in a 
similar cave, in a Rath west of Bandon ; all this is strong evidence of the Pagan cha- 
racter of these inscriptions, and the finding one at Ardmore is per se a demonstration 
that the place had been in possession of the Pagans, and therefore the probability of 
a Gheber Tower and Cemetery. At all events, discovery of the skeletons not being 
deemed absolutely conclusive, further exploration in other similar structures was 
considered necessary. Permission from the Dean and Chapter having been obtained, 
it was resolved to examine the Tower at Cashel. Accordingly on the 3rd and 4th of 
the present month, Messrs. Horgan, Odell, Hacket, Abell, Willes, Keleher and Win- 
dele undertook the execution of that task ; they were joined at Cashel by the Very Rev. 
Dean Cotton, to whose excellent taste in repairs and excavations all lovers of the pic- 
turesque and admirers of the remarkable remains of antiquity which crown the rock, 
stand so much indebted. The door of this Tower is 12 feet above the external plinth 
which forms the base of the building. The interior of the structure was found filled 
with loose earth intermixed with human bones to a depth of 2 feet ; under this ac- 
cumulation was found a mass of solid stone work, forming the original floor of the 
tower, five feet nine inches below the door. Through this the workmen employed 
wrought for two days, until late in the evening of the 4th they reached the founda- 
tion, ascertaining that the masonry extended to the very floor of the rock on which 
the tower was based. This satisfied the explorers that at least all the towers were not 

" Small fragments of charcoal were found at the base of the tower. Whether these 
could have ever formed any portion of a sacred fire, once burning within the tower, 
who can affirm or rationally deny ? The idea of such a possible use has however 
been thrown out, and again met by a scepticism founded on the fewness of the particles 
discovered. Nothing, it would seem, less than a wheel-barrow full would suit the 
gentleman who propounded doubts upon the subject ; but he forgot that the place 
where they were found was a small hole not more than 1 8 inches diameter, and of a 
like depth, merely opened to ascertain the distance of the rock from the surface. 

" Not content, however, with this examination, they next pitched upon the tower 
of Cloyne, and here their operations were crowned with perfect success. On Thursday 
last, under the superintendence of Mr. William Hackett, the workmen, after pene- 
trating through about two feet of rubbish, reached a solid floor, about a foot in thick- 
ness, formed of small stones, laid in gravel, so firmly bedded as to yield only to re- 
peated efforts with the crow-bar and pick-axe. Under this they found, within a space 
of six feet diameter, a stratum of earth-mould, in which were discovered three skele- 
tons, laid west and east, two of them lying side by side of each other, and the third 
under these. The gentlemen under whose directions these researches were prosecuted, 
and who were in attendance on this interesting occasion, were the Rev. Messrs. Hor- 
gan, Rogers, Jones, Bolster and D. Murphy, Messrs. Hackett, Sainthill, Abell, Win- 
dele, Keleher and J. Jennings. 

" This discovery sets at rest the question, raised but not deemed satisfactorily 
disposed of, at Ardmore ; and it stands now ascertained, that the towers of Timahoe, 


Ram Wand, Arclmore and Cloyne were, amongst other uses, appropriated to sepulchral 
]iur|Mc--. ; whilst the society have, by their investigations in other directions, also es- 
tnlili^lu'd the fact, that other >imil:ir buildings, such as Cashel and Kiiineh, in the west 
of the County of Cork, were not similarly used." 

That Mr. Windele thought that the question of the Origin and 
Uses of the Round Towers was now settled to the satisfaction of all 
inquirers, appears from a letter, subsequently addressed to the Editor 
of the Cork Southern Reporter, and afterwards published in the sixth 
number of the Archaeologist, in which he states, that he " had the 
folly to imagine that the recent discoveries at Ardmore and Cloyne 
would have had a sedative effect on the too long vexed question of 
the Round Towers." But he was, I think,- a little too sanguine in his 
expectations. I, for one, must declare that I am no more satisfied 
with the proofs on which he rests his conclusions than his Munster 
opponent QuiJam, whose object appears to have been to enjoy a 
laugh at all the theorists on this subject, by gravely propounding u 
new one more absurd than any previously advocated. 

I shall examine Mr. Windele's discoveries separately in the order 
in which they were made, first noticing, however, his statement given 
on the authority of Sir William Bethain, that similar discoveries had 
been made in the Towers of Ram Island and Timahoe ; on which I 
must observe, that such vague statements should be considered as 
of no value whatever in an inquiry of this kind. For, granting that 
human bones were found in those two Towers, I would ask Could 
they only have been interred there cotemporaneously with the erection 
of the Towers. To make the fact worth anything it should be satis- 
factorily proved that this was necessarily the case. I know myself 
many Round Towers, into which it has been usual for a long time to 
throw the bones dug up in the cemetery, and the custom is continued 
at the present day. Sir William Betham has, indeed, stated, that the 
bones found within the Tower of Timahoe, a Tower which I shall 
prove to be of Christian construction, were cremated, and contained 
within a pagan urn; but what proof has he given us for this fact? 
Mr. Windele himself appears to have some doubts about it, for in a 
letter to me, dated Cork, 12th August, 1841, he asks: "Is it a fact 
that an urn containing burnt bones was found in Timahoe ?" And 
he adds this remark, " this, if true, would settle the age of these build- 
ings" a conclusion, however, in which I can by no means concur, as 



the erection of a Round Tower in Christian times on the site of a 
pagan sepulchre would not be a very unlikely circumstance. 

Proceeding now with Mr. Windele's recent and better authenti- 
cated discoveries, I shall, in the first place, remark, with respect to 
the Tower of Ardmore, that what he calls the ingenious solution 
which was offered respecting the erection of that Tower in a more 
ancient Christian cemetery, is, in my opinion, not only an ingenious 
one, but the most rational that could possibly be offered. According 
to Mr. Windele, however, there are two or three special considerations 
peculiar to Ardmore, which favour the conclusion as to its pagan 
origin. In the first place, he says, " the lands on which it is situated 
are called Ardo, the height of the fire." Now on this statement I 
have to observe, first, that this is not the fact, for the ToAver is situated 
on the glebe of Ardmore, or the great height, and, as appears from 
the Latin Life of St. Declan, the place was more anciently called Ard 
na g-caerach, and explained by Altitude ovium. Secondly, there 
are no lands in the parish of Ardmore called Ardo, as Mr. Windele 
states, though there is a gentleman's house so called, but there are 
two townlands called Ardochesty and Ardoguinagh, one of which 
adjoins the glebe of Ardmore ; and Mr. Windele had no authority 
for calling those townlands Ardo simply, or for his statement that the 
Round Tower of Ardmore is situated on either of them. And thirdly, 
even granting that Ardo was the name of the lands on which the 
Tower stands, it could not possibly signify the height of the fire, or 
legitimately admit of any interpretation but height of the yew, from 
ard, a height, and eo, of the yew. Mr. Windele's second argument is, 
that the ancient Life of St. Declan, whilst it is particular in its men- 
tion of the churches and monastic buildings, is totally silent as to 
the cuilcagh or tower, which it would not have been did this, the 
most remarkable of all the structures at Ardmore, owe its origin to 
that saint or any of his successors. This appears to me a most illogi- 
cal conclusion. If, as Mr. Windele asserts, the ancient Life of St. 
Declan, whilst it is particular in its mention of the churches and 
monastic buildings, is totally silent as to the cuilcagh or tower, the 
legitimate conclusion, I think, would be, that the Tower was not in 
existence when the Life was written ; and though it may be fair to 
draw an inference that the Life would not have been silent as to the 
erection of this Tower the most remarkable of all the structures at 


Ardmore had it owed its origin to St. Declan, it seems somewhat 
ludicrous to cxjxjct that it should record its erection, by any of St. De- 
chm's successors, unless it were first proved that the Life was written 
subsequently to the existence of those successors, and that the Life 
of St. Declan included the Lives of his successors also. 

Lastly, Mr. Windele says, " then again the finding of the Ogham 
fragment. In a question of this kind this may be considered as of 
importance. The Ogham writing has been generally considered as 
Druidical, as the original literary character of Pagan Ireland, whose 
descent has been traced back to Babylonia and Persepolis, the an- 
cient of days." To this I answer, that the Druidical origin of the 
Ogham writing still remains to be proved ; but, even granting that 
it is Druidical, as he states, the finding of an inscription in this cha- 
racter at Ardmore would prove nothing, as it is perfectly certain that 
the character was used by Christian ecclesiastics both in manuscripts, 
and inscriptions on stone. But I have a stronger objection to make 
on this point. I utterly deny that the lines on the stone at Ardmore 
are a literary inscription of any kind, and I challenge Mr. Windele 
to support his assertion by proof. So much then for the discoveries 
at Ardmore ! 

These discoveries not being deemed absolutely conclusive, further 
exploration in other similar structures was considered necessary ; 
and accordingly the South Minister Antiquaries proceed to examine 
the Tower of Cashel, and the result Avas such as " satisfied the ex- 
plorers that, at least, all the Towers were not sepulchral." But I had 
nearly forgotten that, though they ascertained that the Tower of 
Cashel was not a sepulchre, they discovered evidences to favour the 
conclusion that it was a sacred fire-temple, namely, a few particles of 
charcoal in a small hole at the base of the Tower on the outside. 
And Mr. Windele triumphantly asks, " whether these could have 
ever formed any portion of a sacred fire once burning within the 
tower, who can affirm or rationally deny?" Now I, for one, will ra- 
tionally, as I think, deny the probability of such a conclusion, and I 
think I can assign very sufficient reasons for doing so. In the first 
place, I repeat that we have no evidence whatever that sacred fires 
were ever lighted in Towers in this country ; but we have an abun- 
dance of evidence, which I shall hereafter adduce, to prove that the 
Towers, that is, the wooden floors, &c. of them, as well as the 

M 2 


churches, were often burned by the plundering Danes. But, to come 
to an evidence more in point in connexion with Cashel itself, is Mr. 
Win dele ignorant that in the year 1495 the cathedral, with which the 
Tower is in immediate contact, was burned by Gerald, the eighth 
Earl of Kildare, for which act being accused before the king, his 
excuse was that it was true, but that he had supposed the archbishop 
was in it ! Now, I ask, would not this conflagration sufficiently ac- 
count for an abundance of charcoal being found beside its walls, not 
to speak of a few particles ? But these charcoal remains may be 
even of later date; for I have been informed that the boys of Cashel 
in recent times, but previously to the enclosure of the cemetery by 
Dean Cotton, were in the habit of lighting fires within the Tower to 
smother the young owls and other birds, which made the interior of 
it their home. 

I may here observe, that some time after the examination of this 
Tower at Cashel, the South Munster Society of Antiquaries also 
examined the Round Tower of Kinneh, in the County of Cork, and 
that the result, as communicated to me by Mr. Windele, in a letter, 
dated 25th September, 1841, was as follows : 

" We some time since examined the Round Tower of Kinneh. It is based on the 
rock, and on the inside the tower is open down to its base, the solid rock forming its 
floor. Thus Cashel and Kinneh prove that all were not sepulchral." 

The want of success of the South Munster Antiquaries in these 
examinations, though it may have damped, was not sufficient to de- 
stroy their enthusiastic ardour. Though it was now certain that all 
the Towers were not sepulchres, it was yet possible that one or more 
than one of them might have been erected for that purpose. Ac- 
cordingly, " they next pitched upon the Tower of Cloyne, and here 
their operations were crowned with perfect success. Under a solid 
floor about a foot in thickness, formed of small stones laid in gravel, 
so firmly bedded as to yield only to repeated efforts of the crow-bar 
and pick-axe," they actually found, " within a space of six feet diame- 
ter, a stratum of earth-mould, in which were discovered three skele- 
tons, laid west and east, two of them lying side by side of each other, 
and the third under these." To leave no doubt of the truth of the 
preceding statement, Mr. Windele gives us a list of the eleven gen- 
tlemen who were in attendance on the occasion of this interesting 
discovery. " The gentlemen under whose directions these researches 


were prosecuted, and who were in attendance on this interesting oc- 
casion, were the Reverend Messrs. Horgan, Rogers, Jones, Bolster, 
and D. Murphy, Messrs. Hackett, Sainthill, Abell, Windele, Keleher, 
and J. Jennings." 

To this last statement I wish particularly to call the attention of 
the reader, as, if correct, it would follow as a matter of course, that 
there would be no disagreement, as to the nature of the facts stated, 
among the persons who were present on the occasion of the discovery. 
Yet it is remarkable that there is a striking disagreement between 
the account, which I have above quoted, and one subsequently pub- 
lished in the same Cork newspaper. . This disagreement will suffi- 
ciently appear from the following extracts from letters with which I 
have been kindly favoured by Mr. Windele himself. In the first of 
these letters, dated 25th September, 1841, Mr. Windele thus writes: 

" I hasten to inform you of the result of an excavation which we caused to be made, 
on the 23rd instant, in the lower part of the Round Tower of Cloyne. 

" You are probably aware that that building is based upon a lime stone rock, which 
Htands out several feet higher than the surrounding ground, and that between it and 
the cemetery, in which stands the Cathedral, runs the high road, which here forms 
one of the principal streets of the ancient town of Cloyne. The workmen commenced 
by clearing out about 2j feet of rubbish, under which they found a floor of small 
stones, a large powder pavement, which could not be penetrated by spade or shovel, but 
yielded to the pick-axe ; beneath this, in loose mould, were found human bones, a sJt/iU, 
and fragments of decayed timber. The space, within which the bones were found, is 6 
feet, and the mason-work is, as it were hollowed to receive the bodies. 

" This discovery you will probably deem to be confirmatory of that already made 
at Ardmore." 

From Mr. Windele's second letter, dated 29th September, 1841, 
it will, however, appear, that the preceding account was any thing 
but a correct one ; and, it would also appear, that Mr. Windele was 
not present at the excavation at all. He thus writes : 

" Last week I sent you a report, obtained at second hand, of so far as related t<> our 
antiquarian researches at Cloyne. Since then I visited, with others of the ancient craft, 
the Tower in question, and I now enclose you a semi-official statement of what occurred ; 
and in so doing, it is right that I should inform you that the statement, with regard to 
fragments of timber being found, was incorrect, no such remains having been disco- 
vered. It is a curious circumstance that many small oyster shells have been taken out 
from amongst the clay and rubble which covered the skeletons ; could these once have 
Iwen men ? Lord Kaimes has somewhere said, that ' men by inaction degenerate into 

oysters,' and Sir , in more recent times, when speaking of his Jim Crow 

propensities, declared he did not know if he should not yet turn into an oyster ! We 



are told of an Indian Bramin who shut himself up in a Tower for 40 years, during 
which lengthened period he industriously occupied himself in merely looking at the 
wall and thinking of nothing. Who knows but, in these unexpected shells, we may 
have found some old Indo-Irish Bramins, whose contemplative inaction might have 
been productive of an ostracism. To the Budhists this, I submit, is worth some con- 

" Since writing the foregoing I received your letter of the 27th instant, and now 
beg to answer your queries. The feet of the skeletons were under or in a line below 
the door of the Tower, which faces the S. E. ; consequently the bodies lay from N. W. 
to N. E. (not West and East as in Report). 

" The hollowing of the mason-work to receive the bodies you are to reject. That 
was a fancy of my informant, who laboured hard on my visit, to persuade me of its 
correctness, but as I could see no suqh hollow I could not give in my assent. The little 
sketch and measurements at foot will best explain." 

The semi-official statement, above alluded to, is as follows : 

" A correspondent of the Southern Reporter thus writes The announcement made 
in your last paper, so far as regards the proceedings of the South Munster Antiquarian 
Society at Cloyne, mentions merely the operations of the first day, Wednesday. Those 
of the succeeding day were of a far more decisive and interesting character. The result 
of the whole is stated in the proces verbal drawn up on the conclusion of their re- 
searches, with the approbation of the several gentlemen present, viz. : The Rev. 
Messrs. Rogers, Lawless, Horgan, Bolster, and Dominick Murphy ; Messrs. A. Abell, 
R. Sainthill, J. Windele, F. Jennings, and W. Keleher. The document I send you, and 
is as follows : 

" ' Having proceeded to excavate the tower according to order, we entered a bed of 
earth and of decayed rotten timber (probably the fallen nests of jackdaws and other 


), interspersed with decayed lnnics nt'iUHerent animals and stones. After luffing 
cleared it out between three and four feet, we then met a bed of broken lime-Minn-, 
one foot four inches in thickness, underneath which was a bed of fine black earth, 
wherein we mrt witli three skeletons stretched in the usual way from west to east, one 
iM-iiifj; under the two, part of which 1 have kept ; having three couple of collar bones, 
and three front parts of the lower jaw bones the upper skeleton being the freshest. 
l'nder these we met with a layer of coarse heavy stones, with the even or snnmtli 
sides up, set in coarse gravel, under which were two tiers of light flags. After that 
we came to the solid rock. 

" ' W. CHAPMAN, Sexton.' 
'"Cloyne, 24th Sept., 1841."' 

Now I would seriously ask, is it possible that any rational inquirer 
could give credence to statements so contradictory of each other, as 
those which I have now submitted to the reader, or is it on such 
statements that a question of this nature is to be decided ? But I 
have not done with the discoveries in the Cloyne Tower yet. It 
will be seen from the annexed notice on this subject, recently pub- 
lished in the Cork Southern Reporter, and kindly transmitted to me 
by Mr. Windele, on the yth of April, 1842, that the human remains 
found in this Tower, and originally represented only as " human 
bones and a skull" having gradually assumed the forms of three hu- 
man skeletons, are now increased to four, and it is difficult to con- 
jecture how many they will make in the next accounts. These are 
certainly very extraordinary bones ! It will be seen also, from the 
same article, that the researches in the Round Tower of Cashel, 
which had been given up as an unsuccessful affair, even proving 
"'that at least all the Towers were not sepulchral," were, after all, 
not so unfortunate as had been supposed. But I must let the South 
Minister Society of Antiquaries now speak for themselves : 


" Towards the close of the last summer we announced to our readers that a disco- 
very had been made, of importance, in the elucidation of the mystery in which the 
origin of these structures was involved. We then gave details connected with the dis- 
cuverv of human remains within the foundation of Ardmore Tower. From that time 
tn the present, we venture to affirm, more attention has been paid, and more of prac- 
tical, rational investigation, has been directed to the subject, than it ever previously 

" We have had the pleasure of laying before our readers various interesting com- 
munications from our literary friends, which, by the talent, ingenuity, and erudition, 
they display, prove that the subject is in the very best hands. The South Munster 
Antiquarian Society has also been most active, owing to the untiring exertions of its 


members, correspondences have been opened in France, England, Scotland, and in many 
places in Ireland, all with most satisfactory results. 

" Through the kindness of the Rev. Mr. M'Cosh, of Brechin, (Scotland) a corres- 
pondence has been established with the well known learned historian of that city, 
D. D. Black, Esq., whose work we have read with very great pleasure. 

" We shall now, leaving the discussion to those who are so well able to conduct it, 
proceed to state the discoveries made subsequently to that at Ardmore. 

" In the month of September, several of our fellow-citizens met by appointment 
at Cashel the Very Rev. Dr. Cotton, of Lismore, and Edward Odell, Esq., whose la- 
bours we before mentioned. The Round Tower there, was examined. Although human 
remains were found within that structure, yet, because they were near the surface 
mixed with earth and decayed timber, it was supposed they had been thrown in casually 
from the adjacent cathedral or burial ground. But it is now to be noted that there 
was evidence of a previous delving; and the discoveries since made shew, at least, a 
probability, that the human bones there found, had been disturbed from their original 
resting place, within the foundation walls. It must, however, be admitted, that the 
Cashel researches, cannot be adduced as a positive instance of the sepulchral character 
of these towers. Not so with Cloyne ; there, at a depth from the doorway of about 
thirteen feet, being very nearly the same as at Ardmore, were found the bones, of four 
human skeletons lying in the direction from West to East. The space within which 
they lay, was an irregular serrated oval of about six feet and a half by four. 

" The Roscrea Tower was opened three weeks since, at the request of our Society, 
by Edward Wall, Esq. of that town, who discovered human remains all through, from 
the doorway downwards, in a depth of over ten feet. To the very interesting particu- 
lars given by Mr. Wall, we purport adverting hereafter, as his researches are not yet 

" The correspondence with Sir William Betham has shewn the success of the disco- 
veries to which that learned and zealous antiquary has been instrumental. His noble 
friend, the Marquis of Downshire, caused to be opened the Round Tower of Drumbo. 
The tower of Maghera has also been opened; in both of which were found human 
remains. Similar results had previously attended the opening of the tower on Ram 
Island. The two most remarkable instances remain to be mentioned. We have the 
authority of Sir William Betham, that in the tower of Timahoe, there were not only 
human bones, but that a sepulchral Urn was found; and by Mr. Black's history we 
learn that in Abernethy tower (Scotland) human skulls and bones were found in great 
numbers, and there was also discovered an urn. These two facts prove that Timahoe 
and Abernethy towers, at least, were pagan structures, and leave a strong presumption 
in favour of the same inference with regard to the others. As we are aware that many 
further researches are about to be made, we hope ere long to present our readers with 
the results." 

With respect to the discoveries in the Bound Tower of Cloyne, 
upon which so much has been said, and so much stress laid, I shall 
only add, that it is my firm conviction, that none of the South Minister 
Society of Antiquaries were present at the exhumation of the bones; 
that the story of this exhumation, which has assumed so many forms, 


rests on no bettor authority than that of the sexton, who was hired by 
the antiquaries to make the examination, and whose story, in many 
of its details, the antiquaries themselves did not believe to be true; 
and lastly, that the utmost that can be concluded from it is, that 
fragments of human bones were found in the rubbish, intermingled 
with those of other animals, oyster shells, and other remains. Of the 
discoveries of a similar nature more recently made in the Towers of 
Roscrea, Maghera, Dnimbo, and, 1 believe, others, no detailed ac- 
counts have reached me, with the exception of those in the Tower 
of Drumbo : I believe, however, that it is only the discoveries in this 
Tower that are considered of any importance, and of these I am 
enabled to present the reader with an accurate account, kindly com- 
municated to me by my ingenious friend, Mr. Edmund Getty, of Bel- 
fast, in a letter dated Belfast, 10th of January, 1842.. 

" My friend Mr. Thomson has communicated to me your note, requesting the par- 
ticulars of the opening of the Round Tower of Drumbo, and I only delayed until a 
rough notice I had drawn up was read over by the Rev. Mr. Maunsell, by whose di- 
rections the enquiry was conducted. The tower, you will recollect, has lost part of 
its original height, and been tilled up perhaps a few feet in the interior by stones 
thrown or fallen in, &c. The door described by Harris as 6 feet from the ground is 
now perhaps five feet. 

" ' For the first two feet the debris thrown out very much resembled the soil of 
the adjacent grave yard, having mixed thro' it a quantity of human bones, not in any 
regular form, tho' perhaps more in one spot than another,' and which I feel satisfied has 
been thrown in from the burying ground ; ' some pieces of charcoal were found, and 
several of the stones thrown out bore evident marks of fire,' having been most pro- 
bably used by persons forming fires here for temporary purposes unconnected with 
the original intention of the builders. 

" ' After this depth (2 feet) the stuff removed assumed more the appearance of 
mortar rubbish, and seemed in great measure (partly) composed of the ruins of the 
top of the tower which had fallen in at the period of its dilapidation, which, it would 
seem, must have been as early as 1744, for about that tune Harris in his County of 
Down describes the tower as being much as at present. Among the rubbish were large 
stones, a considerable number of them having marks of fire; this is also observable in 
the interior of the building, where there is a slight superficial vitrification, but only 
above the surface of the ground, which has been lately excavated. Dubourdieu, in hi? 
Survey, published in 1802, takes notice of this appearance in these words : At some 
former time very strong fires have been burned within this building, and the inside surfqce 
towards the bottom has the appearance of vitrification. This stuff so described was exca- 
vated to the depth of more than one foot on the first day, and on the next morning the 
remainder of it was cast out, when the appearance changed to that of a rich black 
mould, apparently decomposed vegetable matter, with a good deal of charcoal and 



quantities of bones of various descriptions, chiefly of the lower animals, some boar 
tusks and jaws, a few short horns of oxen and other remains of those animals. When 
this substance was thrown out to the depth of about three feet, having now reached a 
depth of about seven feet altogether below the surface, we commenced upon, a totally 
different soil made its appearance like the natural soil of the neighbourhood, yellowish 
or light brown ; it appeared to be covered all over as well as we could trace, with a 
slight coating of mortar, perhaps about one inch in thickness. Almost close under- 
neath this, and nearly opposite the doorway, was discovered the skull of a human 
skeleton. This skeleton was afterwards explored with as much caution as possible, 
when it was found in a very decomposed state, wanting the right arm and hand, and 
the two legs from the knee down. It lay by compass N. N. W. by W. the head towards 
the west. The skull was tolerably preserved, having almost a perfect set of teeth in 
the lower jaw ; all the vertebra? remained undisturbed. In the earth was found the 
cap (patella) of one knee. No vestige of a coffin, dress or hair was observable. The 
skeleton was removed in order to continue the excavation, which was down to the 
depth of nearly two feet from the layer of mortar, when coming to the solid ground 
that appeared never to have been moved, and reaching the foundation of the tower 
without making any further discovery, the examination was considered to have been 
completed. The following measurements of the body were taken : from the crown of 
the head to the knee 4 feet, 3 inches ; from the hip-joint to the knee 1 foot 10 
inches ; length of the back bone 2 feet ^ inch. The interior chamber of the tower is 
9 feet. The body, as it was found, appeared to be so placed that, had it been entire, it 
would have occupied the centre of the ground, the head being about a foot, or rather 
more, from the western side of the tower.' 

" The above notes were taken from an amended copy of a narrative of the exami- 
nation drawn up by me, and submitted for correction to the Eev. Horatio Maunsell, 
who, assisted by Mr. Durham of Belvidere, directed the operations. It was returned 
to me copied in part and amended in Mr. Maunsell's hand-writing. I am thus par- 
ticular, as Mr. Thomson and I did not go out to Drumbo till the third day, when 
the skeleton was discovered. I may add that we were informed, the plaster floor de- 
scribed was less perfect at the east side than to the west. It may either have been 
disturbed by former enquirers, or more probably affected by the weather, to which from 
being directly under the door, it was more exposed than other parts. This may ac- 
count for the want of the legs from the knee-joint. Mr. Thomson, on our return to 
Mr. Callwell's, the proprietor of the estate, (the tower is in the freehold of the incum- 
bent Mr. Maunsell,) observed traces of hair on his shoes, which he considered had been 
mixed with the clay he trod on in the tower. The quantity of stones thrown out of 
the tower had composed a very small portion indeed of the material of the upper part 
of the tower, which most probably fell without, not within. The bones of animals found 
I consider to have been carried in by persons who made a temporary abode there ; and 
the marks of the fire may have been caused, if not by the flame from their rude hearth, 
by a burning from accident of an interior floor and stairs, if such things, as I think 
probable, had existed. 

" I delayed writing until I had received a reply from Mr. Maunsell, as I wished to 
give you a perfect narrative of our proceedings. The part copied by him is marked by 
inverted commas." 


Iii the preceding account I see nothing to object to. But what is 
the- conclusion to be fairly drawn from it ? not surely that it proves 
the Tower to have been raised as a sepulchral monument in pagan 
times, or even that the bones found within it were a deposit cotein- 
poraneous with its erection. To me it appears that the only rational 
conclusion to be drawn from the discovery of these bones would be 
unfavourable even to the very early Christian antiquity of the Tower, 
for, like the discovery of the imperfect skeleton at Ardrnore, it in- 
dicates that the Tower was erected on a spot which had been pre- 
viously used as a Christian cemetery, as the position of the remains 
clearly shows. And this, too, would account for the imperfection of 
the skeleton ; for, though it is obvious that in digging the foundation 
of the circular wall of the Tower it would have been necessary to pe- 
netrate to the virgin clay, and thus run the chance of removing a por- 
tion of a skeleton, or skeletons, yet, from the respect always paid to 
the remains of the dead among Christians, and even pagans, it would 
have been an object to leave the area enclosed within the circle un- 
disturbed as far as possible. 

So much then for this singular hypothesis. But it will be asked, 
how do I account for the discovery of pagan urns in the Towers of 
Timahoe in Ireland and of Abernethy in Scotland ? and, certainly, if 
these discoveries were satisfactorily proved, they would, as Mr. Win- 
dele writes to me, stand much in the way of my theory. But they 
are not satisfactorily proved. With respect to the discovery of the 
urn in the Tower of Timahoe, I have already expressed my utter 
disbelief of the statement, and have also shown that Mr. Windele 
himself is not without doubts of its truth ; and, with respect to the 
alleged discovery of human bones and an urn in the Tower of Aber- 
nethy, I shall venture also to express my disbelief of it, and will state 
my reasons for doing so. It will be recollected, that this statement, 
as already given in full, was put forward in the Cork Southern Re- 
porter, as resting on the very respectable authority of Mr. D. D. Black's 
History of Brechin, and that not a word was said of any other autho- 
rity for the facts. The words are, " by Mr. Black's history we learn, 
that in Abernethy Tower (Scotland) human skulls and bones were 
found in great numbers, and there was also discovered an urn ;" and 
it is added, " these two facts prove that Timahoe and Abernethy 
Towers at least, were pagan structures, and leave a strong presump- 

K 2 


tion in favour of the same inference with regard to the others." 
Having for a considerable time failed to procure a copy of Mr. Black's 
work, I requested Mr. Windele to favour me with a transcript of the 
passage in it, on which this statement rested, and he sent me, as a 
copy of the extract required, a descriptive account of the Tower in 
question, but nothing authorizing the statement put forward in refe- 
rence to the pagan urn. I have, however, been since favoured with 
a copy of Mr. Black's work by its talented author, and I certainly do 
find such a statement in it, not however, as Mr. Black's own, but as 
one put forward by the Rev. Dr. Small, and which Mr. Black very 
obviously regards as of very little value, as will appear from the fol- 
lowing extract from his work : 

" The Rev. Dr. Small of Edenshead, Abernethy, who has written a book on ' Ro- 
man Antiquities,' states the tradition, regarding the tower of Abernethy, to be, that it 
was erected as a burying place for ' the Kings of the Picts,' and to the doctor ' it is as 
clear as a sunbeam, that the Pictish race of Kings lie ALL buried within it.' In con- 
firmation of this hypothesis, the Reverend Doctor writes, that on the 10th May, 1821, 
the interior of the tower was dug into, when, at about four feet from the surface, the 
Sexton found, in presence of the gentlemen assembled, ' plenty of human bones, and 
the fragments of a light green urn, with a row of carving round the bottom of the neck,' 
and that, digging still farther, they ' came to three broad flags, which either served as 
the bottom of the first coffin or the cover of another, and by removing one which 
seemed the largest, found that there were plenty of bones below; and thus, after gain- 
ing our end in ascertaining the original design of building it, as a cemetery for the Royal 
Family, we desisted,' says the doctor. We introduced ourselves to Dr. Small, from 
whom we purchased a copy of his work. We are quite satisfied he is a gentleman on 
whose veracity implicit reliance may be placed ; but we rather fear he jumps at conclu- 
sions, and is not a little credulousand still worse, we doubt his antiquarian skill. 
Shade of Huddleston, how wouldst thou shudder, if shades can shudder, to learn that 
Dr. Small derives Pittendriech, your burial place of the Druids, from two common 
Scotch words ascribing the origin of the term to the circumstance of the Romans 
having ' got a more dreich piece of road pitten to them,' when forming their famous way 
through North Britain I The doctor, in describing his researches in the tower, adds, 
that the Sexton of Abernethy, afterwards, found ' seven other human skulls all lying 
together, all of them full-grown male skulls,' buried in the tower, one of which, the 
most entire, was carried away by Sir Walter Scott. Our friend, Thomas Simpson, 
the successor of the sexton alluded to by the doctor, hints pretty broadly, that situated 
so close to the kirk-yard as the tower is, there would be no great difficulty in finding 
skulls in the latter, when it was once seen there was a demand for them. Thomas 
applies to this case the famous axiom in political economy, that the demand regulates 
the supply." History of Brechin, pp. 265, 266. 

I may also observe, that in another passage in his work, Mr. Black 


distinctly says, " Dr. Small's spec/t/ufion does not coincide with our 
opinions ;" and also gives as his own opinion, that " the Round Tower 
of Brcchin was erected somewhere about the year 1000," an opinion 
which I shall hereafter show is not far from the truth. As to Dr. 
Small's statement, and the speculation respecting it in which he in- 
dulges, I may safely leave it to the consideration of my antiquarian 
readers, who will be at no loss to determine the value of the alleged 
discovery of "fragments of a light green urn with a row of carving 
round the bottom of the neck," a monument of pagan antiquity not 
previously found in the British isles ; and this is the fact that proves 
to the South Munster Society of Antiquaries that the Abernethy 
Tower, at least, was a pagan structure ! 

I have also to state that Mr. Windele, at the time when he 
sent me the extracts from Mr. Black's work, also very kindly fa- 
voured me with the copy of a letter from the historian of Brechin to 
William Hackett, Esq., of Middle ton, a member of the South Munster 
Society of Antiquaries, detailing the results of excavations recently 
made under Mr. Black's direction within the Round Tower of Bre- 
chin ; and, as these details not only very clearly exhibit the writer's 
opinions on the hypothesis under consideration, but also contain a 
very interesting account of the discoveries made on the occasion, I 
shall present his letter to the reader, in full : 

"SCOTLAND, Brechin, 13th April, 1842. 


" The obstacles alluded to in my last letter having all been removed, 
Mr. M'Cosh and I proceeded on this day week, Wednesday, 6th April, to excavate the 
interior of the round Tower of Brechin. Sir James Carnegie, Baronet, of Southesque, 
our principal Heritor, taking an active interest in our proceedings, and Patrick Chal- 
mers, Esquire, of Auldbar, having volunteered in the most handsome manner to pay 
all expenses, although unfortunately, from his bad state of health, he is unable to 
witness our proceedings, and has, in consequence of continued indisposition, been 
obliged to resign the seat he held in Parliament for this district of Burghs, a circum- 
stance which has thrown this quarter into a fever of Politics, for it will be no easy 
matter to find a man possessed of all Mr. Chalmers' qualifications to fill his room. 

" The round Tower of Brechin, you will recollect, has a doorway on the west side, 
the sill of which is 6 feet 7 inches from the ground, and this doorway being filled up 
with stonework, our first proceeding was to open it. 

" I went down on Wednesday morning at six o'clock (I wish to be minute) ac- 
companied by David Black, carpenter in Brechin, and James Jolly, mason in Brechin ; 
and these tradesmen in my presence, carefully removed the stones which blocked up 
the doorway, leaving the arch free and uninjured, and displaying a handsome entrance 


into the Tower. A set of wooden steps were then fitted, to give access by the door, 
while precautions were adopted for shutting up the Tower, when the workmen were 
not there, so as to prevent any person introducing modern antiques for our annoyance. 
After removing some old wood, and other timber recently placed there by the church 
officers, James Jolly was left alone, as the circle of the tower did not give scope for 
more workmen. He then proceeded to dig amongst the loose earth, and has been so 
employed till to-day, being from time to time visited by Mr. M'Cosh and me. Each 
shovelful, as dug up, was carefully sifted, and thrown into a heap. The sifted earth 
when accumulated into a small heap, was then thrown out at the door of the tower, and 
down to [the] wooden steps alluded to. After this the earth was put, by a spadeful at a 
time, into a barrow, and wheeled to a corner of the churchyard. Here, again, the 
earth was thrown by a shovel into a cart, and then driven away. By this repeated 
handling, I think it next to impossible that any thing of the least consequence could 
have escaped observation. I directed James Jolly to keep a regular journal of his pro- 
ceedings ; and each evening when he gave up work, he brought to the British Linen 
Company Bank Office, and left with the accountant, Mr. Robert Lindsay, the articles 
found each day ; and Mr. Lindsay again labelled and marked the articles so found. 
David Black the carpenter is Mr. M'Cosh's tradesman, a master workman and an indi- 
vidual of undoubted character ; James Jolly is a journeyman mason, a very intelligent 
man, and a person upon whose integrity ample reliance can be placed ; and Mr. Lind- 
say, with whom I have been acquainted through life, and who has now been with me 
for thirteen years continuously, is a man of the strictest probity. I am fully satisfied, 
therefore, that we have got a careful and correct account of every thing found in the 
tower. James Jolly has now dug eight feet below the door sill, that is, he is about one 
foot five inches below the external ground line and hewn basement or plinth of the 
tower, and has come to where the hewn work ceases, and rude undressed stones form 
the building. At this depth we stop until we hear from you. We have not reached 
the native rock on which the tower is built ; but we have now reached the clay or till 
and sand work, which appears to have been disturbed, as [if] it were what had been 
dug out for the foundation and thrown into the centre of the tower. Until this depth 
we have dug through a fine mould composed of decayed wood and other vegetable 
matter, mixed up with a little animal matter. 

" We found a quantity of peats, and a good deal of dross of peats, or refuse of moss, 
and we also found great varieties of bones, principally sheep bones, especially jaw bones 
of sheep, some bones of oxen, and a few human bones, these last being vertebras, pieces 
of skulls, toes and bits of jaw-bones. These bones were found at all depths, but we 
found no bones of any size. We have likewise got a quantity of slates, a hewn stone 
for the top of a lancet-shaped arch, part of the sill of a window with the base of a mul- 
lion traced on it, some basement stones, and others of baser workmanship ; oyster 
shells, buckies or sea-shells, nails, buttons, bits of copper and verdigris, two small 
lumps of bell metal, several little bits of stained glass, and part of an elf arrow have 
also been found at different depths ; and yesterday we found the remains of a key and 
some charred wood. But what will most please your pagan friends is the fact, that 
since we began we have each day found various pieces of URNS or jars. None of the 
pieces although put together form a complete urn ; but I think amongst the pieces I 
can trace out three or four distinct vessels. One appears to have been of glazed 


earthen ware, and to have had little handles as thus ; ^ajum^.^ while round the 
inner ledge there are small round indentations : about V\""" Tf * third of this 
vessel remains, as marked by the dotted lines ; the other two vessels are 

of clay, regularly baked, apparently, but not glazed, and one is slightly ornamented 
round the edge thus gc*=*=>^ the indentations being evidently made by alternately 
pressing the thumb ^^^^o^ and fore-finger horizontal, and the thumb perpendicu- 
lar, in the wet clay. 

" Now, how came all these things there ? I am afraid you will set me down, not 
for a pagan, but for a veritable Heathen when I say, that my opinion is, the slates, 
glass, wood, and iron had been tossed in at what in Scotland is called the Reformation, 
when our Scotch Apostle, John Knox, drove your Roman Catholic Apostles from what 
he termed their rookeries ; that the bones and great part of the animal and vegetable 
matter had been carried to the top of the tower by the rooks and jackdaws (kaies of 
Scotland) for building their nests and feeding their young, and had tumbled from 
thence to the bottom of the tower ; that the peats and the rest of the stuff had been 
thrown at various times into the bottom of the tower as a general receptacle for all re- 
fuse ; and that the fragments of URNS or jars, are just the remains of culinary articles 
belonging to the different kirk officers. 

" After this declaration can I expect to hear from you again, advising me what 
further we ought to do in regard to our round towers, which, in my eyes, remain 
as great a mystery as ever ? 

" The steeple of the church of Montrose was rebuilt some eight years ago, on 
the site of a steeple which had existed beyond the memory of man. It was thought 
necessary to dig the foundation of the new tower deeper than the old had been founded, 
and in the course of this excavation, various skeletons were found buried amongst 
s;ind and gravel, the subsoil on which the town of Montrose stands. The fact of 
Ixxlies being buried below towers and steeples, then, will scarce prove the erection 
to be either Christian or pagan. 

" The tracings which you sent of Cloyne Tower represent very closely the style of 
building of the Round Tower of Brechin, especially -where two or more horizontal 
stones are connected by a smaller perpendicular one thus 

and also where one is laid with a little toe or thin part of it projecting as it were 
beyond itself over another stone, as above. In Brechin too, as at Cloyne, we find it 
impossible to drive a nail into the joints of the doorway, while into some parts of the 
general masonry I have thrust my cane with ease for several inches. Sir William 
Gell, you remark, gives drawings of a similar mode of building in the vicinity of 
Rome. But is not this just a mode common to all nations in their rude state, who 
put up as large stones as they can find or move with ease and bring them together 
by means of smaller pieces ? " D. D. BLACK." 

On this excellent letter it is not necessary for me to make a single 
remark. It will go far to account for the heterogeneous nature of the 
remains discovered in the Irish Towers, and which may be further 


accounted for by the fact that during the war in Ireland, at the close 
of the sixteenth century, these Towers became the receptacles of 
thieves and wood-kerne. For this fact we have the authority of an 
Irish sermon written at the time, in which the author laments, among 
other evils, that " the temples were defiled, the cemeteries dug up, 
the chapels profaned, the monasteries broken, the cloisters without 
protection, the cells inhabited by harlots, the belfries (clogdip) inha- 
bited by wood-kerne" ! 

I might, I think, now have done with the discoveries of Mr. Win- 
dele and the South Munster Society of Antiquaries ; but, as these 
gentlemen, or their organ, have " ventured to affirm that from the 
commencement of their researches to the present time more attention 
has been paid, and more practical, rational investigation, has been 
directed to the subject" (of the origin and uses of the Round Towers) 
" than it ever previously received," I must beg leave to express my 
dissent from such conclusion, and to offer a few remarks in support of 
my opinion. That these gentlemen, whose antiquarian zeal I greatly 
admire and applaud, have discovered a new species of antiquarian in- 
vestigation, wholly unknown to the antiquaries of past ages, a sort 
of railroad process, requiring but little laborious travelling on the 
old high roads of learning and research, I am free to acknowledge, 
but I am by no means satisfied that, in inquiries of such a nature, this 
is the safest mode of travelling. On the contrary, I am of opinion 
that, after all, the old mode is the best, that if to abandon figure 
and come to the point we wished to ascertain whether our pagan 
ancestors erected the Round Towers as sepulchral monuments or not, 
Ave should determine the question, not by the short process of dig- 
ging in the bases of the Towers, but by the more laborious exami- 
nation of the ancient literature of our country, which is still so 
abundant in amount, and so rich in information on the usages of the 
times to which those gentlemen desire to refer these monuments. To 
adduce all the authorities which our ancient manuscripts could fur- 
nish respecting the ancient pagan modes of sepulture in Ireland, from 
the earliest period of the history of the country, would greatly ex- 
ceed the space allotted to this section of my inquiry, but, as the 
subject is of considerable interest, and has not been hitherto treated 
of, I shall adduce a few notices from our manuscripts which will sa- 
tisfactorily show what the sepulchral usages of the pagan Irish were, 


and be sufficient to demonstrate that the hypothesis of the South 
Minister Antiquaries is wholly visionary. 

The first authority which I shall adduce will satisfactorily prove, 
that the Irish in pagan times had regal cemeteries in various parts of 
the island, appropriated to the interment of the princes of the diffe- 
rent races, who ruled as sole monarchs, or provincial kings or toparchs ; 
and that such cemeteries were well known to the people in Christian 
times, though no longer appropriated to their original purpose, except 
in one or two instances, where the localities were consecrated to the 
service of Christianity. This valuable authority is preserved in one 
of the most celebrated Irish manuscripts the Leabhar na h- Uidhre. 
a work compiled at Clonmacnoise, and transcribed by Moelmuiri, 
the son of Ceileachar, the grandson of Conn na m-bocht, a distin- 
guished writer of that great abode of learning the Scotorum nobile. 
culmen, in the twelfth century, and of which the autograph original 
on vellum, the property of Messrs. Hodges and Smith, is now before 
me. The article, which I give entire, is called Senc/ias na Relec, or 
History of the Cemeteries ; and I may add, that, judging from its lan- 
guage, its age must be referred to a period several centuries earlier 
than that in which its transcriber flourished. There is a second copy 
of the same tract preserved in an ancient vellum manuscript in the 
Library of Trinity College, Dublin, Class H. 3, 17, beginning at page 
745, but the older copy is that given here. I should also observe 
that this tract is glossed in the original, evidently by Moelmuiri him- 
self, and that such explanations of the transcriber are given within 
crotchets, both in the Irish text and in the translation of it. 

" Sencap na pelec in po. 

" TTlop pi mop-bperac po jab op h-Gpmo, .1. Copmuc, mac Qipr, mic Cumo 
Ceo-caraijj. 6a mair lapom bat mo 6pm pia lino, po-oeijj po pcatleo bper 
pecrjue po Gpino acci-peom, con na laimr^a j-uin oum in h-Gpino ppi p lubili 
bicci, .1. un. m-bliaona; ap bai cpenm in on t) oc Copmac, oo p6ip pecca; ap 
po paio peotn na aioepao cloca na cpunnu, ace no aoenao in cf oop pom, 7 po 
po compio ap cul na uli oi'ila, .1. in r-oe'n t)ia nepr-compio, po cpucaij na oiili, 
ip DO no cpcicpeo. Conio e-peom in cpeppo cpeci in 6pmo pia ciacram pacpaic 
.1. Concobop mac Neppa, ofa po innip Qlcup DO cepuo Cpipc ; ITIopanD, mac 
Copppi Cino cairr, (.1. mac Plain) in oapna pep; in cpep; 7 one ip 0015 
co n-oeocacap opem aile pop a plicc imon cpenm pin. 

" Ip ano, cpd, no gnucaijeo (.1. Copmac) a ooojnop h-i Cempaig, ap plicc cec 


pig pemi, no co po milleo a pope a Gnjup 5 al - Dual pnec, mac Gcac pino puac 
uipc. In Qcaill (.1. culach-i pil Sjpin Colaim Cille mom) irnoppo 7 i Cennnoup, 
7 h-i C1J Clecij, no bio pom lapcain ; ap ni ba h-aoa pi co n-amm h-i Cempaig. 
Came cpu bap oia mnaijiD^-peom h-i cij Clecij ip in bliaoam canaipe np coll 
n poipc 11 , lap n-glenamuin cnama bpacan ma bpajic". Ro paio peom, (.1. Cop- 
mac) imoppo, ppia mumcip, cen a aonacul ip in 6puj (.1. 0015 ba pelec loala- 
oapca), oaijj ni h-inano Diu po aoaip peom 7 cec aen po aonacc ipp in &pui, 
ace a aonacol i Rpop na pig 7 a aije paip. Puaip peom bup lap pm, 7 po 
pepao comapli oc a aep gpaoa, 7 ippeo po cinpec a aonacol ip in &pui, air i 
m-bacap pij Cempa pomi-peom. T?o cocbao lapom copp mo pig po cpi, oia bpeic 
ipp in 6pu5, 7 h-i cpacc in 6oano po cpi i n-apoa, con na pecaip a cecc. Co cucpac 
oia n-uio cop cfaccam oap bpeic plara recc oap cimna in pi5- pepaic a pepc 
lupom i Rpop na pi^, amail apbepr pein. 

" Ropcap IQC po rpa ppim-peilce h-6peno pia cpecim : .1. Cpuucu, in 6puj, 
in Uallciu, 6uacaip QilBe, Oenac Qilbe, Oenac Cull, Oenac Colman, Cemaip 
6pario e . 

" Oenac Cpuacan cecup, ipp ano no aonaiccip clanna h-epemom, .1. pi^puo 
Cempac, no co ranic Cpemrano, mac 6ugoec Riub n-oepg, (.1. ip pepioe cec pi 
oib po aonacc ip in &PUJ), .1. Cobrac Coel Gpej, 7 tabpuio 6oinjpec, 7 6oco 
peolec co n-a cpi maccaib (.1. na cpi pioemna, .1. 6pej' 7 Nap 7 Cocop.), 7 Goco 
Qipem, 7 ^.ujaio Riab n-oepj, 7 pe mjena Gcac peolig (.1. ITleob, 7 Clochpu, 
ITlupepc, 7 t)pebpiu, ITlujain 7 Gle.) 7 Qilill, mac ITlaca, co n-a pecc m-bparpib 
(.1. Cec, Ctnlon, Doce, ec cecepi) 7 mo p'gpao uli co Cpemcuno (.1. ip lac po po 
uonaicic h-i Cpuacam). Cio pocepa nuc ip in 6puij na h-uonuiccip na pij? 
(.1. pil Cobcaig co Cpemcano). Mi h-annpa ; ap popcap lac ou coiceo po cecrpa 
clano h-Gpemom .1. coiceo n-5 a l eo ' n > (' coiceo taijen) 7 coiceo Olnecmacc, 
(.1. coiceo Connacc). Coiceo n-^alion cecup, po jabpac pil 6ubpuoa f-omgpij. 
Clano Cobraij Coil 6pe-5, imoppo, ba h-e a plepc lama pioe coiceo Connacc; 
Como aipi ippe (.1. coiceo Connacc) cucao oo TTleiob p6 cec coiceo. (Ip aipi 
cucao opba oo ITleiob, ap ni boi oo pil Gacac nee ba cualainj a gabail, ace pipi, 
ap nip b'm^nima 6ujaio in can pin) ; 7 oana in can no bio pigi n-Gpeno o claino 
Cobcuij Coil 6pej, ba coiceo Connacc a puiolep ( i. a plepc lama) ; Conio aipi 
pin no aonaiccip in oenuc na Cpuacna lac. Ipp in &puiJ5 imoppo no aonaiccip lac 
6 ampip Cpimcamo (.1. Niaonaip) co ampip Coejaipe, mic Neill, cenmocuc cpiup, 
.1. Qpc, mac Cuirm, 7 Copmac, mac Qipc, 7 Niall Hoi-jiullac. 

a Innpaijio, in H. 3. 17. b lap choll a puipc, in H. 3. 17. 

c lap leriumam cnama bpacain ma Bpa^aio, H. 3. 17. 

d H. 3. 17 adds, no piaBpa po h opc.i. Cuacha oe tDanamn, aip ic pptu acbepru 
piabpa, i. e. or it was the Siabliras that killed him, i. e. the Tuatha De Dananns, for 
they were called Siabliras. 

e In H. 3. 17, the names of these cemeteries are given as follows : Cpuucan, 7 6puj 
mic Inoic, 7 Callci, 7 Qenach pean-Clocaip, 7 tuacaip Qilbe, 7 Qenach Qilbe, 
7 Qenach Gavhna, 7 Qenach Chuile, 7 Qenach Cholmam, 7 Uerhaip Gpun, 7 
VDapcpa ITluncipi pmncamn. 


" T?o inmpemap epa in pac ap nuc ano po aoncicc Coptnac. 1p aipi, oanu, 
nuc uno po uoriucc Ctpc, up po cpeic in la pia cubuipc cuca ITIuccpainu, 7 po 
riiipnjjip in cpecim, (.1. co popbepuo in Cpipcuioecc pop Gpino) 7 apbepc co m- 
buo uno no beic n pepc i n-Ouma n-Oepj-luacpu, aic h-i pail Cpeoic moiu. 
OKI po oect pom ip in ouum DO pijni pin .1. Cam oo oenoa oen. (.1. ouan DO pijjni 
Clpr, 7 Tr e u coippec, cum DO oenna oen 70.) In ran poucao a copp (.1. Cfipc) 
paip (.1. co Oumu n-Oepj-luucpu) lapcum, DIU m-becfp pip h-6peno oca ppemj 
app, ni pecpaicip, co po aonucc ip mo muo pain ; pooeij ap pop eclap Caralacou 
uipcuin bull in po uonacc (.1. Cpeoic moiu), POOCIJ na pipinni, 7 nu cpecmi po m-bi 
ap na puillpijeo, cpiu pip placu, 06. 

" Niall, imoppo, ipp ano po aonacr in Ocum. Conio oe aca Ocam popp in 
celuij, .1. oc caim .1. mo ocpao 7 mo ecaini DO ponpac pip h-Gpeno oc calm Neill 

" Conaipe tnop ona h-i Tluij peci i m-6pe5aib (.1. oc pepca Conaipe) po 
aonacc ; ace cenu ippe Conaipe Capppuije po h-aonacc anopioe, 7 ni h-e Conaipe 
mop ; Co m-bao li-e, oha, in rpep pi po h-aonaicce h-i Cempaig h-e, .1. Conaipe, 
7 6oejaipe 7 * * * *. 

" h-i Callcin, itnoppo, po h-aonaiccip Ulaio, .1. OUom Porla co n-a clamo, co 
came Concobap, .1. ap ip ano po cog pioe a cabaipc ecep Slea* 7 muip, 7 aigeo 
paip, pooeij na cpeicmi po m-boi. 

" Uapli Cuuri oe Danano ip m 6puj no aonaicnp; (.1. in Dnjoa 7 a rpi meic, 
7 ^uj 7 Oe 7 OUum 7 Ojma 7 ecan, b 7 Copppe, mac Bcame,) 7 pop a plicc-pioe 
DO coio Cpnnrano; ap ba oo Chuair Oea a ben, .1. Nap, 7 ip pi po aplatj paip 
con bao h-e bao peilic uonuicci DO 7 Dia clamo in 6pU5 ; como h-e pac, cen a n- 
uonaicci h-i Cpuacam. 

" Cajm (.1. Caraip co n-a clamo, 7 na pig pempo) i n-Oenach Giloe ; Cluno 
Oeoao, (.1. pil Conaipe 7 Gpnai) h-i Cemaip Gpano ; pip PPumnn, [.i. Oepjrene] 
i n-Oeiiuc culi, 7 i n-Oenac Colman ; Connaccu h-t Cpuucam." Lealtltar na 
h-Uidhre, fol. 41. b. 


" A great king of great judgments assumed the sovereignty of Erin, L a Cormac, 
son of Art, son of Conn of the Hundred Battles. Erin was prosperous in his time, 
because just judgments were distributed throughout it by him ; so that no one durst 
attempt to wound a man in Erin during the short jubilee of seven years ; for Cormac 
had the faith of the one true God, according to the law ; for he said that he would not 
adore stones, or trees, but that he would adore him who had made them, and who had 
power over all the elements, i. e. the one powerful God who created the elements ; in 
him he would believe. And he was the third person who had believed, in Erin, be- 
fore the arrival of St. Patrick. Conchobor Mac Nessa, to whom Altus had told con- 
cerning the crucifixion of Christ teas the fret; Morann, the sonofCairbre Cinncait, 
(who was surnamed Mac Main) was the second person ; and Cormac was the third ; 
and it is probable that others followed on their track in this belief. 

Ccep Cecu 7 muip in II. 3. 17. b 6cun .1. bunpile in H. 3. 17. 

O 2 


" Where Cormac held his court was at Tara, in imitation of the kings who preceded 
him, until his eye was destroyed by Engus Gaibhuaiphnech, the son of Eochaidh Finn 
Fuath-airt ; but afterwards he resided at Acaill, (the hill on which Serin Colairn Cille 
is at this day), and at Cenannas, [Kells], and at the house of Cletech ; for it was not 
lawful that a king with a personal blemish should reside at Tara. In the second year 
after the injuring of his eye he came by his death at the house of Cletech, the bone of 
a salmon having stuck in his throat. And he (Cormac) told his people not to bury 
him at Brugh, (because it was a cemetery of Idolaters,) for he did not worship the 
same God as any of those interred at Brugh ; but to bury him at Ros na righ, with 
his face to the east. He afterwards died, and his servants of trust held a council, and 
came to the resolution of burying him at Brugh, the place where the kings of Tara, 
his predecessors, were buried. The body of the king was afterwards thrice raised to be 
carried to Brugh, but the Boyne swelled up thrice, so as that they could not come ; so 
that they observed that it was ' violating the judgment of a prince' to break through 
this Testament of the king, and they afterwards dug his grave at Ros na righ, as he 
himself had ordered. 

" These were the chief cemeteries of Erin before the Faith, [i. e. before the in- 
troduction of Christianity,] viz. Cruachu, Brugh, Tailltiu, Luachair Ailbe, Oenach 
Ailbe, Oenach Culi, Oenach Colmain, Temhair Erann. 

" Oenach Cruachan, in the first place, it was there the race of Heremou, i. e. the 
kings of Tara, were used to bury until the time of Cremhthann, the son of Lughaidh 
Riabh-n-derg, (who was the first king of them that was interred at Brugh) viz. Cobh- 
thach Coelbregh, and Labhraidh Loingsech, and Eocho Fedhlech with his three sons 
(i. e. the three Fidhemhna, i. e. Bres, Nar, and Lothor), and Eocho Airemh, Lughaidh 
Riabh n-derg, the six daughters of Eocho Fedhlech, (i. e. Medhbh, and Clothru, Mu- 
resc, and Drebriu, Mugain, and Ele,) and Ailill Mac Mada with his seven brothers, 
(i. e. Get, Anlon, Doche, et ceteri) and all the kings down to Cremhthann, (these were 
all buried at Cruachan). Why was it not at Brugh that the kings (of the race of 
Cobhthach down to Crimhthann) were interred ? Not difficult ; because the two pro- 
vinces, which the race of Heremou possessed, were the province of Gailian, (i. & the 
province ofLeinster), and the province of Olnecmacht, (i. e. the province of Connaught). 
In the first place the province of Gailian was occupied by the race of Labhraidh 
Loingsech, and the province of Connaught was the peculiar inheritance of the race of 
Cobhthach Coelbregh ; wherefore it (i. e. the province of Connaught) was given to 
Medhbh before every other province. (The reason that the government of this land 
was given to Medhbh is, because there was none of the race of Eochaidh fit to receive it 
but herself, for Lughaidh was not fit for action at the time). And whenever, therefore, 
the monarchy of Erin was enjoyed by any of the descendants of Cobhthach Coelbregh, 
the province of Connaught was his ruidles (i. e. his native principality). And for this 
reason they were interred at Oenach na Cruachna. But they were interred at Brugh 
from the time of Crimhthann (Niadh-nar), to the time of Loeghaire, the son of Niall, 
except three persons, namely, Art, the son of Conn, and Cormac, the son of Art, and 
Niall of the Nine Hostages. 

" We have already mentioned the cause for which Cormac was not interred there. 
The reason why Art was not interred there is, because he 'believed,' the day before 
the battle of Muccramma was fought, and he predicted the Faith, (i. e. that Christianity 


would prevail in Erin), and he said that his own grave would be at Dumha Dergluachra, 
where Trenit [Trevet] is at this day, as he mentioned in a poem which he composed, 
viz. Cain do denda den, (i.e. a poem which Art composed, the beginning of which 
is Cain do denna den, &c.) When his (Art's) body was afterwards carried eastwards 
to Dumha Dergluachra, if all the men of Erin were drawing it thence, they could not, 
so that lie was interred in that place, because there was a Catholic church to be after- 
wards at the place where he was interred (i. e. Treoit hodie) because the truth and the 
Faith had been revealed to him through his regal righteousness. 

" Where Niall was interred was at Ochain, whence the hill was called Ochain, L e. 
(Mi Caine, L e. from the sighing and lamentation which the men of Erin made in la- 
menting Niall. 

" Conaire More was interred at Magh Feci in Bregia (L e. at Pert Conaire) ; how- 
ever some say that it was Conaire Carpraige was interred there, and not Conaire Mor, 
and that Conaire Mor was the third king who was interred at Tara, viz. Conaire, 
Loeghaire, and * * * *. 

" At Tailltin the kings of Ulster were used to bury, viz. Ollamh Fodhla, with his 
descendants down to Conchobhar, who wished that he should be carried to a place 
between Slea and the sea, with his face to the east, on account of the Faith which he 
had embraced. 

" The nobles of the Tuatha De Danann were used to bury at Brugh, (L e. the 
Dagda with his three sons ; also Lughaidh, and Oe, and Ollam, and Ogma, and Etan, 
the Poetess, and Corpre, the son of Etan,) and Cremhthann followed them because 
his wife Nar was of the Tuatha Dea, and it was she solicited him that he should adopt 
Brugh as a burial-place for himself and his descendants, and this was the cause that 
they did not bury at Cruachan. 

" The Lagenians (i. e. Cathair with his race and the kings who were before them) 
were buried at Oenach Ailbhe. The Clann Dedad (i. e. the race of Conaire and Erna) at 
Temhair Erann ; the men of Munster (i. e. the Dergthene) at Oenach Culi, and Oenach 
Colmain ; and the Connacians at Cruachan." 

The preceding document will, I think, be sufficient to satisfy all 
rational inquirers of the visionary character of the hypothesis of the 
Round Towers having been erected as places of sepulture, at least in 
pagan times ; for, though it does not throw any light on the character 
of the monuments in use preceding Christianity, it refers us distinctly 
to their principal localities, in many of which we may still examine 
the monuments themselves. 

Our ancient MSS., in like manner, acquaint us with the loca- 
lities of the principal battle-fields in Ireland, and with the particular 
monuments of the most distinguished kings and warriors, from the 
earliest periods to the establishment of Christianity in the country ; 
and in most of these localities the monuments still remain. But do 
we in any of those places discover a Round Tower, or the vestige of 
one ? Most assuredly not, nor any monument having a characteristic 


in common with one. We find the stone earn and the green mound, 
with their sepulchral chambers within them, and their monumental 
character indicated by the upright stones, sometimes single like the 
stele of the Greeks and sometimes forming a circle, or concentric 
circles. We find the giants' graves, or beds, as they are called by 
the Irish the cromlechs and Druids' altars of speculative antiquaries. 
And when we explore any of these monuments, we find, according to 
their age, either the rude unglazed sepulchral urn of baked clay, and 
occasionally of stone, containing bones more or less calcined, or un- 
burned skeletons, or occasionally both, in the same sepulchre. We 
also find very frequently weapons of stone or metal ; and, in monu- 
ments of importance indicating the distinguished rank of the persons 
interred, ornaments of silver and gold. And that such and no other 
were the varieties of sepulchral monuments in use in Ireland in pagan 
times, a volume of historical evidences from our ancient MSS. might 
be adduced to prove : a few examples will, however, be sufficient for 
my present purpose. Thus, as an example of the class of monuments 
in use in Ireland during the sway of the Tuatha De Danann race, as 
well as subsequently, I take the two following passages, relative to the 
monuments at the royal cemetery of Brugh na Boinne, on the banks 
of the Boyne, as given in the Dinnsenchus, contained in the Book of 
Ballymote, fol. 190. 

" t)o oinjnaib in &pojja inn po .1. Lorc% inline Popaino, tecc in tDajoa, TTIup 
na TTIoppigna, 6ece in TTlacae, ip oia colpca paicep Inbep Colpea; 6apc Cpim- 
chaino Nianaip, ip ann po aonacc; pepc Peoelmio Reccmaip, Capn ail Cuinn 
Cec-caraijj, Cumoc Caipppi f,ipeacaip, pulace Piachach Spaipcine, &c." 

" Of the monuments of Brugh here, viz. the Bed of the daughter of Forann, the 
Monument of the Dagda, the Mound of the Morrigan, the Monument of [the monster] 
Mata ; it is from its colpa or thigh Inbher Colptha is called ; the Bare of Crimthann 
Nianar, in which he was interred ; the grave of Fedelmidh, the Lawgiver, the Carn- 
ail [stone earn] of Conn of the Hundred Battles, the Cumot [commensurate grave] 
of Cairbre Lifeachair, the Fulacht of Fiacha Sraiphtine." 

The second passage enters more into detail, as follows : 

" Qlteep. Imoae in t)ajjoa ceramup; tDa Cic na JTIoppijna, pope aipm i n- 
jenaip Cepmuio TTlil-bel, mac in t)ajoa; pipe m-6oinne mna Neccam, ip i cue 
le in coin m-big oiap bo ainm Dabilla, unoe Cnoc Dabilla oicieup ; t)uma Cpepc ; 
pepcSpclaim bpireman in Dujoa, ppip i n-abap Pepc pacpic mom ; Cipp 7 Cuip- 
pel, mna in&ajoa; .1. oa cnoc ; Pepca Qeoa tuipjnij, mic in tDajoai; Depc 
m-6uailcc in-6ic; 6ecc Cellai, mic ITlailcoba ; Cecc jjabpa Cinaooa, mic Jpja- 
luij; Capcap Ceic fTlacae ; ^ enn in Hlacae .1. pelci pin, uc alii Dicunc; 


i, tnic rPuipeba, aipm i pail a cenn ; ,ecc 6enn .1. lecc poppa ropchuip in 
rPkicue ; un. xx. ic cop leip 7 nil. CHID; Ournd na cnarh ; Caipel Gengupa, mic 
Opunomueil ; Roue pula tTlioip, &c." 

"Alitur. The Bed of the Dagda, first; the Two Paps of the Morrigan, at the place 
when- Oninicl Milbhel, son of the Dagda, was born ; the Grave of Boinn, the wife of 
Nechtan ; it was she took with her the small hound called Dabilla, from which Cnoc 
Dabilla is called ; the Mound of Tresc ; the grave of Esclam, the Dagda's Brehon, 
which is called Fert-Palric at this day ; [tfte monuments of] Cirr and Cuirrell, wives 
of the Dagda ; these are two hillocks ; the Grave of Aedh Luirgnech, son of the 
Dagda ; the Cave of Buailcc Bee ; the Monument of Cellach, sou of Maelcobha ; the 
Monument of the steed of Cinaedh, son of Irgalach ; the Prison of Liath-Macha ; the 
(Urn of the Mata, i. e. the monster, as some assert ; the Pillar-stone of Buidi, the sou 
of Muiredh, where his head is interred; the Stone of Benn, i. e. the monument on 
which the monster Mata was killed ; it had one hundred and forty legs and four heads ; 
the Mound of the bones ; the Caisel (stone enclosure) of Aengus, son of Cruunmael ; 
Rout sula Midir, &c." 

As examples of the sepulchral monuments of this Tuatha De 
Danann race most familiar to the majority of my readers, I may point 
to the magnificent mounds situated on the Boyne at Drogheda, Dowth, 
Knowth, and New Grange, which last has lain open to the inspection 
of the curious during the last hundred and fifty years. And in con- 
nection with these monuments I may observe, that the occasional 
absence of articles of value within them, when opened in modern 
times, by no means proves that such had not been deposited there 
originally, as the plundering of these very sepulchres by the Danes 
is recorded in the Annals of Ulster at the year 862 : 

" A. D. 862. Uum Qchaio Qloai 7 Cnoobai, 7 uam peipc 6oaoan op t)ubuo, 
7 uam mnu un 5ban P pcpuiopec 3 al '"'-' quoo uricea non peppeccum epr .1. a 
peer po placpac rpi pij^e peponn pluinn, mic Conamj .1. Gmlairii, 7 Itnap, 7 

" A. D. 862. The cave of Achadh Aldai and of Cnodhba [Knowth J, and the cave 
of the sepulchre of Boadan over Dubhad [Dowth], and the cave of the wife of Gobhau, 
were searched by the Danes, quod antea non perfectum est, on one occasion that the 
three kings Anilaff, Imar, and Auisle, were plundering the territory of Flaun, the son 
of Conaing." 

As an example of the monuments of a different race, and of later 
date, I may refer to the cemetery called Relec na Riogh, at Rath- 
croghan, the place of interment of many of the kings of the Scotic or 
Milesian race, and at which was interred the last pagan monarch of 
this race, the celebrated Dathi, who was killed by lightning, ac- 
cording to our annalists, in the year 400. 


In the ancient MS. from which the preceding tract on the pagan 
cemeteries of Ireland has been taken, there is also a tract on the 
deaths and burials of Dathi, the last pagan monarch, and the other 
princes of this race interred at Rathcroghan, from which I extract 
the following poem, ascribed to Dorban, a poet of West Connaught, 
as it will very clearly show the character of the sepulchral monuments 
in that great regal cemetery. 

" Niam 7 t)pucc ip Daci, 

cpi mjena Roppaci, 

a pecc m-bpacip, mop a cejlac, 

ma Ctilell oup pino frpe^tnac, 
Qca pin 'p in Duma mop 

pil ip in oenuc, cen bpon, 

Cpt meic pig f-agen lepoa, 

la rpi injenu oelboa. 
Q apim no a innipin 

nu pil pocib DO laecaib 

nocon pil ic pileoaib, 

7 ni pil ic jaecaib. 
Coeca Duma, oemnijim, 

pil in oenuc na Cpuacna, 

aca po cac Duma Dib 

coeca pep pip-jlan puncoa. 
lac cp.i peilce lolaioe 

pelec Chailcen, pe roga, 

pelec Cpuacan pip-jlame, 

ocup pelec in 6poga. 
Cac cnoc pil 'p lnD oenuc pin 

aca poi laic ip pijnu, 

ip ecip ip cuocaipe, 

7 mna jlanct jjpiboa. 
Sloj Connacc ba compomac, 

aipecc pip-alamo puacoa, 

alamo in cac conjalac, 

aonacc i Cacaip Cpuacna. 
Ni pil ip in majin pern 

cnoc in Oenuc na Cpuacna, 

nac pepc pig no pij-placa, 

no mn6, no ecep puacoa. 
CTonaicce plo5 po mioi, 

ap lap in 6poga cuacaig ; 

no aonaiccip apo Ulaio 

ip in Calcin co luacaip. 


Pip Ulcno, pia Concobop, 
aonaicce h-i Culcm piam, 
co bap KID pip popbapuij, 
oia n-oecaio oib a mam." 
" Niam and Drucht and Dathi, 
Three daughters of Rossachi, 
His seven brothers, great his household, 
With Ailell of fair Bregia, 
These are buried in the great mound 

Which is at the Oenach, without doubt, 
Three sons of the King of extensive Leinster, 
With his three beauteous daughters. 

To reckon or to tell 

The number of heroes under them [the mounds] 

Is not in the power of poets, 

And it is not in the power of sages. 

Fifty mounds, I certify, 

Are at Oenach na Cruachna, 

There are under each mound of them 

Fifty truly-fine warlike men. 

The three cemeteries of Idolaters are 
The cemetery of Tailten, the select, 
The cemetery of the ever-fair Cruachan, 
And the cemetery of Brugh. 

Every hill which is at this Oenach [Cruachan] 

Has under it heroes and queens, 

And poets and distributers, 

And fair fierce women. 
The host of Connaught that was energetic, 

A truly fine warlike host, 

Beautiful the valiant tribe, 

Buried in Cathair Cruachna. 

There is not at this place 

A hill at Oenach na Cruachna, 

Which is not the grave of a king or royal prince, 

Or of a woman, or warlike poet. 

The host of great Meath are buried, 

In the middle of the lordly Brugh ; 

The great Ultonians used to bury 

At Talten with pomp. 
The true Ultonians, before Conchobhor, 

Were ever buried at Talten, 

Until the death of that triumphant man, 

Through which they lost their glory." 


This poem is followed by a prose commentary, apparently written 
by Moelmuiri himself, and, though it is not wholly necessary to my 
present subject, I cannot resist the temptation to extract it in this 
place, as throwing light upon the sources from which the information 
on this subject was obtained : 

" ITIari Ulao pia Concobop i Galeen po aonacca, .1. OUam poela 7 moppep- 
piup leipp o>a maccaib, 7 oia h-uib, 7 co n-opeim aile DO macib Ulao. Uapli 
Guace oe t)anano (cenmoea moppeppiup po aonacc onb h-i Culein) ip in 6pjJ5, 
.1. 115, 7 Oe, mac Olloman, 7 Ojma, 7 Capppe, mac Gcaine, 7 6ean (banpili) 
pern, 7 in Dajoa 7 a cpi meic (.1. CCeo 7 Oen^up 7 Cepmaie), 7 pocaioe mop ap- 
cena DO Uuaie oe t)anano, 7 Pep m-&ols, 7 caic up cena. RIJJO COICID JJa^'a" ' 
n-Oenac dilbi ; Rijpao IDuman i n-Oenac Cull, i n-Oenac Colman, 7 peci. 
Clann Deoao h-i Cemaip Gpano ; Ri^pao Connacc h-i Cpuacam, uc oirimup. 

" Coeca cnoc in cec Oenuc oib pin : coeca cnoc, em, i n-Oenuc Cpuacuin, 
7 .1. cnoc in Oenuc Calcen, 7.1. in Oenuc in 6poja. 

" Ic lac po imoppo pilio Connacc, .1. tDopban, 7 plairciup, 7 Oenjup pill ; u 
^noi in luccpm, (.1. in laprup Connacc tea .1. Oelmna Cipi oa loca) ; Copna 6cep, 
7 Scanlan mac Gojjain, in pili, 7 t)acen 6cep, po mapb in bill ; ip oe aca 6ili 
t)acen h-i Cip TTlani, ip ppip acbepap bill Scacen inoiu. Qcac cpa in luce pin ule 
i n-Oenuc na Cpuacna ; 7 aca ano apo-pi in coicio, .1. Qilill, mac TTIaca TTlupepci, 
7 a pecij, .1. TTIeob, injen 6cac Peolij. lap na bpeic a pepc meoba o'a muncip, 
ap ba h-aipejou leo a h-aonacul h-i Cpuacum. Hi cic Dim u n-aipim uli. Ip 
uno po aonacc t)aci, apo.pi h-6penn, 7 ip inci a cac in luce po cupini Copna 
6cep. Ciappaiji a Dipt. 

" piano epa 7 Gocaio Golac h-Uj Cepin ip lac po cinoilpac po a llebpaib 
Gocaoa h-Ui planoacan i n-Qpo Hlaca, 7 a llebpaib IDanipcpec, 7 ap na lebpaib 
cojaioib ap cena, .1. up in f/ibup 6uoi, cepco ap in Capcap i n-Qpo ITlaca, 7 ap in 
6ibup ^ipp, boi im TTlanipcep ; 7 ip pioe puc in mac lejirio lepp i n-jaic oap muip, 
7 ni FP' piam oilepp. Conio pencap na pelec inpin." 

" The chiefs of Ulster before Conchobhor were buried at Talten, viz. Ollamh Fodhla 
and seven of his sons, and grandsons, with others of the chiefs of Ulster. The nobles of 
the Tuatha De Danann (with the exception of seven of them who were interred at 
Talten) were buried at Brugh, i. e. Lugh, and Oe, son of Ollamh, and Ogma, and Car- 
pre, son of Etan, and Etan [the poetess] herself, and the Dagda and his three sons, (i. e. 
Aedh, and Oengus, and Cermait,) and a great many others besides of the Tuatha De 
Dananns, and Firbolgs, and others. The kings of the province of Galian [Leinster] 
were buried at Oenaeh Ailbi ; the kings of Munster at Oenach Culi, in Oenach Colman 
and Feci. The Clann Dedhadh at Temhair Erann. The kings of Connaught at Cruachan 
ut diximus. 

" There are fifty hills [mounds] at each Oenach of these : fifty hills at Oenach 
Cruachan, fifty hills at Oenach Talten, and fifty at Oenach in Broga. 

" These were the poets of Connaught, viz. Dorban, and Flaithcius, and Aengus the 
poet these were of Gno, (in the west of Connaught, i. e. of Delmna Tiri da Locha) ; 
Torna Eiges, Scanlan Mac Eoghain, the poet, and Daithen, the poet, whom the tree 


killed ; whence is Bile Datlien in Tir Maine, at this day called Dili Scathen. All these 
are buried at Ociiach lui Cruachna ; and there are also buried there the supreme king 
of the province, i. e. Aik-11 Mac Mata of Muiresc, and his wife, i. e. Medhbh, the daughter 
of Eochaidh Fi-dhkfli, her body having been removed by her people from Fert Medhbha, 
lor they deemed it more honourable to have her interred at Cruachan. I am not able 
to enumerate them all. It is here Dathi, monarch of Ireland, was buried, and it is here 
lie those enumerated by Torna Eiges. Ciarraigi was his reward. 

" It was Flann and Eochaidh Eolach O'Ceirin that collected this account from the 
books of Eochaidh O'Flannagan at Armagh, and from the Books of the Monastery [Mo- 
nasterboice], and from other select books, viz. from the Libur Budi, which disappeared 
from the Carcar at Armagh, and from the Libur Gerr, which was at the Monastery ; 
and this was the book which the student took with him by stealth across the sea, and 
was never found since. So far the History of the Cemeteries." 

In accordance with this description we find that the monuments 
within the cemetery at Rathcroghan, which is of a circular form, 
measuring one hundred and sixteen paces in diameter, and sur- 
rounded with a stone ditch greatly defaced, the cathair of the 
poem, are small circular mounds, which when examined are found 
to cover rude sepulchral chambers formed of stone, without cement 
of any kind, and containing unburned bones. The monument of 
Dathi, which is a small circular mound, with a pillar-stone of red 
sand-stone, is situated outside the enclosure, at a short distance to 
the east, and may be at once identified from the following notice of 
it, given by the celebrated antiquary, Duald Mac Firbis, in 1666: 

" CUJUD copp Oaci 50 Cpuacham, gup h-aonaiceao e i Relij nu pioj i 5- 
Cpuacam, i B-pail a pabuonp piogpaio pil epearhom DO upiriop, 6ic u B-puil jup 
aniu anChaippreDheapj map liaj op a lije 'nu leacc lairii le Ruir Cpuucun, gup 
ariopa, 1666." Lib. Geneal. p. 251. 

" The body of Dathi was brought to Cruachan, and it was interred at Relig na 
riogh at Cruachan, where the most of the kings of the race of Heremon were buried, 
and where to this day the RED PILLAH STONE remains as a stone monument over his 
grave near Rath-Cruachan, to this time, 1666." 

The following notice of Cam Amhalgaidh, preserved in the Book 
of Lecan, fol. 247, a, will give a distinct idea of the kind of monu- 
ments, which the pagan Irish chieftains erected for the purpose of 
receiving their bodies after death, and will also tend to show that an 
annual meeting of the people, called in Irish Oenach, was usually 
held at those regal cemeteries : 

"Capn QiTiuljuio, .1. Ctmaljaio, mac Piachpa eijctio, m;c t)uchi, mic Piach- 
puch. Ip leip po rochlao in capn, cum uenuij h-Ua n-Gmaljaio oo oenam 'nu 


chimchell coca bliaoam, DO peichem along ocup a cabling ap ocup mo, ocup OKI 
uonocol booein." 

" Cam Amhalgaidh, i. e. of Amhalgaidh, son of Fiachra Elgaidh, son of Dathi, son 
of Fiachra. It is by him that this earn was formed, for the purpose of holding a meet- 
ing of the Hy- Amhalgaidh around it every year, and to view his ships and fleet going 
and coming, and as a place of interment for himself." 

If it were necessary to my purpose I might also adduce, from the 
most ancient Irish MSS., several minute descriptions of the modes of 
interment practised by the pagan Irish ; one, however, which cannot 
fail to interest the reader, may suffice. It is found in that most va- 
luable MS., the Leabhar na h- Uidhre, so often quoted already, and 
occurs in a very ancient story, written to show that Finn Mac Cum- 
haill was also sometimes known by the name of Mongan, and which 
details the circumstances connected with the death of Fothadh Airg- 
theach, who was for a short time monarch of Ireland, and was killed 
by the warrior Cailte, the foster-son of F-inn Mac Cumhaill, in the 
battle of Ollarba, fought, according to the Annals of the Four Mas- 
ters, in the year 285. In this tract, Cailte is introduced as identify- 
ing the grave of Fothadh Airgtheach, at Ollarba, in the following 
words : 

" 6amaip-ne lar-pu, a pmo, ol in c-ocluc. Qoaurr, ol fflonjan, ni mair pin. 
6arnaip-m la pino, cpu, ol pe ; ou loomap 01 Qlbae." Immapnacmap ppi poruo 
n-Gipjcec h-i puno accuc pop Ollopbi. picimimp pcanoal n-ano. pocapcpo epcop 
paip, co pec epic, co lluio h-i calmain ppipp anull, 7 con pacaib a lapno h-i ra- 
lam ; ippeo an oicelcap po po boi ip in gai pin. pugebcap in mael cloc oia po lapa 
a pouo pi, b 7 pogebcap anaip lupnn ip in calam, 7 pogebrap uulao c poraio Qipjcig 
ppip anaip bic. Oca compap cloci imbi ano h-i calam. Qcac a oi poll aipjjic, 
7 a 01 bunne ooac, 7 a mumcopc apgic pop a compaip; 7 aca coipce oc a ulaio ; 7 
aca ojom ip in cmo pil h-i calum DIM coipci. Ippeo pil ano, 

eochaiD aiRchecii JNSO. 

T3a tn-bi Cailce in imaepiuc ppi Pino. Gche (.1. oo gntchep) lap in oclaic a pice 
patnlaiu ule, 7 popepca." 

" We were with thee, O Finn, said the youth. Hush ! said Mongan, that is not 
good [fair]. " We were with Finn, once, said he ; we went from Alba, [recte Almain]. 
We fought against Fothadh Airgthech here with thee at Ollarba. We fought a battle 
here ; I made a shot at him, and I drove my spear through him, so that the spear en- 
tered the earth at the other side of him, and its iron head was left buried in the earth. 

a Qlmain in H. 3, 17, which is better. 

b Gn poao pin, i. e. that shot, in H. 3, 17. 

c Ulaio in H. 3, 17, which is the form of the word still in use. 


This is the very handle that was in that spear. The round stone from which I made 
that shot will be found, aud east of it will be found the iron head of the spear buried 
in the earth ; and the uluidh [earn] of Fothadh Airgthech will be found a short dis- 
tance to the east of it. There is a chest of stone about him in the earth. There are 
his two rings of silver, and his two bunne doat [bracelets?], and his torque of silver on 
his chest; and there is a pillar stone at his earn ; and an Ogumis [inscribed] on the end 
of the pillar stone which is in the earth. And what is in it is, 


It was Cailte that was here along with Finn. All these things were searched for by 
the youth who had arrived, and they were found." 

I think I have now adduced sufficient evidence to satisfy the 
reader respecting the real character of the pagan modes of sepulture 
in use in Ireland/and that the theory, advanced by my friends of the 
South Munster Society of Antiquaries, is at variance as well with the 
ancient Irish authorities as with the existing monuments of known 
pagan antiquity. 

The only remaining hypothesis of those referring the Round Towers 
to a pagan use, namely, their having been PHALLI, or PRIAPEIA TEM- 
PLA, is happily so absurd, and at the same time so utterly unsupported 
by avithority or evidence worthy of refutation, that I gladly pass it by 
without further notice, even though it has found a zealous supporter 
in the person of Sir William Betham, since these pages were origi- 
nally written and read to the Academy, and who was consequently 
not unacquainted with their contents. 


1. That they were Anchorite Towers. 2. That they were peni- 
tential prisons. 3. That they were belfries. 4. That they were keeps, 
or monastic treasure-houses. 5. That they were watch-towers and 

1. ANCHORITE TOWERS. The hypothesis that the Towers were 
erected for the use of anchorites, in imitation of the pillar of St. Si- 
mon the Stylite, originated with Dean Richardson, of Belturbet, and 
has been warmly advocated by Walter Harris, in his edition of Ware's 
works, pp. 130 135, and in later times by the celebrated architec- 
tural antiquaries, Dr. Milner and Mr. King. 


The arguments adduced in support of this hypothesis rest almost 
entirely on the supposed agreement, in form, size, and internal con- 
struction, between the Irish Towers and the pillars of the Eastern 
Anchorites, to prove which Harris is at great pains to establish a uni- 
formity, which, it will be easy to show, certainly never existed. 

The first point of agreement, as Harris gravely states, consists in 
both being of a round form. " Those of Asia were in form round, 
so are ours." This I am forced to concede. 

Secondly. " They [the Eastern Pillars] were of various Heights, 
so likewise are ours." This, too, I must allow. But the Eastern Pillars 
varied in height from six cubits, or nine feet, to thirty-six or forty 
cubits, in one of great celebrity, while the Irish Towers varied in 
height from sixty to one hundred and thirty feet. The only point of 
agreement therefore is in each class being of various heights ; and 
on the same data Harris might with equal justice have asserted a 
common origin for any two classes of objects, however differing in 
other respects. 

Thirdly. " That they were hollow, as ours are." This agreement 
Harris endeavours to establish in opposition to the learned Bollandus, 
who expressly states that the Stylite columns were solid. For this 
purpose he first translates a passage of Evagrius (Hist. Eccl. lib. i. 
chap. 3) as follows : 

" At the same time, (i. e. in the 4th Century) flourished Symeon, a man of cele- 
brated Memory and high Fame. He first instituted the Station in a Pillar, and built 
a little dwelling Place (Domicilium) on it, the Measure of which was scarce two 

And again : 

" Symeon, (proceeds Evagrius), wore out 56 Years in these extreme Severities ; for 
he spent 9 in a Monastery, wherein he had first learned the Eudiments of Divine Pre- 
cepts of living, and in this Hovell 47 ; of which last Number he spent 10 in a very 
narrow Place (which others say was a dry Well) 7 in smaller Pillars, and at length 30 
in a Pillar of 40 Cubits high, which stood 300 Furlongs at most from Antioch." (Hist. 
Eccl. Lib. 14. Cap. 51.) 

This translation, to my mind, carries on its very face sufficient 
evidence as well of its own inaccuracy as of the falseness of the con- 
clusions which Harris endeavours to draw from it : for, if the pillar 
were hollow from its base, what necessity was there to build a domi- 
cilmm of scarce two cubits on its top ? and, if even the Stylite were 
stated to have instituted the station in and not on the pillar, is it not 


evident that nothing more could be meant than such a pulpit or tub- 
like cavity on its summit as would be necessary to prevent the en- 
thusiast from falling. In this sense only has the passage been always 
understood and translated, as far as I can find ; as an instance of 
which take the old Cambridge version of Evagrius, by Valesius, 1G92. 

" In these times, Symeon, a person of an holy and most celebrated memory, flou- 
rished, and was eminent ; he was the first person that instituted the station upon a pillar, 
the circumference of whose mansion was scarce two cubits," &c. " Moreover, Symeon 
spent six and fifty years in this afflictive and austere mode of life. In the first monas- 
tery wherein he had been imbued with the precepts of a divine life (he spent) nine 
years, and seven and forty in that place called the Mandra during ten years (of which 
time) he performed his combat in a certain narrow place; (he dwelt) seven years in 
the shorter pillars, and thirty years upon a pillar of forty cubits long." 

Harris next quotes Raderus, the Tyrolese Jesuit, and Petrus Ga- 
lesinius, an Italian priest, to support his hypothesis, neither of whom, 
however, assists him in the matter, and even if they did, could not be 
received as authorities of any weight. The former says (I quote Har- 
ris's translation), that " The Hole or Cell or Domicile placed at the 
Top of the Pillars, in which the Stylites stood, were 2 Cubits, or 3 
Feet broad, and were not covered with a Roof, that they might 
have the freer Liberty of contemplating the Heavens," &c. ; and that, 
" When any Person went up to the Stylites, or they came down to 
others, it was by the Means of Ladders." Galesinius, indeed, says that 
the Stylite " was shut up in a hollow Pillar for forty years ;" but 
might not this be very properly said of a person enclosed in such a 
cell or hole as that already described ? and yet Harris has the weak- 
ness to consider this authority as conclusive, and forgetting his own 
quotation from Raderus, adds : " But let it be considered, whether a 
Ladder could from the Outside be safely reared to the Height of (JO 
Feet against a round Spire of such small Dimensions at Top, in Order 
to supply the Stylite with Food and other Necessaries ; unless, like 
Elijah, we allow him to be fed by Ravens, the Necessity of which 
Miracle will be avoided, if we admit the Eastern Pillars to have been 
hollow, and, like ours, fitted with Lofts and Stages, by Means of which, 
and the Help of short Ladders, access might readily be had to the 

This is inexpressibly puerile. If the pillars were so narrow that 
a ladder could not be applied with safety from the outside, their 
extreme diameter at top being but three feet, what sort of a chimney- 


like cavity to place " Lofts and Stages" in must that have been within 
it ? Certainly one not more than a foot in diameter, if we allow the 
wall to have had any thickness, and which, consequently, could only 
be ascended by a climbing-boy, and a very small one too, whom we 
must necessarily suppose to have been attached to the saint's esta- 
blishment for the purpose ! It is difficult indeed to treat such rea- 
sonings with proper gravity. There is no distinction more ancient 
than that between tower and pillar ; insomuch that even Dr. Milner, 
with all his zeal in support of Harris's hypothesis, had not the hardi- 
hood a quality he rarely wanted in seeking to establish a point 
to adopt such imbecile reasonings. 

Harris, after thus settling, to his own satisfaction, the points of 
agreement between the pillars of the Eastern Stylites and those of 
the West, next proceeds to point out the circumstances in which 
they differ, and to explain the probable causes of this non-conformity. 
The first is, that the Eastern Pillars were not roofed, while the Irish 
were invariably so, a disagreement which he considered necessary 
from the difference of region. 

" For human Nature could not bear to be perpetually exposed without Shelter to 
the Severities of this cold and moist Climate, whatever might have been done in the 
milder Eastern Countries." 

Very rational indeed ! What, then, were the uses of the four, 
five, or six unglazed apertures at top ? Would not the situation 
of an unfortunate anchorite thus exposed to the winds of heaven, let 
them blow from whatever point they might, be even worse than that 
of a person exposed to the open air ? 

He next says : 

" Another Difference is, that the Eastern Columns were only 3 Feet in Diameter at 
the Extremity, as appears from Evagrius, Nicephorus and others : Whereas those 
among us appear to be 8 Feet in the Diameter at the Base, and some more, and the 
Diminution to the Extremity does not seem to the Eye (for I was never on the Top 
of any of them) to be above a fourth part, which also corresponds with the Rules of 
Architecture -, so that the Irish Tower, being 6 Feet in the Diameter at the Extremity, 
afforded Room to the Solitary to stretch himself at Length in it, which he could not do 
in the Eastern Pillar. But may not this Difference be accounted for from the Relaxation 
of Discipline from what it was in the first Institution of the Stylite Order by Syrneon; 
as we often read to have been practised in other religious Orders, which has from Time 
to Time caused such infinite Reformations among them ?" 

The difference of diameter, here acknowledged, appears to me to 


be quite sufficient to prove the fallacy of Harris's speculation, for as 
to the ivlaxation of discipline, &c., which he supposes might have 
mused this difference, it is mere idle conjecture, and unworthy of 

Harris further on says : 

" The Habitations of these Anachorites are called by some of our Writers Inclu- 
soria in Latin, and Arcti Inclusorii Ergastiila, the Prisons of a narrow Inclosure. Par- 
ticularly in the Life of Dunchad 0-Braoin, who was Abbot of Clonmacnois, and having 
obtained a very popular Reputation for Learning and Piety, to avoid the air of vain 
Glory, he betook himself to an Anachoretical Life, and shut himself up in Arcti In- 
clusorii Ergastulo, in the Prison of a narrow Inclosure, and employed himself wholly in 
the Contemplation of God and Eternity, where he died in 987." 

He adds : 

" I will not take upon me to affirm, that it was in one of these Towers at Clonmac- 
nois, (where there are more than one of the Kind) that he shut himself up ; but the 
Expression used upon the Occasion may be very well adapted to them." 

In this statement Harris has not dealt fairly with his readers. In 
the first place it would have been impossible for him, as I believe, to 
have pointed out any other authority for calling the cells of the an- 
chorites Arcti Inclusorii Ergastula, than that single one in the Life 
of Dunchad O'Braoin ; and, secondly, he leads the reader to infer that 
it might have been in one of the Towers of Clonmacnoise that the 
abbot secluded himself, and there died. This he must have known 
to be contrary to fact. According to his Life, as given by Colgan, 
Dunchad had led this sort of life when in a private station, from 
which being dragged, on the death of the Abbot Tuathal, he was 
forced to take on him the labours of the abbacy. Still, however, 
longing for a retired state, he repaired in the year 974 to Armagh, 
hoping that he should be allowed to do so in a place in which he was 
unknown, and far remote from that in which his sanctity had procured 
him so much admiration. In this expectation he was disappointed. 
His reputation had probably travelled before him, and the respect 
which it procured for him was soon so general throughout that city 
that he determined on withdrawing from it. As soon, however, as 
this intention was discovered, the principal inhabitants deputed some 
venerable persons to request him to stay a year longer among them. 
The request was complied with ; and when, at the close of the year, 
he was again bent on departing, a similar entreaty was made to him 
with the same success, and so on annually, until at length he died 



there, on the 16th of January, A. D. 987. See CoIgan'sActa Sancto- 
rum, pp. 105, 106. Thus we find that if Harris had taken upon him 
to affirm that it was in one of the Towers of Clonmacnoise that Dun- 
chad had shut himself up a fact which nevertheless he wishes his 
readers to infer he would have asserted that which he knew was 
not the truth. If the Round Towers had been appropriated to the 
use of anchorites, those of Clonmacnoise would have suited Dunchad's 
purpose as well as any other, and he had no occasion to go elsewhere 
for retirement : he might have locked the door of his keep or prison 
after drawing up the ladder, in the manner Dr. Milner conjectured 
and have bid defiance to all friendly intruders. As to his habitation 
at Armagh, it is called in his Life a cell (cello} a term which it 
would be surely an overstretch of the imagination to apply to a tower. 
Finally, Harris says : 

" I am informed by a skilful Critick in Irish, that this slender Round Tower is 
called Clock- Ancoire, in that Language, i. e. the Stone of the Anchorite, and not Cloghad, 
or a Steeple, asMolyneux fancies; and a Tradition prevails at Drumlahan in the County 
of Cavan, where one of them stands in- the Church Yard, that an Anchorite lived on 
the Top of it." 

The critic, however, who communicated this piece of information, 
if in earnest, gave but a bad instance of his skill in the Irish tongue. 
It is unquestionable that the Towers are still known by no other 
names than cloictheach and clogas words signifying bell-house or 
belfry in every part of Ireland in which the Irish language still re- 
mains ; and there is not a shadow of proof that they were ever known 
by the name of cloch-ancoire, or stone of the anchorite, an appella- 
tion, which it would have been absurd to apply to a tower. As to 
the tradition, it scarcely deserves comment. If there were a tradition 
of a recluse having lived in the tower of Drumlahan, it must have 
referred to a period not very remote ; and the circumstance of a re- 
ligious enthusiast having taken up his residence there, as the hermit 
of Killarney did in the abbey of Mucruss, would no more make the 
one than the other an anchorite stone, or tower. But I have the au- 
thority of the Rev. Mr. Beresford, the present Rector of Drumlahan, 
that the only tradition relative to the Tower preserved there is, that 
it was a cloictheach, or belfry. 

The true origin, however, of this story of the cloch-ancoire and 
of the tradition will, I think, be found in the following passage from 


the Annals of the Four Masters, with which Harris must certainly 
liave been acquainted, though he did not find it convenient, or deem 
it prudent, to bring it forward. 

" A. D. 1484. 6pmn Ua Faipceullai, Saccapc oo cionpccam cloc angcoipe 
oo oenam 05 cempoll mop Opomu leacaui, o'ecc." 

" A. D. 1484. Brian O'Farrelly, a priest who commenced to build a clock angcoire 
at the great church of Druim-leathan, died." 

A really " skilful critic in Irish" Mr. O'Donovan to whom I 
submitted the preceding extract, has favoured me with the following 
observations on it : 

" It is remarkable that in the ancient written Irish language the term cloc anj- 
coipe, i. e. lapis anac/ioretce, is always applied to an anchorite's cell, while in the living 
language and in modern printed litanies the same apparent form of the term is inva- 
riably applied to the anchorite himself. I never heard any name for a hermit or an- 
chorite in the spoken Irish language but cloc-anjcoipe; it literally means, the recluse 
of the stone, or, of the stone habitation; for there can be no doubt that the word cloc, 
which literally signifies a stone, was often used by the Irish to denote a stone build- 
ing, as I could show by many examples from the Irish Annals ; and so far will 
etymology alone induce us to believe that the Irish anchorite secluded himself in a stone 
domicile; but this was certainly not a cloigtheach, or Round Tower. Cloc-anrcoipe, 
when it signifies, as in the spoken language, an anchorite, is a compound word, the 
first part of which is in the nature of an adjective, like church in the compound church- 
door in English. But it is not a compound word as used in the above passage by the 
Four Masters, for anjcoipe is in the genitive case, governed by cloc, and therefore 
means theatowe, or stone domicile of the recluse." 

What description of cell the clock angcoire of Drumlahan was, 
or whether it was of any particular form, is scarcely necessary to our 
purpose to inquire. It is enough for us to know that it was cer- 
tainly not the existing Tower, which is of a very remote antiquity, 
nor a building of the Round Tower form or character, as there could 
have been no necessity to erect such a structure, there, if that which 
already existed had been considered applicable to the purpose. But 
it cannot be questioned that the habitation of the anchorite at Drum- 
lahan, or as it is now called, Drumlane, was, like other hermits' cells, 
a small, low, stone cell ; for it was so described to Mr. O'Donovan in 
1836, by the late Mr. Kennedy of that place, who was the descen- 
dant, by the mother's side, of the O'Farrellys, the hereditary Here- 
nachs of the church, and who also told him that the building was 
partly remaining in his grandfather's time, and situated near the 

Q 2 


church : and of such a cell, which still exists, Harris himself gives 
us the following description : 

" One of these Anachorites, at present, remains in Ireland, viz. at Foure, in the 
County of West-Meath ; but instead of taking his Station in one of these Towers, he 
inhabits a small low Cell, so narrow, that a tall Man can scarce stretch himself at length 
on the Floor. He makes a vow at his Entrance never to quit his Cell, and the only 
Recreation he takes is to walk on a Terras built over it, if he may be said to walk, who 
cannot in a direct Line stretch out his Legs four Times." 

He afterwards states that the servants of this anchorite, who used 
to beg provisions for his support about the country, used to call him 
" the Holy man in the Stone" a term, which in the spoken lan- 
guage of the Irish at the time, was expressed by cloch-angcoire, and 
which, being found by Harris in the Irish Annals, as applied to the 
cell at Drumlahan, gave origin to his tradition in connection with it, 
and to its erroneous application to the Round Tower there. The fact 
referred to in the Annals, therefore, not only contradicts the asser- 
tions of Harris, but establishes also the fallacy of the theory of the 
anchorite use of the Towers, as drawn from this fabricated tradition. 

I have now gone through the entire of Harris's arguments, treat- 
ing them with an attention which I should not consider them to have 
deserved, but for the influence which they appear to have hitherto 
had on the question his theory having been adopted even by many 
from whom we might have expected a more rational conclusion. The 
reader will now be able to appreciate their value, and I shall not 
commit a longer trespass on his patience by adducing further prooi's 
of their futility. Neither do I think it necessary to transcribe the ob- 
servations of Mr. King, or of Dr. Milner, in support of this conjecture, 
as they consist chiefly of objections to the other theories, and offer no- 
thing new, or requiring an answer, in support of their own. Dr. Mil- 
ner indeed says, that " it is impossible to show what other purpose 
they were calculated for." But I indulge the pleasing hope, that the 
reader who will accompany me through the succeeding parts of this 
Inquiry will be of a contraiy opinion. 

2. PENITENTIAL PRISONS. This theory was first promulgated by 
Dr. Smith, the industrious author of some of our County Histories, 
on the authority, as he states, of Irish MSS., which, however, were 
nameless, and have never yet seen the light. These evidences are 
thus stated : 


" I was formerly of opinion that they [die Round Towers] were built for the resi- 
dence of Anchorites, and this conjecture was founded from such kind of pillars, having 
been erected iii tlie eastern countries for the reception of Monks, who lived on the top 
of them, as is mentioned by Km //////.< in the life of St. Symeon the Stylite, so called 
from his living in a pillar 40 years, as Petrus Galesinius reports. And it seemed 
probable, that our Irish Asteticks had the models of these buildings originally from 
Asia, which they early visited, as appears from several lives of the Irieh saints; but 
the use to which our ancient Irish MSS. put these towers, was to imprison penitents. 
Some of our writers have named them Indiisoria, and Arcti Indusorii Ergastula, The 
prisons of a narrow indositre. Particularly in the life of Dunchad 0-Braoin, Abbot of 
Clonmacnois, into which prison it is said he betook himself, where he died in 987. The 
Irish name for a penance is Turns, L e. the Latin name for a tower, derived from pe- 
nitents being imprisoned in them. And 'tis no less certain that all the Irish eccle- 
siastical words are directly taken from the Latin, as Temple, Aglish, Ashbeg, &c. from 
Templum, Ecdesia, Episcopus, &c. The MSS. add, that these penitents were placed 
on the top of the tower, and having made a probation of a particular number of days 
according to their crimes, they were admitted to descend to the next floor, and so on, 
till they came to the door which always faced the entrance of the church, where they 
stood and received the absolution of the Clergy, and blessings of the people, as some of 
our Irish MSS. particularly relate." Antient and Present State of the County and City 
of Cork, vol. ii. pp. 408, 409. 

In the preceding passage, which contains the whole of what Dr. 
Smith has written in support of this theory, there is but one assertion 
that has any foundation in truth, namely, that all the Irish ecclesiasti- 
cal words are directly taken from the Latin ; and even this is only 
partially true, for there are some Irish ecclesiastical words not so 
derived ; nor is the Irish word tur, or, as it is more usually written, 
tor, though cognate with the Latin, derived from it, but from a com- 
mon source. Moreover, the Irish never adopted the Latin word turris 
into their own language ; and it would have been as difficult for Dr. 
Smith to produce an authority for the application of this word either 
to a tower, or penance, in the Irish language, as to have produced the 
Irish MSS. from which he drew his erroneous, if not fabricated, ac- 
count of the use of the Round Towers. The word used for penance 
in Irish is oicpfje (aithrighe), a Scytho-Celtic word, signifying lite- 
rally compunction, sorrow, &c., and figuratively penance. This is 
the word used by the annalists, as in the following passage from the 
Annals of the Four Masters : 

' " A. D. 946. 5P IT1 F'- a1 ^ mjen plaino, mic niaileaclainn, Riojan Neill ^l""- 
ouio, o'ecc, lap n-airpicce oiocpa in a cuipmceccaib 7 ooatlcib." 

" A. D. 946. Gormflaith, daughter of Flann, son of Maileachlainn, Queen of Niall 
Glundubh, died, after haoing performed severe penance for her transgressions and sine." 


signifies in Irish " a journey, expedition, pilgrimage," and 
is not derived from the Latin turris, but, as it appears, from a more 
primitive Irish word cup, a journey, a tour, a search, (Heb. in, to 
search, explore.) Vide O'Reilly's Irish Dictionary. And thus cup- 
apctc signifies a traveller and a pilgrim, because the latter, when 
he took the penitential staff, was obliged to perform a certain round 
or journey as the practice continues to this day but not a tour 
from the top to the bottom of a tower ! The word cujiap, however, 
which is only employed figuratively to denote a pilgrimage, is not 
used in this sense in the Irish Annals, or any other ancient authorities 
that I have seen, the word ailirjie, or oilicne, being that which is 
always used. " To this day," says Dr. O'Conor, " the word used for 
a pilgrimage by the common Irish is A? lit fire. So the Annals of the 
Four Masters say, that ' Arthgal, son of Cathal, King of Connaught, 
took the penitential staff, and travelled to Hiona dia ailithre, 1 i. e. on 
his pilgrimage. (IV. Masters, 777.) This word Ailithre is composed 
of Ail, a great upright rock or stone, and itriallam [correctly triallaim] 
to go round ; and there is no name in the Irish language for the pil-. 
grimages of Christians to Hiona, or to Jerusalem, or to Rome, but 
that identical word Ailithre, which was used by the Pagan Irish for 
a pilgrimage to the sacred stone of the Came, or of the Tobar, the 
emblematical God of the Druids." (See Dr. O'Conor's interesting 
remarks on the well-worship of the ancient Irish, in the third Num- 
ber of Columbanus's Letters, pp. 89, 90. ) 

The following extract from Tighernach's Annals, compiled before 
the year 1088, will furnish an example of the use of the two words 
employed in Irish for penance and pilgrimage : 

"A. D. 980. dmlaini, mac Sicpiuca, apo-pij ap ^hallaib dcha Cliach, DO 
oul co h-1 a n-aiCliRlghe 7 a n-dltlChRl." 

" A. D. 980. Amlaff, son of Sitriuc, chief king of the Danes of Dublin, went to 
lona, on penance (airpije) and pilgrimage (cnlirpi)." 

The true nature of the penance performed on Irish pilgrimages 
is known to every person acquainted with our ancient customs, and 
may be found fully detailed in " Richardson's Folly of Pilgrimages 
in Ireland" (Dublin, 1727). It consists, now as anciently, in per- 
forming a certain turas, or journey, round a number of stations at a 
holy place, repeating at each station a certain number of prayers, &c., 
" and so," as Richardson concludes in his curious account of the pe- 


nitential stations at Lough Derg (p. 134), "their Turns (that is 
I'i I tfr image') is ended." 

In the preceding observations I am happy to find myself sup- 
ported by the approval of Mr. O'Donovan, to whom, as a most com- 
petent Irish scholar, I submitted them, and who has favoured nu: 
with the following remarks, which I consider as too valuable not to 
lay before the reader : 

" I have read your observations upon Dr. Smith's Penitential Totcer theory, and 
consider them correct and judicious. With respect to his Irish MS. authorities, I 
cannot believe that he had any such, and, from having read his published works and 
MS. collections, I have strong reasons to believe that he could not have understood it 
even if he had ; but, depending upon the interpretation of others, who often imposed 
upon him, and perhaps upon themselves, he made a vague reference to MSS., according to 
his usual mode, in order to add weight to his hypothesis. If Dr. Smith had MSS. in 
his possession, relating to the origin and use of the Round Towers of Ireland, why has 
he not told us something about their date, or whether they were of vellum, parchment, 
or paper, or who were their authors or scribes ? Why has he not given us the original 
of some passage from one of these MSS., with a literal translation ? To such questions 
I would venture, without fear of contradiction, to reply, because he had no such MSS. 
I doubt not, however, but that he might have seen or been told of some passage in 
some modern Irish MS., in which the word turas, pilgrimage, or penitential station, 
occurs, and which he misunderstood as referring to Round Towers, a striking in- 
stance of which kind of antiquarian juggling we have seen in Vallancey's quoting 
Cormac's Glossary as authority for the pagan antiquity of the Tower of Kildare. 1 
make no doubt that the MS. referred to by Dr. Smith is a description, in Irish, of the 
Turas or Station of Lough Derg, many copies of which were, in his time, extant 
throughout the country. 

" His asserting that the Irish ' Turas," 1 as resembling in sound the Latin Turris, 
is a corroboration of his hypothesis of the use of tlte Round Toicers, has no weight witli 
me. The Irish word cupap is certainly not derived from the Latin, but is, as well as 
the English word tour, to be referred to some original language of mankind. Cupup 
signifies a journey, as 50 n-eipijio DO rupup lear, ' may you hace guccesg on your jour- 
ney;' 1 cpua mo rupup 50 toe oeapj, 'pity my journey or pilgrimage to Lough Dery.' 
Cupap is sometimes figuratively used in the spoken Irish language to signify a cer- 
tain penitential station, which the Roman Catholics still perform, or lately performed, 
in many parts of Ireland, at holy wells near ancient churches and in the modern cha- 
pels: it is performed by moving on the knees from one penitential station to another 
at the ancient churches, or from one station of the Holy Cross to another in the mo- 
dern chapels, and repeating certain prayers before each station. Hence uj cuBaipc 
cupaip means 'performing a station or a pilgrimage /' but the word is understood by 
the most illiterate peasant as alluding to the journeying on the knees; and the same 
person, who would know that 03 cabmpc cupaip means performing a station or pil- 
grimage, would understand cupap paoa to mean a long JOURNEY ; cpiocnufyjeap mo 
cupup, '/ have finished my JOURNEY;' 50 n-eipljib DO cupup leac, ' may you succeed 


on your journey.' 1 From these examples it appears quite obvious that the Irish word 
cupap has nothing to do with tower or turris, but that it is of the same signification 
and derivation with the English 'tour,' which I trust no person will derive from the 
Latin turris, a tower. 

" I am of opinion that the term cupctp is not long in use in the sense of station or pil- 
grimage, for I never met any ancient MS. authority for such a figurative signification of 
the word. It is always used in Irish books and MSS. to signify ajourney, a travel, a tour; 
and if the word naorii were added, then it would mean a pilgrimage, 'a holy journey,' 
(naorii-rupap). But in all our ancient annals the word used to signify 'pilgrimage' 
is ailirpi. Cupap does not mean 'penance,'' as asserted by Dr. Smith, and never had 
any such signification, the word airpi je (which is a noun formed from the adjective 
airpeac, sorrowful,) being always used to denote penance, whether mental or cor- 

To these judicious remarks it is hardly necessary to add another 
word. I am quite persuaded that if Dr. Smith had had any distinct 
authority for his vague reference, either manuscript or printed, he 
would not have failed to have triumphantly produced it. Why did 
lie not tell us what the Towers were called in those ancient Irish 
MSS., which state that they were used to imprison penitents ? He 
answers this question by anticipation, thus : " Some of our writers 
have named them Inclusoria and Arcti Inclusorii Ergastula, the 
Prisons of a narrow enclosure particularly in the Life of Dunchad 
O'Braoin, &c." But these are not Irish words, and I have already 
shown, in the preceding section, that the authorities here referred to 
make no allusion whatever to towers, but on the contrary distinctly 
and invariably call those Inclusoria cellce or cells. 

The name, however, by which the ' Penitentiaries' were called in 
Irish may be seen in almost every page of our Annals : it is tnnp- 
rectch or oecqi-reac a name which is supposed by some to be poeti- 
cally compounded of the words oeaji, a tear, and reach, a house. 
It is thus explained by O'Reilly in his Irish Dictionary : 

" tDeap-reac, dear-theach, an apartment in a monastery calculated for prayers and 

Thus in the Annals of the Four Masters, at the year 905, the 
burning of the Deartheach of Mayo is recorded : 

" A. D. 905. Dertech Maige Eo do loscc." 

Erroneously translated by Dr. O'Conor : 
" A. D. 905. Nosocomium Maionense combustum." 


But correctly by Colgan, who knew the meaning of the passage far 
better than Dr. O'Conor : 

" A. D. 905. Domus poenitentium in Mogco incendio vastata." Ada SS. p. 606. 

And again : 

" A. D. 1075. Cluain loraird do losce, eon a dertigh." 
Also erroneously translated by O'Conor, as follows : 

" A. D. 1075. Cluanirardia corabusta cum suo Nosocomio." 

But correctly by Colgan : 

"A. D. 1075. Cluain-erardia cum sua Psenitentium wde, combusta." Ib. p. 407. 

A hundred other instances to the same effect might be adduced, 
but these will, I trust, suffice ; nor should I have deemed the proofs 
advanced by Dr. Smith deserving of so much notice, if they had not 
imposed on the acute mind of such an able antiquary as Sir Richard 
Colt Hoare, who expresses his approbation of this theory in the fol- 
lowing words : 

" On comparing and considering the various accounts which have been drawn up 
by so many able and intelligent antiquaries, I am inclined to favour the opinion of Dr. 
SMITH, which is strongly grounded upon the tradition of an ancient Irish manuscript." 
Journal of a Tour in Ireland, p. 284. 

TOWERS AND BEACONS. As these theories are only erroneous in 
their exclusive application, and are sound when applied conjointly 
as will, I trust, be proved in the second part of this Inquiry it is not 
necessary to take any further notice of them in this place. I shall 
content myself, therefore, with observing, that if they have hitherto 
failed of a more general adoption, it has been the result not less of a 
want of facts to support them, than of the difficulties in argument 
which their advocates had to encounter, in ascribing to a single and 
exclusive use a class of buildings, all of which exhibited peculiarities 
of structure, which were manifestly not necessary to that one purpose. 





IN the preceding part of this Inquiry I have endeavoured to remove 
the too prevalent existing prejudices of my countrymen in favour of 
theories respecting the origin and uses of the Round Towers, which 
I deem erroneous, by a dispassionate examination of the evidences 
which have been adduced to support them ; and to the calm inquirer 
after truth, who may have accompanied me through that rather te- 
dious preliminary investigation, I trust I have submitted such evi- 
dences as will prepare his mind for an unbiassed examination of the 
proofs I have now to tender, in support of the conclusions which I 
hope to establish. 

That my countrymen should be so generally inclined to believe in 
hypotheses I allude particularly to those referring the Towers to a 
pagan origin on such evidences, will probably excite surprise in the 
minds of the learned of other countries, among whom a more philoso- 
phical spirit has been directed to subjects of historical and antiquarian 
inquiry ; but such surprise must be materially diminished, when it is 
recollected that sound antiquarian investigation, even in the wealthier 
sister islands, is but of recent growth, and that, from various causes 
unnecessary to point out, it has naturally followed but slowly in Ire- 
land. I may add too, as a fact of great importance, that the little that 
has been hitherto written by men of acknowledged judgment and 
learning, on the subject of Irish architectural remains, has been far 
more calculated to mislead than guide the mind on this subject. 
What, I may ask, could be expected but the wildest speculation, 
when Sir James Ware, the first and most judicious of all the writers 
who have treated of Irish antiquities, and whose work still ranks as 
our text-book for information on such subjects, tells us, with all the 
weight of authority due to his learning and love of truth, that the Irish 


did not begin to build with stone and mortar until the twelfth cen- 
tury? The words in which this learned writer despatches this sub- 
ject, as translated by his laborious editor, Harris, are as follows : 

" Malachy 0-Morgair, Archbishop of Armagh, [who died in 1148] was the first 
Irishman, or at least one of the first, who began to build with Stone and Mortar, of 
which his contemporary Sir [St.] Bernard gives this Account, ' Malachy thought it 
incumbent on him to build a Chappel of Stone at Bangor, like those he had seen in 
other Countries : and when he began to lay the Foundation of it, some of the Natives 
were astonished at the Novelty ; because such Buildings were never seen before in that 
Country.' And a few Words after he introduces an ill-natured Fellow, and puts this 
Speech in his Mouth. ' What has come over you, good Man, that you should under- 
take to introduce such a Novelty into our Country ? We are Scott [i. e. Irishmen] not 
Gauls. What Levity is this ? What Need is there of such a proud and unnecessary 
Work ? How will you, who are but a poor Man, find Means to finish it ? And who will 
live to see it brought to Perfection ?' 8fc. We find also an Account given by the same 
Bernard, that this Malachy had some Years before built a Chappel in the same Place, 
' made indeed of planed Timber, but well jointed and compactly put together, and for a 
Scottish [i. e. an Irish] Work, elegant enough." Antiquities of Ireland, pp. 181, 182. 

It is true that Harris elsewhere, in his edition of Sir James Ware's 
works, timidly combats this conclusion of the great antiquary on the 
authority of the passage in Cambrensis, which would imply, in the 
opinion of that writer, that the Towers were of great antiquity in his 
time : but, by connecting this conclusion with a theory of his own 
which he could not substantiate, he only involved the subject in greater 
mystery than before, and predisposed the unguided mind to wander 
in a region of more unbounded speculation. 

Nearly cotemporaneous with Sir James Ware, and following in his 
track, Sir William Petty goes even farther, thus : 

" There is at this Day no Monument or real Argument, that when the Irish were 
first invaded, they had any Stone-Housing at all, any Money, any Foreign Trade, nor 
any Learning but the Legend of the Saints, Psalters, Missals, Rituals. &c. ; viz. nor 
Geometry, Astronomy, Anatomy, Architecture, Engineery, Painting, Carving, nor any 
kind of Manufacture, nor the least use of Navigation ; or the Art Military." Political 
Anatomy of Ireland, (second edition), chap. v. p. 25. 

The next writer who investigated our antiquities, and treated of 
the origin of the Round Towers in particular, was the celebrated Dr. 
Thomas Molyneux ; but his feeble efforts to remove the mystery of 
the existence of such remains among a people supposed to have been 
so uncivilized as the Irish, by ascribing them to their oppressors, the 
pagan Danes, added nothing to the knowledge already extant on the 

R 2 


And lastly, the more laboured efforts of Dr. Ledwich, in our own 
time, in support of the same theory, have only served to increase the 
darkness in which our ecclesiastical antiquities were previously in- 

While the Irish were thus instructed in error by their own most 
distinguished antiquaries, the uncertainty in which the origin of our 
ecclesiastical architectural remains was involved was still further in- 
creased by the opinions expressed on this subject by the most dis- 
tinguished antiquaries of England and Scotland, who universally 
adopted Ware's opinion that the Irish were unacquainted with the art 
of building with lime and stone previously to the twelfth century. 
They even go so far as to apply the same dogma to the architectural 
remains of the Irish colony of Scots, who settled in Scotland in the 
beginning of the sixth century, as an example of which I quote the 
following passage, from Pinker ton's Enquiry into the History of Scot- 
land, vol. ii. p. 141 : 

" Ancient monuments of the British Scots there are none, save cairns of stones, 
used as sepulchres, and as memorials. These were adapted to Celtic indolence : while 
the Gothic industry raised vast stones, instead of piling small ones : nor are any cairns 
found in Gothic countries, so far as I can learn, except such as are very large. The 
Celtic churches, houses, &c. were all of wattles, as are the barns at this day in the 
Hebudes ; so that no ruins can be found of them. The early cathedral of Hyona must 
have been of this sort ; and it was burnt by the Danes in the ninth century. The 
present ruin is not older than the thirteenth. In the twelfth century Saint Bernard 
represents a stone church as quite a novelty even in Ireland." 

Opinions such as these, which I shall prove to be wholly erro- 
neous, proceeding from authorities of weight, have had an effect in 
Ireland doubly mischievous, and greatly to be deplored ; first, as 
stripping our architectural remains of their true antiquity, and thus 
destroying that charm of association which would have led to their 
preservation ; and secondly, on the other hand, as preparing the pub- 
lic mind for the reception of those wild theories respecting the pagan 
origin of the Round Towers, which, originating with General Val- 
lancey, have been so generally adopted by his followers in the same 

Under these circumstances, to disabuse the minds of my coun- 
trymen of prejudices, which are calculated to lessen them in the esti- 
mation of the learned and judicious, while, at the same time, I 
satisfy them of the extreme antiquity of the ecclesiastical architectural 


remains, still so abundant in Ireland, and thus excite a desire for their 
conservation, is a task which, however humble, I may well feel a 
pride that it should have fallen to my lot to accomplish. To do 
this, however, it is necessary that I should not confine this Inquiry to 
the question of the origin and uses of the Round Towers alone, but 
also, as accessary and indeed essential to that Inquiry, go into an 
investigation of our ecclesiastical architecture generally, of which the 
Round Towers constitute only a subordinate feature. 

It is true that these remains will be found to be of a very simple 
and unartificial character, and to exhibit nothing of that architectural 
splendour so gratifying to the taste, which characterizes the Christian 
edifices of Europe erected in the later days of ecclesiastical power ; 
but if, as the great sceptical poet, Byron, so truly says, 

" Even the faintest relicts of a shrine 
Of any worship wake some thoughts divine," 

these simple memorials of a Christian antiquity, rarely to be found 
outside our own insula sacra, and which, in their grave simplicity, 
exhibit a characteristic absence of meretricious grandeur, typical of 
the primitive ages of the Christian Church, can scarcely fail to excite 
a deep and reverential interest in the minds of Christians generally, 
and still more of those who may justly take a pride in such venerable 
remains of their past history. 


IT imist be admitted that the opinion expressed by Sir James Ware, 
as founded on the authority of St. Bernard's Life of St. Malachy, that 
the Irish first began to build with stone and mortar in the twelfth 
century, would, on a casual examination of the question, seem to be 
of great weight, and extremely difficult to controvert ; for it would 
appear, from ancient authorities of the highest character, that the 
custom of building both houses and churches with oak timber and 
wattles was a peculiar characteristic of the Scotic race, who were 
the ruling people in Ireland from the introduction of Christianity 
till the Anglo-Norman Invasion in the twelfth century. Thus we 
have the authority of Venerable Bede that Finian, who had been a 


monk of the monastery of lona, on becoming bishop of Lindisfarne, 
" built a church fit for his episcopal see, not of stone, but altogether 
of sawn wood covered with reeds, after the Scotic [that is, the Irish] 

"... fecit Ecclesiam Episcopal! sedi congruam, quam tamen more Scottorum, non 
de lapide, sed de robore secto totam composuit atque harundine texit." J3eda, Hist. 
Eccl. lib. iii. c. 25. 

In like manner, in Tirechan's Annotations on the Life of St. Pa- 
trick, preserved in the Book of Armagh, a MS. supposed to be of the 
seventh century, we find it stated, that " when Patrick went up to 
the place which is called Foirrgea of the sons of Awley, to divide it 
among the sons of Awley, he built there a quadrangular church of 
moist earth, because wood was not near at hand." 

" Et ecce Patricias perrexit ad agrum qui dicitur Foirrgea filiorum Amolngid ad 
dividendum inter filios Amolngid, et fecit ibi Kclesiam terrenam de humo quadratam 
quia non prope erat silva." Fol. 14, b. 2. 

And lastly, in the Life of the virgin St. Monenna, compiled by 
Conchubran in the twelfth century, as quoted by Ussher, it is simi- 
larly stated that she founded a monastery which was made of smooth 
timber, according to the fashion of the Scotic nations, who were not 
accustomed to erect stone walls, or get them erected. 

" E lapide enim sacras sedes efficere, tarn Scotis quam Britonibus niorem fuisse 
insolituin, ex Beda quoq; didicimus. Indeq; in S. Monennce monasterio Ecclesiam 
constructam fuisse notat Conchubranus tabulis de dolatis, juxta morem Scoticarum gen- 
tium : eo quod macerias Scoti non solent facere, nee facias habere." Primordia, p. 737. 

I have given these passages in full and I believe they are all 
that have been found to sustain the opinions alluded to in order 
that the reader may have the whole of the evidences unfavourable 
to the antiquity of our ecclesiastical remains fairly placed before 
him ; and I confess it does not surprise me that, considering how 
little attention has hitherto been paid to our existing architectural 
monuments, the learned in the sister countries should have adopted 
the conclusion which such evidences should naturally lead to; or 
even that the learned and judicious Dr. Lanigan, who was anxious to 
uphold the antiquity of those monuments, should have expressed his 
adoption of a similar conclusion in the following words : 

" Prior to those of the twelfth century we find very few monuments of ecclesiastical 
architecture in Ireland. This is not to be wondered at, because the general fashion of 


the country was to erect their buildings of wood, a fashion, which in great part con- 
tinues to this day in several parts of Europe. As consequently their churches also 
were usually built of wood, it cannot be expected that there should be any remains 
of such churches at present." Ecd. Hist. vol. iv. pp. 391, 392. 

Before, however, we deem such authorities invincible, let it be 
remembered that on similar evidences the antiquaries of England, till 
a recent period, came to the conclusion that the churches of the Bri- 
tons, and even of the Saxons, were mostly built with timber ; for, as 
is stated by Grose in the preface to his Antiquities of England on the 
subject of architecture (p. 03) : " An opinion has long prevailed, chiefly 
countenanced by Mr. Somner, that the Saxon churches were mostly 
built with timber ; and that the few they had of stone, consisted only 
of upright walls, without pillars or arches ; the construction of which, 
it is pretended, they were entirely ignorant of." Yet this opinion 
is now universally acknowledged to be erroneous, and I trust I shall 
clearly prove, that the generally adopted conclusion as to the recent 
date of our ecclesiastical stone buildings is erroneous also. 

It is by no means my wish to deny that the houses built by the 
Scotic race in Ireland were usually of wood, or that very many of the 
churches erected by that people, immediately after their conversion 
to Christianity, were not of the same perishable material. I have 
already proved these facts in my Essay on the Ancient Military Ar- 
chitecture of Ireland anterior to the Anglo-Norman Conquest. But 
I have also shown, in that Essay, that the earlier colonists in "the 
country, the Firbolg and Tuatha De Danann tribes, which our his- 
torians bring hither from Greece at a very remote period, were ac- 
customed to build, not only their fortresses but even their dome-roofed 
houses and sepulchres, of stone without cement, and in the style 
now usually called Cyclopean and Pelasgic. I have also shown that 
this custom, as applied to their forts and houses, was continued in 
those parts of Ireland in which those ancient settlers remained, even 
after the introduction of Christianity, and, as I shall presently show, 
was adopted by the Christians in their religious structures. As cha- 
racteristic examples of these ancient religious structures, still remain- 
ing in sufficient preservation to show us perfectly what they had been 
in their original state, I may point to the monastic establishment of 
St. Molaise, on Inishmurry, in the bay of Sligo, erected in the sixth 
century ; to that of St. Brendan, on Inishglory, off the coast of Erris, 


in the county of Mayo, erected in the beginning of the same century ; 
and to that of St. Fechin, on Ard-Oilean, or High Island, off the coast 
of Connamara, in the county of Galway, erected in the seventh cen- 
tury. In all these establishments the churches alone, which are of 
the simplest construction, are built with lime cement. The houses, 
or cells, erected for the use of the abbot and monks, are of a circiilar 
or oval form, having dome roofs, constructed, like those of the ancient 
Greek and Irish sepulchres, without a knowledge of the principle of 
the arch, and without the use of cement ; and the whole are encom- 
passed by a broad wall composed of stones of great size, without 
cement of any kind. 

Such also, or very nearly, appears to have been the monastic es- 
tablishment constructed on the island of Fame, in Northumberland, 
in the year 684, by St. Cuthbert, bishop of Lindisftirne, who is usually 
reputed to have been an Irishman, and, at all events, received his 
education from Irish ecclesiastics. This monastery, as described by 
Venerable Bede in the seventeenth chapter of his Life of that distin- 
guished saint, was almost of a round form, four or five perches in 
diameter from wall to wall. . This wall was on the outside of the 
height of a man, but was on the inside made higher by sinking the 
natural rock, to prevent the thoughts from rambling by restraining 
the sight to the view of the heavens only. It was not formed of cut 
stone, or brick cemented with mortar, but wholly of rough stones 
and earth, which had been dug up from the middle of the enclosure; 
and of these stones, which had been carried from another place, some 
were so large that four men could scarcely lift one of them. Within 
the enclosure were two houses, of which one was an oratory, or small 
chapel, and the other for the common uses of a habitation ; and of 
these the walls were in great part formed by digging away the earth 
inside and outside, and the roofs were made of unhewn timber 
thatched with hay. Outside the enclosure, and at the entrance to the 
island, was a larger house for the accommodation of religious visiters, 
and not far from it a fountain of water. For the satisfaction of the 
reader I annex the passage in the original : 

"... condidit Ciuitatem suo aptam imperio, & domos in hac seque ciuitati congruas 
erexit. Est autem redificium situ pene rotundum, a muro vsque ad murum mensura 
quatuor ferine siue quinq'; perticarum distentum, murus ipse deforis altior longitudine 
stantis hominis. Nam intrinsecus viuam cedendo rupem multo ilium fecit altiorem, 


quatenus ad cohibendam oculorum siue cogitationem lasciuiam, ad erigendam in su- 
prema dcsidcria totam mentis intentionem, pins incola nil de sna mansione prater 
cucluni jxi>>< t intucri : cpu-m videlicet ninrum non de secto lapide vel latere &ca;mento, 
sed impolitis prorsus lapidibus & cespite, quern de medio loci t'odicndo tnlerat, coinpo- 
suit. E qnibus quidam tuntte crant grauditatis, vt vix a quatuor viris viderentur 
potuissc leuari : quos tamen ipse angelico adiutus auxilio illuo attulisse aliunde', & 
inuro imposuisse repertus est. Duas in mansione habebnt domos, oratorium scilicet & 
aliud ad communes vsus aptum habitaculnm : quorum parietes quidem de uaturali 
terra multuni intus forisque circumfodiendo siue cedendo confecit, culmina vero de 
lignis informibus & foeno superposuit. Porro ad portam insulaj maior erat domus, in 
(}ua visitantes eum fratres suscipi & quiescere possent ; nee longe ab ea fons eorundem 
vsibus accominodus." Vita S. CuMerti, apud Colgan, Acta SS. p. 667. 

That these buildings were, as I have already stated, erected in the 
mode practised by the Firbolg and Tuatha De Danann tribes in Ire- 
land, must be at once obvious to any one, who has seen any of the 
pagan circular stone forts and bee-hive-shaped houses still so fre- 
quently to be met with, along the remote coasts, and on the islands, 
of the western and south-western parts of Ireland, into which little 
change of manners and customs had penetrated, that would have de- 
stroyed the reverence paid by the people to their ancient monuments 
the only differences observable between these buildings and those 
introduced in the primitive Christian times being the presence of lime 
cement, the use of which was wholly unknown to the Irish in pagan 
times, and the adoption of a quadrangular form in the construction 
of the churches, and ? occasionally, in the interior of the externally 
round houses of the ecclesiastics, the forts and houses of the Firbolg 
and Tuatha De Danann colonies being invariably of a rotund form, 
both internally and externally. 

It may interest the reader to present him with two or three cha- 
racteristic specimens of these singular structures, of different styles 
and eras, and which have been hitherto unnoticed. The annexed 
view will give a good idea of the general appearance of the round and 
oval houses erected in pagan times, and of which there are some 
hundreds still remaining, though generally more or less dilapidated. 
This house, known to the peasantry by the name of Clochan na car- 
raige, or the stone house of the rock, is, or was when I sketched it 
about twenty years since, situated on the north side of the great 
island of Aran, in the bay of Galway, and is, in its interior measure- 
ment, nineteen feet long, seven feet six inches broad, and eight feet 
high, and its walls are about four feet thick. Its doorway is but three 



feet high, and two feet six inches wide on the outside, but narrows 
to two feet on the inside. The roof is formed, as in all buildings of 
this class, by the gradual approximation of stones laid horizontally, 
till it is closed at the top by a single stone ; and two apertures in its 
centre served the double purpose of a window and a chimney. 


The next example presents a view of a house of one of the early 
saints of Ireland, and exhibits the characteristics of the Cyclopean 
style more than the preceding one, the stones being mostly of enor- 
mous size. It is the house of St. Finan Cam, who nourished in the 
sixth century, and is situated on Church Island in Lough Lee or 
Curraun Lough, on the boundary of the baronies of Iveragh and Dun- 
kerrin, in the county of Kerry, and four miles to the north of Derry- 
nane Abbey, in Irish Ooijie phionain, which derives its name from 
that saint. This structure, though nearly circular on the outside, is 
quadrangular on the inside, and measures sixteen feet six inches in 
length, from north to south, and fifteen feet one inch from east to 
west, and the wall is seven feet thick at the base, and at present but 
nine feet nine inches in height ; the doorway is on the north side, 
and measures on the outside four feet three inches in height, and in 
width two feet nine inches at top, and three feet at bottom. There 
are three stones forming the covering of this doorway, of which the 
external one is five feet eight inches in length, one foot four inches 



in height, and one foot eight indies in breadth; and the internal one 
is five feet t\vo inches in length, and two feet nine inches in breadth. 

The next example is of somewhat later date, being one of the houses 
erected by the celebrated St. Fechin, who flourished in the seventh 

century, at his little monastic establishment on Ard-Oilean, or High 
Island, off the coast of Connamara, in the county of Galway. This 
building, like the preceding one, is square in the interior, and measures 

s 2 


nine feet by seven feet six inches in height ; the doorway is two feet 
four inches wide, and three feet six inches high. The material of this 
structure is mica slate, and, though its external appearance is very 
rude, its interior is constructed with admirable art. 

The introduction of this quadrangular form, by the first propa- 
gators of Christianity in Ireland, is clearly pointed out in an ancient 
Irish stanza, predicting this and other Christian innovations, which is 
quoted as the composition of a certain magus of the name of Con, in 
the ancient Life of St. Patrick, ascribed to St. Evin, a writer of the 
sixth century, and thus translated by Colgan : 

" Constantinus autem in suis vaticinijs loquens de eo eodem aduentu cecinit. Adu- 
eniet cum circulo tonsus in capite ; cuius cedes erunt ad instar cediurn Romanarum: 
effidet quod celloe futures sint in pretio $ cestimatione : cedes eius erant [erunt] angmtce 
Sf angulatce Sf fana multa : pedum pastorale dominabitur. Quando hcec portenta Sf pro- 
digia euenient, nostra dogmata Sf idola euertentur : fides Sf pietas magnificabuntur. Qu 
onmia veridice prsedicta esse probauit euentus, licet per ora mendacijs assueta, prolata, 
cogente omnis veritatis fonte & authore ; qui saepe patrem medacij cogit ad testi- 
monium veritati prsebendu." Trias Tliaum. p. 123. 

It is remarkable, however, that the early Irish Christians do not 
appear to have adopted all at once the quadrangular form and upright 
walls, here alluded to as characteristic of the houses of the Romans, 
and observable in the churches still existing, the erection of which is 
ascribed to St. Patrick and his successors. In the remote barony of 
Kerry called Corcaguiny, and particularly in the neighbourhood of 
Smerwick Harbour, where the remains of stone fortresses and circular 
stone houses are most numerously spread through the valleys and on 
the mountains, we meet with several ancient oratories, exhibiting only 
an imperfect development of the Roman mode of construction, being 
built of uncemented stones admirably fitted to each other, and their 
lateral walls converging from the base to their apex in curved lines ; 
indeed their end walls, though in a much lesser degree, converge 
also. Another feature in these edifices worthy of notice, as exhibit- 
ing a characteristic which they have in common with the pagan 
monuments, is, that none of them evince an acquaintance with the 
principle of the arch, and that, except in one instance, that of Gallerus, 
their doorways are extremely low, as in the pagan forts and houses. 

As an example of these most interesting structures, which, the 
historian of Kerry truly says, " may possibly challenge even the Round 
Towers as to point of antiquity," I annex a view of the oratory at 



Gallerus, the most beautifully constructed and perfectly preserved of 
those ancient structures now remaining; and views of similar oratories 
will be found in the succeeding part of this work. 

This oratory, which is wholly built of the green stone of the district, 
is externally twenty-three feet long by ten broad, and is sixteen feet 
high on the outside to the apex of the pyramid. The doorway, which 
is placed, as is usual in all our ancient churches, in its west-end wall, 
is five feet seven inches high, two feet four inches wide at the base, 
and one foot nine inches at the top ; and the walls are four feet in 
thickness at the base. It is lighted by a single window in its east 
side, and each of the gables was terminated by small stone crosses, 
only the sockets of which now remain. 

That these oratories, though not, as Dr. Smith supposes, the first 
edifices of stone that were erected in Ireland, were the first erected 
for Christian uses, is, I think, extremely probable ; and I am strongly 
inclined to believe that they may be even more ancient than the 
period assigned for the conversion of the Irish generally by their 
great apostle Patrick. I should state, in proof of this antiquity, that 
adjacent to each of these oratories may be seen the remains of the 
circular stone houses, which were the habitations of their founders ; 
and, what is of more importance, that their graves are marked by 



upright pillar-stones, sometimes bearing inscriptions in the Ogham cha- 
racter, as found on monuments presumed to be pagan, and in other 
instances, as at the oratory of Gallerus, with an inscription in the 
Grasco-Roman or Byzantine character of the fourth or fifth century, 
of which the annexed is an accurate copy. 

This inscription is not perfectly legible in all its letters, but is suffi- 
ciently so to preserve the name of the ecclesiastic, and reads as follows : 

"Cie cotum mec . . . met." 
That is, 


It is greatly to be regretted that any part of this inscription should 
be imperfect, but we have a well-preserved and most interesting ex- 
ample of the whole alphabet of this character on a pillar-stone now 
used as a grave-stone in the church-yard of Kilmalkedar, about a mile 
distant from the former, and where there are the remains of a similar 
oratory. Of this inscription I also annex a copy : 

I should observe that a drawing of this inscription, made by the 
late Mr. Pelham, and which, he tells us, may be depended upon as a 
correct copy, has been already published by General Vallancey in the 
sixth volume of his Collectanea, Part I.; and I may add, as a charac- 
teristic example of that gentleman's antiquarianism, his observations 
thereon, which are as follows : 

" There are very evidently two kinds of characters on this stone. One the Ogfiam, 
on each side of a line ; the other a running character, which appears to be a mixture of 
Phoenician, Pelasgian, and Egyptian." p. 184. 


He then presents us with four examples of Egyptian and Perse- 
politan characters, to show their similarity to the characters on the 
Kilmalkedar stone, and concludes with a comment on the circum- 
stance of a flowered cross being sculptured on another side of it, as 
follows : 

" The cross was, and is still, a usual ornament with the Asiatic nations. The vest- 
ment of the priest of Horus is full of {. See Caylus, Vol. VI. PI. 7." pp. 184, 185. 

That the inscription is, however, truly what I have stated it to be, 
a mere alphabet wanting the A, which has been broken off, will, I 
am satisfied, be at once apparent to every intelligent scholar; and 
also that the three large letters DNI, which occur in the middle of the 
inscription, and which Vallancey supposed to be an Ogham, is no- 
thing more than a usual abbreviation of DOMINI. As to the object 
of this inscription I can of course offer only a conjecture, namely, 
that it was an abecedarium, cut by one of the early Christian settlers in 
this place, either a foreigner, or a native who had received a foreign 
education, for instructing his followers in the rudiments of the Latin 
language ; for that it was the practice of the first teachers of Chris- 
tianity in Ireland to furnish their disciples with the abecedarium, or 
Roman alphabet, appears quite clear from Nennius, and the most 
ancient Lives of St. Patrick, as may be seen by reference to Harris's 
Ware, Irish Writers, Book II. c. 1. And I may add as a further con- 
jecture, that this pillar-stone may have been originally a pagan monu- 
ment, consecrated to the service of Christianity by inscribing on it in 
the first instance the name of the Lord, before it received its second 
inscription, as it appears from Evin's Life of St. Patrick that it was 
not unusual for the Irish apostle thus to dedicate pagan monuments 
to the honour of the true God. In this work it is stated that St. Pa- 
trick, coming to the plain of Magh Selga, near Elphin, found three 
pillar-stones, which had been raised there by the pagans, either as 
memorials of events, or for the celebration of pagan rites, on one of 
which he inscribed the name JESUS, on another SOTER, and on the 
third SALVATOR. And, though it is not expressly stated, we may 
conclude that he also marked each of those pillars with a cross, such 
as is seen on the pillar-stone at Kilmalkedar, and on every other an- 
cient Christian monument in Ireland. The passage, as translated from 
the original Irish by Colgan, is as follows : 



" Rebus Ecclesiae ibi dispositis Patricius se contulit ad locum qui & Mag-selga le- 
gitur appellari, vbi sex Brian! Principis offendit filios, Bognam, cognomento Rubrum, 
Uerthractum, Echenum, Crimthannuin, Coelcharnum, & Eoohadium. Ibi in loco amoeno, 
vbi circumfusa regio late conspicitur, vir Dei cum aliquot comitantibus Episcopis mo- 
rarn contraxit inter tres colossos siue edita saxa ; quse gentilitas ibi in memoriam ali- 
quorum facinorum, vel gentilitiorum rituum posuit. In his autem lapidibus, lapidis 
angularis, qui fecit vtraque vnum, Cliristi Domini tria nomina tribus linguis expressa 
curauit incidi ; in vno lesus, in altero Soter, in tertio Saluator nomen impressum le- 
gitur." Trias Thaum. p. 136. 

As an example of the monumental pillar-stones, inscribed in the 
Ogham character, which are found in connection with some of the un- 
cemented stone oratories in Kerry, to which I have alluded, I annex a 
cut of the pillar-stone which marks the grave of St. Monachan, and 
which is situated at the south-west end of his oratory, called Temple 
Geal, about three miles to the north-west of Dingle : 

Having now, as I trust, sufficiently shown that the Irish erected 
churches and cells of stone, without cement, at the very earliest period 
after the introduction of Christianity into the country, and, if it had 


been necessary, I might have adduced a vastly greater body of evi- 
dence to substantiate the fact, I may, I think, fairly ask : Is it 
probable that they would remain much longer ignorant of the use of 
lime cement in their religious edifices, a knowledge of which must 
necessarily have been imparted to them by the crowds of foreign 
ecclesiastics, Egyptian, Roman, Italian, French, British, and Saxon, 
who flocked to Ireland as a place of refuge in the fifth and sixth 
centuries ? Of such immigration there cannot possibly exist a doubt ; 
for, not to speak of the great number of foreigners who were dis- 
ciples of St. Patrick, and of whom the names are preserved in the 
most ancient Lives of that saint, nor of the evidences of the same 
nature so abundantly supplied in the Lives of many other saints of 
the primitive Irish Church, it will be sufficient to refer to that most 
curious ancient document, written in the year 799, the Litany of 
St. Aengus the Culdee, in which are invoked such a vast number of 
foreign saints buried in Ireland. Copies of this ancient Litany are 
found in the Book of Leinster, a MS. undoubtedly of the twelfth cen- 
tury, preserved in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, class H. 2, 
18; and in the LeabharBreac, preserved in the library of the Royal 
Irish Academy : and the passages in it, relative to the foreign eccle- 
siastics, have been extracted, translated into Latin, and published by 
Ward in his Life of St. Rumold, p. 206, and by Colgan in his Acta 
Sanctorum, p. 539 [535], which latter extract I here insert, with the 
observations of Colgan upon the interesting facts of which it furnishes 

" In ea namque naui deferebantur 50 Monachi patria Romani, quos SfC. c. 20. Hie 
benigne Lector legis argumentum aliquod magnse istius opinionis, quam de sanctitate & 
doctrina huius sacra; insulse olim conceperunt Romani, & alia; Europae nationes, Habe- 
batur enim in aureis illis seminata? fidei primordiis, & aliquot sequentibus seculis, non 
solum vt officina conuersionis gentium, sed etiam ad ascetica: vita; foueda exercitia, 
vt Tebais altera, communisque ad sapiential, sacrarum-scripturarum vacandum studiis 
Occidentis ludus litterarius : vt vix sciam an glorias plus promeruerit, ex eo quod Doc- 
tores & Apostolos genuerit, & emiserit prope infinites, quam ex eo quod ex continuo 
Italorum, Gallorum, Germanorum, Britonuni, Pictorum, Saxonum seu Anglorum, alia- 
rumque nationum arctioris vita;, & doctrina: desiderio aduolantium accursu, incolatu 
& sepultura mcrito appellari queat, communis Europae bonarum litterarum officina, 
communeque ascetaru sacrarium. Plurima & admiranda de his repcriuntur in nostris 
hystoriis, maxime in vitis SS. Patricij, Kierani, Declani, Albei, Endei, Maidoci, Se- 
nani, Brendani &c. testimonia. Ego ex solo libro littaniarum Sancti ^Engussij ad- 
duco sufficientia ; in quo author istius libri inter innumeros alios domesticos sanctou, 
inuocat etiain sequentes sanctorum aduenarum in Hiberoia sepultorum turnias, 



" Sttnclos Romanes, qui iacent in Achadh Galma in Ybh-Echia, inuoco in auxilium 
meum per lesum Christum c. 

" SS. Romanes de Lettir erca, inuoco in auxilium meum Sfc. 

" SS. Romanos, qui cum Cursecha Jtlia Brochani iacent in Achadh-Datrach, m- 
unco SfC. 

" SS. Romanos de Cluain-chuinne, inuoco SfC. 

" SS. Peregrinos de Cluain-mhoir, inuoco SfC. 

" SS. Romanos, qui cum S. Aido iacent in Cluain Dartadha, inuoco fyc. 

" SS. duodecim donchennacius, qui cum vtroque Sinchello iacent in Kill-achuidh, 
inuoco SfC. 

" SS. Conchennacios, qui cum S. Manchano iacent in Lethmor, inuoco 8}c. 

" SS. septe Munachos Aegyptins, qui iacft in Disert Vlidh, inuoco Sjc. 

" SS. Peregrinos, qui cum S. Mochua filio Luscan iacent in Domnach Resen, in- 
uoco. SfC. 

" SS. Peregrinos de Belach forchedail, inuoco SfC. 

" SS. Peregrinos de Cuil-ochtair, inuoco Sfc. 

" i5W. septem peregrinos de Imleach-mor, inuoco $c. 

" SS. duodecim Peregrinos, socios S. Sinchelli, inuoco fyc. 

" SS. Peregrinos Romanos, qui in centum quinquaginta cymbis, sine scaphis ad- 
uecti, comitati sunt SS. Eliam, Natalem, Nemanum, Sf Corcnutanum, inuoco SfC. 

" SS. cenlu quinquaginta Peregrinos Romanos $ Italos qui comitati sunt S. Ab- 
banum in Hiberniam, inuoco fyc. 

" SS. Gallos de Saliduic, inuoco, 8fC. 

" SS. Gallos de Mag-salach, inuoco, SfC. 

" SS. Saxones (.1. Anglos) de Rigair, inuoco SfC. 

" SS. Sajt-ones de Cluain-mhuicedha, inuoco fyc. 

" SS. Peregrinos de Inis-Puinc, inuoco SfC. 

" SS. duodecim Peregrinos de Lethglais-moir, inuoco SfC. 

" SS. cetu quinquaginta Peregrinos in Gair mic-Magla, inuoco SfC. 

" SS. quinquaginta Munachos de Britannia, socios filij Mainani in Glenloire, in- 
uoco SfC. 

" SS. quinque peregrinos de Suidhe Coeil, inuoco SfC. 

" SS. 150 discipulos S. Manchani Magistri, inuoco SfC. 

" SS. 510, qui ex parlibus transmarinis veneruntcum S. Boethio Episcopo, decemq; 
Virgines eos comitantes, inuoco SfC. 

" SS. duodecim socios S. Riochi transmarinos, inuoco Sfc. 

" Hasc & multa alia alibi dicenda, quas de exteris Monachis & sactis in nostris hys- 
toriis & Menologiis legutur & breuitatis causa omitto, non solum omnem dubitationem 
tollunt de numero quinquaginta Monachorum, quos in praesenti vita in Hiberniam 
abstractions vitae, vel doctrinse causa, legimus venisse : sed & abunde indicant, & con- 
ceptam a priscis de sanctitate & doctrina liuius insula: opinionem, & appellationem illani, 
qua passim Insula sanctorum fy insula sacra, dicebatur, non falso aut leui niti funda- 
mento. An autem ex praesentibus Romanis turmis sint aliqui, qui in superioribus litta- 
niis sancti Eomani vocentur vel inuocentur, ego non affirmaucrim. Vide de sanctis 
Barreo 25. Aug. Finneno 23. Febr. Brendano 16. Maij, & Kierano 9 Sept." 

In addition to the preceding evidence, I may add also that we are 



not without monumental inscriptions testifying to the same fact, of 
which I annex, as an example, one which marks the grave of seven 
Romans interred near the church of St. Brecari on the Great Island of 
Arun, and which reads as follows : 


That this inscription is of very great 
antiquity the form of the letters sufficiently 
indicates, and we can very nearly deter- 
mine their exact age by a comparison of 
their forms, as well as the style of cross 
carved on the stone, with the letters and 
cross sculptured on the grave-stone of St. 
Brecan himself, the founder of that mo- 
nastery, of which an accurate copy will be 
seen on the next page. 

The inscription to which I allude, is, 
as will be seen, put into a Latin form, like 
the preceding one, and was, probably, cut 
by one of the very seven Romans whose 
grave in Aran was so marked : it reads 
as follows : 

cl 6T?ecaNi, 

which, when written in full, would obviously be 


It must interest not only the antiquary, but in an especial degree 
the numerous progeny of the Dalcassian tribe, to find so curious a 
monument as this existing of the first and most distinguished eccle- 
siastic of that race ; for it appears certain from our historical do- 
cuments that this St. Brecan, who was the founder of Ardbraccan, 
now the seat of the bishops of Meath, was the grandson of Carthen 
Finn, the first Christian prince of Thomond, and the son of Eochaidh 
Balldearg, also prince of Thomond, who was baptized by St. Patrick 
at Saingel, now Singland, near Limerick. The year of St. Brecan's 
death I have not been able to ascertain, but it must have been in the 
early part of the sixth century. This head-stone, as it may properly 
be called, of St. Brecan was originally of an irregular square form, 
about four feet two inches diagonally, but was broken in opening the 

T 2 



tomb, as is indicated in the engraving by the dotted lines, which 
mark the portion now detached, and perhaps lost, though remaining 
in fragments when I sketched it. 

This monumental stone was discovered about forty years ago 
within a circular enclosure known as St. Brecan's tomb, at a depth 
of about six feet from the surface, on the occasion of its being first 
opened to receive the body of a distinguished and popular Roman 
Catholic ecclesiastic of the county of Galway, who made a dying re- 
quest to be buried in this grave. Under the stone within the sepulchre 
there was also found on this occasion a small water-worn stone, of 
black calp or lime-stone, now in my possession. It is of a round form, 
but nearly flat on the under side, and is three inches in diameter, and 
one inch and a half in thickness. On the upper side is carved a plain 
cross, thus -(-, and around this, in a circle, the following simple in- 
scription : 

This inscription, when written in full, would be as follows : 
orcoic QR 6RecaN Ncntichera. 



That the Saxons at a very early period, through the instruction 
of foreign missionaries, acquired the art of building with stone and 
linn- cement, and also that in the erection of their most distinguished 
churches they even employed foreign architects and workmen, is a 
fact now so fully established that it is unnecessary for me to quote 
any of the evidences from which it can be proved. But it may be 
worthy of remark, that the first church built of lime and stone in the 
Roman style, " insolito Britonibus more," as Bede expresses it, in 
Scotland, that of Candida Casa, now Withern, erected by Ninian, the 
apostle of the Picts, about the year 412, being on the shore of Gallo- 
way, immediately opposite Ireland, and within sight of it, must have 
been an object familiar to at least the northern Irish ; and, what is 
more to the point, it appears from an ancient Irish Life of St. Ninian, 
as quoted by Ussher, Primordia, pp. 1058, 1059, that this saint after- 
wards deserted Candida Casa, at the request of his mother and re- 
lations, and passed over to Ireland, where, at a beautiful place called 
Cluain-Coner, granted him by the king, he built a large monastery, in 
which he died many years afterwards : 

" Extat & apud Hibernos nostros ejusdcm Niniani Vita: in qua, ob importunam tiim 
a matre turn a consanguincis frequentatam visitationem, deserta Candida Casa, ut sibi 
& suee quieti cum discipulis vacaret, Hibernian! petijsse atque ibi impetrato a Kege 
loco apto & amoeno uTliiami -tLonrr dicto, coenobium magnum constituisse, ibidemq; 
post multos in Ilibernia transactos annos obijsse, traditur," 

Independently of the preceding considerations, which, however, 
must be deemed of great weight in this inquiry, a variety of histo- 
rical evidences can be adduced, from the Lives of the Irish Saints and 
other ancient documents, to prove that the Irish were in the habit of 
building their churches of lime and stone, though it is most probable 
that, in their monastic houses and oratories, they generally continued 
the Scotic mode of building with wood, in most parts of Ireland, till 
the twelfth or thirteenth century. A few examples from those autho- 
rities will be sufficient in this place. 

1. In the ancient poem written by Flann of the Monastery, early 
in the eleventh century, enumerating the various persons who consti- 
tuted the household of St. Patrick, the names of his three stone-masons 
are given, with the remark, that they were the first builders of 
damhliags, or stone churches, in Ireland. 

The poem of Flann, in which this curious evidence occurs, is 


preserved in the Book of Lecan, fol. 44, b, b ; and the passage is as 
follows : 

" Q epi paip, ua mmch a cono, 
Cueman, Cpuichnec, 6uchpaio lono ; 
luo oo p 1511 1 oumliuj ap cup 
Q n-Gpino; apo a n-imchup." 

" His three masons, good was their intelligence, 
Caeman, Cruithnech, Luchraid strong ; 
They made damliags first 
In Erin ; eminent their history." 

It is scarcely necessary to remark, that the word oamliag, so ge^ 
nerally applied by the Irish annalists and ecclesiastical writers to their 
larger churches, will bear no other translation than stone house : it is 
so explained in two ancient Glossaries in the library of Trinity Col- 
lege, Dublin, Class H, 2, 16, p. 101, and H. 3, 18, p. 6 ( J. Thus in the 
former : " Ocnmlmcc .1. rejoiny cloc," " Damliag, i. e. an edifice of 
stones ;" and in the latter, " Ooimliaj, .1. cegaip clac," " Doimliag, 
i. e. an edifice of stones." 

And it is also thus explained in the Office of St. Cianan, or Kienan, 
the founder of the church of Daimhliag, now Duleek, in Meath, which 
is extant in MS. in the public library at Cambridge, as quoted by 
Ware, Harris's edition, p. 137, viz. : " That St. Kenan built a Church 
of Stone in this Place ; and that from thence it took the name of Dam- 
leagh : for that before this Time the Churches of Ireland were built 
of Wattles and Boards." See also Colgan, Trias Thaum. p. 217, 
col. 2. 

That this church was one of the first buildings of stone and lime 
cement erected in Ireland is, I think, highly probable, if not certain, 
though it may be doubted that it was the very first ; for in the oldest 
of the authorities extant relative to the life of St. Patrick, the An- 
notations of Tirechan, preserved in the Book of Armagh, it would 
appear to have been the eighth church erected by St. Patrick in the 
plain of Bregia, in which he first preached the gospel and built 
churches. The passage in Tirechan is as follows : 

" De aeclesiis quas fundavit in Campo Breg, primum in Culmine ; ii, sclesise Cerne, 
in 'qua sepultus est Hercus qui portavit mortalitatem magnam ; iii. in cacuminibus 
Aisse ; iiii. in Blaitiniu ; v. in Collumbos, in qua ordinavit Eugenium Sanctum episco- 
pum ; vi. aeclesia filio Laithphi ; vii. im Bridam in qua fuit sanctus dulcis frater Car- 
thaci ; viii. super Argetbor in qua Kannauus episcopus quern ordinavit Patricius in 
primo Pasca." Fol. 10. 


It is very probable, however, that in this enumeration Tirechan 
inuv have had no idea of arranging the churches in the order of time. 
as regarded their erection ; and if so, the assertion in the Office of 
St. Ciunan, that the church of Daimhliag, or Duleek, was the first 
stone church erected in Ireland, may be quite true. The question is, 
however, of no importance either way in this argument; it is enough 
that the fact is ascertained of a stone church having been erected by 
St. Patrick, or in his time, in the district of his first labours. From the 
Annotations of Tirechan we also learn that St. Cianan, or, as his name 
is latinized, Kanannanus, or Kenannanus, was consecrated bishop by 
St. Patrick ; and we have the unexceptionable authority of the anna- 
list Tighernach, that he died in the year 490, three years before the 
apostle himself, with whom he must have been an especial favourite, 
as Patrick bestowed upon him a copy of the Gospels, a gift of ines- 
timable value at that time. The passage in the Annals of Tighernach 
is as follows : 

" A. D. 490. K. v. Quiet S. Clanani Daimhliaj. Ip DO cug pacpcnc a Soircella." 
" A. D. 490. K. v. The rest of St Cianan of Duleek. It is to him Patrick gave his 

2. That the art of building churches of stone and lime cement, 
introduced into Ireland at this early period, was generally adopted 
throughout the island, at least in the larger churches connected with 
the abbacies and bishoprics, would appear certain from the fact, that 
the term damhliag became the Scotic or Gaelic name by which the 
Irish writers designated a cathedral or abbey church, though they 
also used the terms ternpull, eclais, regies, and in one or two instances 
baslic, words obviously adopted from the Latin language : and hence, 
their ecclesiastical writers, when writing in that language, always ren- 
der the damhliag of the Irish either by the word ecclesia or basilica, 
though, on noticing the same buildings when writing in the Irish lan- 
guage, they apply the terms damhliag, eclais, &ndtempull, indifferently. 
This is a fact which I shall clearly prove, and which should necessarily 
be borne in mind, because, as by far the greater number of notices 

It may interest the reader to be informed, that it appears from a topographical 
account of the County of Meath written in 16823, that the copy of the Gospels here 
alluded to, was then preserved in the neighbourhood of Duleek, and that it is probably 
one of those venerable monuments of the Scriptures at present in the Library of Trinity 
College, Dublin. 


of ancient Irish churches are contained in the Lives of the Saints, 
which are usually written in Latin, it might otherwise be supposed 
that the words tern plum, ecclesia, and basilica, used by those writers, 
may have been applied to wooden churches, which appears never 
to have been the case, those writers usually designating such build- 
ings by the term oratorium ; and hence it is not uncommon, when 
the oratory was not of wood, to designate it by the term oratoriitm 
lapideum, as in the often quoted passage in Bernard's Life of St. Ma- 
lachy, relative to the stone oratory at Bangor, and of .which I may also 
quote as an example the following notice in the Annals of Ulster, at 
the year 788 : 

" A. D. 788. Contencio in Ardmacae in qua jugulatur vir in hostio [ostio] OKATORII 


To prove this interchange, first in the terms damJtliag and tern- 
pull, among the Irish writers themselves, before the English invasion, 
I insert the following passage relating to the damhliag of Mayo, 
usually called Tempull Gerailt by the Irish, from an ancient Irish 
MS. in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, H. 2, 17, p. 399 : 

" Ro eobaippio Sacpain TTIaiji eo oechmao a cachpach DO t)ia 7 DO TTlicel, 7 
DO ponpao oamliacc inei DO oeopaouib t)e co bpcich. Ocup po gubpuc fflumcip 
niailpinneoin a papach, 7 DO pochaip in oamliacc pin popp in mumcip gup mapB 
oaeimb', innilib. lap pin co came an penoip, .1. Cuchapach, jop acnuijjio an rem- 
put pain, a pijji Ruaiopi 7 a mic, .1. CoipoelBai, 7 po h-air-oilpieo o pin amac 
DO oeopaoaib co bpar; 7 cucao cop mo eapcoip 1 t)unan, 7 mnmcipi Cilli Oalua, 
7 in c-penopa, .1. Cacapac, 7 Coipoelbuig, pij Connachc, 7 ano epcoip 1 CnaiU, 
7 ano epcoip 1 TDubchai^, ma bicoilpi co bpath. Ocnp jepe ci caipip pein po 50- 
cup a ouchaio pein a calmain aip, 7 pob oopaio an pueoul DO." 

" The Saxons of Mayo granted the ty thes of their city to God and St. Michael, and 
they made a damhliag in it (i. e. in their city) for the pilgrims of God for ever. And 
the family of Mailfinneoin proceeded to destroy it, and that damhliag fell on the people 
and killed men and cattle. After this came the senior i. e. Cathasach, and he renewed 
[re-builtj that tempul [church], in the reign of Ruaidhri and his son, i. e. Toirdelbhach, 
and it was re-confirmed from that out for pilgrims for ever ; and the guarantee of the 
bishop O'Dunan, and of the family of Killaloe, and of the senior, i. e. Cathasach, and 
of Toirdelbhach, king of Connaught, and of the bishop O'Cnaill, and of the bishop 
XD'Dubhthaigh, was given for its possession for ever. And whoever comes beyond 
[i, e. violates] this he shall be deprived of his own country on earth, and this life shall 
'be miserable to him." 

As the preceding passage, hitherto unnoticed, removes to a great 
degree the obscurity in which the history of the church of Mayo has 


been hitherto involved, I may observe that the edifice to which it refers 
must not be confounded with the great abbey church of Mayo, 
which was erected for the Saxons by St. Colman, about the middle 
of the seventh century, but to that called Tempull Gerailt, i. e. 
Church of Gerald, and Cill na n-Ailither, i. e. Church of the Pilgrims, 
which must have been originally erected by the Saxon Saint Gerald 
at the same place, some time in the beginning of the eighth century, 
as St. Gerald's death is recorded in the Annals of Tighernach at the 
year 732, and of Ulster at the year 731. 

The date of the re-edification of this church, by the senior Catha- 
sach, may be determined from the fact stated in the document, that it 
occurred during" the reign of Ruaidhri, king of Connaught, and his 
son Toirdhelbhach, or Turlogh, by which must be understood the 
period between the loss of Ruaidhri's eyes, in 1097, and that of his 
death, which occurred in the year 1118. This is also corroborated 
by the dates of the deaths of the other persons who witnessed the 
grant ; for Bishop O'Dunan died in 1 1 18, Bishop O'Cnaill in 1 1 17 or 
1118, and Bishop O'Dubhthaigh in 1136. 

As examples of the substitution by the Irish writers of the Latin 
words templum, ecclesia, basilica, for the Irish datnli/iug, and of the 
Irish words till, eclais, tempull, regies, for the same term, it will be 
sufficient to refer to the notices of the ecclesiastical edifices at Ar- 
magh, the erection of which is, in most instances, ascribed to St. Pa- 
trick himself. Of these buildings the first Irish notice, that I have 
found, occurs in the Annals of Ulster at the year 839, in which it 
will be seen that the great church was called a damhliag, or stone 

"A. D. 839- Concern Oipomaca co n-a oepci^ib, 7 a oaimliacc." 
Thus translated by Dr. O'Conor : 

" A. D. 839. Combustio Ardmachte cum Nosocoiniis [correctly Oratoriis], et Ec- 
olesiis lapideis suis." 

This event is recorded in nearly the same words in the Annals 
of the Four Masters, and is freely translated by Colgan : 

" A. D. 839. topccao Ctpomaacha co n-a oepraijib, 7 co n-a oairhliacc lap 
na 5 a llaib pempuice." 

" A. D. 839. Ardmacha cum sud Basilica, aliisq; sacrit cedibut, incenditur per Nui't- 
mannoe." Trias Thaum. p. 295. 



Should it be asked, If the great church at Armagh were a stone 
building, why is there no earlier mention of it in those Annals ? 
the answer is, that the Irish annals seldom, if ever, make any men- 
tion of buildings except in recording their burning or destruction, 
and that this was the first time the ecclesiastical edifices of Armagh 
were burned by the incendiary hands of the Northmen, though they 
had plundered and occupied the place for the first time nine years 
before, as is thus stated in the Annals of the Four Masters : 

" A. D. 830. C6ona opjain Gpoamacha. Qpomacha DO op^am po rpi i n-uom 
mi la 5 u l-laib, 7 n1 P h-oipgeb la h-eaccap-cenela piarii 50 pin." 

Thus translated by Colgan : 

" A. D. 830. Ardmacha spatio vnius memisfuit tertio occupata fy expilata per Nort- 
rnannos seu Danos. Et nunquam ante fuit per exterog occupata Trias T/iaum. p. 295. 

In the next entry relative to these churches in the Irish annals, 
the damhliag, or great stone church, is noticed, under the name of 
ecclais. The notice occurs in the Annals of the Four Masters at the 
year 890, and is as follows : 

"A. D. 890. Gpomucha DO opccain la 5l unla P n i 7 ^ a <5allaib Gcha cliach, 
co pucpac oeicneaBap 7 peace JJ-ce'o i m-bpoio leo, lap n-oipcaoileb apuill oo'n 
ecclaip, 7 lap m-bpipeb an oeapraije, comb DO ip pubpab : 

Cpuaj, a naerh paopaicc, nap anachc c' epnai je, 
Qn ^aiU co n-a o-cuagaib 05 buulab DO oeprai^e." 

The following is the literal translation : 

" A. D. 890. Armagh was plundered by Gluniarn, and by the Danes of Dublin, 
and they carried off seven hundred and ten persons into captivity with them, after 
having pulled down a part of the church, and after having broken the Jerthac/t, [or ora- 
tory], on which was said : 

" Pity, O saint Patrick, that thy prayers did not save, 

When the Danes with their axes were striking thy derthach." 

The substance of this passage is given by Colgan as follows : 

" A. D. 890. Ardmacha occupata fy expilata per Gluniarnum, $ Nortmannos Dub- 
linienses; qui ipsa summa Basilica ex parte diruta, Sf diuersis sacris rpdificijs solo cequatis, 
decent supra septingentos abduxerunt captiuos." Trias Thaitm. p. 296. 

In the next notice of the sacred edifices of Armagh, which occurs 
in the same Annals, the principal church is designated by the word 
cill. It occurs at the year 907, and is as follows : 

" A. D. 907. Sapuccao Gpoamacha la Cepnachan mac TDuiljen, .1. cimbio 
DO bpeic ap in cill, 7 a baboo h-i 6och Cuip ppi h-Qpomacha aniap." 


Thus translated by Colgan, who renders cill by ecclesia and Imxilica: 

" A. D. 907. JiiisiHrii Ai-iliiinrliiiiiii Siici-ilryam vim jiassa per Kernachuintm filiinn 
Duliifiii ; quii/tii'ttilniit fiifillHinii i'u i'1'fiiii'ij caitsa effttgientem, ex Ecclesia sacrilege ausu 
i:rirn.f!t. $ in lacu cle Loch kirr, vrbi versus Occidentem adiacenti, ftiffbeauit." Trias 
Tlnunn. p. 296. 

The Annals of the Four Masters next record the burning of Ar- 
magh at the year 914, without any reference to its buildings ; but the 
Annals of Ulster record the same event in detail at the year 915. I 
quote the original of the latter notice, as printed by Dr. O'Conor, and 
I also give his translation of it, though incorrect in many respects : 

" A. D. 915. Ardmacha do loecadh di ait i. q. nt Kl. Mail, i a leith deiscertaeh cosintoi 
7 cosintghaboll 7 cosincucin 7 cusiitdlius ab. haile." 

" A. D. 915. Ardinacha combusta partim, quinto Kalendarum Mail, i. e. dimidiuni 
ejus australe, cum stramine, et granario, et tecto, et domicilio niuuito Abbatise totius." 

It might be supposed from the preceding translation that this 
record could have no reference to the burning of the churches of 
Armagh, and that it could not be used in any way to prove that they 
were of stone; but I shall presently show (p. 152) that the contrary 
is the fact, and that the words of the annalist which Dr. O'Conor 
understood to mean sframen, i. e. straw, granariinn, a barn, and tec- 
tnm, a roof, were actually not only churches, but even stone churches. 
The original passage is thus given in the vellum copy of the Annals 
of Ulster, preserved in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin : 

"A. D. 915. Qpomnca DO lopcao DO cene otair i quinco Kalenoapum fTlai, .1. 
a leich oeipcepruch, cop in Coi, 7 cop in c-Suball, 7 cup in Chucm, 7 cop mo f.iup 
QbbaiD h-uile." 

The correct translation of the passage is undoubtedly this : 

" A. D. 915. Armagh was burned by lightning on the fifth of the Kalends of May, 
i e. its southern half, together with the [church of~\ Toi, and with [the church of] 
Sabhall, and with the Cucin [or kitchen], and with the entire of the Lis Abbaidh, [or the 
fortified enclosure of the abbots]." 

In the next entry the churches of Armagh are noticed under the 
name of ceall. It occurs in the Annals of Ulster under the year 920, 
and is as follows, as in the College MS. copy : 

" A. D. 920. Inopeo Gipomacha h-i 1111. lu. Nouembptp 6 jUcuB Gcha cliach, 
.1. o ^Jorbpic Oa Imaip, cum puo eiepcicu, .1. ip in c-Parupn pia peil nflapcuin ; 
7 na raiji aepnai^ci DO anacal laipco n-a luce DO ceilib oe, 7 01 lobpuib, 7 in cell 
olcena, nipi paucip in ea ceccip exaupcip pep incupiam." 

Thus correctly translated by Dr. O'Conor : 

u 2 


" A. D. 920. Ardmacha vastata iv. Id. Novembris per Alienigenas Dublinienses, 
i. e. per Goffredum nepotem Imari, cum suo exercitu, i. e. die Sabbati ante festivitatem 
S. Martini, et protexit domos orationis, cum suis Colideis, et Leprosis, et Ecclesiam 
similiter, nisi paucis in ea tectis exustis per incuriam." 

In the next entry, which occurs at the year 995, and records the 
conflagration of the churches and other buildings of Armagh by light- 
ning, the churches are called damhliags, or stone buildings, by all the 
annalists. See the whole of the original authorities, and old transla- 
tions of them, given in the preceding part of this work, pp. 52 to 54. 

At the year 1010 the great church of Armagh is mentioned by 
the Four Masters under the name of Domhliacc mhor, or great stone- 
church, in the following passage, to which I add Colgan's translation : 

" A. D. 1010. niuipeoach, mac Cpiocham, coriiapba Colaitn cille, 7 Goam- 
nain, paoi, 7 eppcop, 7 mac oicche, peplei^mc Gpoumacha, 7 aobap coriiapba 
Pucpaicc, o'ecc iapp an cerparhao bliaoam peaccmooac a aoipe, a u. Kl. lanuapi, 
uioche Sachaipn oo ponnpao, 7 po h-aoriaiceo co n-onoip, 7 50 n-aiprhicm ip in 
Oomliacc mop i n-Gpomacha, ap belaib' na h-ulcopa." 

"A. D. 1010. Sanctus Muredacim filius Crichani, Comorbanus Sancti Columbce, 8; 
Sancti Adamnani, Doctor eximius, Episcopus, Virgo, seu vir castissimus, Lector Theologim 
Ardmachanus, $ futurus Comorbanus S. Patricij, (id est Archiepiscopus Ardmachanus) 
anno cetatis septuagesimo quarto, quinto Calendas lanuarij, ipsa nocte sabbatina, quieuit 
in Domino: Sf Ardmachce in maiori Ecclesia ante summum altare, cum magno honore Sf 
solemnitate sepultus est." Trias Thaum. pp. 297, 298. 

The record which next follows is of greater value than any 
hitherto cited, as the annalists present us with the names of the dif- 
ferent churches which were burned, and call them all damhliags, or 
stone churches. It occurs in all the Annals at the year 1020 ; and, as 
it is of great importance to this Inquiry, inasmuch as it refers to stone 
churches, which, as I shall hereafter show, were founded in St. Pa- 
trick's time, I shall give the various readings found in the different 
Annals, and also the translations hitherto made of them. The most 
ancient authority in which it occurs is the Annals of Tighernach, in 
which it runs as follows : 

" A. D. 1020. Gpomaca DO lopcao a c. Kl. ITlai, co n-a oepti^ib uile cenmoca 
in reach pcpeprpa nama, 7 po loipc illcige ip na cpenaib, 7 in tJamliag mop, 7 
in cloicccech co n-a clogaib, 7 Oamliag na Coja, 7 Damliaj in c-Sabuill, 7 in 
cachuip ppoicepca, 7 imao oip 7 upjaic, 7 pec apcena." 

Thus translated by Dr. O'Conor : 

" A. D. 1020. Ardmacha combusta tertio Kal. Maii, cum Nosocomiis suis omnibus, 
non excepta domo Scripturarum sanctarum, et combustae sunt pluriinae domus in ter- 


nariis regionibus Civitatis, et Cathedralis Ecclesia niagna lapidea, et campanile cum 
suis Campanis, et lapidea Ecclesia Electionum, et Ecclesia lapidea Saballi, (i. e. horrei, 
sive granarii S. Patricii,) et Cathedra Doctrinalis Prffidicatorum (L e. suggestum) et 
copia ingens auri et argenti, et res pretiosae similiter." 

It should be observed, that in the preceding translation, Dr. 
O'Conor correctly renders the words Oamling na Uoja, by lapidea 
Ecclesia Electionum; and yet in his translation, already cited, of 
the entry in the Annals of Ulster relating to the same churches, at 
the year 915, he renders the word toe, which is the name of this 
church, given without the preceding word Oarnlmj, by stramen: 
and again in the record of the burning of this same church, now to 
be cited from the Annals of Ulster, it will appear that he gives a 
different and equally erroneous translation of the same word, thus : 

"A. D.I 020. Gpomacha uile DO leip DO lopcao, .1. in Oaimlia^ Hlop co n-a 
cuiji oo luatoe, 7 in cloiccec co n-a cloccaiB, 7 in Sabull, 7 in Com, 7 cupbao na 
n-abbao, 7 in c-pen-cuchaip Ppocmpra, i o-ceipc Kl. lum, 1 6luan pe Cinjcei- 

This passage, the text of which is here given from the copy in the 
Library of Trinity College, Dublin, is thus translated by Dr. O'Conor : 

" A. D. 1020. Ardmacha tota penitus combusta, i. e. Ecclesia Saxea magna, cum 
suo tegmento plumbeo, et Campanili, et Campanis, et Ecclesia Sabhalensis, L e. Granarii, 
et Toamensis, i. e. Cimitserii, et EssedaAbbatis, et vetusta Cathedra doctrinalis, tertio 
Kalendarum Junii, et die Lunae ante Pentecosten." 

Here Dr. O'Conor has added an m to Toa, which is not to be found 
in the Dublin copy nor in any of the other annals, and it is scarcely 
necessary to remark here that it must be an error of his own in deci- 
phering the MS. With respect to his present conjectural translation 
of the word, it is worth nothing, as he renders it otherwise elsewhere, 
and indeed correctly in the Annals of Tighernach ; and it is strange 
that so laborious a writer did not take the trouble of comparing the 
different Annals, before he gave such contradictory translations of 
the passages recording the same events. This passage is thus cor- 
rectly translated, but without anglicizing the words Sabhall and Toa, 
in the old manuscript translation of the Annals of Ulster, preserved 
in the British Museum, (MS. add. 4795, fol. 47.) 

" A. D. 1020. " All Ardmach burnt wholly, viz. y" Damliag with its howses 
[housing] or cover of lead, y STEEPLE WITH Y BELLS, y e Saval and Toay, & chariott 
of y e abbotts, with y e old chaire of precepts, in y' 3 KaL of June, Monday before Whit- 


The same record is given by the Four Masters as follows : 

" A. D. 1020. Qpomacha DO Vopccao ^up an Rair uile, jan cepapccam aom 
cicche innce cenmocha an ceach pcpeaptpa nama, 7 po loipccchi lol-caighe ip nu 
cpeanaib', 7 po loipcceo in t)oirhliacc TTlop, 7 in cloiccheach co n-a cloccaib, 7 
TDariiliacc na Coe, 7 t)amliacc an c-Sabaill, 7 an c-pen-cachaoip ppoicepea, 7 
cappac na n-Gbbab, 7 a liubuip i o-cai^ib na mac leijjinn, co n-iomac oip 7 aip- 
pjicc, 7 jach peoic apchena." 

Thus translated by Dr. O'Conor : 

" A. D. 1020. Ardmacha combusta quoad Arccm totam, absque ulla domo ibi sal- 
vata prater Domum Scripturarum, et combustae sunt plurinwe domus in vicis, et com- 
busta est Ecclesia lapidea magna, et campanile cum suis campanis, et Ecclesia lapidea 
Toensis, et Ecclesia lapidea Sabhallise, et antiqua Cathedra doctrinalis, et currus ab- 
batialis, et libri ejus in domibus Praelectorum, cum ingenti copia auri et argenti, et 
omnibus rebus pretiosis similiter." 

An abstract from this passage is given by Colgan in his Annals of 
Armagh, but he has unfortunately omitted some important objects, 
and mistaken the meaning of a phrase, which has led others into 
great error. The passage is as follows : 

" A. D. 1020. Ardmacha tota incendio vastata vsq; ad arcem maiorem, in qua nvlla 
domus fuit combusta prceter Biblivthecam so/am: sed plurimoe cedes sunt flammis absumpta? 
in tribus alijs partibus ciuitatis, $ inter alia ipsum summum templum, Basilica Toensis, 
Basilica Sabhallensis, Basilica veins concionatoria ; libri omnes studiosorum in suis domi- 
ciliis, Sf ingens copia auri $ argenti cum alijs plurimis bonis." Trias Thaum. p. 298. 

That this translation of Colgan's is in part incorrect, as well as 
defective, will be obvious to every Irish scholar, as well as to the 
English reader, who will take the trouble of comparing it with the 
other translations, one of which, already given, is older than Colgan's 
time, arid made by a native Irishman living in Ireland. 

I shall next present the reader with the translation made of this 
passage in the year 162? by Connell Mageoghegan, from the Book or 
Annals of Clonmacnoise, and the original Irish of it given in the 
Chronicon Scotorum, which was abstracted from the same work : 

" A. D. 1021. Qpomacha DO lopcab jjup an pair jenmora an cec pcpebcpa, 7 
loipcceo an Damliaj ITlop, 7 an claijceac co n-a cloccaib, 7 t)amlia5 na Coja, 
7 t>amlia5an c-Sub'aill 7 an carhaip ppoicepca, 7 imao oip 7 aipgio, 7 peo ap. 

Thus translated by Mageoghegan : 

" A. D. 1013, [correctly 1021]. Ardmach, the third of the Kallends of June, was 
burnt from the one end to the other, save only the Library ; all the houses were burnt, 


the Great Church, the STEEPLE, the Church of the Sabhall, the pulpit t ..i- rhuir of 
preaching, with much gold, silver and books, were burnt by the Danes." 

In the next entry, relating to Armagh, in the Annals of the Four 
Masters, the churches are noticed under the name of tempuill: 

" A. D. 1074. Qpomacha DO lopccao oia ITIaipc lap m-6ealcame, co n-a uilib 
cetnploib, 7 cloccaib, eirrip pair 7 cpiam." 

Thus translated by Dr. O'Conor : 

" A. D. 1074. Ardmacha combusta die Martis post Baalis ignem, (i. e. post Ka- 
lendas Maias,) cum omnibus suis Ecclesiis et Campanilibus, tarn Arx quam ternaria; 
divisioues Civitatis." 

And thus by Colgan : 

" A. D. 1074. Ardmacha tota cum omnibus Ecclesiis $ campanis, cum arce Sf reliqua 
vrbisjMrte incendio vastata, die Martis post festum SS. Philippi Sf lacM." Trias Thaum. 
p. 2<J8. 

At the year 1085 mention is made in the Annals of Ulster and of 
the Four Masters of the church of St. Bridget, at Armagh, usually 
called Cill Bhrighide and Tempull Bhrighde, which, according to 
Colgan, was erected in Patrick's time, under the name of Regies 
Bhrighde; and at the years 1092 and 1093 the churches of Armagli 
are again mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters, under the 
name of tempuill. 

At the year 1101 the great church of Armagh is called damhliat; 
in the Annals of Ulster, and doimliag in those of the Four Masters. 

" A. D. 1101. Donnchao h-Ua Gochaoa, pi Ulao, oo puaplucno a cuibpich 
la tDomnull mac tochlamn la pij n-Qilij cap cenn a vnic 7 a coihalcai, .1. i 
n-Damliuc Qpoamaclia, cpe impioe comapba pacpaic, 7 pamca pficpaic apcenu, 
&c." Annal. Ulton. 

Thus translated by Dr. O'Conor : 

"A. D. 1101. Donnchad O'Eochada Rex Ultonia; liberatus e catenis a Donaldo 
filio Lochlinii Rege Alichite, propter filium ejus, et colactaneum ejus, (obsides) i. e. in 
Ecclesia Cathedral! lapidea Ardmachana, per intercessionem Vicarii Patricii, et congre- 
gationis cleri Patricii similiter." 

" A.D. 1101. tJonnchab Ua h-Gochaoa, pi Ulao, DD puapluccao a cuiBpeacli- 
aiB la t)omnall mac TTlic tochlamn, la pi n-Qili j, cap cenc a meic, 7 a comalcu, 
i n-t)oimliacc Qpoamucha, cpe impioe comapba pacpaic, 7 a parhca apcena, 
lap 5-comluccha ooib po Bacall lojxi, 7 po miono na h-eccailpi an n. Kl. lanuapi." 
Ann. Quat. Mag. 

Thus translated by Dr. O'Conor : 

" A. D. 1 101. Donnchadus O'Eochada Rex Ultonise liberatus e catenis per Donal- 
dum filium filii Lochlanni Regem Alichise, propter suum filium, et suum collactaneum, 


in Ecclesia lapidea Ardmachana, per intercessionem Vicarii Patricii et ejus Congrega- 
tionis similiter, postquam convenirent sub obligatione jurisjurandi Baculi Jesu et reli- 
quiaruin Ecclesiae, xi Kal. Januarii." 

And thus by Colgan : 

" A. D. 1101. De consilio Sf intercessions Archiepiscopi fy Cleri Ardmachani Dom- 
naldus Hua Lochluinn Rex Aleachensis e vinculis liberatum dimisit Donatum Hita Heo- 
c/iadka, Regem Vlidice in Basilica Ardmachana, acceptis filio 8f aliis ab eo obsidibus: Sf 
iureiurando per Baculum, aliasque sacri loci Reliquias prcestito fcedus ibi inierunt XI. 
Calendar lanuarij." Trias Thaum. p. 299- 

In the next notice, which occurs at the year 1112, of the burning 
of the churches of Armagh, they are called tempuill in the Annals 
of the Four Masters and in other Annals, as thus : 

" A. D. 1112. Raich Gpoamacha co n-a cemploiB DO lopccao, in x. Kl. Qppil, 
7 oa ppeich DO Cpiun ITIapan, 7 an rpeap ppech DO Cpiun riiop." Ann. Qtiat. Mag. 

Thus translated by Dr. O'Conor : 

" A. D. 1 1 1 2. Arx Ardmachana cum SCA ECCLESIA combusta x Kal. April, et 
duo vici ternariae regionis civitatis, dictre Masan, et tertius vicus ternariae (dictae) 

And thus, more correctly, by Colgan : 

" A. D. 1112. Arx Ardmachana CUM TEMPLIS, duce platece in Trian-Massain, Sf ter- 
t/'ani Trianmor incendio deuastantur." Trias Thaum. p. 300. 

The next record in the Irish Annals relating to Armagh is one of 
great importance, as it not only calls the great church a stone struc- 
ture, but also shows that it was partly without a roof for one hundred 
and thirty years preceding, that is, since the great conflagration of 
the churches by lightning in 995, so that it must have been a church 
of considerable magnitude. The passage occurs in the Annals of 
Ulster, and of the Four Masters, at the year 1125, as follows : 

" A. D. 112,5. Ip mnci ruapjbao a buinoe oioen pop in t)amliac ITIop Gipo- 
macha, tap n-a lan-ecop DO plmnciuch la Celluch, comapba pacpaic, ip in cpi- 
chaomao bliaoam ap ceo 6 na pabai plinnciuch paip co comlan." Ann. Ultmien. 

Thus translated by Dr. O'Conor : 

" A. D. 1 125. . . operimentum factum, et optimum tectum, et istud tectum integre, 
supra Ecclesiam Cathedralem lapideam magnam Ardmachanam, postea totum tegulis 
coopertum a Celso Vicario Patricii, in trigesimo anno supra centesimum a quo non fuit 
tegulis contectum totum." 

" A. D. 1125. h-i quinc lo. 6naip pop Qomoe ; ip more cuapccbao a oumne 
Dioin pop in t)airhliacc IDop Qpoatnacha, lap n-a lam-eagap DO plmoib la Ceol- 
lach, comapba pacpaic, ip in cpichacriiao bliaoam ap ceo o n-a paiBe plinn comlan 
paip co pin." Ann. Quat. Mao. 


Thus translated by Dr. O'Conor : 

"A. D. 1125. Quinto Id. Januarii operimentum factum et tcctum integrum fac- 
tuin supra Ecclesiam Cathedralem lapideam magnam Ardmachanam, postea totum 
tegulis coopertum a Celso Vicario Patricii, in trigesimo anno supra centesimum ex quo 
non fuit tegulis opertum totum usque ad id," 

And thus by Colgan : 

" A. D. 1 125. Qitinto It/i<g lanuarij tegulis integre contecta $ restaurata est Ecclesia 
Cathedralis Ardmacliana per Sanctum Cehum Archiepiscopum ; postquamper annos cen~ 
tn in trujinta non nisi ex parte fuisset contecta." Trias Thaum. p. 300. 

The last notice of the ancient churches of Armagh in the Annals 
of the Four Masters occurs at the year 1179, which I here give with 
Colgan's translation : 

" A. D. 1179. Gpomaca DO lopccao errip remplaiB 7 peclepaib, ace Reclep 
ftpiccoe 7 Uempull net 6-peapca nnma." 

" A. D. 1178 [1179]- Armacha cum Ecclesijs & Sanctuarijs incendio exusta, pra- 
ter sanctuarium Sancti [Sancta?] Brigidae 4" templum na ferta (id est, miraculorum) 
apjyellatum." Trias Thaum. p. 310. 

From the preceding notices the following conclusions may, I think, 
be considered as now established. First, that the Irish, when writing 
in their own language, applied to their stone churches not only the 
term damhliag, which expresses the material of which they were 
formed, but also the terms till, tempull, regies, and eclats, words ob- 
viously derived from the Latin ; and that when noticing these churches 
in the Latin language they designate them by the terms ecclesia, 
templum, and basilica: and hence, that no inference can be fairly 
drawn, that the churches designated by any other appellation than 
damhliag were not stone buildings. This, I must repeat, is an im- 
portant conclusion to bear in mind, because, as I have already stated, 
almost the entire of our ancient ecclesiastical history, being written 
in Latin, affords us but incidental evidences as to the materials used 
in the construction of the churches ; and the Irish annalists who fur- 
nish evidence as to their material by the use of the term damhliag, 
or stone church, only, as I have shown, commence their notices of 
these structures when they were subjected to the devastations of the 
Northmen in the ninth century. 

Secondly, that it is quite certain that the churches at Armagh 
were stone buildings in the ninth century. This is sufficiently shown 
not only from the notices of these churches as stone edifices already 
given as early as the year 838, but also from the following important 



notice in Colgan's annals of Armagli at the year 1145, relative to the 
erection of a lime-kiln of enormous size by Gelasius, archbishop of 
Armagh, for the purpose of repairing the churches, as authority for 
which he quotes the Life of Gelasius (cap. xiv. in Ada Sanctorum, 
p. 775), and the Annals of the Four Masters : 

" A. D. 1 145. Priorum \_Piorum~\ lalorum indefessus exantlator Gelasius cogitans de 
Ardmachana Basilica, aliisq; sacris cedibus adhcerentibus reparandis, extruxit pro calce 
Sf ccemento in hunc finem excoquendo, ingentis molis fornacem, cuius latitudo ab omni 
parte erat sexaginta pedes protensa." Trias Thaum. p. 305. 

It may indeed be objected that the authorities to which Colgan 
refers are insufficient, inasmuch as the Life of St. Gelasius, in which 
this passage is found, appears to have been compiled by Colgan him- 
self from various authorities, and the record in the Annals of the 
Four Masters does not state the purpose for which the lime-kiln was 
erected : but it is not likely that so very accurate a compiler as Col- 
gan would insert such a passage without sufficient authority ; and, 
even if the purpose assigned for the erection of this lime-kiln were 
only an inference of Colgan's own, it would be a perfectly legitimate 
one, for if it had been erected not to repair, but to build the 
churches, the annalists, as was their habit, would not have failed to 
state an object so honourable to the fame of a distinguished eccle- 
siastic, as will appear from several examples connected with Armagh 
itself. Thus at the year 1126 the Annals of Ulster and of the Four 
Masters record the erection of a damhliag, or stone church, called 
Regies Foil agus Pedair, or the Abbey Church of SS. Paul and 
Peter a church, the original erection of which is erroneously as- 
cribed by Ware and all the subsequent writers to St. Patrick, and 
its consecration by the archbishop Celsus. It is thus given in the 
Annals of Ulster : 

"A. D. 1126. t)avhliuc pejlepa poll 7 peoaip, DO ponao la h-lmap h-Uu 
n-Qeoacun, DO coipecpao DO Ceallucli, comupba pacpaic, in rij. Kal. Nouem- 

Thus translated by Dr. O'Conor, who misunderstood the meaning of 
the word peglep, which signifies an abbey church: 

"A. D. 1126. Ecclesia lapidea Cathedralis Coemeterii Pauli et Petri, quam sedi- 
ficavit Imar O'Aedhacan, consecrata a Celso Vicario Patricii, xii Kalend. Novemb." 

Thus in the Annals of the Four Masters : 

" A. D. 1126. t)aimliacc pejlepa poil 7 peoaip i n-Qpomachu, DO ponnao la 


h-lmap Ua n-Geoacam DO coippecccio la Ceallach, coriiapbu pacpaicc, an rt(. 
Kal. DO Nouetnbep." 

Tims translated by Dr. O'Conor : 

" A. D. 1126. Ecclesia lapidea Coemeterii Pauli et Petri in Ardmacho, quae <cdi- 
ficata est per Imarum O'Edacan, consecrata per Celsum Vicarimn Patricii, xii Kal. 

And thus by Colgan : 

" A. D. 1 126. Basilica SS. Petri $ Pauli Ardmachce extructa per B. Itnanun Hun 
Hoedhagain, consecrata est per S. Celsum Archiepixopum Ardmachanum 12. Caknd. No- 
Hemb." Trias Tliaum. p. 300. 

Thus again in the record of the death of Malachy O'Morgair, the 
predecessor of Gelasius, in the Annals of the Four Masters, at the 
year 1148, it is particularly stated, not only that he founded and con- 
secrated churches, churchyards, and monasteries, but also that he re- 
paired many churches that had been for a long period in a state of 
ruin and desolation. 

" A. D. 1 148. malachiap, .' TTlaolmaeDocc Uci ITIopj-aip, aipo-eppcop cachaoipe 
Paopmcc, aipo-cenn lapchaip Goppa, lejaice comapba pecaip, aom ceanc po 
piapuijper5 a D 'l 7 5 OI ^> al P D -r ao1 ' n-eaccna 7 a j-cpaoaio, locpan polupca no 
poillp i jeo cuacha 7 eccalpa rpia popceacal 7 caoin-jnioma, aojaipe raipip na 
h-6ccailpi co coicceno, lap n-oiponeo DO eppcoip 7 facaipc, 7 aop gacha jpaio 
apchena, tap j-coippeaccao ceampoll 7 peljeao n-iomao, lap n-oenarii jacha 
lubpa ecclapcacoa pecnon Gpeann, lap o-ctoonacal peoo 7 bfo DO cpenaib 7 
cpuajaib, lap B-porujao ceall 7 mnmipqieach ; ap ap leipiom po h-arnuaoaijre 
i n-6pmn lap n-a b-pailliu jao o cdm riiuip, ^ach ecclup po lcchi i paill 7 i 
n-eiplip, lap B-pajKail jach piajla 7 jach poib^pa i n-Gacclaip Gpeann apchena, 
ip in oapa pechr a leccaioechca, lap beic ceicpe bliaona oecc ma phpiorii6io, 7 
lapp an cerpamao bliaoam caeccac a aoipi, po paio a ppipar DO cum niriie an 
oapa la DO Nouernbep, 7 apann celeabpaicc an6acclaip lirh 7 pollamam Naoirii 
mhalachwp ap an cpep la, ap n-a claocluo lup na ppuicib o la pheile na mapB, 
up an la na oiaio, ap comb upaioe a epoach 7 a onoip ; 7 po h-aonacc i mamipcip 
8. 6epnaipo h-i Claipualip h-i b-ppancoiB, 50 n-onoip 7 co n-aipmirrm." 

Thus translated by Dr. O'Conor, who has mistaken the meaning of 
the most important part of the passage, as marked in Italics : 

" A. D. 1148. Malachias, i. e. Maolmaedogus O'Morgur, Arcbiepiscopus Cathedra 
Patricii, suprcraus Pastor Occidentalis Europae, Legatus Vicarii Petri, Unicus cui pa- 
rebant Hiberni et Alienigense, supremus sapiens doctrina et devotione, Lucerna Lucis 
illuminans Saicularia et Ecclesiastica propter pietatem et clam gesta, Pastor solicitus 
Ecclesije generaliter, postquam ordinasset Episcopos et Sacerdotes, et cujusvis ordinis 
Clericos similiter, postquam consecrasset Ecclesias et Coemeteria plurima, postquam 
perfecisset ornnia munera Ecclesiastica ubique in Hibernia, post oblatas res pretiosas 
et cibaria potentibus et pauperibus, post tecta imposita Ecclesiis et Monasteriis, nam 

x 2 


per ipsum renovataj sunt in Hibernia, post ejus reditum e locis transmarinis, omnes 
Ecclesia: qua; derelictse erant in ruinam et in desolationem, postquam statuisset omnes 
regulas et omnes leges morum in Ecclesia Hibernica similiter, secunda fungens Lega- 
tione, postquam fuisset quatuordecim annis in Primatu, post quinquagesimum quartum 
annum aetatis suas, reddidit spiritum coelo, 2da die Novembris, et eo die celebrat Ec- 
clesia ejus fclicem migrationem, et Solemnitas S. Malachia? tertio die celebratur, nam 
transfertur a Eeligiosis a die festo omnium Defunctorum ad diem sequentem, ut possit 
celebrari more solemn! et honorifico, et sepultus est in Monasterio S. Bernard! Clare- 
valla} in Francia, cum honore et reverentia." 

And thus more correctly by Colgan, as marked in small capitals : 

"A. D. 1148. 8. Malachias Hua Morgair, Archiepiscopus olim Ardmac/ianus, Occi- 
dentalis Europce Legatus Apostolicus, cuius arbitrio fy monitis Hiberni <$ Nortmanni 
ucquiescebant, vir nutti sapientia f religione secundus, lucerna lucens, Sf Clemm popu- 
lumq; sacris operibus Sf concionibus ittuminans ; Pastor fidelis Ecclesice Dei; post Epis- 
ropos, Prcesbyteros, aliosq; diuersorum graduum Sf ordinum Clericos, wdinatos ; post 
Ecclesias multas, Sanctuaria, Sf Monasteria consecrata ; post mtdtos labores Sf diuersa 
munia Ecclesiastica per vniuersam Hiberniam pie exercita ; post multas eleemosynas, fy 
pias elargitiones in vsus pauperum $ egenorum impemas ; post diuersas Ecclesias $ Mo- 
nasteria partim erecta, partim rettcmrata (in more enim habuit Ecclesias, DIU ANTE NE- 
GLECTAS & DIRUTAS denub reparare Sf recedificarei)post multas Canonicas constilutiones 
Ecclesiasticce disciplince reformationem, fy Cleri mores in melius commutandos, concer- 
nentes, pie sancitas, anno decimo quarto sui Primatus, cetatis quinquagesimo quarto secunda 
iam vice Legati Apostolici munere functus, spiritum coelo reddidit die secunda Nouembris 
in Monasterio Clareuallensi in Francia; ibidem cum magna solemnitate, fy honore sepultus. 
Quia tamen commemoratio omnium Jidel turn defunctorum eo die celebratur ; festum eius 
quo commodius 8f solemnius celebrari posset translatum est in diem sequentem." Trias 
Thaum. p. 305. 

Having now, as I trust, satisfied the reader that the churches at 
Armagh were built of stone and lime cement as early as the middle of 
the ninth century, I proceed to my next and final conclusion. 

Thirdly, that there is every reason to believe that the stone 
churches already shown to have existed in the ninth century, were 
the very churches erected in St. Patrick's time, or shortly after. This, 
I think, will sufficiently appear from the following evidences, and 
first, with respect to the Cathedral, or Damhliag Mor. The erection 
of a cathedral church at Armagh is recorded by all the Irish annalists, 
as well as by the most ancient authors of the Lives of St. Patrick, at 
the year 444, or 445, and its measurement in length is thus given in 
the Tripartite Life of the saint, said to have been originally written 
by St. Evin in the sixth century : 

" Istis namque diebus sanctissimus Antistes metatus est locum, & jecit funda- 
menta Ecclesise Ardmaclianse juxta formam, & modum ab Angelo prajscriptum. Dum 


autein fierct lisec fundatio, & metatio forrase, & quantitatis Ecclesia: tcditicanda:, collect* 
synodus Antistituin, Abbatum, aliorumque vniuersi rcgni Pralatorum : & facta pro- 
cessione ad ractas designandas processcrunt, Patricio cum baculo lesu in tnanu totunt 
Clerum, ct Angclo Dei, tanquilm ductore & directore Patricium prsecedenti. Statuit 
autem Patricias juxta Angeli pnescriptum quod mums Ecclesiae in longitudine conti- 
neret centum quadraginta pcdes (forte passus) ; fedificium, siue aula maior trigiuta ; 
culina septem & decem ; Argyrotheca, seu vasarium, vbi supellex reponebatur, sep- 
tem pedes. Et h;e sacrae aedes omnes iuxta has mensuras sunt postea erecta-."- 
Part iii. c. Ixxviii. Trias Thaum. p. 164. 

It maybe objected that the work in which the preceding authority 
is found is not of the age ascribed to it by Colgan ; but this objection 
is of little consequence to my present argument, as, even alloAving 
the passages it contains, which could not be of this antiquity, and 
which Colgan considers interpolations, to be, as Dr. Lanigan thinks, 
a portion of the original text, we have still the acknowledgment of 
this sceptical critic himself, that the work cannot, by any possibility, 
be later than the tenth century, and that it is in very great part de- 
rived from much older memoirs, and often with such a scrupulous 
fidelity, that, instead of giving the mere substance of them, the very 
words are retained. 

Seeing then that a great cathedral church was built by St. Patrick 
at this early period, we have every reason to believe that it must have 
been of stone, inasmuch as it is spoken of as such by the Irish anna- 
lists at the year 838, and that there is no intimation in the whole body 
of our historical authorities that it was ever rebuilt, though it was 
undoubtedly often repaired, and had transepts added to it in the 
twelfth century. And I may remark, as an interesting fact, that, after 
all the calamities to which this venerable edifice has been subjected, 
it still retains, in its present splendid re-edification, nearly the same 
longitudinal measurement as in the time of its original foundation. 

That the stone-church, called Damhliag an t-Sabhaill, was also 
erected in St. Patrick's time, appears from the Tripartite Life of that 
saint, as in the following passage : 

" Sanctus Patricius igitur cum suis sanctis comitibus ab vna parte, & Darius cum 
vxore, &, regionis suae quae vulgo Oirt/tir, id est Orientals appellatur, proceribus, 
simul prodeunt ad agrum ilium videndum, & locum Basilicas in eo erigendae conside- 
randum, & designandum. Cum loci considerarent opportunitatem, & tenninos, ceruam 
cum hinnulo procumbentem conspiciunt in loco, in quo hodie est Sabhatt, quam cum 
comitantes vellent occidere, sanctus id inhibuit, quod sibi postea multa praestaret ob- 
sequia." Part iil c. Ixxi. Trias Thaum. p. 1G2. 


The situation of this church, as being to the left or north side 
of the cathedral or great church, is pointed out in the Life of St. Pa- 
trick by Maccuthenius, in the Book of Armagh, fol. 7, col. 2. 

The church called Tempull na Ferta is not mentioned by the 
annali sts earlier than at the year 1179, when it is noticed in the Annals 
of the Four Masters, as already quoted, and also in the Annals of 
Kilronan. But there is a distinct evidence both in the Tripartite 
Life of St. Patrick, and in the Life of that saint by Maccuthenius, 
an authority undoubtedly of the seventh century, that this church 
was originally built by the Irish apostle even previously to the erection 
of the great church, or cathedral, on the hill: the passage in the 
Tripartite Life is as follows : 

" Perrexit igitur vir sanctus, prout in mandatis acceperat, ad fines Machanos, vbi 
in loco, Rathdaire dicto, reperit virum Principem & potentem, nomine Darium cog- 
nomento Dearg, Finchadij filium : Finchadio autem huic pater erat Eoganius, & auut 
Niettanus, a quo familia de Hi Niellain nomen, & originem sumpsit. Petiit humiliter 
vir Apostolicus a principe Dario locum, in quo Deo domum in terra, sacramque exci- 
taret ajdem. Darioq; percontanti, in quo ipse earn loco mallet erigere, respondit, quod 
in amoeno & eminentiori loco, in qua hodie Ardmacha Ciuitas jacet. Ista autem vice 
noluit Darius permittere, vt in isto altiori loco eedificaret ; sed concessit ipsi alium 
locum humiliorem : in quo vir beatus excitauit Ecclesiam De-Fearta vocatam, in qua 
multis ipse postea habitauit diebus." Part iii. c. Ixviii. Trias Thaum. p. 162. 

Thus in the Life by Maccuthenius, in the Book of Armagh : 

" Dixitque diues ad sanctum quern locum petis : Peto inquit sanctus ut illam alti- 
tudinem terras qua? nominatur Dorsum Solids dones mihi et construam ibi locum. At 
ille noluit sancto terram illam dare altam, sed dedit illi locum alium in inferior! terra 
ubi nunc est Fertce Martyrum juxta Ardd mache, et habitauit ibi Sanctus Patricius 
cum suis." Fol. 6, b, b. 

Respecting the origin of the church called by the annalists Damh* 
Hag na Toi, or na Togha, I have found nothing in the ancient Lives 
of St. Patrick ; but that this church also, if not a foundation of Pa- 
trick's time, was of a date not long subsequent to it, may fairly be 
inferred from the early notice of its existence found in the Annals of 
Ulster. It appears also that this was the original parish church of 
Armagh ; and hence its name Damhliag na Togha, as accurately 
written by Tighernach, which clearly means the stone-church of the 
election. Of this church some remains existed down to the restora- 
tion of the present cathedral, which are marked in Harris's plate of 
the latter as " Part of the ruin of the Old Parish Church where the 


Rector of Armagh is always inducted, for want of which Church Divine 
service is now performed in the Nave of the Cathedral." And in like 
manner Dr. Stuart, the historian of Armagh, states, that at the frag- 
ment of this church, " since the destruction of the building, the rectors 
of Armagh have (generally speaking) been inducted, on their respec- 
tive promotions." Dr. Stuart indeed supposes that this church was 
called Basilica Vetus Concionatoria, a mistake growing out of Col- 
gan's error in giving this as the translation of yencacctoip na pjio- 
cepca, which, as already proved from the best authorities, meant, 
merely, the old preaching-chair or pidpit. 

Of the other edifices, stated in the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick to 
have been erected in that saint's time, I shall for the present only re- 
mark, that the Cucin, Coquina, or Kitchen, is referred to in the An- 
nals of Ulster as existing in the year 995. 

I trust I have now adduced sufficient historical evidence to satisfy 
the reader, not only that the churches of Armagh were stone build- 
ings as far back as the early part of the ninth century, but that there 
is every reason to believe that these stone churches were the very 
buildings erected by St. Patrick and his immediate successors : and 
that the abbey and cathedral churches throughout Ireland were ge- 
nerally, if not, as I firmly believe, always, of stone also, I shall prove 
by abundant historical and other evidences, drawn from the monu- 
ments themselves, in the succeeding sections of this Inquiry. In con- 
cluding this section I shall therefore only adduce, in support of these 
facts, one additional authority, which, though occurring in a mere 
legend, very satisfactorily proves that the Irish generally were so 
accustomed to the existence of churches and other buildings of stone, 
anterior to the tenth century, that they had a remarkable ancient 
proverb amongst them, which they applied to stones not adapted to 
the purposes of building. It occurs in the Tripartite Life of St. Pa- 
trick, which, as I have already stated, no writer, however sceptical, 
has ever ventured to assign to a later period than the tenth century. 

" Alia quadarn vice vir sanctus Temoria profectus est ad montem Vsneach auimo 
Ecclesiam ibi extruendi : sed ei opposuerunt se duo filij Nielli fratresque Laogarij 
Regis, Fiachus & Enda : quos vir Dei primo benigne allocutus promittebat si permit- 
terent Ecclesiam in Dei honorem in eo aniomo loco excitari, ejusdem Ecclesiae modera- 
tores & rectores ex ipsorum progenie fore desumendos. Sed cum illi non soliim eius 
predication!, & beneuote proposition! non acquiescerent ; sed etiam per manus at- 
tractuin eum violenter expelli curarent ; tune vir Dei in tantte injurise justam vltionrm 


coepit juculum maledictionis in ipsos, eorumque posteros inijcere. Et cum os in.hunc 
fiiiem aperiens, diceret ; maledictio; tune S. Secundinus ejus discipulus inchoatam sen- 
tcntiam ox ore eius eripiens, & complens, subj unxit ; Super lapides mantis Vsneack. 
Placuit viro Dei discipuli pia miseratio, & intercessio & sententiam ab eo prolatam ra- 
tam habuit. Mira res ! ab isto in hunc vsq; diem lapides isti quasi illius maledictionis 
succumbentes plagae, nulli structure aptaj reperiuntur, alteriue humano deseruiunt 
vsui. Vnde abinde in prouerbium abiit, vt siquando lapis, aliaiie materia destinato non 
deseruiat vsui, ex mentis Vsneach lapidibus esse vulgo dicatur." Part ii. c. xvii. Trias 
Thaum. p. 131. 




HAVING shown, as I trust satisfactorily, in the preceding section, 
that the Irish were not unacquainted with the art of building with 
stone and lime cement, and that they applied this art to the erection 
of at least their churches immediately after their conversion to Chris- 
tianity, I have now to treat of the varieties of ecclesiastical structures 
in use amongst them, their size, their general forms and details, and 
the materials of which they were constructed. As this is a subject 
not hitherto treated of by any of our writers, and is, moreover, one 
of extreme difficulty, from the slender historical materials that can 
be brought to illustrate it, I must throw myself x>n the kind indul- 
gence of the reader, if I should fail to treat the subject, in all its 
bearings, with that certainty of proof which it would be so desirable 
to attain. The structures of which I am about to treat, as noticed 
in our historical documents, may be classed in the following order : 

1. Churches. 

2. Oratories. 

3. Belfries. 

4. Houses. 

5. Erdamhs. 

6. Kitchens. 

7. Cashels. 

I shall treat of each of these classes of buildings in a separate 



WHATEVER difficulty I may have had to encounter in proving from 
historical evidences that the most ancient Irish churches were usually, 
if not always, of stone and lime cement, I shall, I think, have none in 
establishing this fact from the characteristic features of the existing 
remains of the churches themselves, features which, as far as I know, 
have an antiquity of character rarely to be seen, or, at least, not hitherto 
noticed, in any of the Christian edifices now remaining in any other 
country of Europe, and which to the intelligent architectural anti- 
quary will carry a conviction as to their remote age, superior to any 
written historical evidences relative to them now to be found. 

The ancient Irish churches are almost invariably of small size, 
their greatest length rarely exceeding eighty feet, and being usually 
not more than sixty. One example only is known of a church of 
greater length, namely, the great church or cathedral of Armagh, 
which, according to the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick, as already 
quoted, p. 156, was originally erected of the length of one hundred 
and forty feet. That sixty feet was, however, the usual length, even of 
the larger churches, appears not only from their existing remains, but 
also from the accounts preserved in the ancient Lives of St. Patrick, 
in which that length is given as the measurement of the Domhnach 
Mor, or Great Church of Patrick, near Tailteann, now Teltown, in 
Meath, as in the following passage in the Annotations of Tirechan 
in the Book of Armagh : 

" Deinde autem uenit ad Conallum filium Neill, ad domum illius qui fundauit iu 
loco in quo est hodie aeclessia Patricii magna, et suscepit eum cum gaudio magno, et 
babtitzauit ilium, et firmauit solium ejus inseternum, et dixit illi, semen fratrum tuo- 
runi tuo sciuini servit in aeternuui. Et tu missericordiam debes facere heredibus rneis 
post me in saeculum, et filii tui et filiorum tuorum filiis meis credulis legitimum sem- 
piternum, pensabatque wclesiam Deo Patricii, pedibus ejus Ix pedum, et dixit Patricius, 
si diminuatur aeclesia ista non erit longum regnuin tibi et firinum." Fol. 10, a, b. 

In the Tripartite Life also of St. Patrick, ascribed to St. Evin, the 
measurement of this church is given exactly in the same words, which 
shows that these ancient Lives of the saint have been derived from a 
common original : 

" Patricius relinquens filium perditionis Carbreum declinauit ad Conallum eius 
fratrem. Domus Conalli erat tune in loco in quo Ecclesia de Domnach Patruic extructa 



est. Conallus vero veritatis prKConem vt Angelum lucis, cum ea qua decuit reuerentia 
& honore, Isetus excepit: eiusque doctrinse aures & animum accomodans, per eum in 
inysterijs fidei instructus, salutari lauacro regeneratus, & families Christ! aggregatus 
est. Vir Dei suam ei impertiit benedictionem dicens ; seraini tuo semen fratrum tuo- 
rum inseruiet : iureque ha?reditario obtentum in posteros tuos a patre in filiuni hoc 
sanctum transibit patrimonium, vt meos successores venerentur, honoraria clientela 
respiciant, ac tueantur patrocinio. In loco isto, vbi erat aula sua, Conallus jecit Deo 
& S. Patricio Ecclesiae extruendae fundamentum, quod pedibus eius LX. pedum erat: 
ipse vero aulam suam ad alium vicinum locum transtulit. Eique tune dixit Patricius ; 
quicumque ex tua poster! tate ausu temerario ausus fuerit aliquid contra hanc Ecclesiam 
attentare, eius regimen neque fffilix, neque diuturnum erit." Part ii. c. v. Trias 
Thaum. pp.129, 130. 

These churches, in their general form, preserve very nearly that 
of the Roman basilica, and they are even called by this name in the 
oldest writers ; but they never present the conched semicircular absis 
at the east end, which is so usual a feature in the Roman churches, 
and the smaller churches are only simple oblong quadrangles. In 
addition to this quadrangle, the larger churches present a second 
oblong of smaller dimensions, extending to the east, and constituting 
the chancel or sanctuary, in which the altar was placed, and which is 
connected with the nave by a triumphal arch of semicircular form. 
These churches have rarely more than a single entrance, which is 
placed in the centre of the west end ; and they are very imperfectly 
lighted by small windows splaying inwards, which do not appear to 
have been ever glazed. The chancel is always better lighted than 
the nave, and usually has two and sometimes three windows, of which 
one is always placed in the centre of the east wall, and another in 
the south wall ; the windows in the nave are also usually placed in 
the south wall, and, excepting in the larger churches, rarely exceed 
two in number. The windows are frequently triangular-headed, but 
more usually arched semicircularly, while the doorway, on the con- 
trary, is almost universally covered by a horizontal lintel, consisting 
of a single stone. In all cases the sides of the doorways and win- 
dows incline, like the doorways in the oldest remains of Cyclopean 
buildings, to which they bear a singularly striking resemblance. The 
doorways seldom present any architectural decorations beyond a 
mere flat architrave, or band, but are most usually plain ; and the 
windows still more rarely exhibit ornaments of any kind. The walls 
of these churches are always perpendicular, and generally formed of 
very large polygonal stones carefully adjusted to each' other, both on 



the inner and outer faces, while their interior is filled up with rubble 
and grouting. In the smaller churches the roofs were frequently 
formed of stone, but in the larger ones were always of wood, covered 
with si i ingles, straw, reeds, and, perhaps sometimes, with lead. 

To the above general description I may add, that no churches 
appear to have been anciently erected in Ireland, either of the cir- 
cular, the octagonal, or the cross form, as in Italy and Greece, 
though it would appear that churches of the last form were erected 
in England at a very early period, and the only exception to the 
simple forms, already described, is the occasional presence of a small 
apartment on one side of the chancel, to serve the purpose of a 

That the reader may have more clearly brought before him the 
characteristic details of these primitive churches, I shall here annex 
examples of their several features, beginning with their doorways. Of 
these the most usual, and, as it would appear, the most ancient form is 
the quadrangular one, as found in the stone-roofed oratories in Kerry, 
built without cement, and of which the doorway of the oratory at 
Gallerus, already described, p. 133, affords the finest example : 

This form we also find perpetuated in the churches said to have been 
founded by St. Patrick and his immediate successors, as will be seen 
in the annexed engraving, which represents the remains of the west 

Y 2 



end of the small church called Tcmplepatrick, situated on the island 
of Inis an Ghoill Chraib/ithigh, or, as O'Flaherty correctly trans- 
lates it, " the island of the devout foreigner," now Inchaguile, in 
Lough Corrib in the county of Galway, nearly midway between 
Oughterard and Cong. This little church, though exhibiting the 
usual form of the larger churches, having a nave, triumphal arch, 
and chancel, is in its greatest external length only thirty-five feet six 
inches. The interior of the nave is seventeen feet eight inches in 
length, and thirteen feet six inches in breadth ; and the chancel is 
a square of nine feet. The doorway, which is six feet high, has in- 
clined sides, and is two feet wide at bottom, and one foot nine inches 
at top : 

That this church is of the age of St. Patrick, as is believed in the 
traditions of the country, and as its name would indicate, can, I 
think, scarcely admit of doubt ; for, though there is another church 
on the island of beautiful architecture, and of similar form and nearly 
equal dimensions, and undoubtedly of an age considerably anterior 
to the arrival of the English, it appears, nevertheless, a modern struc- 
ture as compared with this. It is, however, greatly to be regretted 
that of the foundation of this, as indeed of many other churches believed 
to have been erected by St. Patrick, we have no historical account 
remaining ; nor does either history or tradition preserve the name 
of the devout foreigner for whom it was erected, and to whose memory 
the second church on the island was dedicated ; but I trust that I 
shall be able to show from an ancient sepulchral inscription, the 



only one on the island, that this devout foreigner was at least a co- 
temporary of the Irish apostle, and not improbably even his nephew. 
This inscription, which is accurately copied in the annexed wood-cut, 

is found on an upright pillar of dark lime- 
stone, about four feet high, situated, when 
I sketched it, at a little distance in front 
of Templepatrick. The letters, which are 
very deeply cut, and in perfect preserva- 
tion, may be read as follows : 

or, in English, 


That this inscription is of the earliest 
Christian antiquity will be at once ob- 
vious to the antiquarian scholar : there is 
probably no other inscription in this cha- 
racter of equally certain antiquity to be 
found in Ireland ; and it is but rational 
to assume that the ancient church called 
Templepatrick is of coeval, or even greater 
age, unless it be contended that the church 
was rebuilt, an assumption altogether 
unreasonable, as no more ancient style of 
Christian edifice than it exhibits can pos- 
sibly be found. As it is therefore neces- 
sary to my purpose to inquire who this 
Lugnaedon was, I may in the first place 
observe, that it is stated in the Tripartite 
Life of St. Patrick, Part II. c. 50, that 

when the Irish apostle was at Oran, in Magh Aoi, in this very neigh- 
bourhood, he was solicited by his Gallic disciples and followers to 
assign them situations, in which they might lead lives of retirement 
and contemplation, a request which was complied with ; but, ex- 
cepting the church of Baislec, which was given to one of them, the 
localities to which these individuals were directed are not named. 
Of these Gauls or Franks, who were fifteen in number, with one 
sister, the names of only three are given, namely, Bernicius, Hiber- 


nicius, and Ernicins ; and certainly, of these, the name Hibernicius, 
as applied to a Gaul, might well create a doubt of the truth of the 
whole statement : but this doubt is removed by the Annotations of 
Tirechan in the Book of Armagh, in which these three names are 
written Inaepius, Bermcius, and Hernicius, so that Colgan's form of the 
name must be either an error of his own, or of the transcriber of the 
manuscript which he used. Respecting these Gauls, or Franks, Col- 
gan remarks, that he has found no notice of them elsewhere, unless 
they be, as would seem most probable, the holy Gauls, or Franks, in- 
voked in the Litany of Aengus as of Saliduic, Magh Salach, and 
Achadh Ginain, and it is extremely probable that the Gauls distri- 
buted by St. Patrick in the western regions of Connaught are here 
invoked. Seeing then that Gauls were left in this district at so early 
a period, we have next to inquire whether there was among them one 
named Lugnat, or Lugnadan, for the names are the same, the termi- 
nation an, as Colgan shows, being a diminutive usually added to 
proper names, and particularly to those of ecclesiastics. It is remark- 
able then, that throughout the whole of our ecclesiastical histories only 
one saint of this name is found mentioned ; and that this saint is stated, 
not only to have been a cotemporary of St. Patrick, but, by several 
ancient authorities, to have been also his nephew. It should be fur- 
ther observed, that the locality, in which the church of St. Lugnat 
was placed, is Lough Mask, -in the immediate neighbourhood of the 
island of Inchaguile, and that on the shore of this lake the most 
ancient church of the district still remains. In an ancient list of 
the household or followers of St. Patrick, preserved in the Book of 
Lecan, fol. 43, a, and in the Book of Ballymote, fol. 117, b, as also in 
Evin's Life of St. Patrick, and in a poem of Flann of the Monastery, 
St. Lugna, or Lugnath, is set down as the luamaire, or pilot, of St. 
Patrick, as in the following lines of the poem : 

" frpJ>6n pcpibmoe a pcoile, 
Cpuimchep Cujna a luamuipe." 

" Brogan the scribe of his school, 
Cruimther Lugna his pilot." 

I have next to remark that the most ancient authorities, which make 
mention of Lugnat, concur in stating that he was one of the seven 
sons of the Bard, or Lombard, as in Duald Mac Firbis's Compilation 
of Ancient Genealogies, and that most of those authorities state that 


these seven sons of the Lombard were St. Patrick's nephews, as in 
the following passage in the Leabhar Breac, fol. 9, a. 

" Cpuimchep tujnai (.1. oalca paqiaiy 7 mac a pechap) in pechcmao mac 
in Guipo, oc pepraib Cipe peic, pop Loch ITIepcrha." 

" Cruimther Lugnai (i. e. the foster-son of Patrick and son of his sister) tea* the 
seventh son of the Bard, and located at Ferta of Tir Feic, on Lough Mask." 

And all the ancient martyrologies and genealogies of the Irish saints 
name these seven sons of the Lombard in the following order : 
1. Sechnall, or Secundinus, a bishop; 2. Nechtan, a bishop; 3. Da- 
bonna, a saint ; 4. Mogornan, a saint ; 5. Darioc, a saint ; 6. Auxilius, 
a bishop ; 7- Lugnat, a saint. 

In like manner the ancient Martyrologies state that the mother of 
these sons of the Lombard was Liemania, the daughter of Calphur- 
nius, and sister of St. Patrick. Thus St. Aengus, in his Calendar, 
as translated by Colgan, in noting the festival of St. Nechtan at the 
second of May, writes : 

" Liemania filia Calphurni, soror S. Patricii, fuit mater S. Nectani de Kill-vnche ; 
qui & dicitur Mac-lemhna, id est, films Liemaniu? ; estque qui jacet in Finnauair-abha, 
ad ripam Boandi." Trias T/iaum. p. 227, col. 1. 

The Calendar of Cashel and that of Marian Gorman record the festival 
of Nechtan in nearly the same words ; and also, in recording the fes- 
tival of St. Sechnall, or Secundinus, at the 27th of November, call 
him the son of Liemania, the sister of St. Patrick, as thus translated 
by Colgan : 

" S. Secundinus films Liemania; sororis S. Patricij, & Restitutus pater eius. Co- 
litur in Domnach-Sechnaill : estque de Longobardis, & Finus nomen eius ibi. Ala- 
rianus Gormanus ad eundem diem; Sechnaldus Magnus filius Huabaird, de Domnach- 
Sechnaild in Australi regione Bregiorum, est de Longobardis oriundus ; fc Secundinus 
nomen eius (nernpe Latinum) eiusque mater fuit Liemania soror S. Patricij eratque 
Primas Ardmachanus. Martyrologium Dungallense eodem die. S. Sechnaldus, id est 
Secundinus Primas Ardmachanus, filius Liemaniae Sororis S. Patricij : & in Dom- 
nach-Sechnaild in regione Bregarum est eius Ecclesia : & ipse de Longobardis oriundus 
est." Trias Thaum. p. 226, col. 2. 

To the preceding authorities I may add that of the Annals of 
Connaught at the year 466, as quoted by Ussher, Primordia, p. 825, 
that the wife of Restitutus, the Lombard, is called the sister of St. 
Patrick, and named Culmana. But this form of the name, as Colgan 
observes, is evidently an error for Lieman, and, he might have added, . 
an error easily committed, by joining the final c in mace to Liemain, 
in the passage which records the death of her son Sechnall. 


These evidences will, I trust, be considered sufficient, without 
adducing, as I might, many others of the same kind, to show that 
the Irish, from the most remote times believed as a fact that the seven 
ecclesiastics, enumerated in the preceding authorities, were the sons 
of a Lombard father and of Liemania, the sister of St. Patrick ; and I 
cannot help thinking that the very ancient inscription, which I have 
copied at the church of Templepatrick, on Inchaguile, or the Island 
of the Gaul, will be considered by the learned and unprejudiced as 
a very singular and interesting evidence of the truth of those aiitho- 
rities. It is true that our ancient manuscripts also speak of other 
individuals called sisters of St. Patrick, who appear to have been re- 
ligious persons in Ireland, as well as of their sons, who are called his 
nephews, and moreover that some of those individuals, called his 
nephews, are spoken of not as the sons of Liemania, but of Lupita, and 
also of Darerca, a name which Colgan, in consequence, believed to be 
only an Irish cognomen of Liemania, signifying constant love ; and 
hence Tillemont, and even Lanigan, unable to unravel the truth from 
materials apparently so discordant, have given up the whole accounts 
of the recorded relations of St. Patrick in Ireland as of no authority, 
though Lanigan acknowledges that there is no doubt that such per- 
sons existed in St. Patrick's time. But ancient authorities should not 
be thus discarded with flippant scepticism, and, however suspicious 
may be the authorities for the relationship of the other individuals 
named as sisters and nephews of St. Patrick, through the errors of 
ancient transcribers, in writing, for example, the name Lupita, who 
was always called virgo, an obvious mistake for Liemania, there 
seems to be no just reason to question the authorities as far as Lie- 
mania and her sons are concerned : and I may add, that a fabrication 
in this instance would have been without an object, as some of these 
ecclesiastics, Lugnat for example, occupy no distinguished place in 
Irish ecclesiastical history or the traditions of the country, and it is 
nowhere stated that either Kestitutus or Liemania was ever in Ireland. 

In the doorway of the church of Templepatrick, which I consider 
as a specimen of the earliest style of structure of its kind in Ireland, 
it has been seen that no ornament whatever is used, and this was, as 
I shall hereafter show, the most usual mode of construction also in 
the sixth and seventh centuries, and perhaps even later; but the 
doorways were not always plain in those ages, for in many instances 


they present a flat projecting architrave, as in the doorways of the 
oldest Greek and Ktruscan buildings, as well as in those of the 
earliest Roman churches, of which the annexed engraving of the 
doorway of the ancient church at Ratass, near Tralee, in Kerry, will 
present a very characteristic example : 

This doorway, which, like the whole of the church, is built in a style 
of masonry perfectly Cyclopean, except in the use of lime cement, is 
five feet six inches in height from the present level of the ground, 
which seems considerably raised, and would be evidently not less 
than six feet in height from the threshold or base to the lintel, and 
in width three feet one inch at the base, and two feet eight inches at 
the top. The stones which, as will be seen, are all of great size, in 
most instances extend through the entire thickness of the jambs, which 
is three feet one inch ; and the lintel-stone is seven feet six inches in 
length, and two feet in height, and extends through the whole thick- 
ness of the wall. As further illustrations of this very ancient church 
will be found in the succeeding pages of this work, it is only neces- 
sary here to observe, that it is wholly built of old red sandstone, 
" brought," as Dr. Smith remarks, " at a great distance, from the moun- 
tains; although there were fine quarries of limestone to be had on the 
spot." Ant/t'/if und Present State of the County of Kerry, p. 167. 




Respecting the founder's name, or the date of the erection of this 
church, I regret to be obliged to state that I have discovered no his- 
torical notice, and I can only offer a conjecture, grounded on the 
etymology of its name, which appears to have been anciently written 
T?dr muije oeij'Cijic, i. e. the rath or fort of the southern plain, to 
distinguish it from T?du minje cuaipcijic, the rath of the northern 
plain, now shortened to Rattoo, the seat of an ancient bishopric about 
ten miles distant to the north, that it was probably of cotempora- 
neous origin with the latter, which was erected by Bishop Lughach, 
one of the earliest propagators of Christianity in Kerry, but of whose 
history nothing more is preserved than his name and festival day, 
the 6th of October, as set down in the Martyrology of Aengus, and 
in all the later calendars. 

The next example which I have to present to the reader is ob- 
viously of coternporaneous age with the doorway of Ratass, and has 
even a more striking resemblance to ancient Greek architecture. 

It is the doorway of the church at Glendalough, popularly called Our 
Lady's Church, and which, according to the tradition of the old na- 
tives of the place, as communicated to me many years since, was the 
first church erected in the lower part of the valley or city of Glenda- 



lough by St. Kevin, and that in which he was afterwards interred, so 
that its erection may be fairly referred to the middle of the sixth 
century. This doorway is six feet in height, two feet six inches in 
\vidth at the top, and three feet at the bottom; and the stones of 
which it is formed, which, including the lintel, are only seven in num- 
ber, are all of the thickness of the wall, which is three feet. These 
stones are all of granite, and admirably well chiselled ; and the lintel, 
which is five feet six inches long, and one foot three inches high, is 
curved with a double moulding in the architrave, and is also orna- 
mented on its soffit with a 
cross, saltier-wise, of which 
I annex a representation, 
with a second example 
of this primitive custom of 
placing the cross on the sof- 
fit of the lintel, which oc- 
curs in the doorway of the 
cotemporaneous church of Killiney in the county of Dublin, but dif- 
fering from the other in being carved in relief, and of the usual form. 
It may interest some of my readers to be informed, that Sir Walter 
Scott, on his visit, in 1825, to " the inestimably singular scene of 
Irish antiquities," as he designates the seven churches at Glendalough 
( Quarterly Review, vol. xli. p. 148), sat for a considerable time be- 
fore this ancient doorway, and expressed his admiration of, and won- 
der at, its ancient character, in terms which, to the friends who 
accompanied him, and who were less enthusiastic antiquaries, seemed 

That the tradition of the place, respecting the antiquity of the 
Lady's Church, is not an erroneous one, would appear from a pas- 
sage which I shall presently adduce from the Life of St. Kevin, pub- 
lished by the Bollandists in the Acta Sanctorum at the 3rd of June, 
and which was evidently compiled by one intimately acquainted with 
the localities of Glendalough, and, in the opinion of the editors, pre- 
viously to the twelfth century, when this city, as stated in the letter 
of the archbishop of Tuam and his suffragans, written about the year 
1214, had been so waste and desolate for nearly forty years pre- 
viously, that instead of a church it had become a den of thieves and 
a nest of robbers. 

z 2 


" Pretered ilia sancta ecclesia, quce est in Montanis, licet in magna reverentid habere- 
tur ab antiquis propter Sanctum Keywinum, qui ibi duxit vitam eremeticam; mine tamen 
ita deserta est et desolata per quadraginta fere annos, quod de ecclesia facta est spelunca 
latronum, fovea furum ; ita quod Omicidia committuntur in ilia Voile, quam in alio 
loco Hibernian propter desertum et 'vastam solitudinem." Harris's Ware, Bishops, p. 376. 

From this ancient Life of St. Kevin we gather that in the earlier 
years of the saint's ecclesiastical life, having dwelt in solitude for 
four years in various places in the upper part of the valley, between 
the mountain and the lake, his monks erected for him a beautiful 
church, called Disert-Cavghin, on the south side of the upper lake, 
and between it and the mountain, and drawing him from his retire- 
ment, prevailed on him to live with them at that church, which, as the 
writer states, continued to be a celebrated monastic church even to his 
own time ; and he adds, that here St. Kevin wished to remain and die : 

"... & exivit ipse ab eis solus ad superiorem ipsius vallis partem, quasi per unum 
niilliarium a monasterio ; & constituit mansiunculsun ibi in loco angusto, inter mon- 
tem & stagnum sibi, ubi erant densa; arbores & clari rivuli : & praecepit Monachis suis, 
nt nullum oiborum sibi genus darent ; & nemo ad eum vcniret, nisi pro maxima causa. 
Et ita solus, in superiore vallis plaga, inter montem & stagnum, in diversis locis, per 
quatuor annos Eremita fuit, in jejuniis & vigiliis continuis, sine igne & sine tecto ; & 
habetur incertum, utrum radicibus herbarum, an fructibus lignorum, sive crelesti 
pastu, suam sustentavit vitain : quia ipse nemini indicavit hanc quajstionem : sed sui 
Monachi claram cellam, in eremo ubi S. Coemgenus habitabat, inter superius stagnum 
& montem, in Australi parte, construxerunt ; ubi modo est clarum monasterium, in 
quo semper viri religiosissimi habitant ; & illud vocatur Scotice Disert-Caughin ; quod 
sonat Latine, Eremus Coemgeni ; Et ibi plures habitaverunt ; & fera; montium & sil- 
varum, feritate posita, mites comitabantur S. Coemgenum, & aquam de manibus ejus 
domestice bibebant. Et post praedictum tempus, multi Sancti convenientes, duxerunt 
S. Coemgenum de desertis locis invitum ; & fecerunt eum habitare cum suis Monachis 
in pra?dicta cella ; ibique S. Coemgenus semper voluit habitare, Si ad Christum mi- 
grare ; adhuc jam illic inter Fratres satis stricte vixit." Vita S. Coemgeni, Die tertia 
lunii, c. iii. Ada Sanctorum, torn. i. p. 315. 

After remaining here, however, for a few years, he was induced by 
an angel, the usual agents introduced in those legendary Lives of 
saints on such occasions, to remove his monastery to the east of the 
smaller lake, near the confluence of the two rivers, where his own 
resurrection should take place, and where a great city gradually rose 
up in his honour. 

" Et in ipso loco clara & religiosa civitas in honore Sancti Coemgeni crevit, quse 
nomine proedictae vallis, in qua ipsa est, id est Glearn-daelach [Glean daloch, in the 
Kilkenny MS.] vocatur : ipsaque civitas est in oriente Laginensium, in regione qure 
dicitur Fortuatha," Ib. cap, iv. p. 318. 


That the first church erected by St. Kevin, within the precincts 
of the city in the lower part of the valley, was that now popularly 
called the Lady's Church, in which his tomb remained within the last 
century, will scarcely admit of doubt : nor is this conclusion at all 
weakened by the "fact, that it no longer bears his name, but that of 
the Blessed Virgin ; for, as I shall hereafter show, none of the ancient 
Irish churches were dedicated to the Virgin, or to any of the foreign 
saints, previously to the twelfth century, and there is not a word 
in the ancient Lives of St. Kevin, which would indicate that any of 
the churches of Glendalough were so dedicated at the period when 
they were written. 

In selecting my next characteristic example of the primitive Irish 
doorways, I can hardly, therefore, take one more likely to interest 
the reader than that of St. Kevin's earlier church, near the upper 
lake, and now called the Reefert Church, which is the " claram eel- 
lam" of the quotation above given from the Latin Life of St. Kevin, 
and which, it will be remembered, continued to be a monastic church 
to the time of the writer : 

This doorway, which is formed of chiselled blocks of granite, is six 
feet in height, two feet six inches in width at the top, and two feet 



nine inches at the bottom ; and most of the stones of which it is 
formed extend through the entire thickness of the wall, which is three 
feet. The lintel is three feet nine inches in length, and one foot three 
inches in height, and extends the entire thickness of the wall. Some 
chiselling on the left side of this doorway seems to indicate the in- 
tention of adding an architrave, like that seen in the Lady's Church, 
but which was never completed. 

The next example, which I have to submit to the reader, is of 
somewhat later date, being the doorway of the church of St. Fechin, 
at Fore, in the county of Westmeath, erected, as we may conclude, 
within the first half of the seventh century, as the saint died of the 
memorable plague, which raged in Ireland in the year 664. 

This magnificent doorway, which the late eminent antiquarian tra- 
veller, Mr. Edward Dodwell, declared to me, was as perfectly Cyclo- 
pean in its character, as any specimen he had seen in Greece, is 
constructed altogether of six stones, including the lintel, which is 
about six feet in length, and two in height, the stones being all of the 


thickness of the wall, which is three feet. This doorway, like that 
of the Lady's Church at Glendalough, has a plain architrave over it, 
which is, however, not continued along its sides ; and, above this, 
there is a projecting tablet, in the centre of which is sculptured in 
relief a plain cross within a circle. This cross is thus alluded to in 
the ancient Life of St. Fechin, translated from the Irish, and pub- 
lished by Colgan in his Acta Sanctorum, at the 22nd January, cap. 
23, p. 135. 

" I )n MI S. Fechinus rediret Fouariam, ibique consisteret, venit ad eum ante FORES 
ECCLESI*, VBI CRUX PosiTA EST, quidam i talo vsque ad verticem lepra percussus." 

Though this doorway, like hundreds of the same kind in Ireland, 
has attracted no attention in modern times, the singularity of its 
massive structure was a matter of surprise to an intelligent writer of 
the seventeenth century, Sir Henry Piers, who in his Chorographical 
Description of the County of Westmeath, written in 1682, thus de- 
scribes it, and preserves the tradition relative to its erection by St. 
Fechin : 

" One of these churches before mentioned is called St. Feehin's, one of our Irish 
saints. The chief entrance into this church is at the west-end, by a door about three 
feet broad, and six feet high. This wall is hard upon, if not altogether, three feet 
thick ; the lintel that traverseth the head of the door is of one entire stone of the full 
thickness, or near it, of the wall, and to the best of my remembrance, about six foot 
long, or perhaps more, and in height about two foot or more ; having taken notice 
of it, as the largest entire stone, I had at any time observed, especially so high in 
any building, and discoursing of it with an antient dweller in the town, I observed to 
him, that of old time they wanted not their engines, even in this country, for their 
structures ; the gentleman, smiling as at my mistake, told me that the saint himself 
alone without either engine or any help placed the stone there, and thereon he pro- 
ceeds in this formal story of the manner and occasion of it ; he said the workmen having 
hewen and fitted the stone in its dimensions, and made a shift with much ado to tumble 
it to the foot of the wall, they assayed with their joint forces to raise it, but after much 
toil and loss of time, they could not get it done, at last they resolved to go and refresh 
themselves and after breakfast to make another attempt at it ; the saint also, for as 
the story goes he was then living and present, advised them so to do, and tells them 
he would tarry 'till their return ; when they returned, behold they find the stone 
placed exactly as to this day it remains over the door ; this was done, as the tradition 
goes, by the saint alone ; a work for my part, I believe impossible to be done by the 
strength of so many hands only as can immediately apply their force unto it." Col- 
lectanea de Rebus Hibemicis, vol. i. pp. 65, 66. 

The next specimen of doorway in this style which I shall present 
to the reader is one nearly cotemporaneous with the last, namely, the 



doorway of the cathedral church of Kilmacduagh, erected for St. Col- 
man Mac Duach by his kinsman Guaire Aidhne, king of Connaught, 
about the year 610. 

This doorway is six feet six inches in height, and in width two feet 
six inches at the top, and three feet two inches at the bottom. The 
lintel stone, which extends the entire thickness of the wall, is five 
feet eight inches long, one foot nine inches high, and three feet wide. 
This doorway was closed up with rubble masonry, as represented in 
the sketch, in the fourteenth or fifteenth century, when the church 
was rebuilt and considerably enlarged, and a new doorway, in the 
pointed style, placed, as was usual in that age, in the south wall. 

Of the foundation of the original church or cathedral of Kil- 
macduagh, which, for the time, was one of considerable size, the fol- 
lowing notice is given by Colgan from the additions of the Scholiast 
to the Festilogy of Aengus : 

" Statuittuncpiissimus Rex viro Dei Ecdesiam inibi extruere ; quare mane sequentis 
diei misit ad eum sexaginta vaccas effcetas cum seruis 8f ancittis adfabricce opus perficien- 
dum. Postridie igitur eius diei Ecdesia Cathedralis de Kitt-mhicduach coepta est cedificari; 
eui exinde proceru, regionis Aidhne, Sf stirpis Guarince sepultura citsecrata eat." Acta 
Sanctorum, p. 245, col. 1. 

Of this description of doorway I shall only here insert another ex- 
ample from a church which was erected by the same St. Colman 


Mac Duach, within the great cyclopean fort, or cashel, at Kilmurvy, 
on the Great Island of Aran, and which is still in good preservation. 
This doorway is five feet six inches in height, two feet in width at 

the top, and two feet three inches 
at the bottom. The lintel is of 
granite, and measures five feet six 
inches in length, one foot six inches 
in height, and extends the entire 
thickness of the wall, which is two 
feet six inches. The other stones 
are limestone, and are also of great 
size, as are the stones of the build- 
ing generally. A similar doorway 
is found in a church adjacent. 

Such then is the form of door- 
way found almost universally in the primitive churches of Ireland, a 
form not found in any of the doorways of the Saxon churches, which 
were usually erected " more Romano" or after the Roman manner. 
But, though the form of which I have given so many examples is that 
most characteristic of the primitive Irish churches, we are not with- 
out examples of doorways which would seem to be of cotcmporaneous 
age, constructed in what may be called the Roman manner, namely, 
with a semicircular arch springing from square imposts, and exactly 
resembling the ancient Saxon doorways, excepting in this one par- 
ticular, that the sides are usually more or less inclined : and, indeed, 
it would be strange, if, where the semicircular arch was generally 
used in the construction of the windows, and also in the triumphal 
arches between the naves and the chancels, it should not be oc- 
casionally employed in the construction of the doorways also. As 
an example of such doorway in a church, which, there is every rea- 
son to believe, cannot be later than the seventh century, I here 
annex an outline of the doorway of the ancient stone-roofed church 
on the island of Ireland's Eye, anciently called Inis mac Nessain, 
or, the Island of the Sons of Nessan, off Howth, in the county of Dub- 
lin. This doorway, which was unfortunately destroyed some years 
since, that the stones might be used in the erection of a Roman Ca- 
tholic chapel at Howth, was, as usual, placed in the west front of the 
church, and was six feet six inches in height, two feet eight inches 

2 A 



in width below the impost, and three feet at the base ; and the wall 

was two feet eight inches in thickness. As a description of this cu- 
rious church, with its Round Tower 
belfry, will be given in the third part 
of this work, together with an inquiry 
into its true history, which has hitherto 
been very erroneously investigated, I 
need only state here, that its erection 
may, with every appearance of cer- 
tainty, be referred to the middle of 
the seventh century, when the three 
sons of Nessan, Dichuill, Munissa, 
and Neslug, flourished, and gave 
name to the island. 
Very similar to this doorway, but of better architecture, and 

presenting a torus or bead moulding along its external edges, is the 

doorway of the ancient church 

in the townland called Sheeps- 

town, in the parish and barony 

of Knocktopher, and county of 

Kilkenny, of which I annex a 

drawing. This doorway, which, 

as usual, is placed in the centre 

of the west wall, is composed 

of sandstone, well chiselled, and 

measures seven feet in height, 

or five feet six inches to the top 

of the impost, and one foot six 

inches thence to the vertex of 

the arch ; in width it is three feet immediately below the imposts, and 

three feet three inches at the bottom; and the jambs are three feet in 

thickness. As the ancient name of the church is wholly forgotten in 

the locality, as well as the name of its patron or founder, it is out of 

my power to trace its ancient history. 

As another example of similar form I may instance the doorway 

of the ancient church of Cluain Claidheach, now Clooncagh, in the 

barony of Conillo and county of Limerick, erected by the celebrated 



St. Maidoc, patron of the See of Ferns, about the close of the sixth 

The doorway of the very ancient church of Killaspugbrone, or 
the church of Bishop Bronus, near Knocknarea, in the county of 
Sligo, furnishes another example of a 
semicircular arch, but without the im- 
posts, and the jambs not, as usual, in- 
clined. Contrary to the usual custom 
also, this doorway is placed not in the 
west, but in the south wall, a deviation 
from custom, rendered necessary from 
the situation of the church on the sea- 
shore, and its consequent exposure to 
the prevailing westerly winds. This 
doorway is six feet high, and three feet six inches wide, and its jambs 
have a reveal of six inches in width, on each side. 

The church of Killaspugbrone, which is of small dimensions, and, 
with the exception of the doorway, of rude construction, appears to 
be of great antiquity, and may be well supposed to be the original 
structure erected for Bishop Bronus by St. Patrick, in the fifth cen- 
tury. The Saint Bronus, for whom this church was erected, as 
appears from the Annotations of Tirechan in the Book of Armagh, 
fol. 15, and also from the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick, Part II. c. 117, 
was bishop of Caiscl-Irra, situated in the district of Cuil-Irra, a 
peninsula situated to the south-west of the town of Sligo. 

A doorway very similar to this of Killaspugbrone, but placed in 
the west wall, occurs in a very ancient church at Oughtmama, near 
the abbey of Corcumroe in the barony of Burren and county of Clare, 
and which is obviously of cotemporancous age with a second and 
larger church at the same place, in which the doorway has the usual 
horizontal lintel. The memory of St. Colman is venerated here as the 
founder of these churches, but I have discovered nothing relative 
to his history as connected with them. The antiquity of their foun- 
dation is, however, sufficiently indicated by the Litany of Aengus, in 
which the seven holy bishops of Ochtmama in Corcumruadh are 

The old church of Aghannagh, near the shore of Lough Arrow, in 
the barony of Tir Oililla, or, as it is now corruptly anglicised, Tirer- 

2 A 2 



rill, in the county of Sligo, affords a richer specimen of the arched 
doorway, but I shall not venture to pronounce so confidently on its 
antiquity, as I have on the previously adduced examples. That it is 
of very early date, however, there can be no doubt, and its original 
foundation by St. Patrick is thus recorded in the Annotations of 
Tirechan, in the Book of Armagh : 

" Et exiit trans montem filiorum Ailello, et fundavit asclesiam ibi, i. e. Tamnach et 
Ehenach, et Cell Angle, et Cell Senchuee." Fol. 15, a, a. 

From the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick, Part II. c. 102, we learn 
that St. Patrick left his disciple Bishop Manius at Each-ainech, in 
the territory of Tir-Oililla ; and the memory of this saint, as I have 
ascertained on the spot, where a holy well called Tobar Maine bears 
his name, is still venerated at this church. As in the preceding 
instance, the jambs of this doorway are 
not inclined, and the arches, of which 
there are two, one recessed within the 
other, do not rest on imposts. The 
outer arch is four feet ten inches in 
width, and seven feet nine inches in 
height ; and the breadth of the jambs 
is eight inches : the inner arch is three 
feet four inches in width, and seven 
feet in height ; and the entire thickness 
of the wall, at the doorway, is three feet nine inches. Both the arches 
are ornamented with a plain torus moulding, which is carried down 
the angles of the jambs. 

There is another class of doorway found in some of the earliest 
of our churches, also of a quadrangular form, but in which the weight 
on the lintel is taken off by a semicircular arch, placed immediately 
above it, and having the space within the curve filled up with ma- 
sonry. A doorway of this description is found in the cathedral 
church at Glendalough, and also in the curious structure in the same 
interesting locality, called St. Kevin's House, both which shall be no- 
ticed hereafter. It is also found as a side entrance in the beautiful 
abbey church of Inishmaan, in Lough Mask, county of Mayo, origi- 
nally built in the fifth century by St. Cormac, and remodelled and 
enlarged in the twelfth. The finest specimen, however, of this class 
of doorway, now remaining, is probably that of the ancient parish 



church of Britway, in the barony of Barrymore, and county of Cork, 
one of the most interesting remains in the county : 

in this doorway, which is composed of sandstone, it will be seen that 
the flat architrave, which occurs in so many of the quadrangular door- 
ways, is carried along the sweep of the arch, till it terminates in a 
curious figure in the key-stone. This doorway is six feet in height 
to the lintel, and in width two feet seven inches at the top, and two 
feet ten inches at the bottom ; and the jambs are two feet seven 
inches in thickness. Of the origin of this church I have discovered 
no historical mention, but its style throughout would indicate that it 
is of the time of St. Bridget, to whom it is dedicated. 

Of triangular-headed doorways, such as are found in some of the 
Saxon churches in England, I have discovered no examples in the 
Irish churches, except in two instances, namely, in the south door- 
way of the church of Killadreena, near Newtown-Mountkennedy, in 
the county of Wicklow, and in that of Oranmore, near Galway ; but 
neither of these churches appears to me to be anterior to the twelfth 
century, and the latter is probably not so old. 

I have next to speak of the windows. In these features, which 
are always of a single light, the same simple forms are found, which 



characterize the doorways, namely, the inclined sides, and the hori- 
zontal and semicircular heads ; the horizontal head, however, so 
common in the doorways, is but of comparatively rare occurrence in 
the windows ; while, on the other hand, the pointed head formed by 
the meeting of two right lines, which is so rare, if not unknown, in the 
most ancient doorways, is of very 
frequent occurrence. I may ob- 
serve also, that the horizontal- 
headed window and the triangular- 
headed one, are usually found in 
the south wall of the chancel, and 
very rarely in the east wall, which 
usually contains a semicircular- 
headed window, the arch of which 
is often cut out of a single stone, 
as in the annexed example in the church of the Trinity, at Glen- 
dalough. In many instances the head is also formed of two stones, 
as in the following example in the east window of the oratory at 
Gallerus, built without cement : 

In some of the most ancient churches examples may also be found of 
windows in which the arch is formed externally, as in the doorways, of 


several stones, particularly when the window, being of more than the 
usual contracted breadth, required it, as in the annexed example 
from the very ancient church of Mun- 
gret, in the county of Limerick, said to 
have been founded by St. Nessan in St. 
Patrick's time : similar examples occur 
in the south side of the great church, 
or cathedral, at Glendalough. 

In the triangular-headed windows 
the pyramidal head is almost univer- 
sally formed, both externally and inter- 
nally, of two stones, laid in such a man- 
ner as to form two sides of an equilateral triangle : these stones, like 
the lintels of the doorways, most usually extend through the entire 
thickness of the wall. The usual external construction of these win- 
dows will be seen in the annexed wood-cuts, the first of which repre- 
sents the window in the south wall of the chancel of Trinity Church 
at Glendalough ; and the second, the window in the south wall of the 
equally ancient church of Kiltiernan, in the barony of Dunkellin, and 
county of Galway : 


~! \ '-'- -. " 

-fc_ / - - : * ^ -- "' 

r > 

^ ^:>,._:* 



In none of these windows, of whatsoever form they may be, does there 
appear to be any provision for the reception of sashes or glass ; and I 
may observe that no notice of the use of glass in the windows of the 
ancient churches is to be found in any of the old Lives of saints, or 
other Irish historical documents, although it would appear certain from 
Irish historical tales of an age anterior to the Anglo-Norman invasion, 
preserved in Leabhar na h- Uidhre, that the Irish were not ignorant 
of the application of glass to such purposes. They seem, however, to 
have been unacquainted with the art of manufacturing it for windows ; 
and it would appear from traditions preserved in many places, that as 



a substitute for glass, parchment was used, and, as we may conjec- 
ture, other transparent substances, such as horn, which, no doubt, 
would admit sufficient light for the performance of religious cere- 
monies in which candles were necessary. Hence, while it was re- 
quisite to have the windows externally of small size, it was equally 
necessary that their jambs should 
be splayed internally, to admit 
as much as possible of the quan- 
tity of light required ; and such 
we find to be the construction of 
the ancient windows invariably, 
as in the examples which I have 
now to adduce. Of these, the first 
represents a triangular-headed 
window in the east wall of the 
church of Kilcananagh, on the 
Middle Island of Aran ; the se- 
cond, a semicircular-headed window in the east end of St. Mac Dara's 
church, on the island called Cruach Mic Dara, off" the coast of Conna- 
mara; and the third, a semicircular-headed window, quadrangular on 
the inside, in the east end of St. Cronan's church, at Termoncronan, 
in the parish of Carron, barony of Burren, and county of Clare. 

The same mode of construction is observable in the windows of 
the ancient oratories, which are built without cement, in the neigh- 



bourhood of Dingle, in the county of Kerry, as in the east and only 
window in the oratory at (Jallcrus, of which an external view has 
been ahvady given. 

Of ancient windows exhibiting a dou- 
ble, or external and internal, splay, as found 
in many of the Saxon churches and towers 
in England, I do not recollect having met 
with more than a single example, and in 
this the splay is only in the jambs. This 
window is found in the stone oratory, built 
without cement, situated near the old church 
of Kilmalkedar, about a mile to the east of 
Gallerus, and which is unquestionably one 
of the earliest ecclesiastical structures in 
Ireland. I may observe, however, that windows of this character 
are by no means uncommon in Ireland, in churches of less ancient date. 

In these primitive structures the 
windows, like the doorways, are 
most generally without an archi- 
trave or ornament of any kind; 
but when the doorways present an 
architrave, or a bead moulding at 
their angles, the windows are ge- 
nerally decorated with a similar 
ornament, as in the annexed ex- 
ample, which represents the east 
window of the very ancient and 
interesting church of Ratass, near 
Tralee, in the county of Kerry, of 
the doorway of which I have already given a drawing at p. If)!)- 
This window, hich is much injured, is of greater size than is usual 
in Irish churches of the earliest age, the height, externally, being 
three feet six inches, and the breadth at the base ten inches, and 
at the top eight inches : the external measurement is above eight feet 
in height, and four feet three inches in breadth. 

I have next to speak of the triumphal or chancel arches, which, in 
the larger churches, stand in the division between the nave and the 
chancel. These, in the primitive churches of undoubted antiquity, are 

2 B 



also of an equally unornamented construction, but the arches are 
usually formed with great skill, and of blocks of stone nearly all of 
equal size. These arches are invariably semicircular, and generally 
spring from jambs which have an inclination corresponding with 
those of the doorways and windows, and which usually are without 
imposts. As a characteristic example of such chancel arches, it will 
be sufficient to give a view of the interior of Trinity Church at 
Glendalough : 

This arch is nine feet wide, and ten feet six inches from the present 
level of the floor, which seems considerably raised, to the key-stone of 
the arch, and the jambs are six feet high to the spring of the arch. 

I have next to speak of the materials, mode, and style of con- 
struction, of the roofs of the primitive Irish churches. 

In the smaller churches of oblong form, without chancels, the 
roofs appear to have been generally constructed of stone, their sides 
forming at the ridge a very acute angle ; and this mode of construc- 
tion was continued, in the construction of churches, down to the 
period of the introduction of the pointed or Gothic style into Ireland, 
as in the beautiful church called Cormac's Chapel, at Cashel, which 
was finished in the year 1134, and St. Doulagh's Church, near Dub- 
lin, which is obviously of even later date. In the larger churches, 
however, the roof appears to have been constructed generally of 



wood, and covered with reeds, straw, or oak shingles ; and hence the 
notices, in the Annals, of the frequent burnings of the same church, 
by which we are to understand not the destruction of the walls, for 
they could not be destroyed by fire, but of the roofs, doors, and other 
combustible materials, in the interior. There are also instances of the 
chancel being roofed with stone, while the nave was roofed with 
lighter materials. 

Of the style of masonry of those buildings I have already spoken 
generally, and characteristic examples of it have been given in the 
preceding illustrations. I should add, however, that the stones are 
most usually laid in horizontal courses, with more or less irregularity, 
but with their joints not always vertical ; and that, except in the 
doorways and lower courses, the stones rarely extend as bonds 
through the thickness of the wall, but are placed perpendicularly on 
their edges both in the inner and outer faces of the walls, the space 
between them being filled with rubble, or small stones, and thin 
grouting, while little or no mortar was used in the joints externally, 
which are admirably fitted to each other. It should be stated, also, 
that the stones used in three or four of the lower courses, from the 

foundation upwards, are often of considerably greater size than those 
above them, as in the preceding example, exhibiting a portion of the 
masonry of the inner face of the west end of the cathedral church of 
Glendalough, twelve feet six inches in breadth : and I should also 
observe, that the stones forming the chancel, or choir, are usually 

2 B 2 




smaller than those in the nave. Of the masonry called " opus reti- 
culatum," I have met with no example in Ireland, nor have I seen 
any examples of herringbone masonry, except in one church that 
of Killadreenan, in the county of Wicklow : but, as this church was 
obviously re-edified in the twelfth century, it would be hazardous 
to pronounce on the earlier antiquity of any portion of it. Of her- 
ringbone ashlar there is indeed a good example, which I shall produce 
hereafter, in the roof of the Round Tower belfry of the church of 
Tempull Finghin at Clonmacnoise ; but this is obviously not of an 
earlier date than the tenth century, and possibly later. Of brickwork 
I have met with no examples, except in the ruins of the chapel and 
baptistery of Mellifont, in the county of 
Louth, erected in 1165; and in these in- 
stances the bricks only occur intermixed 
with stone in rubble masonry. I have only 
to add, that the style of masonry, now known 
among architectural antiquaries by the ap- 
pellation of " long and short," and which 
Mr. Rickman was the first to discover to 
be a characteristic feature of the Anglo- 
Saxon churches, is also very generally found 
in the ancient churches of Ireland. This 
masonry, which consists of alternate long 
and short blocks of ashlar, or hewn stone, 
bonding into the wall, is generally used, in 
England, in forming a sort of quoins at the 
angles of churches ; but in Irish ecclesiasti- 
cal buildings it is rarely found except in the sides of the doorways 
and windows, though a few well-marked examples of it occur as quoins 
in the external angles of churches of undoubted antiquity, as in the 
annexed example from the older of the two churches of Monaster- 
boice, in the county of Louth, which, there is every reason to believe, 
is the original church of the place. 

As an example of the general appearance of these primitive struc- 
tures, when of inferior size, I annex an engraving of the very ancient 
church called Tempull Ceannanach, on Inis Meadhoin, or the Middle 
Island, of Aran, in the Bay of Galway. This little church, which 
would be in perfect preservation if its stone roof remained, mea- 






sures on the inside but sixteen feet six inches in length, and twelve 
feet six inches in breadth; and its walls, which are three feet in thick- 
ness, are built in a style quite Cyclopean, the stones being through- 
out of great size, and one of them not less than eighteen feet in 
length, which is the entire external breadth of the church, and 
three feet in thickness. 

The history of this ancient church is not preserved, and the only 
notice that I have found of the saint, whose name it bears, is given 
by O'Flaherty in his MS. Account of the territory of West Connaught, 
namely, that " tradition goes that St. Kenanach was a king of Leins- 
ter's son ;" and elsewhere, in the same work, that he was the patron 
saint of the parish church of Ballynakill, in the barony of Ballyna- 

hinch, or Connamara, where his memory was celebrated on the 

of March. It is therefore not improbable that he is the same as the 
St. Ceanannan whose festival is marked in the Irish calendars at the 
26th of March. 

The ancient churches are not, however, always so wholly un- 
adorned : in many instances they present flat rectangular projections, 
or pilasters, of plain masonry at all their angles ; and these projec- 
tions are, in some instances, carried up from the perpendicular angles 
along the faces of the gables to the very apex, as appears in the 


annexed engraving of St. Mac Dara's church, on the island of 
Cruach Mhic Dara, off the coast of Connaraara : 

This little church is, in its internal measurement, but fifteen feet in 
length, and eleven feet in breadth ; and its walls, which are two feet 
eight inches in thickness, are built, like those of the church of St. 
Ceannanach already described, of stones of great size, and its roof of 
the same material. The circular stone house of this saint, built in 
the same style but without cement, still remains, but greatly dilapi- 
dated : it is an oval of twenty-four feet by eighteen, and the walls 
are seven feet in thickness. 

Of the history of St. Mac Dara, whose festival is noted in the Irish 
Calendar at the 28th of September, but little or nothing is preserved, 
though his memory is venerated as the principal saint of the western 
coast, and his bronze cross, which was preserved in his church, still 
exists, and is supposed to possess miraculous powers. Of this little 
church and its founder, O'Flaherty, in his MS. Account of the ter- 
ritory of West Connaught, gives the following notice, which I am 
tempted to transcribe, as characteristic of the writer and his times : 

" Over against Mason head in the same country lies Cruach Mic Dara, a small 
island and harbour for ships. This island is an inviolable sanctuary, dedicated to 
Mac Dara, a miraculous saint whose chappell is within it, where his statue of wood for 
many ages stood, till Malachias Quseleus, archbishop of Tuam, caused it to be buried 
under ground for special weighty reasons. On the shore of this island is the Captive's 
Stone, where women on [at] low water used to gather Duleasg for a friend's sake in 
captivity, whereby they believe he will soon get succour by [through] the inter- 


cession of the saint Duleatg, or Salt-leaf, is a weed growing on sea-rocks, and pre- 
served by drying it on stones in fair weather, and soon after when occasion serves, for 
eating. There is scarce any sea-shore [whereon] it grows not. The boats that pass 
Ki'twren Mason head and this island, have a custom to bow down their sails three times 
in reverence to the Saint. A certain captain of the garrison of Galway, anno 1672, 
passing this way and neglecting that custom, was so tossed with sea and storm, that he 
vowed he would never pass there again, without paying his obeisance to the saint. 
But he never returned home till he was cast away by Ship-wreck soon after. Few years 
after, one Gill, a fisherman of Galway, who would not strike sail in contempt of the 
saint, went not a mile beyond that road, when sitting on the Pup of the boat, the mast 
by contrary blast of wind broke and struck him on the Pate, dead, the day being fair 
weather both before and after. 

" This saint's proper name was Sinach, and Patronimically called Mac Dara, from 
his father Dara. The Parish church , of Moyrus by the sea-shore just opposite to the 
island in the continent of Irrosainhagh is dedicated to his name, where is kept his altar 
stone by the name of Leac Sinach. His festival day is kept as patron of Moyrus parish 
the 16 of July." 

I have now described the various features which characterize the 
hitherto little noticed and unappreciated primitive churches of Ire- 
land. That, as I have already stated, they have little in them to inte- 
rest the mind, or attract regard as works of art, it would be childish 
to deny; yet, in their symmetrical simplicity, their dimly-lighted 
nave, entered by its central west doorway and terminated on the 
other side by its chancel arch, affording to the devout worshipper an 
unimpeded view of that brighter sanctuary, in which were celebrated 
the divine mysteries which afforded him consolation in this life and 
hope in the next, in the total absence of every thing which could 
distract his attention, there is an expression of fitness to their pur- 
pose, too often wanting in modern temples of the highest preten- 
sions ; as the artless strains sung to the Creator, which, we may 
believe, were daily hymned in these unadorned temples, were calcu- 
lated, from their very simplicity and artlessness, to awaken feelings 
of deep devotion, which the gorgeous artificial music of the modern 
cathedral but too rarely excites, even in minds most predisposed to 
feel its influences, and appreciate its refinement. In short, these 
ancient temples are just such humble, unadorned structures, as we 
might expect them to have been ; but, even if they were found to ex- 
hibit less of that expression of congruity and fitness, and more of 
that humbleness so characteristic of a religion not made for the rich, 
but for the poor and lowly, that mind is but little to be envied, which 


could look with apathy on the remains of national structures so ve- 
nerable for their antiquity, and so interesting as being raised in 
honour of the Creator in the simplest, if not the purest, ages of Chris- 

That the unadorned simplicity and contracted dimensions of the 
earliest Irish churches were not, at least, altogether the rcsxilt of po- 
verty and ignorance of the arts in their founders, appears to me ex- 
tremely probable. Poor those honoured individuals unquestionably 
were, but that poverty generally, if not in all instances, appears to 
have been voluntary, as became men walking in the footsteps of the 
Redeemer, and who obtained their simple food by the labour of their 
hands : but that they were ignorant of the arts, or insensible to 
their influence, could scarcely have been possible in men, very many 
of whom, Romans, Gauls, and Britons, were educated where those 
arts, though they had become debased, were still cultivated ; and we 
have not only abundant historical evidence to show, that many of the 
ecclesiastics in those early times obtained celebrity, as artificers and 
makers of the sacred implements necessary for the church, and as 
illuminators of books, but we have also still remaining the most indis- 
putable evidences of their skill in those arts, in ancient croziers, bells, 
shrines, &c., and in manuscripts not inferior in splendour to any ex- 
tant in Europe. It is, indeed, by no means improbable, that the 
severe simplicity, as well as the uniformity of plan and size, which 
usually characterizes our early churches, was less the result of the 
poverty or ignorance of their founders than of choice, originating in 
the spirit of their faith, or a veneration for some model given to them 
by their first teachers ; for, that the earliest Christian churches on 
the continent before the time of Constantine were, like these, small 
and unadorned, there is no reason to doubt ; and the oldest churches 
still remaining in Greece are, as I shall hereafter show, exactly similar 
to those I have described in Ireland. And even the churches erected 
in the time of Constantine, as Mr. Hope shows, must have been small, 
and of little architectural pretension. " And when," says this writer, 
" Theodosius, after proclaiming Christianity the ruling, the sole legi- 
timate religion of the empire, not only pulled down the churches of 
Constantine, already become ruinous, but the heathen temples, too 
small to be converted to sacred uses, in order to employ the materials 
of many such, however ill-assorted, for each of his larger new churches 


singly, he still retained in them the shape and the name of the basi- 
lica." Hist. Essay on Architecture, vol. i. p. 90. 

Be this, however, as it may, it seems certain from our most ancient 
historical documents, that St. Patrick not only introduced a form of 
church into Ireland which, from veneration to his memory, became a 
model generally followed for ages after, but that he even prescribed 
the very dimensions of which the basilicce, or more important churches, 
should consist. This appears from the passages, which I have already 
quoted, first, from the Tripartite Life of this saint, in which it is 
stated, that in the plan and measurements of the sacred edifices, 
which he founded at Armagh, he was guided by an angel, and, se- 
condly, from a passage in the same Life, and likewise from one in the 
Annotations of Tirechan, which I have also cited at p. 161, in which 
he prescribes sixty feet as the length of the church of Donaghpatrick, 
near Tailteann, in Heath, which the prince Conall, the brother of the 
monarch Laoghaire, was to erect for him, and pronounces a male- 
diction on his race if they should ever diminish it. Thus also, in the 
notices of the foundations of churches, given in those ancient Lives 
of the saint, we find it constantly stated that he prescribed the di- 
mensions of which they were to consist, as well as consecrated their 
foundations, as an example or two will show. Thus, respecting the 
church of Seincheall, in the present county of Roscommon, it is 
stated : 

" S. Patricius designauit locu & mesuram Ecclesia; extruendte, qua: vulgo Seincheall 
.i. vetus cella, appellatur." Vita Tripart. S. Patricii, part ii. c. Iviii. Trias Thaum. 
p. 137. 

And again in the account of the foundation of St. Fiech's church at 
Sletty, near Carlow : 

" Mansit autem sanctissimus Episcopus & Abbas Fiecus in ilia Ecclesia de Domnach- 
Fiec, donee ante se ad ccelum sexaginta sanctos ex discipulis pramiserit. Postea autem 
venit ad eum Angelus Domini dicens quod non ibi esset locus resurrectionis eius, sed 
trans flumen ad occidentem : mandatque quod ibi in loco Cuil-mnige dicto, monaste- 
rium erigat, singulis officinis locum propriii, & congruum assignans. Monuit enim vt 
refectorium extruat, vbi aprum ; & Ecclesiam vbi ceruam repererit. Respondit An- 
gelo vir sanctus, & obedientise specimen, se non audere Ecclesiam extruedam inchoare, 
nisi prius eius pater & Magister Patricius eius locum, & mensuram metaretur & 
cosecraret. Patricius ergo monitus, & rogatus venit ad ilium locum ; qui Slepte vulgo 
.i. monies appellatur, & iuxta Angeli pnescriptum ibi basilicas & monastery jecit & con- 
secrauit fuadamenta." Vita Tripart. S. Patricii, part iii. c. xxiii. Trias Thaum. p. 155. 

2 C 


Indeed that the Irish, who have been ever remarkable for a tenacious 
adherence to their ancient customs, should preserve with religious 
veneration that form and size of the primitive church, introduced by 
the first teachers of Christianity, is only what might be naturally ex- 
pected, and what we find to have been the fact. We see the result 
of this feeling exhibited very remarkably in the conservation, down 
to a late period, of the humblest and rudest oratories of the first 
ecclesiastics in all those localities where Irish manners and customs 
remained, and where such edifices, too small for the services of reli- 
gion, would not have been deemed worthy of conservation but from 
such feeling. And of this tenacity of ancient customs, as well as of 
the repugnance of the Irish to innovation, we have a striking evidence 
in the fact to Avhich I have already alluded, and shall have occasion 
again to notice, that previously to the twelfth century, or, as I might 
say, to the time of St. Malachy, the Irish never appear to have named 
churches after any but their own saints, who were, in most instances, 
the original founders. But of this aversion to innovation, we have a 
still stronger evidence in the reply which, according to St. Bernard, 
the Irishman at Bangor made to that great innovator St. Malachy, 
when he was about to erect a church there, not, as is usually sup- 
posed, different in material from the churches with which the Irish 
were already acquainted, but, as we may well believe, in an ornate 
fashion, such as he had seen on the continent, and with the style of 
which the Irish had not been familiarized. I have already alluded to 
this passage, and given its purport in a translated form, as cited by 
Harris at p. 123, but it so strongly illustrates the point, which I am 
now arguing, that I cannot resist the temptation of presenting it to 
the reader in St. Bernard's own words : 

" . . . . visum est Malachise debere construi in Benckor, oratorium lapideum, instar 
illorum qui [quce] in alijs regionibus extructa conspexerat. Et cum coepisset iacere fun- 
damenta, indigense quidam mirati sunt, quod in terra ilia necdum eiusmodi iedificia 
inueniretur. Verum ille nequam : sicut erat prassumptuosus & insolens, non modo 
miratus esl, sed & indignatus. Ex qua indignatione concepit dolore, & peperit in- 
iquitatem. Et factum susurro in populis, nunc secreto detrahere, nunc blasphemare 
palam, notare leuitatem, nouitate horrere, sumptus exaggerare. Istiusmodi venenatus 
sermonibus sollicitans & inducens multos ad prohibendum. Sequimini me, inquit, 
& quod non nisi per nos fieri debet contra nos fieri non sinamus. Itaque cum pluribus, 
quibus suadere valuit, descendit ad locum, repertum conuenit hominem Dei, primus 
ipse dux verbi, qui erat principium mali. O bone vir, quid tibi visum est nostris 


hanc inducere rcgionibus nouitate ? Scoti sumus, no Galli. Quocnam leuitas hroc ? 
quid opus crat opere tarn superfluo, tarn superbo ? vnde tibi pauperi & inopi sumptus 
ad perficienduin ? quis perfectuin videbit ? Quid istud prajsumptionis, inchoare quod 
non qucas, non dico perficeru, sod nee videre perfectuin ? quanquam amentia magis 
est qua prudi'iitis conari quod modum excedit, vincit vires, superat f'acultates ; Gesso, 
ci --.a, dr>iiu: a vesania hac : alioqui nos no sinimus, non sustinemus. Hoc dixit pro- 
dens quid vellct, non quid posset considerans. Nam de quibus pruesumebat, & secum 
adduxerat, viso viro mutati sunt, & iam non ibant cum eo. Ad qucm vir sanctus tota 
libertate vtens : Miser, inquit, opus quod inchoatum vides, & inuides sine dubio perfi- 
cietur, perfectum videbunt multi. Tu vero quia non vis, non videbis, & quod non vis, 
morieris : attedito tibi ne in peccato tuo moriaris. Ita est, ille mortuus est, & opus 
completum est, sed ille non vidit, qui vt prajfati sumus, anno eodem mortuus est." 
Vita Malachite, cap. ix. Florilegium Insidae Sanctorum, p. 371. [recte 373.] 

Though this church is called an oratory by St. Bernard, an ap- 
pellation not to be wondered at, as applied by one accustomed to the 
ample and magnificent abbey churches then common on the conti- 
nent, that it was nevertheless a church of much greater size, as well 
as greater architectural splendour, than those generally erected in 
Ireland up to this period, can scarcely admit of doubt, as the remains 
of the abbey church of Bangor, extant in the last century, which, there 
is every reason to believe, was erected in St. Malachy's time, suffi- 
ciently indicated. Indeed, with the exception of the great church of 
the primatial see of Armagh, which, if Colgan's translation of the 
Irish Tripartite Life of St. Patrick can be relied on (which, however, in 
this instance I doubt), was originally built of the length of one hun- 
dred and forty feet, the cathedral and abbey churches of Ireland, 
anterior to the twelfth century, appear to have rarely or never ex- 
ceeded the length of sixty feet. This was the measurement prescribed 
by St. Patrick for the church ofDomhnach mor, now Donaghpatrick, 
near Tailteann, in Meath, and which, there is every reason to be- 
lieve, was also the measurement of the other distinguished churches 
erected by him throughout Ireland, and imitated, as a model, by his 
successors. Such also, there is reason to believe, was the usual size of 
the earliest churches erected by the Britons and Saxons, for it is a 
curious fact that the first Christian church erected in Britain, and 
which was traditionally ascribed to the apostolic age, was exactly of 
the size generally adopted in Ireland after its conversion to Chris- 
tianity, namely, sixty feet in length, and twenty-six in breadth. This 
fact appears from the following inscription on a brass plate, which, 
previously to the Reformation, was affixed to a pillar in the more mo- 

2 c 2 


dern church at Glastonbury, and published by Sir Henry Spelman in 
his Concilia (vol. i. p. 9). 

glnno post passionem Uomtni xxxf . Huotimm sancti ex quibtts ^Joseph ab 
arimathta pn'mus erat, hue uenerunt, qui ecclestam huius regni primam in 
hoc loco constrttxerttnt. qui christi [quant christus] in honorem sue tnatris 
Sr locum pro eorum septtltura prescncialt'ter fcctiicauit. sancto fcaufo meneuen- 
cium archieptscopo hoc testantt. <tti tiominus ecclesiam illam befcicare fcis- 
poncnti in sompnis apparuit Sr eum a proposito mtocauit. necnon in sipum 
quoin ipsc fcominus ecclesiam ipsatn prius cum cimiterio fcrtricarat : manttm 
cpiscopi &igtto perforauit. & sic pcrforata multts uiftenttbus in crasttno appa- 
ruit. postea ucro fljem episcopus, tiomino reuelante ac sanctorum numero in 
eatiem crescente : quenfcam cancellum in ortentali parte fjuic eccksie afiiecit Sc 
in honore beate uirgtnis consecrauit. Ctuius altare incstimabili saphiro in per= 
petuam ftutus ret memoriam insipiuit. (JBt ne locus aut quantttas prorsus 
[priorts] ecclesie per tales aupientacioncs obliuioni tratocrctur: crigitur ftcc 
columpna in linea per fiuos oricntales angulos eiusiem eccksie uersus meri- 
diem protracta 8c preiiictum cancellum ab ea absctnticnte. @t erat cius Iongi= 
tutio ab ilia linea uersus occfocntem. Ix. petium. latituJio uero eius. xxbi. pefium, 
liistancia centri istius columpne a puncto metiio inter pretitctos angulos. .xlbtij. 

It is scarcely necessary to state, that it is no part of my purpose 
to express an opinion respecting the degree of credibility, due to the 
account thus given of the origin of the church of Glastonbury. I 
may, however, remark, that the legend is at least of great antiquity ; 
and that, in less sceptical times than the present, it was undoubtingly 
received, is sufficiently shown by Ussher in the second chapter of his 
Primordia. I do not, however, see any reason to doubt the tradition, 
as far as regards the size of the church, its material, or its early an- 
tiquity ; nor will it perhaps be deemed wholly idle to suppose, that 
the general adoption of this size originated either in reverence of this 
model, or of some similar one, derived from the primitive Christians 
before Christianity was adopted by the emperors, and made the state 
religion in Greece and Eome. Be this, however, as it may, it is an 
interesting fact, that the earliest Christian church in Britain, the 
erection of which was ascribed, in the legendary traditions of the 
middle ages, to the very time of the apostles, should agree so exactly 
with those first erected in Ireland ; and, moreover, that this church, 


which appears from the whole current of the ecclesiastical history of 
the British Islands, to have been the first erected hi Britain, should 
have been at a place recognized as an Irish ecclesiastical establish- 
ment, and in which, according not only to the Saxon and English 
authorities, but to many Irish ones also, one of the first teachers of 
Christianity in Ireland, a Saint Patrick, lies interred, and where 
his memory was honoured as the patron of the place. 

Having now treated, as fully as seemed necessary, of the various 
characteristics of the early churches, whose styles indicate, with cer- 
tainty, the antiquity ascribed to them by history and tradition, I have 
next to treat of those of less certain date, and in which ornament has 
been employed. This is, however, a portion of my subject, which I 
confess myself unable to illustrate as satisfactorily as I could wish, 
because the historical evidences are too generally wanting, which 
would give certainty to the investigation. In the absence of such 
evidences, I can only draw conjectural conclusions from a comparison 
of characteristic architectural ornaments, found in them, with those 
found in churches in England and elsewhere, the ages of which have 
been determined ; and even such conclusions must be drawn with 
timidity, till the question is finally settled, whether the ornaments, 
generally supposed to be characteristics of Anglo-Norman architec- 
ture, had not been used in England and other countries in times 
anterior to the Norman conquest. One point, at least, of great impor- 
tance I trust I can determine with certainty, namely, that the Irish, 
anterior to the eleventh century, not only built decorated churches, 
but also used some of the ornaments, now generally supposed to be 
characteristic features of the churches erected in England by the 
Anglo-Normans ; and, indeed, if we put faith in some of our ancient 
documents, and I cannot conceive why we should not, it would 
appear that, occasionally at least, they erected ornamented churches 
at a much earlier period. Thus in the Life of St. Bridget, by Cogi- 
tosus, the following description of the church of Kildare shows that, 
in the time of that ancient writer, it was not only decorated in its 
interior, but had at least one ornamented entrance doorway. The 
original is as follows : 

" Nee de miraculo in reparatione Ecclesise tacendum est, in qua gloriosa amborum 
hoc est Episcopi Conlaeth & huius Virginia Sanctse Brigid corpora a dextris, & a si- 
nistris altaris decorati in monumentis posita ornatis, vario cultu auri & argenti, & gem- 


marum, & pretiosi lapidis atqtie coronis aureis & argenteis desuper pendentibus, requi- 
escunt. Ecclcsia namque crescente numero fidelium, & vtroque sexu, solo spatiosa 
& in alttim ininaci proceritate porrecta, ac decorata pictis tabulis, tria intrinsecus 
habeas oratoria ampla, & divisa parietibus tabulatis, sub vno culmine maioris domus, 
in qua vnus paries decoratus, & imaginibus depictus, ac linteaminibus tectus, per lati- 
tudinem in oriental! Ecclesiaj parte, a pariete ad alterum parietem Ecclesice se tetendit ; 
qui in suis extremitatibus duo habet ostia ; & per vnum ostiu in dextra parte positum 
intrant in Sanctuarium ad altare summus Pontifex cum sua regular! schola, & his 
qui sacris sunt deputati ministeriis sacra & Dominica immolare sacrificia : & per alte- 
rum ostium in sinistra parte parietis supradicti & transversi positum Abbatissa cum 
suis puellis & viduis fidelibus tantum intrant vt convivio corporis& sanguinis fruantur 
lesu Christi. Alius vero paries pavimentum domus in duas ffiquales divides partes a 
parte Oriental! vsque ad transversum in latitudine parietem extensus est. Et h;ve 
tenet Ecclesia in se multas fenestras & vnam in latere dextro ornatam portam, per 
quam sacerdotes & populus fidelis masculini generis sexus intrat Ecclesiam ; & alteram 
portam in sinistro latere, per quam virginum & fidelium foeminarum congregatio in- 
trare solet. Et sic in vna Basilica maxima populus grandis in ordine, & gradibus, & 
sexu, & locis diuersis, interiectis inter se parietibus, diverso ordine, & vno anirao Do- 
minum omnipotentem orant. Et cum ostium antiquum portse sinistralis, per quod 
solebat S. Brigida Ecclesiam intrare, ab artificibus in suis esset cardinibus situm, totam 
concludere portam instauratam & nouam non potuit. Quarta enim portae pars aperta 
sine coclusione & patefacta apparebat. Et si addita & iuncta ad altitudinem ostij 
quarta pars fuisset, tune totam concludere portam posset altam & instauratam. Et 
cum artifices alterum maius nouum facere ostium deliberarent, quod totam conclu- 
deret portam ; aut tabulam facere iunctam in vetus ostium, vt postea sufficere posset ; 
prsedictus doctor, & omnium praeuius artifex Hibernensium, prudenti locutus est 
consilio : In hac superuentura nocte orare Dominum iuxta S. Brigidam fideliter de- 
bemus, vt ipsa nobis de mane quid in opere hoc acturi suirms provideat. Et sic orans 
iuxta monumentum S. Brigidse totam nocte transegit. Et mane surgens oratione proe- 
missa ostium antiquu trudens ac ponens in suo cardine, ianuam conclusit totam, nee 
aliquid defuit de ipsius plenitudine, nee vlla in eius magnitudine superflua pars re- 
perta est. Et sic S. Brigida illud ostium extendit in altitudinem, vt tota porta ilia ab 
eo sit conclusa, nee in ea vllus locus patefactus videatur, nisi cum ostium retruditur 
vt Ecclcsia intretur. Et hoc virtutis Dominica?, oculis omnium videntium, miraculum, 
illam ianuam & valuam manifesto patet." Florilegium, p. 199 ; and Trias Thaum. 
pp. 523, 524. 

As portions of the above description have been variously under- 
stood by learned writers, I consider it necessary, before I offer any 
observation upon it, to give a translation of it as literal as possible : 

" Nor is the miracle, that occurred in repairing the church, to be passed over in si- 
lence, in which repose the bodies of both, that is, Bishop Conlaeth and this holy virgin 
St. Bridget, on the right and left of the decorated altar, deposited in monuments adorned 
with various embellishments of gold and silver and gems and precious stones, with 
crowns of gold and silver depending from above. For the number of the faithful of both 


sexes increasing, the church, occupying a spacious area, and elevated to a menacing 
height, and adorned with painted pictures, having within three oratories large and sepa- 
rated by partitions of plunks under one roof of the greater house, wherein one parti- 
tion decorated and painted with figures, and covered with linen hangings extended 
along the breadth in the eastern part of the church, from the one to the other party wall 
of the church, which [partition] lias at its extremities two doors, and through the one 
door, placed in the right side, the chief prelate enters the sanctuary accompanied by his 
regular school, and those who are deputed to the sacred ministry of offering sacred 
and dominical sacrifices : through the other door, placed in the left part of the parti- 
tion above-mentioned, and lying transversely, none enter but the abbess with her 
virgins and widows among the faithful, when going to participate in the banquet of the 
body and blood of Jesus Christ. But another partition dividing the pavement of the 
house into two equal parts, extends from the eastern [recte western'] side to the trans- 
verse partition lying across the breadth. Moreover this church has in it many windows, 
and one adorned doorway on the right side, through which the priests and the faithful 
of the male sex enter the church, and another doorway on the left side, through which 
the congregation of virgins and women among the faithful are used to enter. And thus 
in one very great temple a multitude of people, in different order and ranks, and sex, 
and situation, separated by partitions, in different order, and [but] with one mind 
worship the Omnipotent Lord. And when the ancient door of the left passage, through 
which St. Bridget used to enter the church, was placed on its own hinges by the work- 
men, it could not fill up the passage when altered and new ; for the fourth part of 
the passage appeared open and exposed without any thing to fill it up. And if a fourth 
more were added and joined to the height of the gate, then it could fill up the entire 
height of the passage now lofty and altered. And when the workmen were deliberating 
about making another new and larger door to fill up the passage, or to prepare a board 
to be added to the old door, so as to render it sufficiently large, the before-mentioned 
principal and leading artisan of all those in Ireland spake a prudent counsel : ' We 
ought this night to implore the Lord faithfully beside St Bridget, that she may pro- 
vide for us against morning what measures we ought to pursue in this business.' And 
praying thus he passed the whole night beside the monument of St. Bridget. And 
rising early and prayers being said, on pushing and settling the ancient door on its 
hinge he filled the whole aperture ; nor was there any thing wanting to fill it, nor any 
superfluous portion in its height. And thus St. Bridget extended that door in height, 
so that the whole passage was filled up, nor does any part appear open, except when 
the door is pushed back in entering the church. And this miracle of the divine ex- 
cellence is quite plain to the eyes of all beholders who look upon the passage and door." 

It is but fair to acknowledge that not only the antiquity of this 
Life of St. Bridget has been doubted by some learned men, but even 
its authenticity denied by others, in consequence chiefly, if not alto- 
gether, of the very details given in the preceding description of the 
church of Kildare, and which in the opinion of the learned Basnage, 
the editor of Canisius, " smelt of a later age." But, though I not only 
freely acknowledge that there is great reason to doubt that the work of 


Cogitosus was, as Colgan, Vossius, Dr. O'Conor, and others, even the 
judicious Ware, supposed, of the sixth century, but shall even prove 
that its real age is the early part of the ninth, I by no means concur 
in the sweeping scepticism of Dr. Ledwich as to the truth of the de- 
scription of the church, which he regards as altogether fanciful, and 
posterior to the twelfth century ; nor can I acknowledge that the rea- 
sons assigned by him for this opinion have any force whatever. Dr. 
Ledwich writes, that " what evinces this work of Cogitosus to be sup- 
posititious, is his Description of the Monuments of St. Bridget and 
Conloeth on the right and left of the altar at Kildare. They were not 
only highly finished with gold and silver ornaments, with gems and 
precious stones, suspended gold and silver crowns, but the wall of 
the chancel was painted with portraits. These latter, says Basnage, 
the editor of Canisius, smell strongly of later ages. The architecture 
of the church is the work of fancy, and could not exist earlier than 
the twelfth century, for the Irish, as I have already shown, had no 
stone edifice in the sixth." Antiquities of Ireland, second edition, 
pp. 352, 353. 

These objections however, which betray a great want of anti- 
quarian research, are, as I shall show, of very little weight; and 
Dr. Lanigan, who considered the work of Cogitosus as anterior, at 
least, to the ninth century, had no need, in arguing in support of 
its antiquity, to have supposed that the church of Kildare was alto- 
gether a wooden structure, a supposition which the text will by no 
means authorize, and which the evidences I have already adduced, 
relative to the antiquity of stone churches in Ireland, will show to be 
an assumption wholly improbable. It will also be seen from the same 
evidences, that the plan and general form of this church, which 
consisted of a nave and chancel, was exactly that commonly adopted 
in the abbey and cathedral churches in Ireland, and that the de- 
viation from the usual custom in having two lateral doorways, instead 
of a single western one, is pointed out as a peculiarity necessary from 
the circumstance of the church having been designed for the use of 
two religious communities of different sexes, who had distinct and 
separate places assigned them, according to the almost universal 
practice of ancient times. See Singham's Origines, &c. Book viii. 
c. 5, sect. 6. The necessity for this separation of the sexes also led 
to the division of the nave, by a wooden partition, into two equal 


portions, winch were entered by the lateral doorways already men- 
tioned ; and it led again to the piercing of the wall, or partition, 
which separated the nave from the chancel, with a doorway on each 
side of the chancel arch, in order to admit the entrance, into the 
chancel, of the bishop with his chapter on the right or south side, 
and of the abbess with her nuns on the left or north side. Another 
peculiar feature, noticed in the description of this church, is its 
having a number of windows, whereas, as I have already shown, the 
Irish churches were remarkable for the fewness of such apertures ; 
but, in the notice of such a peculiarity, there is as little to excite a 
suspicion of the truth of the general description, as in the others I 
have already commented upon, inasmuch as the very arrangement of 
the church into a double nave necessarily required a double number 
of windows to light it. 

If, indeed, as Dr. O'Conor well remarks, he had described these 
windows as having been glazed, it might have afforded a historical 
argument against the supposition that he lived in the sixth or seventh 
century, inasmuch as glass was not usual in the windows of churches 
in England till the close of the latter ; but even that would be no 
evidence to prove that he did not flourish previously to the twelfth, 
as the use of glass might have been introduced into Ireland long 
before that age through the intercourse of the Irish with Italy and 
Gaul, or the constant influx of English and other illustrious foreigners, 
who visited Ireland for education. But, as Cogitosus makes no men- 
tion of glass in the windows of the church of Kildare, it is to me an 
evidence not only of the truth of his description, but also of its 
antiquity, though as I have already stated, and as I shall presently 
prove, that antiquity is not so great as many have imagined. It is 
evident, at all events, that if he had been, as Dr. Ledwich asserts, 
fabricating a fanciful description of this church, while glazed win- 
dows were still of rare occurrence, he would not have neglected so 
important a feature of splendour. 

But, according to Dr. Ledwich, what evinces the work of Cogi- 
tosus to be supposititious is his description of the monuments of St. 
Bridget and Conlaeth on the right and left of the altar at Kildare : 
" They were not only highly finished with gold and silver orna- 
ments, with gems and precious stones, suspended gold and silver 
crowns, but the wall of the chancel was painted with portraits." If, 

2 D 


however, Dr. Ledwich had been better acquainted with the antiquities 
of Ireland, which he undertook to illustrate, he would not have seen 
in any of these particulars features inconsistent with the truth of his- 
tory. The custom of adorning the shrines of saints, in the manner 
described by Cogitosus, is of higher antiquity than the time of St. 
Bridget, and was derived from the primitive Christians, who thus 
decorated the tombs of the martyrs. See Buonarotti, Osservazioni 
sopra alcuni Frammenti di Vetro, pp. 133, 134. And that the Irish 
ecclesiastics, from the first introduction of Christianity into the coun- 
try, not only possessed the art of manufacturing all the sacred utensils 
belonging to the altar, in an equal degree of excellence with the co- 
temporaneous ecclesiastics abroad, can be proved by an abundance 
of historical evidence. The three artificers of St. Patrick, named 
Asicus, Biteus, and Tassach, who fabricated such utensils with ad- 
mirable art, are noticed by Flann of the Monastery, and in the most 
ancient Lives of St. Patrick ; and it is not improbable that specimens 
of their works may still remain. Thus also in an ancient Life of the 
celebrated artificer St. Dageus, who flourished in the early part of the 
sixth century, as quoted by Colgan, it is stated that he fabricated not 
only bells, croziers, crosses, &c., but also shrines ; and that, though 
some of those implements were without ornament, others were co- 
vered with gold, silver, and precious stones, in an ingenious and 
admirable manner. This interesting passage is as follows : 

" Idem enim Episcopus, Abbatibus, alijsque Hibernise Sanctis, campanas, cymbala, 
baculos, cruces, scrinia, capsas, pixides, calices, discos, altariola, chrismalia, librorum- 
que coopertoria ; quasdam horum nuda, queedam vero alia auro, atque argento, gem- 
misque pretiosis circumtecta, pro amore Dei, & Sanctorum honore, sine vllo terreno 
pretio, ingeniose, ac mirabiliter coposuit." Ada Sanctorum, pp. 374 and 733. 

In like manner, the memory of Conla, a celebrated artificer in 
brass of the fifth or sixth century, is preserved in the Life of St. Co- 
lumbkille, by O'Donnell, as the manufacturer of a shrine remarkable 
for its beauty, which was preserved at Dun Cruthen in Ardmagilligan, 
near the eastern shore of Lough Foyle, in the present county of Lon- 
donderry, about the commencement of the sixteenth century ; and 
Colgan tells us, that so great was the fame of this artificer, that it 
had given origin to several popular sayings. His words are as 
follows : 

" Praestantia illius artificis fecit locum diuersis prouerbiis Hibernis familiaribus. 


Quando enim volunt qucmpiara tanquam bonum aurificem seu wrarium artificem lau- 
dare, dicunt ; Nee ipse Conla, ett eo jinrxtmitiiir artifer. Item quando volunt ostendere 
illiquid ess* 1 irrcparabilc, vel inemendabile ; Nee hoc emendaret atrariu* Artifex Conla.'' 
TritiK Tin, inn. p. 451, col. 2, n. 82. 

It would, indeed, appear from the number of references to shrines 
in the authentic Irish Annals, that previously to the irruptions of 
the Northmen in the eighth and ninth centuries, there were few, if 
any, of the distinguished churches in Ireland, which had not costly 
shrines, containing the relics of their founders and other celebrated 
saints. Thus the Annals of Ulster, at the year 794, and of the Four 
Masters, at the year 790, record that Rachrainn was burned by 
plunderers, and its shrines opened and stripped ; and again, at the 
year 793, that Inispatrick was burned by foreigners, who carried away 
the shrine of St. Dachonna; and again, at the year 804, that Ulidia 
was devastated by the king, Aodh Oirdnighe, " against Duncan," in 
revenge for the violation of the shrine of St. Patrick. Thus also the 
Annals of Inisfallen record that in the year 810 Bcnchor was de- 
vastated, and the shrine of St. Comgall broken, by the Gentiles 
[Danes] ; and that in the year 830 the shrine of St. Patrick was 
broken, and carried away by the Danes. 

Many other passages to the same effect might be adduced, if it 
were necessary. The same annalists also record about this period 
the making of several shrines : in the Annals of the Four Masters, 
for example, at the year 796, it is stated that the relics of St. Ronan, 
son of Berach, were put into an ark or shrine, which was ornamented 
with gold and silver. And, to come more immediately to the point, 
the Annals of Ulster, at the year 799, mention the placing of the 
relics of St. Conlaeth, bishop of Kildare, in a shrine of gold and sil- 
ver, as described by Cogitosus : 

" A. D. 799- Pogitio Reliquiarum Conlaio h-i Scptn otp 7 aipjic." 

" A. D. 799- The placing of the relics of Conladh in a shrine of gold and silver." 
See also Ware's Bishops, at Kildare. 

Thus we have the most indisputable historical evidence not only 
of the existence of one of the two shrines noticed by Cogitosus as 
preserved at Kildare in his own time, but also of the costliness of its 
materials ; and it will surely not be doubted that the religious com- 
munity of Kildare, who paid this reverence to the relics of their first 
bishop, would have had a similar, if not a still more splendid shrine, 

2 D 2 


to preserve the relics of the great founder and patroness of their 

The preceding record enables us also to determine with great 
exactness the period at which Cogitosus wrote, which, it will be 
seen, could not have been earlier than the ninth century, as so many 
learned persons have thought ; while, on the other hand, it is equally 
certain that it must have been before the year 835, in which the 
Annals of Ulster, and others of equal authority, record that Kildare 
was plundered by the Gentiles [Danes], on which occasion, if we 
believe O'Halloran and it is at least a fair inference the shrines of 
St. Brigid and St. Conlaeth were carried away. Thus : 

" A. D. 835. Cealooapa DO opjjam DO ^eniciB o Inbip t)eaae, 7 po lopcaoap 
leir na cille." 

" A. D. 835. Kildare was plundered by the Gentiles of Inbhir Deaa, and they 
burned half the church." 

Indeed, as Dr. Lanigan well observes, Cogitosus could not have 
written in the manner he has, even after the year 831, when Kildare 
was plundered by Cellach, son of Bran, as recorded in the Annals of 
Ulster and of the Four Masters, inasmuch as he (Cogitosus) states that 
the city of Kildare and its suburbs were an inviolable asylum, in 
which there could not be the least apprehension of any hostile attack: 

" . . . . Maxima hsec Ciuitas & Metropolitana est ; in cuius suburbanis, qua; Sancta 
certo limite designauit Brigida; nullus carnalis adversarius, nee concursus timetur 
hostium." Trias Thaum. p. 524, col. i. 

Having now, as I trust, satisfactorily proved the fact that shrines, 
such as Cogitosus describes, were really in existence at Kildare in the 
early part of the ninth century, when it is certain that writer must 
have flourished, I shall only observe, in connexion with this part of 
his description, that in the shrine of St. Aidan, first bishop of Ferns, 
now in my possession, and which some of the most skilful antiquaries 
in Great Britain have assigned to a period not later than the ninth 
century, but which is probably of a much earlier date, we have still 
remaining sufficient monumental evidence that the description of the 
shrines at Kildare, furnished by Cogitosus, was in no degree imaginary 
or exaggerated. 

The other particulars to which Dr. Ledwich objects, as being 
altogether fanciful, are as little open to just criticism : we have, in- 
deed, no corroborative evidence of the facts stated as to the crowns, 


which were suspended over the shrines, or of the painted figures on 
the partition wall, which divided the nave from the chancel, or of 
the linen hangings which screened the sanctuary ; nor should we 
have had even these descriptive notices, so valuable as illustrating 
the state of the arts in Ireland at this remote time, but that Cogi- 
tosus had found it necessary, in order to give a colouring of truth to 
a legendary miracle, to connect with it a circumstantial description 
of the church, the accuracy of which could be tested by every one. 
We know, however, from foreign authorities, that all such embellish- 
ments were in use on the continent long before the ninth century, 
and there is no reason to assume that they were unknown to, or un- 
used, by the Irish. Regna, called a-Tf^avco^ara by the Greeks, 

were commonly suspended in various parts of the early churches, 
as will be found noticed in Ciampini's work, De Coronis, &c., 1. i. 
c. 14, and 1. ii. p. 90. A singular fact is recorded by Du Cange re- 
specting this description of crown : 

" apud Byzantinos a Patriarcha in oede Sophiana, m hfctrtti, *.< ft^t^ \ r ^. 

X,x,i tiTTFtrtici, tepri, coroiiabantur Imperatores aliqua ex iis corollis, qu supra sacram 
meusam pendebant, qua; peracta soleunitate in suum remittebatur locum, ut pluribus 

narrat Constantinus Porphyrogenitus cujus ritus originem Constantino Magno 

adscribit." Constantinopolis Christiana, 1. iii. 43. 

St. Paulinus describes a crown suspended over the tomb of Martin 
of Tours, and the same usage is also noticed by St. Gregory of Tours 
(1. i. c. 2). We can be at no loss, therefore, to account for the intro- 
duction of the custom into Ireland, as the pilgrimages of the Irish to 
that tomb are noticed by Jonas, a disciple of Columbanus, and in the 
Annals of the Benedictines, by Mabillon (1. i. p. 293). The linen cloths 
or veils (linteamenta), which screened the sanctuary, &c., form ano- 
ther feature in this description, which to me rather indicates its au- 
thenticity than the contrary, such veils having been suspended in all 

the ancient churches, and this as early as the fourth century. See 

Ciampini, 1. ii. pi. 26 ; see also Anastatius in Bibliotheca Patrum, 
torn. xii. Durandus writes : 

" Velum, in ecclesia triplex suspenditur, primum quod sacra operit alterum quod 

sacrarium a clero dividit tertium quod clerum a populo secernit." Durandus, lib. i. 

Ration, c. 3, n. 35. 

The Rev. Mr. Gunn, a writer of much learning, while commenting 
on the preceding passage of Durandus, writes thus : 


" During the office of the ambo, the veil ' quod sacra operit' and which was 
suspended across the sanctuary, ' quod clerum a populo secernit,' was closed. This 
mass being over, the catechumeni retired, and the missa fidelium or the service of 
the altar succeeded. ' The sacrifice is brought forth ; and when Christ the Lamb of 
God is offered, when you hear this signal given, let us all join in common prayer ; 
when you see the veils withdrawn, then think you see Heaven opened, and angels 
descending from above.' (Chrysostom. Homil. 3. in Ephcs. Bingham, b. 8, c. 6, sec. 8.)" 
Inquiry into the Origin and Influence of Gothic Architecture, p. 141. 

Indeed, there is no more reason to doubt that such veils were 
usual in all the ancient Irish churches of distinction, which consisted 
of nave and chancel, than that chancelled partitions were used, of the 
existence of which we have the following evidence in Cormac's Glos- 
sary, under the word caincell, a chancel: 

" Caincell, a cancella, .1. cliac: cpann-cmnjel, .1. cpann-cliar mpm, . i. cliar, 
ip in cpann ictp Inechaib 7 cleipciB po copiiiailep pom bo! pial cempuill c-Sola- 
man ; up ip cliar a amm, con pocpoib clap; unoe oicicup cpocamjel, .1. cpo- 

" Caincell, a cancella, \. e. a latticed partition (a chancel) : crann-chaingel, i. e. a 
wooden partition, i. e. a latticed partition, the division between the laity and clergy 
after the similitude of the veil of Solomon's temple ; for it, with its partition of boards, 
is named clialh; unde dicitur crochaingel, i. e. a latticed division." 

As to the paintings, or painted figures, which Dr. Ledwich in- 
correctly calls portraits, if that learned writer had called to mind 
the description which his favourite author, Giraldus Cambrensis, gives 
of the celebrated manuscript of the Four Evangelists, preserved at 
Kildare, and ascribed to St. Bridget's time, he would have seen no- 
thing remarkable in the circumstance of the wall of the chancel 
having been adorned with painted representations of the human figure. 
And though this famous manuscript is not now to be found, the praise 
bestowed on its caligraphy and illuminations will not appear extra- 
vagant to those, who have seen the nearly cotemporaneous manuscript 
of the Gospels, called the Book of Kells, now, fortunately, preserved 
in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, a manuscript which, for 
beauty and splendour, is not surpassed by any of its age known to 
exist : indeed, in looking at this exquisite piece of penmanship, it is 
difficult to avoid thinking that it is the very manuscript, so elabo- 
rately described by Giraldus in the following words : 

" Inter vniuersa Kyldarisc miracula, nil mihi miraculosius occurrit : quam liber 
ille mirandus, tempore virginis (vt aiunt) Angelo dictante conscriptus. Continet hie 
liber quatuor Euangclistarum iuxta Hierouymum concordantiam : vbi quot paging- 


fere sunt, tot figurse diversaj variisque coloribus distinctissimo:. Hie maicstatis vul- 
tum vitluas diuiuitus inipressum : bine, mysticas Euangclistarum formas : nunc scnas, 
nunc quaternas, nuuc binas alas habentes. hinc aquilam, inde vitulum, hiuc hominis 
I'urirm, inde leonis, aliasque figuras pene infinitas : quas si superficialiter & vsuali 
more minus acute conspexeris, litura potius videbitur quam ligatura. Nee vllam at- 
ii'mlrus prorsus subtilitatem : vbi nihil tamen praeter subtilitatem. Sin autem ad 
perspicacius intuendum oculorum acicm inuitaueris : & longepenitius ad artis archana 
transpenetraueris : tain delicatas & subtiles, tain actas & arctas, tarn nodosas & vincu- 
latim colligatas, tamque recentibus adhuc coloribus illustratas notare poteris intricatu- 
ras : vt vere hsec omnia Angelica potius quam humana diligentia iam asseueraueris esse 
composita. Hoec equidem quanto frequentius & diligentius intueor : semper quasi 
nouis obstupeo, semperque magis ac magis admirauda conspicio."* Topog.Hib. Dist. 2, 
c. 38, p. 730. Francofurti. foL 1603. 

I have now examined, at greater length perhaps than many would 
deem necessary, this remarkable description of the church of Kildare. 
But I felt it a duty to sustain to the utmost of my ability, consistently 
with a regard for truth, the authenticity of a document, so valuable, 
as showing the state of the arts in Ireland previously to the Danish 
devastations : and, moreover, it was essentially necessary to my pur- 
pose to do so, before I made any attempt to ascertain the ages of 
those architectural remains in Ireland, in which ornament has been 

It will be remembered that in this description Cogitosus tells us, 
that at least one doorway of the church was ornamented ; whether 
the other was so or not cannot be clearly ascertained from the context, 
but the affirmative is highly probable. It does not indeed necessarily 
follow that these doorways were thus ornamented as early as St. 
Bridget's time ; on the contrary, the probable inference would be, 
that the embellishments were added at the time of the enlargement 
of the doorway : but this enlargement must have taken place before 
the ninth century, which is sufficient for my purpose. It is greatly 
to be regretted that we have not this ancient doorway to refer to, 
as an example of the style of decoration then in use ; but this regret 
may possibly be diminished by the consideration, that we have in the 
adjacent Round Tower an example of an ornamented doorway, which 
may be supposed, with every appearance of truth, to be of cotempo- 

* Dr. O'Conor, quoting this passage, adds : " nee Appelles [Apelles] ipsc similia 
efficere posset, et manu potius non mortali efformatae ac deplete videntur." But this 
passage is not to be found in the edition to which he refers See Her. Hibern. Scrip- 
tores, torn. i. Ep. p. 177. 


raneous, or at all events, not later date. It is, of course, by no means 
my object in this place to enter on the question of the antiquity or 
use of this tower ; it will be sufficient for my present purpose to 
show, that there is every reason to believe that its erection was not 
posterior to that of the church described by Cogitosus, to which it 
belonged in the time of Giraldus, and that its ornamented doorway, 
if an insertion of later date than the original construction of the 
Tower, which there is no reason to believe, could not with any 
fairness be referred to a later period than the erection of the orna- 
mented doorway of the church. That this tower was, in the twelfth 
century, considered as of great antiquity, even so great as the time 
of St. Bridget, most plainly appears from a story, told by Giraldus, 
of a hawk, which was thought to have frequented its summit from 
the days of the patroness. The story is as follows : 

" De Falcone Kyldarice quasi domestico 8f mansueto. 

" A tempore Brigida; falco quidam egregius locum istum frequentabat, qui EC- 
CLESIASTICS T0RRIS summitati insidere consueuerat. Vnde & a populo auis Brigida: 
vocabatur, & in veneratione quadam a cunctis habebatur. Hie ad nutum ciuium seu 
militum castrensium tanquam mansueta & ad hoc domestica, anates & alias aues, tarn 
campestres, quam fluuiales circa plariiciern Kyldario; cum intuentium non modica de- 
lectatione persequi solebat : & ad terram ab aere innata velocitate coercere. (Quis 
enim locus miseris auiculis relinquebatur, cum homines terram & aquas, auis iui- 
mica, grauisque tyrannus aerem obsidebat ?) Mirum de hoc alite : quod circa tern- 
plum quod frequentabat, parem non admittebat : sed amoris tempore procul inde 
secedens, & apud montana de Glindelachan ex consuetudine parem inueniens, naturae 
indulgebat. Quo complete, iterum ad Ecclesiam solus reuertebatur ? Viris Ecclesias- 
ticis & tune pracipue cum intra ecclesiarum sinus & septa diuinis deputantur officiis, 
signum prseferens honestatis. In ipso discessu primo Domini Comitis loannis ab Hi- 
bernia, auem (qua; per tot durauerat sa?cula, & delectabiliter Brigida; locum illus- 
trauerat) demum prsedse, quam ceperat, minus caute insidentem, & humanos accessus 
parum euitantem, baculo, quern gestabat, rusticus quidam petiit. Ex quo patet, casum 
in secundis fore metuendurn, & vita; diuturnas delectabili & dilectae, parum esse confi- 
dendum." Topog.Hib.Vist.2, cap. 37, pp.729, 730. Francofurti, fol. 1603. 

It is scarcely necessary to remark, that, from the phrase " ecclesi- 
asticce turris" in the preceding story, Cambrensis could have meant 
none other than the present Round Tower of Kildare, for it is the 
very phrase which he elsewhere employs to designate the Round 
Towers in the legend, so often quoted, respecting the submersion 
of the city in Lough Neagh: and though this legend is no more 
sufficient to prove the tower to be of St. Bridget's time, than the 


legend of the towers in Lough Neagh would prove them to be of the 
first century, still it is sufficient to show, that the tower of Kildare 
was considered to be of great antiquity in the twelfth century, and 
thus fix an early period for the style of ornament we find on its 
doorway, a period not to be questioned except on the gratuitous 
assumption of a newer doorway having been inserted at a later period; 
but the fallacy of such an assumption is easily detected by an exami- 
nation of the tower itself, which will leave no doubt on the mind 
that the doorway, as well as the other apertures, which are in a 
corresponding style, though entirely devoid of ornament, are equally 
original and integral features of the structure. 

For the satisfaction of the reader I annex a drawing of this very 
interesting doorway, together with an outline of the ornaments on 
the capitals of its inner columns, and the diagonal pannelling on the 

soffit of its inner arch ; and it will, I think, be at once seen, that in 
its general character, as well as in the style of its ornaments, not- 
withstanding the chevron or ziz-zag moulding on one of the cornices, 
it presents features not to be found in any decidedly ascertained 

Anglo-Norman remains. 

2 E 


I am aware, however, that with most architectural antiquaries the 
presence of the zig-zag moulding will be considered a decisive evi- 
dence of its being the work of the Anglo-Norman era ; but I am 
strongly inclined to believe, that the prevalent opinion relative to the 
period at which this and other ornaments came into use in England, 
though such opinion cannot be said to have been adopted hastily, is 
nevertheless an erroneous one ; and I think I shall be able to show, 
that we must come to the conclusion, that the use of such ornaments 
was, at all events, of earlier age in Ireland, or be forced to throw his- 
torical evidences wholly aside as of no consideration. It may, indeed, 
be assumed that the existing Tower of Kildare is not that to which 
Cambrensis alludes, but an erection of even later date than his time. 
But though such an assumption is, I think, still less probable than 
that which I have already combated, yet I am forced to acknowledge, 
that a discovery made in this Tower while this sheet is going through 
the Press, and which must sooner or later determine the question 
either way, may with many appear to give it probability. On a re- 
cent examination of its interior area in search of sepulchral interment, 
undertaken by my friend the Rev. Mr. Browne of Kildare, instead of 
human bones, as expected, five or six ancient coins were found ; and, 
from their position, under flags which appeared to form the original 
floor of the Tower, there is every reason to believe that they must 
have been deposited there at the original erection of the Tower. 
The true age of these coins therefore becomes a question of the 
highest importance in this Inquiry ; but, contrary to what might be 
expected, it is unfortunately one, not easily determined, like all others 
connected with the origin of these buildings. 

These coins are of that rare and curious class known to numis- 
matists by the name of Bracteati, by which is understood, thin 
laminar pieces, usually of silver, struck only on one side, and are 

without legends of any kind, as will be seen in the annexed wood-cuts, 
representing the three which are least defaced. 


These coins would appear to be of very impure silver, as they 
are thickly coated with a deep green rust, formed of the oxide of 
copper, and are so much corroded that it is almost impossible to touch 
without breaking them. Through great care, however, three of them 
have been sufficiently preserved to enable me to present with accu- 
racy their devices, which, it will be seen, are crosses of a simple cha- 
racter placed within a circle, around which are radiating lines instead 
of letters : the weight of each, when perfect, was about seven grains. 

If then we should adopt the opinion respecting the origin of 
bracteate coins, expressed by the learned Sperlingius in his work, 
" De Nummorum Bracteatorum et Cavorum Origine et Progressu" 
namely, that this class of money is not earlier than the close of the 
twelfth century, or that of Mr. Lindsay of Cork, in his " View of the 
Coinage of Ireland" who thinks that none of the bracteate coins 
found in Ireland are anterior to the time of William the Conqueror, 
it would follow, either that the present Round Tower of Kildare 
cannot be that of which Cambrensis speaks, but an erection subse- 
quent to his time, or, that the floor, under which those coins were 
found, is not the original one, a conclusion which I apprehend most 
persons will be disposed to reject, and which, though the fact is not 
wholly impossible, it is far from my intention to uphold. Maintain- 
ing, as I do, the opinion that this Tower could not have been erected 
after the time of Cambrensis, and consequently, from his allusion to 
such a Tower at Kildare, that its age must have been considerable 
in the twelfth century, I confess it appears to me, that, while the 
conclusions of the writers to whom I have alluded, respecting the 
antiquity of the bracteate coins, is open to doubt, the discovery of 
pieces of that description under the floor of this Tower should rather 
be taken as an evidence in favour of their earlier antiquity, than that 
the erection of the Tower should be referred to so late a period as 
they assign to them. Nor do I think that this inference is at all 
weakened by what has been written either by Sperlingius or Mr. 
Lindsay : for the bracteate coins of the northern nations, which the 
former shows to be of the twelfth and succeeding centuries, and 
which present legends from which their dates have been ascertained, 
are very different from those discovered in the Tower of Kildare. 
And though Pinkerton seems to have adopted the opinion of Sper- 
lingius, as to the age and origin of these coins, he has, on reflection, 

2 E 2 


deemed it prudent to acknowledge, in a note, that " some are sup- 
posed to be of the tenth century." 

Pinkerton might well make such an acknowledgment, for there are 
not wanting learned writers, who place the origin of this description 
of Coin in the seventh century, and one, M. Tillemann Frize, Miintz- 
Spiegel, 1. iii., who assigns them an antiquity anterior even to the 
Christian era. Others, however, as Olearius, Ludwig, and Doederlin, 
have come to the conclusion that this kind of money originated in 
Germany, after the discovery of the silver mines in that country in 
the tenth century ; and this opinion derives some support from the 
fact, that bracteates of the Emperor Conrad II., who died in 1024, and 
of Werner, bishop of Strasburgh, who died in 1029, have been found 
in a small earthen urn in the abbey of Gengenbach in 1736. These, 
I believe, are the earliest German bracteates known ; but it is the 
opinion of M. Schoepflin, that, though no earlier bracteates of the 
bishops of Strasburgh have been discovered, the right of coining 
money, which had been granted to them in 870 by Lothaire le Jeune, 
the son of Louis le Debonnaire, had been exercised by them uninter- 
ruptedly from that period. M. Schoepflin is, however, of opinion, 
that the bracteate money had an earlier origin, and a different birth- 
place from what has been assigned to them by the German writers ; 
and as bracteates have been found, coined by the first two propagators 
of Christianity in Denmark and Sweden, namely, Harold, king of 
Denmark, who lived in the tenth century, and Biorno, king of Sweden, 
who lived at the close of the eighth and commencement of the ninth, 
he considers that the origin of this description of money should be 
assigned to Sweden, and that it thence passed into Denmark, and 
lastly into Germany ; and he attributes the lightness and thinness of 
this description of money to the scarcity of silver in the north at the 
period of its origin. In these conclusions of M. Schoepflin, the 
French Academy of Inscriptions and Belles Lettres appear to con- 
cur, as will be seen in the following extract from their report on 
his paper, given in the twenty-third volume of the History of the 
Academy, pp. 215-6 : 

" II resulte de cet expose, fait d'apres M. Schoepflin, que les monnoies bracteates 
sent originairement Suedoises, & que 1'epoque en doit etre fixee a la fin du VIII e . 
siecle ; & qu'ainsi on se trompoit a la fois sur le lieu & sur le temps de leur origine, 
placee par les uns trop haut, & trop bas par les autres." 


As the antiquity of this species of money on the continent seems 
thus clearly traced to the eighth century, it now remains to deter- 
mine, if possible, its antiquity in Ireland. 

The opinion relative to the origin of minted money in Ireland, 
which has been hitherto, as I may say, universally adopted by nu- 
mismatists, is, that it originated with the Danes in the tenth, or 
possibly in the ninth century ; and in this opinion, I confess, that I 
myself concurred, till my attention was more particularly drawn to 
the subject, by the discovery of the pieces of bracteate money in the 
Round Tower of Kildare. I now, however, see considerable reason 
to doubt the correctness of this opinion, and to believe that the 
Danes, far from being the introducers of minted money into this coun- 
try, may, with greater probability, have themselves derived the art 
from the Irish, and not from the Anglo-Saxons, as generally supposed. 
In the first place, it should be borne in mind that the type usually 
found on the Danish coins is a peculiar one, and that, though it is also 
found on some of the coins of the Saxon king, Ethelred II., A. D. 979, 
many of which appear to have been minted in Ireland, it does not 
occur on earlier coins of the Saxon princes, and hence these coins 
of Ethelred are usually designated as of the Irish type. On the other 
hand, coins of this type, both bi-lateral and uni-lateral, of the rudest 
manufacture, and without letters, are found abundantly in Ireland, and 
obviously claim a higher antiquity. With respect to these rude coins, 

we must therefore come to either of the two following conclusions : 

first, that they were imitations by the Irish princes of the better 
minted money of the Danes, and consequently of cotemporaneous or 
later date ; or, secondly, that the type of the well-minted Danish and 
Irish coins of the tenth century was derived from this ruder and 
more ancient original. This latter conclusion appears to me to pos- 
sess by far the greater probability, because we cannot adopt the 
former without supposing the Irish, at the time of the first Danish 
irruptions, not only to have been inferior to their invaders in their 
knowledge of the arts of civilized life, but also to have been unable 
to keep up with them in the progress which they subsequently made, 
a conclusion, which, though hitherto generally adopted, is utterly 
opposed to every thing that history tells us respecting the civilization 
of the two nations. It should also be borne in mind, that, from the 
intercourse carried on by the Irish with the Saxons, whom they con- 


verted to Christianity, as well as with the French, Belgians, and Ger- 
mans, they must have been intimate with the various arts as practised 
amongst these nations ; and that, as we know that they were at 
least equally acquainted with literature and the fine arts, and that 
their very celebrity in the former caused their country to be visited, 
for the purpose of instruction, by many of the most distinguished in 
those nations for rank and love of learning, it would be strange in- 
deed if they should have been ignorant of the use of minted money, 
then common amongst those nations, or that, knowing, they should 
have neglected to adopt it. 

I am aware that it may be objected that the Irish at this period 
used for money rings of gold and silver, and ingots of various forms and 
degrees of weight; and I am far from denying that this description of 
money, which was, no doubt, derived from a very remote period, was 
continued in Ireland even to the close of the twelfth century. This, 
indeed, is a fact established by all our ancient authorities, and par- 
ticularly by our authentic Annals and Brehon Laws, as an example 
will sufficiently prove. Thus in the following record, in the Annals 
of the Four Masters, the payment of fines by weight is distinctly re- 
corded : 

" A. D. 102Q. Orhlaoib', mac Sicpiocca, ci^eapna Jall, DO epjabcul DO TTlac- 
aiinam Ua Riajain, ci^eapna 6peaj;, 7 DO ben oa c6o 0^5 bo pviapcclaio app, 7 
peace pichic each m-6peicneac, 7 rpi pichec uinjje o'op, 7 cloioearii Caplup, 7 
airnpe 5 aiea l' eiccip tai^niS 7 tec Cmno, 7 cpi picic umje o'aipjec jil ma 
unja jjeimleac, 7 ceicpe picic bo pocail 7 impioe, 7 ceicpe h-aiccipe o'O'Riajam 
p em ppi rich, 7 Ian loj bpa jacc an cpep aiccipe." 

" A. D. 1029. Amlaff, son of Sitric, lord of the Danes, was captured by Mahon 
O'Riagain, lord of Bregia, who exacted twelve hundred cows as his ransom, together 
with, seven score British horses, and three score ounces of gold, and the sword of Car- 
lus, and the Irish hostages both of the Lagenians and Leth Cuinn, and sixty ounces 
of white silver (or money) as his fetter-ounce, and eighty cows for word and suppli- 
cation, and four hostages to O'Riagain himself as a security for peace, and the full 
value of the life of the third hostage." 

It also appears from innumerable passages in our ancient autho- 
rities that the precious metals thus valued by weight, and used as a 
circulating medium, were, as I have already said, sometimes in the 
form of ingots, but perhaps more frequently manufactured into rings 
for the neck, called muntorcs, and for the arms and legs, called 
failghe ; and hence the epithet of " exactors of rings," so frequently 


applied by their poets to the northern warriors, who infested Ireland 
in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries. 

This custom is very interestingly illustrated in the following pas- 
sage explaining the name High, which was anciently applied to the 
river Boyne in an ancient manuscript of the Brehon Laws, preserved 
in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin : 

" l?ij mna Nuaoac, .). ronaipc, .1. cumoach DO pailgifc oip no bio ima lairh OKI 
o-cionacal DO pilebaib." II. 3, 18, p. 545. 

" The Righ of the wife of Nuada, i. e. great, i. e. she was used to have her hand (or 
arm) covered with rings of gold for bestowing them on poets." 

This woman was the wife of Nuada Neacht, a poet, and king of 
Leinster in the first century ; and she is said to have given her name, 
Boann, to the river Boyne. 

So also, from various passages found in the Irish annals, we find 
that these rings were of fixed weights ; as at the year 1150, when 
the monarch Muirchertach O'Loughlin, among other things, presented 
the abbot of Derry with a gold ring, which weighed five ungas or 
ounces ; and at the following year, when the same abbot received 
from Cu-Uladh O'Flynn, chief of Sil-Cathasaigh, a gold ring weigh- 
ing two ounces ; and gold and silver rings, as well as tores and ingots 
of the precious metals of fixed weights, are found in abundance in 
the country at the present day. 

But, while the precious metals were used as a circulating medium 
in large unminted pieces, or rings, of this description, it is obvious 
that a smaller and more convenient species of money must have been 
indispensably necessary for the ordinary purposes of exchange ; and 
it would be strange indeed, if, while every other country in Europe, 
immediately after its conversion to Christianity, adopted the use of a 
small denomination of minted money, the Irish alone should have 
neglected a usage so necessary to a people, who had made any ad- 
vances in civilization, till taught it by a people confessedly less civi- 
lized than themselves. It is this consideration, which induced me 
to doubt the generally received opinion that money was first coined 
by the Danes in Ireland, and to believe it more probable that the 
type of the Danish coins was not derived from cotemporaneous Saxon 
money, but more directly from an earlier Irish original ; and, if I mis- 
take not, the evidences which I have now to adduce, and which 


these doubts induced me to search for, will go far towards establish- 
ing such a conclusion. 

In the first place, it occurred to me that if the Irish had had 
minted money similar to that in use in the neighbouring countries, 
evidences of such a fact would necessarily be found in the ancient 
laws of the country, and that those laws would also furnish evidence 
as to ' its weight and value ; and I was the more sanguine that such 
evidences might be found, from a recollection of the interesting letter 
written about the year 790 by Alcuin to the celebrated St. Colcu, 
master of the school of Clonmacnoise, in which he tells him that he 
had sent fifty sicli of silver to his brethren of the alms of Charle- 
magne, and fifty sicli as his own alms ; thirty sicli of the king's alms 
to the southern brethren of Baldhuninega, and thirty sicli of his own; 
twenty sicli of the alms of the father of the family of Areida, and 
twenty of his own ; and to every hermit three sicli of pure silver, that 
they might all pray for him and for king Charlemagne, that God 
would preserve him for the defence of his church and the glory of 
his name. The original of this passage, as published by Ussher in 
his Sylloge, pp. 51, 52, and Colgan, Acta SS., pp. 379, 380, is as 
follows : 

" Misi eharitati tuaa aliquid de oleo, quod vix modo in Britannia invenitur ; tit 
dispensares per loca necessaria Episcoporum, ad utilitatem hominum vel honorem Dei. 
Misi quoq; quinquaginta siclos fratribus de eleemosyna Caroli Regis : (obsecro ut pro 
eo oretis :) & de mea eleemosyna quinquaginta siclos : & ad Australes fratres Baldliuni- 
nega, triginta siclos de eleemosyna Regis, et triginta de eleemosyna mea, & viginti siclos 
de eleemosyna patris familia? Areidce, & viginti de eleemosyna mea, & per singulos 
Anachoritas tres siclos de puro argento : ut illi omnes orent pro me, & pro Domino 
Rege Carolo, ut Deus ilium conservet ad tutelam sanotaB sua? Ecclesise, & ad laudem 
& gloriam sui nominis." Syttoge, p. 52. 

I confess that to me this passage, written before the Danes had 
coined money in Ireland, affords a strong presumption that minted 
money was not only known but in use in Ireland at the time when 
it was written, and that the money designated as sicli must have 
been a description of coin then current not only in France but also 
in Ireland. It is true that Colgan, and after him Harris and Arch- 
dall, state that a siclus or shekel in silver was a coin about half an 
ounce in weight, and of the value of sixteen pence ; but this, as I 
shall prove, was obviously an error, arising out of the supposition 
that by the term siclus was meant a piece of the size and value of 


the Hebrew shekel, whereas it is certain that no coin of this kind was 
current in Europe during the middle ages. The real meaning of the 
word siclus, as understood by the Irish, and the value of the coin 
which it designated at this period, are, however, distinctly pointed 
out in a tract of the Brehon Laws, relating to fines and amercements, 
preserved in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, class H. 3, 18, 
p. 426, col. b, and in which the fine upon the owner of a cow that 
has killed a bondsman, or bondswoman, is thus stated : 

" Hide mu j no curhal po oip in aj opjaip ano, ap pennech bep aj. Cpicha 
n-aipjiD mo. Sicolup quapi pcpipulup, o p6 leic-pm^inoe jabap mo o eopach 
in comaip, 7 na pe leic-pmjmoe ip rpi lan-pinjinne in pcpepaill." 

" If it be a bondman or bondwoman that has been killed by the cow, the cow is 
forfeited (till reparation be made by the owner). Thirty sigah of silver is the fine. 
Sicolus quasi scrip/tins, from six half pinginns being its value from the beginning of 
enumeration, and these six half pinginns make the three full pinginns of the screpall." 

The value of the same coin is given in another MS. in the same 
Library, H. 3, 17, p. 645, somewhat differently, thus : 

" Siculup quapi pepelicop, 6 p6 lec-penomjib jabap in o ropach in comap; 
no pe lec-penomje ip cpi lan-penomj, na cpi Inn penoing ip pcpepall." 

" Siculus quasi seselicos, from six half penning* being its value from the beginning 
of enumeration [the lowest denomination] ; the six half penning* make three full pen- 
nings, and the three full pennings make one screpall." 

From the above passages then it clearly appears that the word 
sigal was a term synonymous witli screpall, and innumerable evi- 
dences might be adduced from the Irish laws, and other equally 
ancient authorities, to prove that the word screpall was the desig- 
nation of the denarius or penny, which was the largest denomination 
of money then current in France and England, and which, I think, 
was also current in Ireland, though under a different name. It is a 
well-known fact that the largest silver coin current in Europe in the 
middle ages, and which in France was called denier, from the Latin 
denarius, and known to numismatists by the name penning or penny, 
was usually of the weight of from twenty to twenty-four grains : 
and that such also was the weight of the Irish screpall, or sigal, will 
clearly appear from the following passage in a tract of the Brehon 
Laws, entitled Fodhla Feibe, preserved in the Book of Ballymote, 
fol. 181, b, b, in which the following curious table of weights is 
given : 

2 F 


" Tp & peo in mean cojbup in cinoe pin DO ^pun cpuirneacca a pa pup a cfp 
cpi meccon ; ceicpi c. [correctly, no! c.] 7 Ix! mill ; uaip ui. jpamni x. 7 cuij ceo 7 
Ix. comrpom uingi ; uaip ceacpa jjpainoi xx. ec cpuicneacoa comcporn in pjpea- 
baill aipgio. Ceacpa h-aoaim xx. ec i n-gpume, 7 comrpom un xx. ec umge in cmoe 
pin, 7 ni h-o'n gabaino aoamna." 

" This is the quantity* which that bar raises [i. e. weighs or balances] of grains of 
wheat which grew in a soil of three rootsf ; sixty thousand and four hundred [cor- 
rectly nine hundred] ; for five hundred and seventy-six grains is the weight of an 
ounce ; for twenty-four grains of wheat is the weight of the screaball of silver. 
Twenty-four atoms in a grain, and seven score ounces in that bar, and its material is 
not from the smith." 

It is scarcely worthy of observation that, by some error of the 
transcribers of this tract in copying the numerals, this table is not 
consistent with itself, but in that portion of it relating to the screpall 
of silver there can be no error, and its accuracy in this particular can 
be proved : and from the weight thus assigned to the screpall, or 
sigal, as it was otherwise called, it would appear that the Irish ap- 
plied these terms to denote the denier of the middle ages ; and, indeed, 
the terms themselves seem clearly to be of foreign, and most probably 
ecclesiastical, introduction into the Irish language. It appears, how- 
ever, that the Irish had also two vernacular terms which they applied 
to a piece or denomination of the same weight, namely the words 
puincne and oifing, or oiffing, as thus stated in Cormac's Glossary 
under the word puincne : 

" puincne, .1. pcpepall meoi inbice, ip & pin pcpepall ^aeoal Din, .1. oipinj." 

" Puincne, i. e. the screpall of the notched beam, i. e. the screpall of the Gaels, i. e. 

Thus also in O'Clery's Vocabulary of Ancient Irish Words, under 
the word puincne: 

"Puincne, .1. pjpeaball .1. cpi pmjinne." 
" Puincne, i. e. a screbatt, i. e. three pence." 

And hence the word screaball is explained in Shaw's and O'Reilly's 

" This passage is also given in an ancient vellum manuscript in the Library of 
Trinity College, Dublin, H. 3, 1 8, but somewhat less correctly. Both, however, agree 
in making the weight of the screpall of silver to be twenty-four grains of wheat. The 
weight of the whole bar, according to the table, should be 69120, which is equal to 10 
Roman Librae. 

f dp cpi meccon, land of three roots, i. e. the richest soil, which, according to the 
Irish notion at the present day, is always known by the presence of three weeds, re- 
markable for their large roots, namely, the thistle, the ragwort, and the wild carrot. 


Dictionaries as "a three-penny piece," and the word oiffing, by 
O'Reilly, as " a tribute of three-pence." 

Seeing then, that the screpall contained three pinginns, and 
urighed twenty-four grains, it would follow that the pinginn should 
weigh eight grains ; and such is the weight assigned to it in an ancient 
tract of the Brehon Laws, on vellum, preserved in the Library of 
Trinity College, Dublin, H. 4, 22, foL 66, in which the following 
curious passage occurs : 

" tDmnpu, .1. romup. thnnpa clapaije, .1. romup bip con luce claioep in claip, 
01 umgi ip6 p'l lnn , ' boinjm mem in uma. Oinnpu cepoa DO oepj uma; pe 
umji ann, 7 pcpepall a log. pin^mn ip piu in umji pinn iima ; 7 leir-pmjinn ip 
piu an umji oepj uma ; 7 corhloj in oepj uma 7 m poan, 7 occ n-jjpanni cpuirne- 
acca corhcpom na pfnjmni aipjio ; 7 ceicpe oinnpa DO luaioi ap omnpa pmn uma, 
ap ip DO luaioe DO niche|i in rach." 

" Dinnra, i. e. a weight [measure, or share]. The dinnra of the delver, that is, the 
share which those who dig the pit do get, that is, those who dig the copper ore, con- 
tains two ounces. The dinnra of the cerd [artificer] is of red copper [or bronze] ; 
contains six ounces, and is worth a screpall. A pinginn is the value of an ounce of 
fair copper [or bronze] ; and half a. pinginn is the value of an ounce of red copper [or 
bronze] ; and the red copper is of the same value as the sdan [tin] ; and eight grains 
of wheat is the weight of the pinginn of silver ; and four dinnras of lead are of the 
same value as one dinnra of fair copper, for it is of the lead the tath [solder ?] is 

From the preceding evidences it at least appears certain that 
while the Irish had in use amongst them, from a very remote period, 
a mode of estimating the value of animals, and other property, by 
ingots or rings of gold and silver of fixed weights, they had also, for 
the daily purposes of traffic, two small pieces of silver, namely, the 
screpall or sigal, weighing twenty-four grains, and the pinginn, 
weighing eight grains, which, there is every reason to believe, were 
coins ; for, as the names, by which they were known, are obviously 
of foreign introduction into the Irish language, and were undoubtedly 
denominations of coined money in foreign countries, we have every 
right to conclude that they were similarly applied to coined money 
in Ireland. But if we find pieces corresponding with these in weight, 
and indicating by their types an early antiquity, the fact seems placed 
beyond dispute. Such pieces we do find in our rude bi-lateral coins, 
and in our bracteates, which are struck only on one side, and may be 
considered as peculiarly Irish, being of a type wholly unlike the 

2 F 2 


bracteate money of any other nation. Were such names indeed found 
in Irish authorities previously to their application to coins in other 
countries, it might justly be concluded that they were mere deno- 
minations of weights of metals; but no such terms occur in the 
authentic documents of earlier date. There is no mention of screpalls 
or pinginns in the Book of Rights, nor in the most ancient Lives 
of St. Patrick, in which, however, we find most distinct reference to 
the valuation of property by gold and silver in weight, as the follow- 
ing remarkable passage from the Annotations of Tirechan will suffi- 
ciently show : 

" Oippo^gel Cummen ocup 6pechan Ochcep n-Cfchio co n-a peilb, icep pio 
ocup maj ocup lenu, co n-a lliup ocup a llubjopr. Ojoilep om ou Chuminin lech 
in ooppi po, in ooim, in oumiu, con picccroap a peuic ppie, .1. .111. unjai apjaic, ocup 
cpann apjic, ocup muince, .111. n-un^ae co n-opocli oip pen-mepib penaipocib, log 
leich ungae 01 muccib, ocup 105 leieh unjae DI chuipib." Book of Armagh, Fol. 17, 
b. 1. 

" Cummin and Brethan purchased Ochter n-Achid with its appurtenances, both 
wood and plain and meadow, with its fort and its garden. Half of this wood, and 
house, and dun, was mortmain to Cummin, for which they paid [from ] their treasure, 
viz. three ounces of silver, and a bar of silver, and a collar, three ounces of the base gold 
of the old dishes of their seniors, [i. e. ancestors], the equivalent of half an ounce in 
hogs, and the equivalent of half an ounce in sheep." 

It is to be observed, indeed, that the pieces corresponding with 
sisals or screpalls found in Ireland, even when in good preservation, 
but seldom weigh more than twenty-one or twenty-two grains ; and 
in like manner that those corresponding with the pinginns, which 
are all bracteates, seldom weigh more than seven ; and that such was 
the usual weight of the latter, in the ninth century, would appear 
from the following passage in Cormac's Glossary, under the word pi- 
sire, the ancient Irish name for the ouncel, or steel-yard. 

" P'P'P 6 ! ' PT' al P e > ' cpano leran-ceno bip oc catnap oen pmjinne corhaip, .1. 
comcpomm .1111. n-gpame pip-cpuirnechca. pip, Din, ainm in cpaino, no in cariiam ; 
pip, Din, ainm DO pinjino; oen pinjino, oin, aipe in chpaino pin." 

" Pisire, i. e. pis-aire, i. e. a broad-headed beam, which is for weighing owpinginn 
of weight, i. e. the weight of seven grains of pure wheat. Pis, then, is the name of 
the beam, or the trunk, and pis is, also, a name for ihepingmn; because one pinginn 
is what that beam weighs." 

The evidence furnished by the preceding passage is further cor- 
roborated by the following curious notice, in an ancient sermon on 
the betrayal of Christ by Judas, preserved in the Leabhar Breac, in 


the Library of the Royal Irish Academy, in which the writer enters 
into a calculation of the value, in Irish money, of the thirty pieces 
which Judas was paid for his treachery : 

" Upom, qia, ooBupca na cennai jecca, in can repea a cerpuime oo'n ceehpa- 
mao unja. In m. n-aipgennce cucpac luoaibe pop Bpac Cpfpc DO luoap anpecc- 
nach, .1. occ penjmoe co leir, lap nuiriup coicchmo, ip eo pil in cec aipjenc oib, 
lap na pcpibeno la ppuirib na n-ebpaioe." Fol. 73, a, b. 

" Great, indeed, the foulness of the purchase, when the fourth ounce wanted a 
quarter. The thirty argentei [denarii] which the Jews gave the unfortunate Judas 
for betraying Christ : L e. eight pinginns and a half, after the general enumeration, 
is what is in each argenteus of them, according to the writings of the learned among 
the Hebrews." 

According to the previous calculation, if we allow sixty grains to 
each of the argentei, which is the usual weight of the Roman argen- 
teus, or denarius, then current in Jerusalem, it will be seen, that the 
unga, or ounce, contained four hundred and eighty grains, and the 
pinginn, or penny, seven grains and one-seventeenth. 

Should it be objected, that if the Irish had had minted pieces of 
these denominations, previously to the Danish irruptions, allusions to 
them would be made in the authentic annals of the country, the answer 
is, that the annals relating to those early times are so brief and 
meagre, that they preserve to us little beyond the dates of battles, 
and of the deaths of distinguished men ; and that though the word 
aipget), i. e. silver, the only one used to designate money of any 
description at the present day, like the French argent, from the cir- 
cumstance of the ancient minted pieces being of silver only, does 
frequently occur, as in the metaphorical notice in the Annals of 
Tighernach, at the year 718, of a ppopp apjjcno, which Mageoghegan 
translates, " a shower of money ," yet as the word in its literal sig- 
nification denotes silver simply, no certain inference can be drawn 
from it either way. Yet, in some instances, it is difficult to doubt 
that this word was applied to minted money, as in the following pas- 
sage in the Annals of Ulster, at the year 946 : 

" A. D. 946. tan mo Innpaioij parpaij o'apjac il o Ceniul Coyam DO pa- 


" A. D. 946. The full of the Innfaidhech Patraig of white silver [or white money] 
was given by the Cinel Eoghain, to St. Patrick." [L e. to Joseph, his successor.] 

As the relic here called Innfaidhech, but more correctly Finnfai- 


dhech by the Four Masters, in their record of this donation, and 
which, according to the ancient poem by Flann of the Monastery, 
and the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick, was made by Mac Cecht, one 
of the saint's smiths or artificers in iron, was a bell, as I have shown 
in my Essay on ancient Irish Bells, it is not easy to imagine it to 
have been filled with any other kind of tribute collected among the 
numerous tribe of the Cinel Eoghain, than pieces of silver, each of 
small value, then in circulation. When, however, at a later period, 
our annals become more detailed, we find in them passages which 
show the use both of the screpatt and pinginn, as the following ex- 
amples will sufficiently prove. Thus, in Mageoghegan's translation of 
the Annals of Clonmacnoise, at the year 1009, we have the following 
entry : 

A. D. 1009. " There was great scarcity of Corne and Victualls this year in Ireland, 
insomuch that a hoop [i. e. a quarter of a peck] was sold for no less than five groates, 
which came (as my author sayeth), to a. penny for every barren." [i. e. cake.] 

It is to be regretted that we have not the original Irish of this pas- 
sage, to ascertain the Irish word which Mageoghegan has translated 
groate ; but it can scarcely be doubted that it must have been one 
of the Irish terms for the screpall, or larger silver coin in use amongst 
them, as that denominated groat did not come into use in Ireland till 
the reign of Edward III. 

Thus also, in the Annals of the Four Masters, at the year 1031, 
distinct mention is made of the pinginn, as being then in general 
circulation at Armagh, and there is every reason to believe it Irish 
and not Danish money : 

"A. D. 1031. plcncBepcach na He'll! DO romeacc 6 T?6im. Gp ppi pmeap 
Plaicbepraij po 5'^ci an connpao ofrhop i n-Qpomacha, ariiail ap pollup ip in 

" Seipeoach DO jpan copca, 
No epian o'uipmB ouB-copcpa, 
Ho DO oepcnaib oapach ouinn, 
Ho DO cnoaiB palac pionn-cuill, 
po gaiBre jan cacha cinn 
] n-Gpomacha ap aon pmjinn.'' 

"A. D. 1031. Flaithbhertach O'Neill returned from Rome. It was during the 
reign of Flaithbhertach that the very great bargain was used to be got at Armagh, as 
is evident in the verse : 


" A theskeayh (measure) of oaten grain, 
Or a third of [of a measure] black-red sloes, 
Or of the acorns of the brown oak, 
Or of the nuts of the fair hazle hedge, 
Was got without stiff bargaining 
At Armagh for one pinginn." 

This Flaithbhertach O'Neill, whose father, Muirchertach, king of 
Aileach or Ulster, was slain by Amlaff the Dane, in 975, succeeded 
his brother Aodh, in the year 1005, and died in 1036, after having 
made a pilgrimage to Rome. 

The preceding passages seem to me quite sufficient to prove that 
the words pinginn and screpall, among the Irish, were applied to 
coins, and that the weight of the former was usually seven grains, 
and of the latter about twenty-one grains ; and as we find in Ireland 
two classes of ancient coins which, when in good preservation, cor- 
respond with these weights, we have every reason to conclude that 
they are the denominations of money so often referred to in the 
ancient Irish authorities. These conclusions might be strengthened 
by many additional evidences from those authorities ; but fearing to 
prolong this digression to a tedious extent, I shall only add one more, 
relative to the pinginn, or seven-grained piece, which is more imme- 
diately the subject of this disquisition. It is found in a very ancient 
Glossary, on vellum,- in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, as an 
explanation of the word pinginn, and also in several copies of Cor- 
mac's Glossary, written in the ninth century : 

" ptnjinn, quapi panunjj, .1. papp in uncio; uel bennmj, .1. a n-injnaip a 
beann aca, .). cpuinn." 

" Pinginn, quasi pan-ung, i. e. part of an ounce ; or, benn-ing, i. e. it wants benns 
(points), i. e. [it is] round." 

If it be considered that the application of the word penning to 
a coin amongst the Saxons must have been familiar to Cormac, it 
will be obvious that he could hardly have explained the meaning of 
the word in this manner if he did not intend to intimate that it was 
applied to a coin minted by the Irish also ; nor would he have given 
such derivations for it, if he supposed it had its origin amongst the 
Danes in Ireland. 

But though the custom of minting money may, on the preceding 
evidences, be conceded to the Irish, it may still be argued that this 
custom was derived from the Danes in the ninth century ; and to 


settle this question, the antiquity of the pieces remaining to us must 
be tested by a comparison of the types on them with those on the 
coins of other countries, whose ages have been determined. 

The opinions of those numismatists, who conclude that the Danes 
were the introducers of coin into Ireland, is founded upon the sup- 
position, which I believe to be , wholly erroneous, that the Pagan 
Danes were vastly more advanced in civilization than the Irish, a let- 
tered and Christian people, whom they came to plunder, and, if pos- 
sible, to conquer. Hear Mr. Pinkerton on this point : 

" The Danes, a wise and industrious, as well as victorious people, being much 
more advanced in society [than the Irish] when they settled in Ireland, were the 
founders of Dublin, Limeric, and other cities ; the seats of little Danish kingdoms, 
where arts and industry were alone known. Their frequent invasions of England, and 
neighbourhood to that opulent kingdom, made them acquainted with coinage. And it 
is clear, from the form and fabric, that the old rude pennies, found in Ireland, are 
struck by the Danes there. These pieces have no resemblance of the old Gaulic or 
British ; or even of the skeattas, or English pennies ; but are mere rude copies of 
those of the eighth or ninth centuries, executed by artists who could neither form nor 
read letters, and therefore instead of them, put only strokes, 1 1 II II." Essay on 
Medak, vol. ii. pp. 153, 154. 

This assumed superiority of the Danes is wholly gratuitous, as no 
remains of that people have been discovered in Ireland, that would in 
any degree authorize it. It cannot be said that Irish artists in the 
eighth or ninth century could not form or read letters, for I have 
myself collected several hundred well-sculptured Irish inscriptions of 
those very centuries, while, on the other hand, not a single Danish 
inscription has been ever discovered in Ireland. And if the rude 
imitations of the Saxon money, to which Pinkerton alludes, were 
made in Ireland in the eighth or ninth century, they must have been 
made by the Irish, as they always present Christian devices ; and we 
have the authority of the Irish annals, acquiesced in by Ware, that 
the Irish Danes were first converted to Christianity about the year 
948, and that the first of them recorded as Christians lived in the 
time of Godfrid, son of Sitric, who succeeded Blacar II. as king of 
Dublin in that year. And certain it is that the earliest ascertained 
Danish money, minted in Ireland, is that of the brother of Godfrid, 
Sitric III., 989, while according to Mr. Pinkerton himself, we have 
well struck pieces of an Irish king Donald, who, that writer states, 
is probably Donald O'Neill, 956 ; so that we would have greater 


reason to suppose that the type on those coins of the latter, which 
resembles that on the coins of Donald, was derived from it, than 
that the coins of Donald were struck in imitation of those of Sitric. 
Nor can it be fairly supposed that the usual type on the coins of 
Sitric was derived from a Saxon prototype ; for, if we look for such 
among the money of the Saxon princes, we find it only on the coins 
of Ethelred II., 979, 1015, which for their peculiarity, are known 
among numismatists as coins of the Irish type, and it is remarkable 
that many of them were minted in Dublin. Doctor Ledwich has, in- 
deed, been rash enough, in opposition to Ware and the whole body 
of our annals, to assert, in the first edition of his Antiquities oflre- 
/u/itt, that the Danes were christianized in Ireland in the time of 
Sitric I., 893 ; and in the second edition he ventures to assert, that 
they were Christians even in the time of Ivar I., 870, and this on no 
other evidence than that he finds a cross on a coin, which he says was 
minted in Dublin, and which exhibits the legend, " IfarttsReDyJlin." 
But, as there were more Ivars than one, he should have given some 
reason for ascribing this coin to Ivar I., who, according to all the 
Irish annals, was a pagan, rather than to Ivar II., who was a Christian : 
besides, no such words as Re Dyflin appear in the legend on the coin 
to which he refers, and even if they did they would not prove it a 
coin of the first Ivar, as Ivar II. was also king of Dublin. Indeed it 
is now generally acknowledged to be a coin of Ivar or Ifars II. 993 ; 
for, as Mr. Lindsay well observes, " the coins formerly assigned to 
Ifars I., bear such a strong resemblance to those of Sihtric III., as to 
render it nearly certain that they ought to be assigned to Ifars II." 
View of the Coinage of Ireland, p. 12. 

With much greater appearance of probability Dr. O'Conor, who 
repudiates the assertion of Dr. Ledwich, finds on a coin, published in 
Gibson's edition of Camden, an inscription, which, he thinks, proves 
it to be a coin of Aedh Finnliath, monarch of Ireland from the year 
863 to 879, and the last Irish monarch who bore the name " AED," 
which appears on the coin in question. His words, which are given 
in a note on an entry in the Annals of Ulster at the year 93b', re- 
cording a memorable battle fought between Athelstan, king of the 
Saxons, and Amlaff, king of the Danes, are well worth transcribing, 
and are as follows : 

" Amlafo nonnulli nummum argentum [argenteum] tribuunt, editum a Gibsono, 

2 G 


Came/en Op. v. 1, Tab. iii, No. 34, p. 195 At, nummus iste nullam exhibet notam 
Chroriicam, prater nomen A mlafi Regis Dutiinii, et insignem crucis ; et cum alii fue- 
runt Amlafi posteriores, cavendum est ne huic tribuatur, quod scque tribui potcst suc- 
cessor!. Falluntur certe qui Sitricum I Christiana; Religioni nomen dedisse contendunt, 
ex alio nummo, crucern exhibentc, cum Sitrici nomine insculptam ; quasi vero alii 
non fuerint Sitrici posteriores, quibus potiori jure tribui possit, quam primo, qui 
Ecclesiis Hibernise fuit hostis ini'ensissimus ! Ledwichius, in Opere cui titulus ' An- 
tiquities, &c. Dublin 1790,' Annales nostros, quos nee videre licuit, nee, si vidisset, ex 
linguae antiques ignorantia, intelligere posset, ex isto tamen nummo, non dubitat 
castigare ! ' This coin of Sithric I, is the earliest inscribed coin that has hitherto 
occurred. It is valuable/or correcting our Annalists. The cross on it evinces that the 
Danes were now Christians.' p. 126. At, etsi concedamus esse Sithrici I, quod in- 
certum est, ergone sequitur esse antiquissimum, et errasse Annales nostros, qui Danos, 
regnante Sithrico I, Ethnicos fuisse affirmant ? Oportebat primo omnes extantes ex- 
plicasse. Extant nonnulli editi a Gibsono, et hactenus inexplicati, quorum unum de 
certo affirmo, esse saltern Aedi Eegis Hibernise, qui floruit ab anno 863 ad 879. Is enim 
ultimus fuit istius nominis, et nummi characteres sunt AED RII MIDIN. i. e. AED 
REX MIDENSIUM Monendi sunt Scriptores nostri, ne, absque gravissima causa, 
ab his Annalibus discedant ; recentiores sunt qui tempera, et nomina Eegum miser- 
rime confundunt. Asserere non vereor, neminem adhuc, ea qua decet doctrina, et 
diligentia, de re nostra numismatica scripsisse. Plurimi sibi nomen Antiquarii arro- 
gare student, paiici merentur." Rerum Hibernicarum Scriptores, torn. iv. pp. 262, 263. 

I may here remark, however, that Dr. O'Conor is in error in as- 
cribing this coin, the legend on which plainly reads RII MIDIN, i. e. 
KING OF MEATH, to the monarch Aedh Finnliath, for that prince, 
who was the head of the northern Hy-Niall, and had been king of 
Aileach, or Ulster, before he became monarch, was never king of 
Meath; and if he had struck this coin when monarch of Ireland, 
it would have borne a different legend. This coin, which certainly 
bears an Irish type, may, with far greater probability, be ascribed to 
Aedh, the son of Maelruanaidh, who was the thirty-second king of 
Meath of the southern Hy-Niall race, and was slain by his relative 
Domhnall, son of Donnchadh, about the year 922, after a reign of one 

But, without attaching much weight to these facts, I would ask, 
is it fair to ascribe all those ruder and more antique-looking coins, 
which are often without inscriptions, and when inscribed hitherto un- 
intelligible, to the Danish rather than to the Irish princes, or, to sup- 
pose them, if struck by Irish princes, as is sometimes conceded, to 
be but bungling imitations of the better minted coins of their invaders, 
struck at so late a period as the eleventh and twelfth centuries ? To 



me it seems at least as fair to ascribe such pieces to the Irish as 
to the Danes, and I think that the probability is greater that their 
antiquity is anterior to that of the well-minted money with legible 
legends than posterior to it. But, whatever uncertainty there may 
be as to the true originators and exact date of those heavier coins, 
which agree in weight with the Saxon and other pennies, or denii'i-x, 
of the middle ages, it appears to me that the real pennies of Ireland, 
the bracteate pieces of seven grains, have, at present, every claim 
to an Irish origin, or at least to an origin not immediately derived 
from either the Danes or Saxons. They do not seem to have been 
immediately derived from the Saxons, because that people appear to 
have had no such money, at least, none such has been as yet found; 
nor could they have been derived from the Danes, if the generally 
received opinion be true, that they derived their knowledge of money 
from the Saxons ; and it may be remarked, that the earliest bracteate 
coins struck in Denmark are those of Harold, 945. It is true that the 
name penning, or pinginn, applied to these pieces by the Irish, seems 
to be of Teutonic origin, and it might have been derived from the 
Saxons by the Irish, though applied to a piece differing, not indeed 
in size, but in weight and thickness, from the Saxon penning. And 
till continental bracteates be found of earlier date than those whose 
ages are now determined, this would seem the most probable conclu- 
sion, as the derivation of the name from the Irish language, given by 
Cormac in the ninth century, clearly shows that the word must have 
been long in use in the country at the time, and could not have been 
adopted into the language from a recent introduction of this descrip- 
tion of money by the Danes. 

That these coins are indeed of Irish mintage is the opinion of Mr. 
Lindsay; but, while he allows the merit of striking the bracteate 
pieces to the Irish princes, from the absence of any resemblance 
between their types and those found on the Danish coins, he comes 
to the conclusion, from a resemblance Avhich, he thinks, he dis- 
covers between their types and those of the English pennies sub- 
sequent to the reign of William I., that their dates should be 
assigned to the early part of the thirteenth century. His words are : 

" A comparison of these types, with those of the English coins, to which I have 
drawn the attention of the reader, will lead us to conclude, that they have been in 
general copied from English coins, commencing with William I. or II., and ending 

2 G 2 



with John, or perhaps Henry III., and to assign as the probable period of their min- 
tage, the early part of the thirteenth century ; and as the Danes had then no power 
over, or intercourse with Ireland, it is not likely they were struck by that people, 
and still less by the English, who had then a very different coinage of their own, and 
never appear to have struck Bracteate coins in their own country ; and we may there- 
fore, conclude, that they are genuine and unquestionable specimens of the coins of the 
native Irish prinees, and although a very poor description of coin, highly interesting, 
as forming a distinct and hitherto unknown class, in the annals of the coinage of Ire- 
land." View of the Coinage of Ireland, p. 24. 

As examples of bracteate coins, in which Mr. Lindsay finds this 
imitation of the types on the coins of Stephen, Harold, and Henry I., 
I annex engravings of three bracteates, formerly in the collection of 
the Dean of St. Patrick's, and now in the Museum of the Royal Irish 
Academy, the two former of which have been given by Mr. Lindsay 
in Plate IV. of his work : 

I confess, however, that I can see no such resemblance between these, 
or any other Irish bracteates, and Anglo-Norman prototypes, as would 
authorize the conclusion at which Mr. Lindsay arrives. That amid 
a great variety of types, consisting of crosses, and having smaller 
ornaments within their angles, a few should bear some resemblance 
to types found on the reverses of coins of the Anglo-Norman kings, 
is not to be wondered at ; it would be strange, indeed, if some such 
coincidence did not occasionally occur : but it is too much to infer 
from a remote similarity, which may be purely accidental, that all 
those Irish bracteates, which present no such similarity of type, must 
be of cotemporaneous date with those in which Mr. Lindsay thinks he 
discovers it ; and he is obliged himself to acknowledge 
that he has found nothing like the type on one of those 
bracteates, except on coins of Offa, 757, and Coenwulf, 
794. In the bracteate piece represented in the annexed 
engraving, the original of which also is in the Dawson 
Collection, we have an unequivocal example of that type, which may 
be regarded as peculiarly Irish ; and that Mr. Lindsay could find no 


resemblance between tliis coin and any of those of the Anglo-Norman 
kings, we have sufficient evidence in the fact that he publishes it 
without a comment. In like manner, if we compare the bracteate 
pieces, found in the Tower of Kildare, with the coins of the Saxon 
and Anglo-Norman kings, we shall find that they bear the greatest 
resemblance, in two instances, at least, to coins of Eadwald and the 
Mercian kings, Offa and Coenwulf, as in the annexed examples : 

and this appears to me to point to the true date of those pieces. I am 
aware, indeed, that an objection may be made to the antiquity I thus 
assign to them, from the double cross which appears upon one of 
them, inasmuch as the double cross is not found on the Anglo-Saxon 
coins of the heptarchic Kings, nor indeed on those of the sole mo- 
narchs earlier than the time of Ethelred II. But, as I have already 
shown that the type on some of the coins of Ethelred is itself most 
probably derived from Ireland, no conclusion, I think, can be fairly 
grounded on this circumstance. There is scarcely a variety of cross, 
which is not to be found as a typical ornament in our most ancient 
manuscripts, even in those of the sixth century, as well as on our 
ancient sepulchral monuments anterior to the tenth; and among 
these a double cross is of the most common occurrence ; it is, there- 
fore, but natural to expect that the Irish would use on their coins 
the same variety of crosses as they employed on their sepulchral and 
other ornamented monuments. 

In fine, it appears to me that the conclusion so generally adopted, 
that the Irish owed the use of minted money to the Danes, is wholly 
gratuitous, and rests on no firmer basis than do those opinions, which 
assign the erection of our ancient churches, stone crosses, and other 
monuments, to that people, opinions, which I shall prove to be 
utterly erroneous. It is quite certain that the Danes minted money 
in Ireland, not indeed, as is supposed, in the ninth century, but in the 
tenth and eleventh ; however, as they do not appear to have pre- 
viously coined money in their own country, and as the types on what 


seem to be their earliest coins, struck in Ireland, do not appear to 
have been borrowed from the earlier or cotemporaneous Anglo-Saxon 
coins, but from the still ruder money without inscriptions, found 
abundantly in Ireland, it seems to me a more natural and philosophical 
induction, and more in accordance with the historical evidences 
which I have adduced, that such rude pieces are generally of Irish 
mintage, and anterior to the Danish irruptions, than that they are 
Danish, or Irish imitations, cotemporaneous with, or of a later age 
than the better minted coins of the Danes. 

I think it probable, however, that the pinginns, or bracteates, are 
of greater antiquity in Ireland than the screpalls, as they appear to 
have been in Germany, Sweden, and Denmark : and am also of 
opinion that those rude pieces without legends, whether screpalls or 
pinginns, were very probably for the most part, if not wholly, eccle- 
siastical, their types having usually a religious character, and being 
most commonly found in the localities of ancient ecclesiastical esta- 
blishments : as for instance, that curious hoard of coins found at 
Glendalough in 1639, of which Sir James Ware published a few ex- 
amples, and concerning which Ledwich remarks, that " the mintage is 
extremely rude, and bespeaks the infancy of the art, and the unskil- 
fulness of the workman." But, according to this learned writer these 
coins must have been Danish, and why? Because, " As it [Glen- 
dalough] was built by the Danes, and much resorted to for devotion, 
we cannot admire at finding much of their money there." These as- 
sertions of Doctor Ledwich are really amusing. It was truly a sin- 
gular species of devotion which these pious warriors exhibited at 
Glendalough, built, according to Doctor Ledwich, by themselves, 
in the ninth century, that they plundered and devastated it in the 
years 830, 833, 886, 977, 982, 984, 985, 1016 ! I should also notice, 
as another remarkable instance of the discovery of coins at a cele- 
brated religious establishment, the " minores denarii, quasi oboli," 
most probably the bracteate pennies, found near Kilcullen in 1305, 

of which mention is made in an Exchequer record of 33 Edw. I. 

See Harris's Ware, vol. ii. p. 206. According to M. Schoepflin, the 
ecclesiastical bracteates were the roost common in Germany, where 
they were known by the same name as in Ireland : " Ce sont les 
monnoies de cette espece qu'on trouve designees dans les chartes 
d'Allemagne, sous le nom de panningi, derive du mot Tudesque 


pfenning" Histoire de VAt-udi'mie Rnyale des Inscriptions et 
Belli'*- Li'ttres, torn, xxiii. p. 218. 

If these arguments have any weight, it will not perhaps be an 
improbable conjecture, that the bracteate pinginns, or pennings, 
found at Kiklare, were ecclesiastical coins minted there. And, in 
connexion with this conjecture, it may be worthy of remark, that in 
the Irish Annals at the year 962, where it is stated that a vast num- 
ber of the seniors and ecclesiastics of Kildare had been made cap- 
tives by the Danes, it is added that they were redeemed by Niall 
O'lleruilbh, who was probably the Erenach of the place, though 
of Danish descent, as his name would seem to indicate, with his 
own money. The passage is thus given in the Annals of Ulster : 

" A. D. 963. Ceall oapa DO apcain DO ^allaib, peo mipepabile [mipabilt] 
piecace mipepcup epc cpia Niall li-U n-Gpuilb, peoemprip omnibupclepicip pene 
ppo nomine Domini, .1. Ian in 00151 roo'P Sancc &PIJCI, 7 Ian in oepraigi ip 4 DO 
puajell Niall oub oia apjac pep in." 

Thus translated by Dr. O' Conor : 

" A. D. 963. Kildaria spoliata ab Alienigenis, sed miserabili pietate [inirabili] mi- 
sertus est Niall, filius Erulbii, redeinptis omnibus Clericis pene, pro nomine Domini, 
i. e. quotquot capere potuit domus magna S. Brigidse, et Nosocomium, quos emit Niall 
ab eis, pretio argenti, eodem tempore." 

The preceding translation by Dr. O'Conor is not, however, strictly 
correct, for the words anjac pepin, which he renders, pretio argenti, 
eodem tempore, should be expressed by propriis pecuniis, and it is 
so rendered by Colgan in his translation of the record of this trans- 
action, given in the Annals of the Four Masters at the year 962, as 
follows : 

" A. D. 962. Ceall oapa DO apccain DO ^"allaio, 7 bpoio mop DO ppuirib 7 DO 
cle'ipcib DO jabuilooib ann, 7 Niall Ua h-Gpuilb oia b-puapclao. Can an coije 
moip Saner &pijoe, 7 Ian an oeprtjje ap eao DO puaicill Niall otob oia apjao 

" A. D. 962. Nortmanni Kildariam fcede depopulati, seniorum & Ecclesiasticorum 
plurimos captivos tenuerunt : ex quibus tot personas proprijs pecuniis redemit Nellus 
Oherluibh, quot in magna S. Brigidse domo, & Ecclesia simul consistere poterant."- 
Triat Thaum., p. 630. 

But whether the money here referred to was minted at Kildare or 
not, it is certain that ecclesiastical money was in use in Ireland at a 
later period, as it is stated in Mageoghegan's translation of the Annals 
of Cloumacnoise that money was coined there in the year 1 1 70. This 


was in the reign of Roderic O'Conor ; but we learn from the Leabhar 
Gabhala of the O'Clerys, an authority of great value, that money 
was also minted there in the reign of his father Turlogh ; and it 
is by no means improbable that money was coined there at a much 
earlier period, though the records of such mintages have not been 
preserved, or at least not yet discovered. 

On the whole, then, I have, I trust, adduced sufficient evidences 
to show the great probability, if not absolute certainty, that coined 
money was in use in Ireland previously to the Danish irruptions, and 
that the discovery of bracteate pinginns in the Round Tower of Kil- 
dare, which there is every reason to believe were placed there, 
either accidentally or by design, cotemporaneously with its original 
erection, affords no presumption at variance with the antiquity which 
I am disposed to assign to that edifice, or to the style of architecture 
which it exhibits, namely, the close of the eighth, or beginning of 
the ninth century, when the description of the church of Kildare 
was written by Cogitosus. Indeed, were I disposed to venture on 
assigning this doorway to an earlier period, nay, even to the age of 
St. Bridget, to which the legend in Cambrensis would seem to refer 
it, there is, I think, nothing in its style of architecture which would 
invalidate such a supposition, as there is no feature in its decorations 
of which earlier examples may not be found in the corrupted archi- 
tecture of Greece and Rome. Of the triangular, or rather ogived 
label, or canopy, which appears above the architrave or semicircular 
moulding on its external face, an example is found over a semi- 
circular-headed doorway of a temple on a coin of the Emperor Licinius, 
A. D. 301 ; and another example, exhibiting an ogived or contrasted 
arch, occurs in the Syriac MS. of the Gospels, transcribed in the year 
586, and preserved in the Mediceo-Laurentiau Library at Florence. 
Of the chevron moulding, which ornaments the architrave of the se- 
cond of the two recessed arches, abundant examples are found, as 
ornaments on arch mouldings, in the Syriac MS. already referred to; 
and a remarkable example of the use of this ornament on a very an- 
cient arch at Chardak, in Syria, is noticed by the Rev. Mr. Arundel 
in his Visit to the Seven Churches of Asia, p. 103 : it is also figured 
as an arch ornament in the exquisitely executed illuminations in the 
Book of Kells, a manuscript copy of the Gospels, undoubtedly of the 
sixth century, which, as I have already noticed, is now preserved in 


the Library of Trinity College, Dublin ; and I need hardly remark, 
that it also appears as a frequent decoration on the mouldings which 
cap the Corinthian modillions in the palace of Dioclesian at Spalatro, 
erected between the years 290 and 300. In like manner, of the 
lozenge pannelling, enriched with rosettes, which decorates the soffit 
of the innermost recessed arch, examples are found on the fragments 
of Roman architecture discovered in the subterranean galleries of 
Poitiers, which fragments the most eminent antiquaries of France 
consider to be of the close of the third century. See Memoires de 
la Societe des Antiquaries de r Quest, tome premier, p. 57- 

To the preceding remarks I should add, that this interesting 
doorway is built of a hard, siliceous sandstone, of light colour, and 
that the ornaments are carved in very low relief. Its general form 
may be described as consisting originally of four concentric arches, 
one recessed beyond the other, and resting on round pilastres, or 
semi-columns, with flat imposts or capitals. The ornaments on the 
external arch have been long destroyed, and their place was supplied 
with rude masonry at the commencement of the last century. The 
ornaments on the recessed arches are also much injured, and the 
fourth, or innermost arch, is the only one now remaining in tolerable 
preservation. The external arch is seven feet two inches in height, 
and three feet eight inches in width ; the second arch is six feet ten 
inches in height, and three feet two inches in width ; the third arch 
is six feet seven inches in height, and two feet ten inches in width ; 
and the fourth, or innermost arch, is five feet eight inches in height, 
two feet one inch in width, and one foot three inches in depth. The 
entire depth of the doorway, or thickness of the wall, is four feet ; 
and the height of its floor from the ground is fifteen feet. The floor 
of this doorway is raised by a step of eight inches in height at the 
innermost arch, and it is probable that the other divisions may have 
been raised above each other by similar steps, as I shall presently 
show an example of such an arrangement in a doorway of similar 

The opinions which I have thus ventured to express as to the 
age of the doorway of the Round Tower of Kildare, and consequently 
as to the antiquity, in Ireland, of the style of architecture which it 
exhibits, will, I think, receive additional support from the agreement 
of many of its ornaments Avith those seen in the better preserved, if 

2 H 



not more beautiful, doorway of the Round Tower of Timahoe, in the 
Queen's County, a doorway which seems to be of cotemporaneous 
erection, and which, like that of Kildare, exhibits many peculiarities, 
that I do not recollect to have found in buildings of the Norman 
times, either in England or Ireland. The general appearance of this 
doorway will be seen in the annexed sketch : 

As this doorway, which is the finest of its kind remaining in Ire- 
land, is of the highest interest, not only on account of the richness, 
and, as I conceive, antiquity of its decorations, but also from its high 
state of preservation, it will be desirable that I should endeavour to 
illustrate its several features as clearly as possible, both by drawings 
and verbal descriptions. 

This doorway, like that of Kildare, is formed of a hard siliceous 
sandstone, and may be described as consisting of two divisions, sepa- 
rated from each other by a deep reveal, and presenting each a double 
compound recessed arch, resting on plain shafts with flat capitals. 
As in the doorway of the Tower of Kildare, the carving is all in 
very low relief, and its height from the ground is the same with that 
of the doorway of that Tower, namely, fifteen feet. The general 



arrangement of its several compartments will be best understood from 
the annexed ground plan, to which I add a vertical section, to show 

the manner in which the 
floor rises towards the inte- 
rior by a succession of three 

On its external face the 
outer arch rests on a sill pro- 
jecting from the face of the 
wall, and is ornamented on 
each side with two semico- 
lumns and other mouldings. 
The capitals of the shafts are 
decorated with human heads; 
and the bases, which are in 
better preservation than the 
capitals, present, at their al- 
ternate eastern angles, a si- 
milar human head, and, at 
their alternate western an- 
gles, a figure not unlike an 
hour-glass. The architrave, on its external face, is more simply de- 
corated, but on its soffit it presents an ornament, 
which may be described as a pellet and bead 
moulding, as shown in the annexed sketch. The 
measurement of the shafts of this external arch, 
including the bases and capitals, is five feet eight 
inches. The breadth, at the spring of the arch, is three feet nine 
inches, and at the base, four feet; and the entire height of the 
arch is seven feet six inches. The jambs of this outer division 
splay by an obtuse angle to the second or recessed arch, which is 
ornamented somewhat similarly to the first, except that the soffit 
of the arch is more highly enriched, presenting a diagonal pannel- 
ing, which forms a chevron moulding at its corners. The jambs of 
this second arch, which are one foot three inches in width, are 
rounded into semi-columns at their angles ; and, though their bases 
present no decorations, their imposts, or capitals, if such they may 
be called, which are more of the nature of friezes, are ornamented 

2 H 2 




in a very elegant style of design, and are fortunately in a high state of 
preservation. These jambs, including the bases and capitals, are five 
feet in height, and one foot three inches in depth. The width of the 
arch at top is two feet six inches, and at bottom two feet nine inches ; 
and the entire height from the floor to the vertex of the arch is six 
feet three inches. The floor of this recessed arch, or sub-arch, is 
raised by a step nine inches in height above the external one. 

Of the capitals, or impost mould- 
ings, that at the west side presents at 
each angle a human head, with thick 
moustache, lank whiskers, and curl- 
ing, flowing beard. The hair of each 
head is divided in the middle of the 
forehead; and, passing over the ear, 
forms, by a mutual interlacing in the 
intervening space, a kind of cross 
of complicated and graceful tracery. 
The capitals on the east side pre- 
sent a design, similar, but differing in some of the details, the 
whiskers of the heads being curled, and the interlacing of the hair 
forming a cross, less complicated but equally graceful. 

The reveal, which divides the outer 
compound archway from the inner 
one, is on each side six inches in 
depth, and seven inches and a quarter 
in breadth, and is without ornament 
of any kind ; but the inner compound 
archway is equally ornamented with 
the outer one. Like the outer arch- 
way, this compartment consists of two 
parts, or concentric arches, the floors 
of which, like those of the outer arch- 
way, rise over each other by steps 
nine inches in height. The front arch 
of this division is four feet three inches 
in height, from its floor to the spring 
of the arch, seven inches in depth, 
and five feet six inches in height, from the floor to the vertex of the 


arch. Its width is two feet six inches at the capitals, and two feet 
nine inches at the bases. The inner arch, or sub-arch, measures one 
foot six inches in width at its capitals, and one foot nine inches at 
its bases, and four feet four inches, in height, from the floor to the 
vertex of the arch. The jambs are three feet seven inches in height, 
and one foot three inches in breadth. At the base of the jamb on the 
west side there is a fourth step, nine inches in height and five in 
breadth, and running parallel with the wall ; but its use it would 
now be difficult to conjecture. 

The outer division of this inner archway, as in the first compound 
archway already described, presents a semi-column 
at each of its angles, with a human head as a ca- 
pital. The head at the west side exhibits the hair 
arranged in massive curls over the forehead, while 
the space at the back of the head and under the 
cheek is filled with a flowery interlaced ornament, 
which springs from an angular moulding at each 
side of the semi-circular shaft, as shown above. 
The head, forming the capital at the east side, 
exhibits the hair divided over the forehead, a plain moustache, and 



the hair arranged in straight plaits under the chin, from ear to ear, 
as shown in the annexed wood -cut. 

The bases of the shafts present an equal dissimilarity in design 
as the capitals. That on the west side ex- 
hibits above the plinth an ornament, in de- 
pressed relief, of the figure represented in 
the annexed drawing, and over it a human 
head rudely carved in low relief, having the 
moustache and beard arranged in stiff and 
straight plaits. The base of the correspond- 
ing shaft at the east side is less ornamented, 
and exhibits a sort of bulbous figure resting 
on a high plinth, as sufficiently shown in the 
general view of this doorway, given in p. 234. 
The architrave of this arch is without orna- 
ment on its face, but its archivolt is richly 
decorated with a triple-chevron moulding. 
The sub-arch, or recessed division of this 
archway, is sculptured in a style altogether 
different from that of the outer archway, 
being not in relief, as are all the other carv- 
ings of this interesting remain, but in depressed lines, and of a sim- 
pler design. The jambs are rounded into semicircular shafts at both 
their angles. The ornaments on the capitals are carried from the 

true capital to its abacus, as shown in 
the preceding engraving. The bases of 
the semicircular shafts at the angles are 
bulbous figures, like that already de- 
scribed on the eastern shaft of the outer 
archway ; and the intermediate spaces 
are ornamented with crosses, formed 
by a check in alternate depression and 
relief, as shown in the annexed engraving. 
The architrave of this archway presents a simple round moulding, 
with angular fillets on each side, and the soffit is carved into lozenge 

Though I cannot in this, as in the preceding instance, adduce any 
historical evidence in support of the antiquity of the doorway, for I 



should be afraid to venture on ascribing its erection to the time of 
St. Mochua, the original founder and patron saint of Timahoe, who 
flourished, not indeed in the fifth century, as Archdall erroneously 
states, but in the sixth, yet it will, I think, be seen that it presents 
no architectural features differing from those in the doorway of the 
Round Tower of Kildare, which are not obviously derived, like the 
latter, from the debased Roman architecture of the Lower Empire, and 
which it would be hazardous in the extreme to deny may be of a 
very early age, earlier, at least, than any Norman examples of the 
kind, noticed as remaining in England. 

Of capitals decorated with human heads 
we have examples as old as the sixth century, 
in the Syriac MS. of the Gospels already re- 
ferred to. They are used in the earliest 
examples of Romanesque architecture in the 
German churches, of which a beautiful ex- 
ample, remarkable for its similarity in de- 
sign to some of those at Timahoe, is found 
in St. Ottmar's Chapel at Niirnberg, assigned 
to the tenth century. 
Of the bulbous, or tun-shaped bases, an example may be seen on a 
representation of a temple, figured on a coin of the tyrant Maxentius ; 
and their similarity in style of design to the rude baluster columns of 
the oldest Saxon churches in England, as those of Bricksworth and 
Earlsbarton in Northamptonshire, can scarcely fail to strike the archi- 
tectural antiquary. The strongest evidence 
in favour of the antiquity of this doorway 
may, however, be drawn from the construc- 
tion and general style of the Tower, as in the 
fine-jointed character of the ashlar work in 
the doorway and windows; and still more in 
the straight-sided arches of all the windows, 
which, with the exception of a small qua- 
drangular one, perfectly agree in style with 
those of the most ancient churches and Round 
Towers in Ireland, and with those of the churches in England now 
considered as Saxon. 

In the opinions which I have thus hazarded, so opposite to the 


generally, if not universally adopted conclusions of eminent historical 
antiquaries, as to the civilization of the Irish previously to the Danish 
irruptions, and still more, of architectural antiquaries, as to the anti- 
quity of ornamental architecture in the British Islands, I am sensi- 
tively aware that I am running the greatest danger of being deemed 
rash and visionary. But confiding, as I do, in the honesty of my pur- 
pose, which is solely to inquire after truth in a spirit of candour, 
such an anticipation presents to me no terrors; and I feel confident that 
those who are best qualified to judge of the difficulties of my under- 
taking will not censure the expression of opinions, however novel, 
which are offered for consideration in such a spirit, and which, even 
if erroneous, being based on evidences which I submit to be tested 
by the learned, must equally tend to the discovery of truth, as if they 
had been themselves incontrovertible. 

Impressed, as I am, with the conviction that the style of archi- 
tecture variously denominated by antiquaries Romanesque, Tudesque, 
Lombardic, Saxon, Norman, and Anglo-Norman, belongs to no par- 
ticular country, but, derived from the corrupted architecture of 
Greece and Rome, was introduced wherever Christianity had pene- 
trated, assuming various modifications according to the taste, intel- 
ligence, and circumstances of different nations, I think it only 
natural to expect that the earliest examples of this style should be 
found in a country supereminently distinguished, as Ireland was, for 
its learning, and as having been the cradle of Christianity to the 
north- western- nations of Europe, in the sixth, seventh, eighth, and 
ninth centuries. Neither should it, I think, be a matter of wonder 
that more abundant examples of this style, though on a small scale, 
such as might be expected in a kingdom composed of many petty, 
and nearly independent lordships, should remain in Ireland, than 
in those more prosperous and wealthy countries, in which such hum- 
ble structures would necessarily give place to edifices of greater size 
and grandeur. 

The supposition that the style of architecture exhibited in some 
of the Irish Round Towers, as shown in the preceding instances, 
and in many of the churches, of which I shall presently adduce 
examples, was derived from the Anglo-Normans, is one in the highest 
degree improbable : in the general form, size, and arrangement of 
these Irish churches there is to be found as little agreement with the 


great Norman churches, as there is in our Round Towers with their 
square ones. An equal and a more important dissimilarity will be 
found in their ornamental details ; and I must greatly deceive myself 
if those exhibited in the Irish churches will not be acknowledged as 
indicating an antiquity far less removed from the classical model. 
The theory advanced by Dr. Ledwich, which had great influence in 
its day, that our most ancient ornamented architectural remains 
should be ascribed to the Danes, appears to me still more objection- 
able, and scarcely worthy of notice. It is utterly opposed to the 
history of both nations. There is not a single authenticated monu- 
ment of the Danes in Ireland, or in their own country, which would 
support such a conclusion ; and any knowledge of the Christian arts, 
which the Danes possessed, must have been derived from the people 
from whom they received the doctrines of Christianity. Neither could 
I easily believe that the architectural remains, of which I shall pre- 
sently adduce examples, any more than the two I have just noticed, 
were erected during the sway of that people in Ireland. Their 
domination in this country was a reign of terror, and, as the oldest 
of our annalists says, " second only to the tyranny of hell." No place 
was so sacred as to afford a refuge from their sacrilegious fury. They 
carried fire and devastation into the Christian communities, seated in 
the most secluded valleys, and on the most remote islands ; and it 
could hardly have been during such a period of calamity that the 
ecclesiastics would have employed themselves in the erection of 
buildings of a more costly character, and requiring more time to com- 
plete them, than those already existing in the country. I do not deny, 
however, that some buildings, and these too of an ornamented cha- 
racter, may have been erected by the Irish, during those intervals of 
repose which followed the defeats of the Danes by Malachy I. in the 
ninth century, and by Brian and Malachy II. in the tenth ; and par- 
ticularly in such districts as were under the immediate protection 
of those vigorous and warlike monarchs. Of the erection of build- 
ings in such places our annalists record a few instances ; but the 
remains of these edifices, whenever they are to be found, are, as I 
shall hereafter show, different in character from those of whose erec- 
tion we have no direct evidence, and which I am disposed to refer to 
earlier times. 

But if we are without absolutely conclusive historical evidences to 

2 i 



prove the age of such churches, exhibiting ornamented architecture, 
as are presumed to be anterior to the Danish devastations, there is, at 
least, no want of such historical evidences as will strongly support 
such a conclusion ; and the early antiquity which I have ventured 
to assign to the ornamented doorways of the Towers of Kildare and 
Timahoe, will derive much probability from a comparison of their 
details with those of the ancient ornamented church at Eathain, or 
Rahin, near Tullamore, in the King's County, details, which would 

appear to be of the same age, 
and which, from historical evi- 
dence, there is every reason to 
believe to be of the eighth cen- 

Of this building, which is 
still used as a parish church, 
the chancel only appears to 'be 
ancient, and even this has suf- 
fered the loss of its original east 
window. The chancel arch, 
however, still remains, as also 
a circular window richly orna- 
mented, which lighted a cham- 
ber placed between the chancel 
and the roof. The chancel is 
stone-roofed, as we may well 
believe the entire church to 
have been originally. It is in 
the ornaments of the chancel 
archway, however, that the si- 
milarity in design and execu- 
tion to those in the Tower of 
Timahoe is chiefly found. This 
archway, as will be seen from 
the annexed drawing, consists 
of three rectangular piers at 
each side, rounded at their an- 
gles into semi-columns, which support three semi-circular arches 
entirely unornamented, except by a plain architrave on the external 



one. The capitals, on which the greatest richness of ornament is found, 
are those on the third, or innermost of these piers at each side ; and, 

like Jhose at Timahoe, these or- 
naments, though similar in design, 
are dissimilar in detail, and their 
bases differ in like manner. The 
resemblance of these ornaments 
to those at Timahoe will, I think, 
be at once obvious. The height 
of the piers in this archway, from 
the floor to the spring of the 
arches, is six feet five inches ; and 
to the vertex of the innermost 
arch, ten feet two inches. 

Though not essentially neces- 
sary to my purpose in this com- 
parison, I trust I shall be excused for introducing in this place a 
more detailed notice of the remarkable round window already re- 
ferred to, and which seems to me to be not only the most curious 
of its kind remaining in the British Isles, but also, I have little doubt, 
the most ancient. 

As the details of this window will be sufficiently seen in the illus- 
tration given on next page, it is only necessary to remark, that the orna- 
ments are in very low relief, or, as I might say, inciso,or in hollow ; and 
that it measures about seven feet six inches in the external diameter 
of the circle, and is placed at the height of about twenty-two feet 
from the ground. I should add, that the masonry throughout this 
interesting building is of a very superior character, the stones, which 
are polygonal, being fitted to each other with the greatest neatness 
and art, and that the material is the celebrated limestone of the 

I have now to inquire into the probable age of this structure. 
The monastery of Kathain, which Archdall and Lanigan erro- 
neously place at Rathyne, in the barony of Fertullagh, and county of 
Westmeath, was originally founded, about the close of the sixth 
century, by the celebrated St. Carthach, or Mochuda, afterwards the 
first bishop of Lismore. In this monastery, which became one of the 
most celebrated in Ireland, Carthach ruled, for a period of forty years, 

2 i 2 



a community of monks, said to have flocked to him from various 
parts, both of Ireland and Great Britain, and which finally increased 
to the number of 867, all of whom provided for themselves and the 
poor by the labour of their hands. But, notwithstanding the sanctity 
of his character, the envy and jealousy of the monks or clergy of 
a neighbouring establishment effected the expulsion of himself and 
his monks from Rathain in the year 630, by the prince of the country, 
Blathmac, the son of the monarch Aedh Slaine ; and, after having 
wandered for some time from place to place, he ultimately formed 
a second religious establishment, not less celebrated in our histories, 
at Lismore, which from his time became the seat of a bishop. St. 
Carthach died on the 14th of May, in the year 637, and was buried 
at Lismore. 

It is not, however, to this distinguished man that I am disposed 
to attribute the erection of the present church at Rathain, but to one 


who flourished nearly two centuries later, and whose name has been 
also venerated as that of the patron of the place, an honour never 
paid to any but founders of churches. From the expressive silence 
of our annals, it would appear, that, after the expulsion of St Car- 
thach and his monks, there was no religious community settled at 
Rathain till towards the middle of the eighth century. Colgan, in- 
deed, labours, on the doubtful and contradictory authority of some 
of the Irish Calendars, to fix here, as St. Carthach's successor, a St. 
Constantine, who, according to some, had been originally a king of 
the Britons, and to others, a king of the Picts. But the evidences 
adduced in support of this statement are wholly insufficient to esta- 
blish its truth ; and the first abbot of Rathain after St. Carthach, who 
appears in our authentic annals, is St. Fidhairle Ua Suanaigh, whose 
name appears in the Irish Calendars at the 1st of October, and who, 
according to the Annals of the Four Masters, died on the 1st of Oc- 
tober, in the year 758, but more correctly, according to the accurate 
Annals of Tighernach, in 763. And that this Ua Suanaigh was the 
founder of a new establishment at Rathain appears sufficiently plain 
from the fact, that, in the Irish Annals, the later abbots of Rathain 
are not called successors of St. Carthach, but of Ua Suanaigh, as in 
the following instances, from the Annals of Clonmacnoise and the Four 
Masters : 

" A. D. 1113. Oiapmaicc U.i Cealluij, coriiapba Ui Shuannij, o'6cc." 
" A. D. 1113. Diarmaid Ua Ceallaigh, successor of Ua Suanaigh, died." 
"A. D. 1136. SaepBperac Ua Ceallaij, coriiapba Ui Suanaijj, o'ecc." 
"A. D. 1136. Saerbhrethach Ua Ceallaigh, successor of Ua Suanaigh, died." 
"A. D. 1139- ITIuipcepcacli Ua ITIaoilriiuaio, cijeapna peap jj-Ceall, DO lopc- 

cao D' pepoib Ceall, .1. DO Uib 6uaimrii, i rempull Rairne." 

" A. D. 1 139. Muirchertach O'Molloy, lord of Feara Ceall, was burned by the Feara 

Ceall themselves, namely, the O'Luainimhs, in the church of Kathain." 

"A. D. 1141. Oomnall, mac Ruaiopi Ui mhaoilmuaib, cijeapna peapj-Ceall, 

DO mapBao la mumcip tuaimtii i Rpacam h-1 Suanaij." 

" A.D. 1141. Domhnall, son of Ruaidhri O'Molloy, lord of Feara Ceall, was slain 

by the Muintir Luainimh in Eathain Ui Suanaigh." 

"A. D. 1153. Cainicc oan CUDJ Ua 6piam co n-a ploccaib co Rairin Ui 

Shuanaij h-i poipirm Chonnacc, &c." 

"A. D. 1153. Tadhg O'Brien marched with his forces to Raithin Ui Shuanaigh 
to relieve Connacht, SEC." 

" A. D. 1 166. 55'^ a na naorii Ua Ceallaij, coriiapba Ui Shuanaij h-i Racham, 


" A. D. 1 166. Giolla na naomh O'Ceallaigh, successor of Ua Suanaigh at Kathain, 

I may also mention, as a fact corroborative of this conclusion, that 
an ancient stone cross at Rathain, which was probably erected as well 
to mark the bounds of the sanctuary, as for a memorial of the re- 
erection of the churches there, was called Ua Suanaigh's Cross, as 
appears from a very curious notice in iheLeabharSreac, fol. 35, p. b, 
relative to the punishment by death and forfeiture of lands of some 
families of the Cineal Fiacha, for violating the guarantee of Ua Sua- 
naigh, and offering insult to his cross. 

If then to these evidences we add the fact, that the Irish autho- 
rities are silent as to the re-erection of churches at Rathain at a later 
time, or as to any devastations by the Danes that would create a ne- 
cessity for such re-erection, the inference is, I think, only natural, 
that this church, as its style of ornament seems to me to indicate, was 
erected about the middle of the eighth century. 

In addition to the church which I have now noticed, there are 
also at Eahin the ruins of two smaller churches, which attest its for- 


mer importance ; and it is not improbable that there anciently existed 
here a group of seven small churches, such as are usually found at other 
celebrated religious establishments in Ireland. Of these churches, 
one is greatly dilapidated, and retains no ornamented feature ; but 
the other, which is nearly entire, is worthy of an ampler notice in this 
place, on account of its very perfect and beautiful doorway, the or- 
naments of which, though possibly not of equal age with those of 
the principal church, already described, indicate at least a very con- 
siderable antiquity. The general architectural character of this door- 
way will be sufficiently understood from the preceding engraving, from 
which it will also be seen that its jambs have the inclination inwards, 
so characteristic of the earlier Irish architecture. 

In height, this doorway measures, externally, five feet four inches 
from the bases to the tops of the imposts, and six feet seven inches 
to the vertex of the arch ; and in width, two feet six inches between 
the capitals, and two feet nine inches between the bases. In form, 
the church is a simple oblong, measuring externally thirty-nine feet 
by twenty-three ; and its massive polygonal masonry is of the earliest 
Christian style. It was lighted by two windows, one, as usual, in the 
centre of the east wall, and the other at the upper end of the south 
wall : the former is quite ruined, and the latter is a restoration of the 
fifteenth century. It is built throughout of the 
limestone of the district, and the ornaments on 
its doorway are remarkable for their sharpness 
and beauty of execution. As is usual in the archi- 
tecture of this class, the ornaments on the bases 
of the semi-columns differ in their details, those 
on the south side being plain mouldings, while 
those on the north present the figure of a ser- 
pent, as shown in the accompanying engraving. 

To the same age as the remains at Rahin, we may, I think, with 
every appearance of probability, assign the interesting fragments, 
for we unfortunately possess no more, which remain in the seques- 
tered valley of Glendalough. I have already, to some extent, laid 
before the reader the characteristic features of the more ancient 
and unornamented churches in this interesting locality : those which 
I have now to notice are obviously of a later age, but yet, as I 
conceive, anterior at least to the repetition, by the Danes, towards the 



close of the tenth century, of those devastations, which had been 
committed in the ninth, namely, the interval between the years 886 
and 977. These fragments belong to three churches, namely, 1. the 
small chapel or oratory, popularly called the Priest's House, or Priest's 
Church, from the circumstance of its having been used for a consi- 
derable period as a cemetery for the Eoman Catholic clergy of the 
district ; 2. the chancel of the Cathedral ; 3. the chancel of the small 
abbey church, now popularly called the Monastery. 

Of the first of these buildings there now unfortunately exist but 
very slight vestiges ; but I am enabled to illustrate, to some extent, 
the ornamented portions of its architecture, as existing in 1779, by 
means of drawings, made for the late Colonel Burton Conyngham in 
that year, by three competent artists, Signer Bigari, Monsieur Be- 
ranger, and Mr. Stephens. The form of this small chapel was that 
of a simple oblong, measuring externally nineteen feet six inches 
in length, and twelve feet three inches in breadth. It was built 
with considerable art, and in a style of masonry quite different from 
that usually found in the most ancient churches of this country, the 
stones being generally of small size, and the masonry around the door 
and window ashlar work. 

The principal ornamented feature which distinguished this build- 

ing, and to which I have seen nothing similar in any other Irish 
ecclesiastical remain, was an arched recess, placed on its east front, 
as represented in the prefixed copy of Beranger's drawing. 

The arch, which, it will be seen, presented a well-decorated archi- 



trave, rested on narrow columns with capitals equally enriched with 
sculpture, and the recess, which it enclosed, was perforated in the 
centre by a narrow, unornamented window, having obviously a semi- 
circular head, but which was not in existence when the drawing 
was made. The sides of this window were not, as is usual, inclined, 
nor does it appear from the drawing that its jambs had the usual 
internal splay ; but the sides of the arch were splayed outwards, as 
well as the arch itself. This arch measured, at its outer angles, 
seven feet four inches in breadth, and six feet eleven inches in 
height to its vertex. The semi-columns, or pilasters, were three 
feet three inches in height, including the capitals, which measured 
eight inches and a half, and the bases, which measured five inches. 
The architrave was nine inches in breadth, including the cornice, 
which was two inches. 

The several features of this architectural front will appear from 
the annexed engravings, all of which have been copied from Mon- 
sieur Beranger's drawings, with the exception of the last, which has 
been recently sketched from the fragments still remaining. 

The two first represent the sculptures on the two faces or sides 
of the capitals, which, it will be seen, are of unequal lengths, as well 
as dissimilar design. 

Dr. Ledwich, who has treated of the architectural ornaments 
at Glendalough, has not offered any explanation of the artist's inten- 
tion in these sculptures, if he had any beyond a merely ornamental 
one, nor can I attempt to explain them : but I may remark that in 
the latter the similarity of design which it presents to some of the 
capitals of the doorway of the Hound Tower of Timahoe can hardly 

2 K 



fail to strike the reader, and lead to the conclusion that they are, if 
not of the same age, at least of periods not very far removed from 
each other. The execution of this sculpture is, indeed, better, and 
the relief bolder than in those of Timahoe, but the idea is the same 
in both, namely, a tracery formed by the intertwining of the long hair 
of the head, which forms the proper capital of the column. 

Of the engravings which follow, the first represents the orna- 
ments on the face of the architrave and cornice, and I should observe 
that the archivolt had an ornament corresponding with that of the 
architrave ; the second is a plan of the mouldings of the pilasters, or 

4 Inches. 

mouldings at the angles ; and the third shows in detail the existing 
remains of these mouldings, with one of their bases. 

The only other ornamented feature in this chapel was its doorway, 
which was placed in the south wall. This doorway, which was in a 


ruined condition even when sketched by Colonel Conyngham's artists, 
was a simple oblong, one foot eight inches and a half in width, and 
about six feet in height, as we may conclude, for it was too much 
injured to be measured accurately. Though quite plain in its jambs, 
it was surmounted by a triangular pediment, in the tympanum of 
which, formed of a single stone, was the sculptured bas-relief repre- 
sented in the annexed wood-cut, taken from a drawing recently made 
on the spot : 

The stone is now broken, as marked in the drawing, but the two 
pieces are preserved in a neighbouring house. This is the only 
example of a pedimented lintel, which I have met with in Ireland, 
nor do I know of any other of the middle age architecture either in 
England or France, except one in the latter country, namely, over the 
Byzantine portal of the church of Notre Dame du Port at Clermont- 
Ferrand, and which is supposed to be of the eleventh century. See 
Les Arts au Mot/en Age. 

I cannot pretend to explain the subject represented in this curious 
piece of sculpture, nor, indeed, is it essential to my purpose to do so; 
but, as Dr. Ledwich has seized upon it to support those peculiar pre- 
judices, the exhibition of which so greatly disfigures his work, I feel 
it a duty, at least, to expose the errors, whether proceeding from 
ignorance or dishonesty, into which he has fallen, in his description 
of it. Dr. Ledwich says : 

" Among the remnants of crosses and sculptures is a loose stone, shewing in 
relievo three figures. The one in the middle is a Bishop or Priest sitting in a chair, 
and holding a Penitential in his hand. On the right a Pilgrim leans on his staff, and 
on the left, a young man holds a purse of money to commute it for penance." Anti- 
quities of Ireland, p. 177, second edition. 

2 K 2 


The conclusions drawn from these assertions have been ably an- 
swered by Dr. Lanigan in his Ecclesiastical History, vol. iv. pp. 398, 
399, and the preceding drawing will show that the assertions of 
Dr. Ledwich are utterly erroneous. Whether the principal or central 
figure be, as he says, a bishop or a priest, I cannot venture to deter- 
mine, but I think it most probably represents a bishop, and this, 
St. Kevin, the patron of the place. There can, however, be little, if 
any doubt, that the figure on the right, which Ledwich calls a pilgrim 
leaning on his staff, is also a bishop, or an abbot, holding his crozier, 
or pastoral staff, and that the figure on the left, which he describes as 
a young man holding a purse of money, is also an ecclesiastic, but 
of lower grade, the ctipcijie, or porter and bell-ringer, holding in 
his hand, not a purse of money, but a quadrangular bell, such as we 
see represented on many stone crosses in Ireland of the ninth and 
tenth centuries : and these figures appear to me to be of great value 
and interest as evidences of the early antiquity of the little building 
to which this sculpture belonged, for both the bell and the staff ex- 
hibit forms, which were unquestionably not in use in the twelfth 
century. The crozier is of the form of the simple shepherd's crook, 
as found in all the existing croziers of the primitive saints of the 
Irish Church, of which there are four specimens in my own collec- 
tion ; and that this form was no longer retained in the twelfth cen- 
tury is sufficiently proved by the crozier also in my collection of 
Cormac Mac Carthy, King of Munster and Archbishop of Cashel, 
who founded the stone-roofed chapel at Cashel in the year 1129, 
which crozier exhibits the usual enriched circular head, characteristic 
of those of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. 

In like manner, the quadrangular-shaped bell, which appears in the 
hand of the other figure, exhibits that peculiar form which charac- 
terizes all the consecrated bells, which have been preserved in Ireland 
as having belonged to the celebrated saints of the primitive Irish 
Church ; and there is every reason to believe that this quadrangular 
form gave place to the circular one now in use, previously to the 
twelfth century. Indeed, we see a remarkable example of the transi- 
tion to the latter form in a bell, formerly in the collection of the 
Dean of St. Patrick's, and now in the Museum of the Academy, which, 
as an inscription in the Irish character carved upon it clearly shows, 
is undoubtedly of the close of the ninth century. 



Thus again in the diagonally-knotched band or fillet, which en- 
circles the head of the central figure, and which seems to be the base of 
a low mitre, of which the upper portion is obliterated, we find an 
ornament very similar to that on a mitre represented on a sculptured 
figure of St. Leger, in bas-relief, given by Montfaucon, in his Mon. 
Franqoise, torn. i. p. 347, and which that learned antiquary considers 
to be a work of the close of the seventh century. 

If then to the evidences, which this interesting piece of sculpture 
affords in favour of the early antiquity of this little church, be added 
the Romanesque character of the ornaments, and the great impro- 
bability that a structure of this ornamental character would have 
been erected during that calamitous period when Glendalough was 
exposed to the frequent devastations of the Northmen, it will appear 
highly probable that it was erected either previously to the Danish 
irruptions, or, at least, during that period of repose already referred 
to, which intervened between the years 886 and 977. 

I have next to notice the curious fragments of ornamented archi- 
tecture, which were formerly to be seen in the chancel of the ca- 
thedral, but of which there is 
now scarcely a vestige remain- 
ing. As in the preceding in- 
stance, however, through the 
drawings made for Colonel Bur- 
ton Conyngham, now in my pos- 
session, aided by sketches made 
by myself a few years since, I 
am enabled to preserve a tole- 
rable memorial of these inte- 
resting features. These features 
are confined solely to the in- 
terior of the east window of 
the chancel, of which a geo- 
metrical drawing is given in a 
preceding page, and a sculp- 
tured fascia, or frieze, connected with it on either side. 

Of the ornaments on the exterior face of this window, I have un- 
fortunately no memorial, as they were wholly effaced previously to 
the visit of Colonel Conyngham's artists in 1779- The several fea- 



tures on its interior face will be more distinctly seen in the annexed 
engravings of its details ; of which the two first represent the sculp- 
tures on the frieze, as drawn by Monsieur Beranger ; and I need 
scarcely add, that they appear obviously to be of cotemporaneous 
age with those of the Priest's House, already given : 

Of the illustrations which follow, the first represents the chevron 
moulding on the archivolt, and the second is a section of the pilasters. 

The height of this window, on its inner face, from the sill to the 
vertex of the arch, was fourteen feet, and its width six feet three 
inches ; and externally it was about seven feet in height, and one foot 
in width. The pilasters, including their bases, were ten feet in height; 
and the capitals, or frieze, eight inches. 

Dr. Ledwich, who is ingenious in his explanations of Irish alle- 
gorical devices, thus describes the sculptures on this frieze : 

" The Eastern window is a round arch ornamented with a chevron moulding. The 
sculptures of the impost mouldings are legendary. On one part a dog is devouring a 
serpent. Tradition tells us, that a great serpent inhabited the lake, and it is at this 
day called Lochnapiast," [correctly Lock no, peiste} " or the serpent loch, and being 
destructive of men and cattle was killed by St. Kevin. In another part the saint ap- 
pears embracing his favourite Willow, and among the foliage may be discovered the 
medicinal apple." Antiquities of Ireland, second edition, p. 176. 



How far Dr. Lcdwich may be right or wrong in the preceding 
explanations of these sculptures, I must leave the reader to deter- 
mine, as I am myself unable to offer any elucidation of them. 

That these features, and indeed the whole of the chancel, are of 
later age than the nave, or body of the church, will be at once obvious 
on an examination of the building. The greater antiquity of the nave, 
which, indeed, there is every reason to believe, if not of St. Kevin's 
time, is of an age very closely following it, is sufficiently indicated by 
the Cyclopean character of its masonry, of which I have given an 
example at page 187, and its massive doorway, placed in the centre 
of the west front, which is similar to some of the most ancient church 
doorways in Ireland, except that the weight upon the lintel is taken 
off by a semicircular arch, as shown in the annexed wood-cut : 

Moreover, in the chancel there is no massive masonry in any part of 
the walls, and the stones, of which they are composed, seem all to 
have been boulders or surface stones ; and those forming the quoins 
in the east angles are of granite, not mica slate, the stone of the dis- 
trict, as in the angles of the nave. Besides, the walls of the chancel 


are not bonded into those of the nave, as they unquestionably would 
have been had both been built at the same time. In addition to 
these facts, I need only observe the extreme improbability, that the 
same architects, who introduced decorated architecture in and around 
the principal window, would leave the great entrance doorway with- 
out any ornament whatever. 

The last, and perhaps most interesting of the ornamented archi- 
tectural remains at Glendalough, which I have to notice, are those 
found in the chancel of the Church of the Monastery, situated about 
a mile to the east of the old city, and which is called by Archdall 
and other modern writers, but without sufficient authority, the Priory 
of St. Saviour. This small chancel, which was originally stone-roofed, 
had lain for ages concealed from observation, in consequence of the 
falling-in of the roof, until, about the year 1770, the rubbish was 
cleared out by Samuel Hayes, Esq., of Avondale, in the county of 
Wicklow. Its interior measurement is fifteen feet six inches in length, 
and eleven feet five inches in breadth, and the walls are three feet in 
thickness. At its east end it has a stone bench or seat, one foot 
eight inches in breadth, and extending the length of the wall, like 
that in the little chapel called the Priest's House, already described ; 
and at a distance of two feet from that seat stood an isolated stone 
altar, since destroyed, five feet in length, two feet eleven inches 
in breadth, and about four feet in height. In its south wall are three 
niches, one foot six inches in depth, one of which appears to have 
been for a piscina, and the two others were probably ambrys, or 
lockers. Of these niches the first is one foot six inches in breadth, 
the second two feet eight inches, and the third two feet four inches. 
At the upper end of the north wall there is a similar niche, but of 
smaller size, being only one foot four inches in breadth, and one foot 
two inches in depth. This chancel was lighted by a single window, 
placed in its east end; but this was destroyed previously to the year 1770. 

The nave connected with this chancel, and which appears to 
have been without ornament, was about forty-two feet in length, and 
about twenty-six feet in breadth, and seems to have been entered by 
a doorway placed at the eastern extremity of the south wall, near the 
chancel arch. On its north side there appears to have been a range 
of apartments for the use of the officiating clergy of the place, but 
their divisional walls cannot now be traced. 



The most interesting feature, however, of this curious structure 
is its chancel archway, of which only the piers with their semi- 
columns on each side remain ; but a great number of the sculptured 
stones, which formed its compound arch, are still to be seen scattered 
about the cemetery. It is to be lamented, however, that many others 
of them have been carried away within the last few years ; and as 
such barbarous devastation of these ruins is too likely to be con- 
tinued, since there is, unfortunately, no care taken to prevent it, I 
feel it an imperative duty to preserve, so far as is in my power, 
every memorial of fragments so interesting to the history of art in this 


This archway is a compound one, consisting of three receding 
piers with semi-columns, the arrangement of which will be sufficiently 
understood from the prefixed illustration, recently drawn, and the 
ground-plan, which is given at the close of this description. Its 
breadth, at its innermost arch, is ten feet, and its height to the vertex 
was eleven feet : the height of the semi-columns is six feet one inch 
and a half, of which the capitals measure nine inches and a half, the 
shafts four feet, the bases eight inches, and the plinths eight inches. 

"2 L 



The devices on the capitals on the south side are shown in the 
annexed details, of which the three first represent the faces of the 

capital of the innermost recessed arch, marked A on the ground-plan; 
and the cut which follows, which is copied from a drawing of Be- 
ranger's, presents the whole of this design in a continuous line. 

It is a portion of this sculpture that Dr. Ledwich describes as 
exhibiting " the head of a young man and a wolf; the long hair of 
the former elegantly entwined with the tail of the latter." And he 
gravely adds, " There was a singular propriety in joining the tail of 
this animal with the young man's glibb, to indicate the fondness of 
the one for the pursuit of the other." 

The capital to the column on pier B has been recently carried 
away, but its design is shown in the following illustration from a 
drawing of Beranger's, exhibiting in a continuous line the design on 
the two sides : 


Dr. Ledwich displays even more than his usual ingenuity in ex- 
plaining the subject of this sculpture : " A ravenous quadruped,"- 
he should have used the plural, " a wolf, devours a human head : 



the head is a living one ; the hair, whiskers, and beard give it a 
savage appearance. The animal is easily discovered by the following 
story : One of the sailors of King Harold dreamed, that a woman 
of gigantic size appeared to him, riding on a wolf, who had in his 
mouth the head of a man, the blood of which flowed from his jaws. 
When he had swallowed the head, the woman put another into his 
mouth, and so on with many more, all of them he devoured, and then 
she began the song of death." 

The capitals of the outer pier, marked C in the ground-plan, are 
represented in the annexed illustrations, showing their two sides or 




The ornament which constitutes the principal feature on these 
capitals does not occur on any others in Ireland ; but it is, as I shall 
hei'eafter show, very common on Irish tombstones of the ninth and 
tenth centuries, and in manuscripts of a still earlier age. The columns 
on the opposite side of the arch are without capitals or ornament. 

The illustrations which follow show the various ornaments on the 

bases of the columns. Those prefixed exhibit the two faces of that 
of pier B : they are no less peculiar than the capitals. 

2 L 2 



Those which follow represent the two faces of that of pier C, on 
the outer column, and are equally remarkable in their character. 

The base of the column on pier A is sufficiently shown in the 
general view. The bases of the piers on the north side of this arch- 
way present an equal variety of device with those on the south, as 
will be seen in the following illus- 
trations, of which the first repre- 
sents the base of the innermost 
pier, or that opposite pier A in 
the plan. Dr. Ledwich gives a re- 
presentation of a portion of the 
sculpture on this base, as a spe- 
cimen of what he calls " Runic 
knots, composed of the segments 
of circles, their arcs and chords 
intersecting each other." And he adds that, " There is scarcely a 
carved stone, cross, or other remnant of antiquity, during the time 

of the Danish power, but exhibits a knot of some kind." But, what 
proof is there that such knots or figures are Runic ? A single Runic 
inscription has never yet been found in Ireland; and the interlaced 
traceries, which he calls Runic, are found in all classes of ancient 



Irish monuments, and are equally common in Irish manuscripts, 
which are acknowledged to be of earlier antiquity than the period of 
Danish rule in Ireland. The last illustration, given on the preceding 
page, shows the design on the two faces of the base of the central 
]>UT, or that facing pier B : the base of the third column is defaced. 
Of the arch-mouldings only a few stones remain, but these are 
sufficient to prove that they were ornamented with a profusion of 
sculpture, as will be seen from the following illustrations, of which 
the three first are copied from geometrical sketches by Monsieur Be- 
ranger, and obviously belonged to one compartment of the arch : 


The three which follow, are from sketches of other arch-stones, re- 
cently made, but which do not correspond in size or character of 
ornament with each other. 

Some of the most curious and beautifully executed sculptures are, 
however, those supposed to have formed the architrave of the win- 


dow, or rather perhaps of an arched recess on the external face of the 
east wall, similar to that on the Priest's House already described. 
These sculptures are thus described by Archdall, from the notes 
written by the artists for Colonel Conyngham : 

" On the removal of some heaps of rubbish from under the ruins of this arch, a few 
stones beautifully carved were found, many of them belonging to the arches, and some 
to the architrave of the window ; the architrave is twelve inches broad, and a pannel 
is sunk, ornamented lozenge-wise, and an ovolo forms the lozenge with a bead running 
on each side ; the centre of the lozenge is decorated on one side in bas-relief, with a knot 
delicately carved ; on the other with a flower in the centre, and mouldings corresponding 
to the shape of the lozenge. The half-lozenge, at the bottom of the pilaster in one, is 
filled .with a bas-relief of a human head, with a bird on each side pecking at the eye 
[mouth], and the other by a dragon twisting its head round and the tail turned up 
between its legs into the mouth. Here is another stone, apparently the capital of a 
column ; two sides of it are visible, both are ornamented with a patera, but each side 
in a different manner ; one consists of a flower of sixteen large leaves, and fifteen 
[sixteen] small ones, relieved the eighth of an inch, and the other of six leaves branch- 
ing from the centre, with another leaf extending between their points." Monasticon 
Hibernicum, p. 771. 

Most of the stones above referred to still exist, and are here 
represented from recent sketches. 

Dr. Ledwich, who finds illustrations of the Danish mythology in 
most of these sculptures, makes the following observations on this 
one, of which he gives a very inaccurate representation : 

" Two ravens picking a skull. This bird was peculiarly sacred to Odin ; he is 
called the king of ravens. In the epicedium of Eegner Lodbrog is recorded an en- 
gagement of the Danes and Irish at Vedrafiord, or Waterford. 

" In heaps promiscuous was piled the enemy : 
Glad was the kindred of the falcon. From 
The clam'rous shout they boded an 
Approaching feast. Marstein, Erin's king whelm'd 
By the irony sleet, allay'd the hunger of the 
Eagle and the wolf, the slain at Vedra's ford became 
The raven's booty. 



" The three daughters of Lodbrog worked a reafan on the standard of Hingar and 
Hubba, with many magical incantations, which was to be invincible. This ensign, 
common among the Northerns, was supposed to give omens of victory or defeat : if it 
gayly fluttered in the wind, it presaged success, but if it hung down motionless, it 
portended misfortunes. It is plain from many Abraxas iu Chifflet, and many passages 
adduced in Cuper's Harpocrates, that the raven was an Egyptian hieroglyphic, and 
had a predictive virtue." Antiquities of Ireland, pp. 208, 209- 

Whether the birds in this sculpture represent ravens or not, I 
shall not take upon me to decide. They are certainly not so like 
those birds as Dr. Ledwich has represented them ; but, even sup- 
posing them to be ravens, it by no means follows that the sculpture 
is Danish, or illustrative of Danish mythology. It is extremely pro- 
bable that the raven was as much a bird of omen with the pagan Irish 
as with the pagan Danes and other nations ; it is still considered so in 
the. popular superstitions of the Irish, and PIOC, the Irish name of 
the bird, was a usual name for men in Ireland both in Pagan and 
Christian times. But it would nevertheless be an absurdity to sup- 
pose that the ravens, represented in this sculpture, have any con- 
nexion with pagan superstitions. 

In the next illustration, which is that described by Archdall as 
" a dragon twisting its head round, and the tail turned up between its 

legs into the mouth," Dr. Ledwich recognizes another Danish symbol, 
which he thus describes : 

" A wolf in a rage, with his tail in his mouth. The ferocity of this animal, and 
his delight in human blood, are the chief themes of Scaldic poetry. Odin, the ruler of 
the gods, as he is stiled in the Edda, is constantly attended by two, named Geri and 
Freki, whom he feeds with meat from his own table." 16. p. 208. 

Iii the next illustration, which represents 
another of these stones as now broken at 
one side, Dr. Ledwich could find nothing 
emblematic of the mythology of the Edda, 
and therefore has omitted it altogether. Not 
so, however, in the case of the two following, Avhich he describes as 



Kunic knots, but which appear to me as nothing more than orna- 
mental crosses, of which innumerable examples may be found in our 
most ancient manuscripts, and on sepulchral monuments. 

The manner in which these stones lay upon each other will ap- 
pear from the annexed diagram, as drawn by Monsieur Beranger ; 
and it should be remarked, that the angle of the two sculptured 
faces of these stones is much greater than a right angle, as in those 
of the arch on the Priest's House already noticed. 

The two illustrations which follow represent the two sides of the 
stone, described, erroneously as I think, by Archdall, as being appa- 

rently the capital of a column. I should rather suppose it to be a 
portion of an architrave ; and the following cut seems to me to repre- 
sent another stone of the same architrave. It shows the two faces of 



the stone, and is copied, on a reduced scale, from a drawing by 
Beranger, together with its section, which accompanies it. 

It is not easy to determine the situations in the building of the 
two stones represented in the illustrations which follow. The first 
would appear to be an arch-stone, and the second a portion of the 
architrave of the east window. They are engraved from sketches 
recently made. 

The small cut annexed, which represents another sculptured 
stone at the monastery, not now to be found, is copied from Dr. 
Ledwich's Antiquities of Ireland; and as the 
author gives no account of it, I am unable to de- 
termine its situation in the building, or whether | V ^-^ V ^"^ y f 
it was the ornament of a frieze or capital. I 
think it, however, most likely to be the latter ; and its singularly 
classical character makes it too interesting to be omitted in these 

To the preceding illustrations I have only to add the ground-plan 
of one side of the chancel archway, already referred to, and coupled 
with it a sketch of one of the sepulchral crosses of Glendalough, which 
I give as a cotemporaneous specimen of the use in such monuments of 
what Dr. Ledwich calls Runic knots. This cross is of mica slate, the 
stone of the district, and is situated in the cemetery of the Refert, or 

2 M 



burial-place of the kings, near the upper lake, where many stones 
sculptured in a similar style may be found. 

It should be stated that the sculptured stones in this church, as 
well as those in the little church called the Priest's House, though 
generally supposed to be of sandstone, are in reality of clay slate, 
while those on the east window of the cathedral church are all of 
an oolitic sandstone, more resembling Caen than Portland stone; 
and that no stone of this latter description is found in the province 
of Leinster, or perhaps in Ireland. And, respecting the merits of these 
sculptures generally, it may be observed, that however barbaric they 
may be considered as to their style of design, their execution, at 
least, exhibits no small degree of art. 

That these sculptures have but little resemblance to the decora- 
tions usually found in Anglo-Norman architecture in England, will, I 
think, be at once obvious to the architectural antiquary ; and I shall 
presently show that they have as little similitude in taste of design to 
the ornaments usual in Irish churches of the eleventh and twelfth 
centuries. Dr. Ledwich, who perceived this want of similitude in the 
Glendalough ornaments to those of Saxon or Norman architecture in 
England, states it as his opinion that their origin " is certainly Danish;" 
and that the " specimen is unique in Ireland." " Here," he remarks, 
" are no traces of Saxon feuillage, no Christian symbols, or allusions 
to sacred or legendary story : the sculptures are expressive of a 
savage and uncultivated state of society. Had there been a mixture 



of styles, something might be allowed for the caprice of the carver, 
but the design and execution being uniform, the whole must be 
consigned [assigned] to a particular people and era." This strange 
opinion, as I have shown, he endeavours to sustain by references to 
legends in the mythology and history of the northern nations. But his 
evidences, I have no doubt, will be deemed insufficient to sustain 
such a conclusion, and his arguments wholly unworthy of notice. 
It is certainly not among the northern nations of Europe, who had 
no stone architecture previously to their conversion to Christianity, 
that we are to look for the prototype of a style of decoration, which 
obviously had its origin, however moulded by local caprice, in the 
debased architecture of Greece and Rome. 

Among the many other ornamented churches in Ireland, the styles 
of which appear to indicate a very early antiquity, and of which we 
have historical notices to support such antiquity, one of the most 
curious is the church called Teampull Finghin, or Fineen's Church, 
at Clonmacnoise. Of this interesting building a portion only re- 
mains, namely, the chancel, and a Round Tower attached to it at its 
south-east junction with the nave ; but the foundations of the walls of 
the nave may still be traced with sufficient certainty to determine its 
original form and extent, as shown in the annexed ground-plan, 
made for Colonel Conyngham by Monsieur Beranger in 1779, when 
this building was less ruined than it is at present. 

The only ornamented portion of this church remaining is its 
chancel archway. Its doorway, which, there can be little doubt, was 
ornamented in a similar style, has long since disappeared ; and even 
of this archway, which appears to have consisted originally of three 
concentric arches, the innermost was destroyed, and its place is 

2 M 2 



supplied by a plain arch of black marble. The outer arch is only 
ornamented with plain fillet and band mouldings, but its columns 
present as capitals human heads in a quite Egyptian 
style of design ; while the inner, or recessed arch, 
presents, both on its face and archivolt, the usual 
chevron, or ziz-zag ornament, executed in low relief, 
and on the capitals of its columns a figure somewhat 
resembling the Irish crown. It may be remarked also 
that the bases of the columns in this sub-arch have the 
bulbous character, noticed in some of the preceding examples, and 
are stilted in a curious fashion, so as to form a 
triple base, as shown in the annexed illustrations. 
The measurements of this archway are, in 
breadth, at the base of the outer arch, nine feet 
two inches ; at the base of the second, seven feet 
two inches; and at the base of the third, six feet: 
in height, at the outer arch, ten feet to its vertex; 
at the second arch, nine feet; and at the third, 
eight feet four inches. The height of the columns, 
including the capitals and bases, is five feet four 

I have already stated that there exist historical 
evidences, which go far to support the antiquity I 
am disposed to assign to this curious structure ; 
but I must, at the same ime, confess, that there is 
also evidence seemingly authentic, which, if cre- 
dible, would place the date of its erection as late 
as the close of the twelfth century. This evidence 
is found in a document, which purports to be a 
Registry of Clonmacnoise, and which, as it states, 
was transcribed by direction of Bishop Muircheartach O'Muiridhe, 
from the original entries, which were in the Life of St. Kieran, 
" fearing least it might be obscured or lost." The original MS. of 
this Registry, as Archbishop Ussher, in his Report on the Diocese of 
Meath, addressed to King James's Commissioners, states, was in exis- 
tence in his time, " but had lately been conveyed away by the practice 
of a lewd fellow, who hath thereupon fled the country." Transcripts of 
it were, however, in the possession of the archbishop, and of his 


friend Sir James Ware, who had it translated into English by the cele- 
brated Irish antiquary.Duald Mac Firbis; and the original autograph 
of this translator is preserved among Ware's manuscripts, in the 
British Museum, No. LI. of the Clarendon Collection, 4796. In this 
document, which contains an account of the various lands granted to 
the See of Cluain by the several provincial kings and principal chief- 
tains, as a purchase for the right of themselves and their descendants 
to be interred in a portion of the cemetery appropriated to their 
use, the following notice is given of the payment made by Mac 
Carthy More (Fineen) for the place of sepulture of the Mac Carthys : 

" Thus hath Mac Carthy .i. Great, Finyn M c Carthy, paid for his sepulture, viz. 
for the proportion of nyne cells, or chapels, 48 dales for every chapell : the chapells 
were these, Killkyran in Desmond, Killcluain, and Killcorpain, and Killatleibhe, and 
the other five kills, or cells, cannott be reade ; and there was so a discord between 
Gerald na Corn, from whom the Geraldins discend, and Macarty More, that the said 
Gerald tooke choice place of Macarty in Tempoll Finyn in Cluain, and hath given for 
the same, in Dun Domnall in Conallagha, sixe dayes there and six dayes given in 
mortmaine by Kydelagh to the church of Dun Domnall in Kidelagh, his owne towne, 
so as there are 12 dales in Dun Domnall east and west, and the head of a mill and the 
greate Hand in mortmaine to y e said church, and y e parte of the waterweares be- 
longing to the greate Hand is the black weare, and in the parish of Dun Domnall, 
are but sixe quarters, or sixe plowlands, and the whole doth belong to y* church, 
together w th all kind of tithe in those sixe plowlands ; and allso y e baptising ; and 
the said Gerald payed out of his owne part of Athfara four fatt beeves and 48 daies in 
Killcluayn, whereof there are 4 daies in Bregoig, and 48 daies in Kill Dacire, and 48 
daies in Killcyugh, and 48 daies in Kill Drochuyll, and sixe daies in Crumaigh, and 
the baptising, together w th the tithes of that towne of Crumaigh ; and Gerald gave 
this in mortmain to y e church called Teampull Finyn in Cluain.'' 

From the preceding document it might very naturally be con- 
cluded, that the church called Temple Fineen owed its name and 
erection to a Fineen Mac Carthy More ; and such seems to have 
been the inference drawn by the learned Sir James Ware, who, in a 
ground plan of the cemetery of Clonmacnoise, calls this church 
Temple Finian, or Mac Carthy's Church : and hence the general sup- 
position that it owed its origin to a chief of that family, as stated in 
the published pedigree of the Count Mac Carthy, compiled by Mon- 
sieur Laine, genealogist to Charles X. of France. If then such an 
inference were correct, it would follow that this church could not be 
of earlier date than the thirteenth century, as, in the first place, the 
epithet More, or Great, which was applied to the chief of the senior 


branch of the Mac Carthys, to distinguish him from the chief of 
another branch, who was called Mac Carthy Eeagh, was not so ap- 
plied until after the time of Cormac Finn, king of Desmond, who died 
in the year 1215 ; and, in the second place, no chieftain of the name 
of Finghin, or Fineen, is found as a Mac Carthy More before that 
period. Such an inference would, however, be wholly opposed to 
historical truth, and the tradition of the place, which assigns its 
erection to St. Finian of Clonard, the instructor of St. Kieran ; for, 
without dwelling here on the suspicious character of this document 
(which I shall have occasion to notice hereafter), or on the evidence 
which the architecture of this church affords of a far earlier antiquity, 
we have the authority of Tighernach, the most ancient and accurate 
of our annalists, who nourished before the name Mac Carthy was 
applied to a family, that the Finghin, after whom this church was 
called, was a saint of the primitive Irish church, after whom a holy 
well in the immediate vicinity of the church was called Tiprait 
Fingen, as will appear from the following passage : 

"A. D. 758. ^op" 10 "' comapba fflochra tujbai, .1. mac Copbaio, comapba 
pacpaij: ip pe po bm bliaoam pop uipci cippaic Pingen a Cluam mac Noip, 
ocup ao bach a n-ailicpi i Cluam." 

"A. D. 758. Gorman, comharba of Mochta of Lugbadh [Louth], i. e. the son of 
Torbach, comharba of Patrick : it is he that was a year on the water of Tiprait 
Fingen [St. Fineen's Well] at Clomnacnoise, and died on his pilgrimage at Cluain." 

The well, alluded to in the preceding passage, still bears the 
name given to it by the annalist, and is held in the greatest vene- 
ration; and the grave of St. Finghin himself, situated beside the 
church, is still used as one of the principal penitential stations of 
this distinguished sanctuary. But still further : in the Chronicon 
Scotorum, which is only a copy of the Annals of Tighernach, omit- 
ting such entries as do not relate to the Scoti, or Irish people, we 
have an entry at so early a date as the year 1015, which proves 
that a church, dedicated to St. Finghin, then existed at Clonmacnoise, 
and would lead to the conclusion that it was not then of recent con- 
struction. The passage is as follows : 

" A. D. 1015. 5^ m P T '" F5 rnu P> D0 na FP's F eD na r amal ^ T ln cnrnpl 1 
pi, DU a o-copcaip oaip mop Re^lepa pinjin h-i j-Cluam mac Noip." 

" A. D. 1015. A great wind [storm occurred"} in the autumn of this year, the like 
or similitude of which had not been found [observed] at this time, by which was 
prostrated the great oak of Regies Finghin at Clonmacnoise." 


That this church became the cemetery of the Mac Carthy family 
in the twelfth or thirteenth century, I see no reason to doubt; I 
even think it not improbable that the name Finghin, which does 
not previously appear in their history, but which after that period 
became so common amongst them, may have been originally adopted 
from a feeling of veneration for the saint, in whose church they were 
interred. But that they have any claim to the erection ofthis curious 
structure I think I have sufficiently disproved ; and I have only to 
add, that, as the Annals of Clonmacnoise, which are so circumstan- 
tial relative to the erection of the buildings there, and to the injuries 
which happened to them, are wholly silent as to any erection or 
restoration of the church, called Temple Fineen, or Eegles Finghin, 
there appears to me no reason to doubt that the existing ruin is the 
remains of that church, which the annalist refers to as in existence in 
the year 1015, and which was then apparently of a respectable an- 

The Round Tower, which is attached to this church, and forms 
an integral, and undoubtedly, a cotemporaneous part of the struc- 
ture, will be described hereafter ; but I should state here that the 
entrance doorway of this Tower is placed within the chancel, and OH 
a level with its floor. I should remark also, that this chancel was 
lighted by a single round-headed window, placed in its east wall, of 
very simple construction, and small size ; and that there is a curiously 
ornamented piscina in the south wall, still in perfect preservation. 

Among the many other churches, of which there are ruins at 
Clonmacnoise, the great church may, with propriety, be here noticed, 
not only as a building erected in the beginning of the tenth century, 
as can be proved from the most satisfactory historical evidence, but 
also, as exhibiting vestiges, sufficient to show that it had been originally 
ornamented. The erection of this church is thus recorded in the 
Chronicon Scotorum, and a similar entry is to be found in the An- 
nals of the Four Masters, at the same year. 

" A. D. 909. Oaimliaj Cluana mac noip DO 66narii la Plann, mac Plaoil- 
pechlamn, 7 la Colman Conaillech." 

" A. D. 909. The Cathedral of Clonmacnoise was built by Flann, sou of Maoil- 
sechlainn, and by Colman Conaillech." 

The persons here recorded were Flann, monarch of Ireland, who 
died in the year 916, and Colman, abbot of Clonmacnoise and Clonard, 


in the record of whose death, at the year 926, in the Chronicon 
Scotorum, and 924 in the Annals of the Four Masters, we have an 
additional evidence that this church was erected by him : 

" A. D. 926. Colman, mac Qililla, ppmcepp Cluana mac Notp, 7 Cluana 
Ipaipo, o'eg. Ip leip DO pineo oaimliag Cluana mac Noip. Do Conaillib TTIuip- 

" A. D. 926. Colman, son of Ailill, chief [abbot] of Clonmacnoise and Clonard, 
died. It was by him the cathedral of Clonmacnoise was erected. He was of the Conaille 
Muirthemne." Chron. Scot. 

" A. D. 924. Colman, mac Qilella, abbab Cluana lopaipo 7 Cluana mac 
Noip, eppcop 7 ooccop ejnaio, o'6j. Qp leip DO ponnuo t)aimliucc Cluana 
mac Hoip. t)o Conaillib TTluipreinne a cenel." 

"A. D. 924. Colman, son of Ailell, abbot of Clonard and Clonmacnoise, a bishop 
and sapient doctor, died. It was by him the Cathedral of Clonmacnoise was built. 
He was of the tribe of Conaille Muirthemne." Ann. Quat. Mag. 

We have also what may be considered a further evidence of the 
period of the erection of this church in the splendid stone cross at 
Clonmacnoise, which is unquestionably coeval with it, and which 
affords in itself an evidence, that the Irish at this period were not 
ignorant of the art of sculpture, and therefore not incompetent to 
apply it to architectural purposes. That such crosses were erected 
as memorials of the founders of distinguished churches in Ireland 
is proved by one at Tuam, inscribed with the names of Toirdhel- 
bhach O' Cone hob hair, or Turlogh O'Conor, monarch of Ireland in 
the early part of the twelfth century, and the archbishop, Aedh 
O'Hoisin, by whom the cathedral church of Tuam was rebuilt ; and, 
in like manner, by a similar cross at Cashel, which is obviously co- 
temporaneous with a beautiful church there, called Cormac's Chapel, 
which was erected about the same period as the cathedral at Tuam. 
The style of these crosses is, as I shall hereafter show, when I come 
to speak of the churches of Cashel and Tuam, of a more complex cha- 
racter than that of the cross at Clonmacnoise, which is of that simple 
form, which may be now considered to be as peculiarly Irish as the 
Round Towers themselves. Any doubt, however, which might be 
entertained respecting the age of this cross, or the purpose for which 
it was erected, will at once be removed by the fact, that the names 
of the abbot Colman and of the monarch Flann appear engraved in 
compartments upon it ; and though these inscriptions are now greatly 
effaced, enough remains to enable a judicious Irish scholar, familiar 


with this class of inscriptions, which is still numerous in Ireland, to 
determine what the entire inscriptions originally were. The first of 
them occurs on a tablet on the west front of the cross in the lowest 
compartment of the shaft, and should unquestionably be read as 
follows : 

"ORoic Go F^aiNt) mac maicsechtaiNO." 

The second inscription is found on a similar tablet, on the east 
side of the cross, which nearly faces the western door of the church, 
and, like the former, occupies the lowest compartment of the shaft: 
this inscription, which is less injured than the preceding, very plainly 
reads as follows : 




Should it be objected that this cross was erected by the abbot 
Colman as a sepulchral monument to the monarch Flann, and not 
in commemoration of the erection of the church, I would reply, 
that it is highly probable that it was intended for both purposes, as 
the abbot Colman survived the monarch eight years ; and a cross of 
this kind, which would have taken the sculptor a considerable time 
to finish, might very well have been commenced during the life-time of 
the monarch, and have, moreover, been intended to serve as much as 
a memorial of the erection of the church as a sepulchral monument 
of its royal founder. But, however this may be, the sculptures on 
the west side of the cross evidently relate to the history of the original 
foundation of Clonmacnoise by St. Kieran, and are very clearly in- 
tended to be a memorial of the erection of its great church to his 
honour, while the sculptures on the other sides represent the prin- 
cipal events in the life of our Saviour, as recorded in the Scripture ; 
and hence the cross was subsequently known by the appellation of 
the Cros na Screaptra, i. e. the Cross of the Scriptures, under which 
name it is thus noticed in the Annals of Tighernach at the year 1060 : 

" A.D. 1060. h-6ille 7 h-Ui pocepcai DO apjam Cluunu mac Noip, co pucpar 
bpuic moip 6 Cpoip na Scpeprpa, 7 cop mapbno Dip ann, .1. mac leijino, 7 oclac 
eili : co poipip t)ia 7 Ciapan t)elb'na i n-a n-otaij, cop laippec a n-ap ann, im 
pijoarhna h-Lla Pocapca, ap ip eipioe po tnupb in mac leijmo. t)o pocc cpa a 
m-bpuir cpuch n-eipji DO lo ap na mapac co Cluain rpe pepraib Ciapain." 

2 N 


" A. D. 1060. The Elians and the Hy-Focertai plundered Clonmacnoise, and carried 
away many captives from Cros na Screaptra, and slew two persons there, i. e. a student, 
and another youth : but God and Ciaran incited the Delvins in pursuit of them, and 
they slaughtered them, together with the heir apparent of Hy-Focarta, for it was he 
that had killed the student. Their captives also returned to them at rising time on 
the day following to Cluain through the miracles of Ciaran." 

I should confess, however, that, if we are to trust Dr. Ledwich, 
this cross, of two sides of which he gives a very inaccurate repre- 
sentation, and couples with them two sides of another cross at Clon- 
macnoise, as if they were the remaining sides, is no older than the 
close of the thirteenth century, at which time, he says, the cathedral 
church was re-edified by Odo, or Hugh, the dean of the place. His 
remarks on this subject would be unworthy of notice, if the cha- 
racter which he obtained by his show of research, and plausible 
assumption of love for truth, did not cause his audacious misrepre- 
sentations to be received with respect by the learned, and render it 
a duty to expose them. His description of this cross is as follows : 

" The other ornamented cross is at Clonmacnois. The stone is fifteen feet high, and 
stands near the western door of Teampull Mac Diarmuid. Over the Northern door of 
this church are three figures : the middle St. Patrick, in pontificalibus, the other two 
St. Francis and St. Dominic, in the habits of their Orders. Below these are portraits of 
the same three saints and Odo, and on the fillet is this inscription : ' Dons Odo Decanus 
Cluanm, fieri fecit.' Master Odo, Dean of Clonmacnois, caused this to be made. This 
inscription refers to Dean Odo's re-edifying the church, and must have been about 
the year 1280, when the Dominicans and Franciscans were settled here and held in 
the highest esteem, as new Orders of extraordinary holiness. The figures on this Cross 
are commemorative of St. Kiaran and this laudable act of the Dean. Its eastern side, 
like the others, is divided into compartments. Its centre, or head and arms, exhibit 
St. Kiaran at full length, being the patron of Clonmacnois. In one hand he holds an 
hammer, and in the other a mallet, expressing his descent, his father being a carpenter. 
Near him are three men and a dog dancing, and in the arms are eight men more, and 
above the Saint is a portrait of Dean Odo. The men are the artificers employed by 
Odo, who show their joy for the honour done their patron. On the shaft are two men, 
one stripping the other of his old garments, alluding to the new repairs. Under 
these are two soldiers, with their swords, ready to defend the church and religion. 
Next are Adam and Eve and the tree of life, and beneath an imperfect Irish inscription. 
On the pedestal are equestrian and chariot sports. On the North side is a pauper 
carrying a child, indicating the Christian virtue, Charity. Below these a shepherd 
plays on his pipe, and under him is an ecclesiastic sitting in a chair, holding a teacher's 
ferula, on the top of which is an owl, the symbol of Wisdom, and its end rests on a 
beast, denoting Ignorance. The other sides are finely adorned with lozenge net- work, 
nebule mouldings, roses and flowers." Antiquities of Ireland, pp. 75, 76. 

On this extraordinary description it is scarcely necessary to re- 


mark, that Dr. Ledwich is as much in error with respect to the age 
of the north doorway of the cathedral and its inscription, as he is 
with respect to that of the cross itself. The doorway is not, as he 
states, a work of the thirteenth century, but unquestionably of the 
fifteenth, as the style of its architecture, and the character of the let- 
ters in the inscription, will at once prove to any person acquainted 
with the antiquities of this period. The cathedral church of Clon- 
macnoise was, indeed, re-edified in the thirteenth, or, more probably, 
in the beginning of the fourteenth century, but not by Dean Odo, the 
builder of the north doorway, which is in a different style, but by 
Tomultach Mac Dermott, chief of Moyhurg, who, as the Registry of 
Clonmacnoise states, " hath repaired or built the great church, upon 
his own costs, and this was for the cemetery of the Clanmaolruany." 
This Tomultach Mac Dermott, according to the Irish annals, died in 
the year 1336. 

But, though the church was thus re-edified, we still find in the 
sand-stone capitals of its great western doorway remains of a more 
ancient church, as their style and material, which are different from 
those of every other ornamented portion of the building, sufficiently 
show ; and that such capitals belonged to the doorway of the original 
church, I can see no solid reason to doubt. The general form of this 
doorway, as re-edified in the pointed style of the fourteenth century, 
may be seen in a plate of it given in Harris's edition of Ware's Bishops; 
the character of its capitals will appear in the annexed illustration, 
copied from a sketch made by myself, previously to its recent de- 

In the still perfect doorway of another church at Clonmacnoise 
we have a specimen, which, though but of little interest, as exhibiting 

2 N 2 



ornament, is worthy of notice here, as a work of the close of the tenth 
century, when the power of the Danes in Meath was broken for a time 
at the decisive battle of Tara, in 974, by the valour of the monarch 
Maolseachlainn. This doorway occurs in the sepulchral chapel of the 
O'Conors of Connaught, which, from the Registry of Clonmacnoise, 
appears to have been erected by Cathal, the son of Conor, king of 
Connaught, who died in the year 1010. The passage is as follows : 

" Thus have the O'Connors their part of that cemeterie, and they gave this for their 
sepulture place, i. e. a place for sixe little cells belonging to Cluain and fortie eight 
daies to every cell, viz. Tobar Ilbe 48 daies, Tamhnach 48 daies, Killmuicky 48 daies, 
Kill m. Teig 48 daies, Tuillsge 48 daies, Kill O'Gealba 48 dayes ; and the O'Connor 
who bestowed these lands was called Cathal O'Connor." 

Templeconor is now used as the parish church, but all its features, 
except this doorway, have been destroyed. It appears, however, from 

the reports of the old inhabitants of the place, that its windows were 
in the same style as the doorway, and without ornament. This church 
measures externally forty-five feet in length, by twenty-seven in 
breadth, and the walls are four feet in thickness. 

Taking our ancient authorities as a guide in this Inquiry into 


the age of ornamented churches, I may next notice those of Killaloe 
and Inishcaltra, in Munster, as buildings said to have been erected, 
or re-erected, in the tenth century, by the monarch Brian Borumha, 
as thus stated by Keating : 

" Gp 6 6pian pop cuj plomnre po peac ap peapaib Gipionn, op a n-aicionncap 
jac pil cpeab pa leic oiob. Qp leip map an j-ce'aona oa coj^bao cempull Cille 
tDalua, ajup reampull Innpe Ceallcpac, ajup DO h-acnuaioioo cloicceac Chuatna 
5pme." Heating's History of Ireland, Reign of Brian Borumha. 

" It is Brian also that gave distinct surnames to the men of Ireland, by which 
every separate tribe of them is known. It is by him likewise the church of Gill 
Dalun, and the church of Inis-Cealltrach were erected, and the steeple of Tuaim Greine 
was renewed." 

Should it be objected, that a more ancient authority than that of 
Keating ought to be adduced in proof of these erections, I must con- 
fess that I am unable to find one, as the Life and Actions of Brian, by 
Mac Liag, his secretary, from which Keating, as well as Mac Curtin, 
who also states these facts, most probably derived his information, 
has not fallen into my hands ; but I may remark, that I consider the 
authority of Keating, on matters of this kind, as quite sufficient, for it 
is well known to all Irish scholars that his work is only a faithful com- 
pilation, as he states, from the original manuscripts of the country : 
an examination of the existing churches at Killaloe and Inishcaltra 
becomes therefore of the highest importance in this Inquiry, and I 
shall accordingly treat of each separately. 

At Killaloe, then, we have two ancient buildings, namely, the ca- 
thedral and a small stone-roofed church, situated immediately to the 
north of it, of which the wood-cut on the next page represents the west 
front. That the cathedral church is not of Brian's time is, however, 
sufficiently obvious from its architectural details, which clearly belong 
to the close of the twelfth century ; and its re-erection is attributed, 
with every appearance of truth, to Donnell More O'Brien, king of 
Limerick, who died in the year 1 194. Yet, that a more ancient church, 
and one of considerable splendour, had previously existed on its site, 
is evident, from a semicircular archway in the south wall of the nave, 
now built up, and which is remarkable for the richness of its embel- 
lishments in the Romanesque or Norman style. It is true that this 
archway, of which a drawing and description will be found in the 
Third Part of this Inquiry, does not appear to be as old as the time of 



Brian ; and the tradition of the place has probably a foundation in 
truth, which considers it as the entrance to the tomb of Muircheartach 
O'Brien, king of Ireland, who died on the 8th of March, 1120, and 
who, as Ware tells us, " was a great benefactor to the church of 
Killaloe, and pursuant to his commands, while living, was buried 
there :" but this very supposition implies the existence of an earlier 
cathedral church on the site of the present one. 

The question then naturally suggests itself, is the other church the 
remains of that erected by Brian two centuries previously ? That this 
church is as ancient as Brian's time cannot indeed be doubted, and it 
would furnish an unquestionable proof, if proof were wanted, of 
the use of ornamented architecture in Ireland in the tenth century. 



But I confess that I feel very strongly inclined to believe that its 
erection should be assigned to a much earlier age ; for, in the first 
place, without attaching much weight to the tradition of the place, 
which ascribes the erection of the present cathedral church to Brian 
Borumha, and of this stone-roofed church to St.Molua, or his successor, 
St. Flannan, it is scarcely possible to suppose that the cathedral 
church, erected within his own hereditary principality by so powerful 
a monarch as Brian, would have been of dimensions so much smaller 
than those of most of the cathedral churches of the earliest antiquity, 
or so remarkable for the simplicity of its architectural features. The 
nave of this church, which is all that at present remains, is inter- 
nally but twenty-nine feet four inches in length, by eighteen feet in 
breadth, and the chancel was only twelve feet in breadth, as appears 
by small portions of its walls still remaining, and could not have 
been of much greater length. In fact this little church, in all its fea- 
tures, with the exception of its ornamented door-way, is perfectly 
identical in style with many of the earliest churches and Round 
Towers of Ireland ; as Avill appear from the annexed illustrations, 

representing the windows which lighted the apartment placed above 
the nave, within the sloping sides of the roof, and of which that in 
the west gable has a semicircular head, and that in the east, the 



triangular, or straight-sided arch. The chancel arch, which is wholly 
without ornament, has inclined jambs and chamfered imposts, and 
measures in height eight feet six inches from the floor to the vertex 
of the arch, and in breadth about four feet six inches, immediately 
below the imposts. 

I have already remarked that the doorway of this church is orna- 
mented, and I should add, that there is no reason to believe it to be 
of later date than the other parts of the building ; and undoubtedly 

as its ornaments are very different in character from those found on 
buildings which I would assign to the tenth and eleventh centuries, 
it would militate very much against such conclusions if this church 
could be proved to be of Brian Borumha's time. But, as I have 


already remarked, I see no just reason to assign it to so late a period, 
nor is there any thing in its ornamental details, which may not, as 
I conceive, be with greater propriety assigned to a far earlier age. 
It will be seen from the prefixed sketch that the capital of the pillar, 
on the north side, presents a rude imitation of the Ionic scroll, while 
that on the south side presents two figures of animals resembling 
lambs; and, that the architrave exhibits none of the ornaments con- 
sidered as characteristic of Norman architecture. 

I should certainly not ascribe the erection of this church to St. 
Molua, the first patron of the place ; the original church of this saint 
I take to be that of which there are considerable remains, situated 
on an island in the Shannon, immediately opposite the cathedral : 
but the conjecture will not, I trust, be deemed rash, that this church 
may owe its erection to Molua's disciple, St. Flannan, who was son 
of Toirdhealbhach, king of Thomond, and who, according to Ware, 
was consecrated first bishop of this see at Rome by Pope John IV., 
about the year 639- That a man habituated to the sight of the 
Roman churches of this period should have a disposition to imitate, 
to some extent, their ornamented features, is only what might be 
expected ; and that he was supplied with the means to do so appears 
from the fact stated by Ware, that " while he sat here, his Father, 
Theodorick, endowed the church oi Killaloe with many Estates ; and 
dying full of Years, was magnificently interred in this Church by his 
Son Flannan? 

But, however this may be, the reasons which I have assigned for 
doubting that the stone-roofed church at Killaloe owes its origin to 
the illustrious Brian, will, I think, be greatly strengthened by an 
examination of the church of Inishcaltra, which this monarch is also 
said to have built, or rather rebuilt, as a church had existed there 
from the seventh century. As this church may fairly be considered in 
part, if not wholly, of Brian's time, some agreement should be found 
between the style of its architectural features and those of the church 
of Killaloe, if they were really cotemporaneous structures, but it will 
be seen that no such agreement exists. In point of size indeed there 
is but little difference, the length of the nave of the church of Inish- 
caltra, internally, being but thirty feet, and the breadth twenty-one 
feet, and the chancel being a square of about fifteen feet. These 
measurements, however, appear to be those of the original church of 

2 o 



St. Caimin, which was erected in the seventh century, as it appears 
to me obvious from the character of the masonry, and of some of the 
features in the nave, that the latter, though unquestionably re- 
modelled, was never wholly destroyed. 

As is usual in Irish churches, the ornamented portions of this are 
chiefly found in its western doorway and chancel arch, the general 
features of which will be seen in the annexed illustration. 

Of the chancel itself only portions of the side walls remain, and 
these walls, which are of ashlar masonry, are of a totally different 
character from those of the nave, and are probably cotemporaneous 
with the ornamented features of the latter, or, at least, with some of 
them, as indeed some doubts may be entertained that these features 
are themselves of cotemporaneous age. The entrance doorway, of 
which a portion only now remains, consisted externally of three 
concentric and receding semicircular arches, ornamented on their 
faces with the chevron moulding, not, however, carved in relief, but 
in hollow lines, as in the round window at Rahin, already described. 
The piers of these arches were rectangular, but rounded at their 
angles, so as to form slender semi-cylindrical shafts, with angular 



mouldings on each side, and having, in capitals, well-shaped human 
faces carved in low relief. 

The interior face of the doorway was only ornamented with a 
single semicolumn at each side, the capital of which was a simple 
scroll. This doorway was two feet seven inches in width at the 
spring of the innermost arch, and two feet nine inches at the base ; 
and in height, to the spring of the arch, five feet two inches, and to 
its vertex, six feet six inches. 

The chancel arch, which is less distinguished for ornament than 
the doorway, is also triple-faced, or formed of three concentric and 
recessed arches on its western face, and is double-faced on its eastern 
or inner side; but the arches consist simply of square-edged rib- 
work, and the ornamental sculpture is confined to the piers, which 
are rounded into semi-columns, and adorned with capitals, as repre- 
sented in the annexed illustrations, which show a front and side 
view of the piers. 

This archway is ten feet three inches in width between the 
jambs ; and in height, from the present level of the floor, which is 
considerably raised, five feet six inches to the top of the capitals, 
and eleven feet to the vertex of the arch. 

Whatever doubt may exist as to whether the doorway and chancel 
arch of this church be of cotemporaneous architecture, there is, at 
least, no reason to suppose that either of them is later than Brian's 
time, when the church is stated to have been rebuilt, or restored. 
But it appears to be equally certain that Brian's restoration was con- 
fined to the chancel, which, as I have already stated, is in a totally 

2 o 2 



different style of masonry from the nave, and to one or both the 
ornamental features already described. The masonry of the nave, 
throughout, seems clearly to belong to the original church of St. 
Caimin, though, perhaps, the windows, or at least one of them, may 
have been inserted in Brian's time. Of these windows, which are in 
the south wall, one has a semicircular head, and is ornamented with 
an architrave, very similar in style to that of the doorways of many 
of the Round Towers, as shown in the annexed illustration. The 

other, which appears original, has a horizontal head and inclined 
sides, as shown above. There is also a small triangular window, 

formed of three stones, and placed 
in the middle of the west gable, 
towards its summit, which, as far 
as I know, is unique in form in 
Irish architecture. 

I have now, as I trust, adduced 
sufficient evidence not only to prove 
the existence in Ireland of orna- 
mental architecture, of an age anterior to the Anglo-Norman invasion 
of the country, but to lead, with every appearance of probability, to 
the conclusion that such architecture existed here previously even to 
the Norman conquest of England. This latter conclusion will, I think, 
be greatly strengthened, if not satisfactorily established, when it is 
shown that those Irish churches exhibiting ornamental architecture, 



which we know from historical evidences to have been erected in 
the eleventh and twelfth centuries, are not only very different in 
their style of decoration from those presumed to be of earlier date, 
but have a remarkable agreement in their details with those of the 
known Norman structures in England and France. To prove such 
nirreement it may be proper to adduce one or two examples of such 
churches in this place, and many others will be found in the Third 
Part of this Inquiry. 

Such an example, then, is found in the entrance porch, or door- 
way, of the church of Freshford, or Achadh ur, in the county of 
Kilkenny, a church originally erected by St. Lachtin in the seventh 
century, but rebuilt towards the close of the eleventh, or commence- 
ment of the twelfth, as a perfectly legible inscription on its doorway 


clearly proves. This inscription is contained in two bands, encircling 
the external face of the inner arch, the letters, as is usual in all 
ancient inscriptions, being indented, and is as follows : 

1. In the lower band : 

" OR t>o Neim igiM CUIRC acus t>o mach^amaiN u chiarc- 
meic tas IN beRNao T cempuLsa" 


2. In the upper band : 

"OR t)O 5i,e mochotmoc u cecucdi t>o RI^HI" 


It is to be regretted that neither our annals nor genealogical books 
preserve the names of any of the persons recorded in this inscription, 
so that it is impossible to determine exactly the period at which they 
flourished ; but it is obvious, from the surnames applied to the three 
individuals concerned, that they could not have lived earlier than the 
eleventh century, when the use of hereditary surnames was generally 
established in Ireland. And that the Mathghamhain, or Mahon, 
O'Ciarmaic, whose name is here inscribed, was a chieftain of the 
district, might be naturally inferred from the inscription itself, even 
if no other historical evidence existed ; but this inference is rendered 
certain by a passage in the Book of Lecan, fol. 96, b, in which we 
find a Leinster family, of this name, mentioned as one of the six tribes 
descended from Fergus Luascan, who was the son of Cathaoir Mor," 
monarch of Ireland in the second century, and the ancestor of almost 
all the distinguished chieftain families of Leinster. It appears, more- 
over, from the following passage in the Annals of the Four Masters, 
at the year 1087, that a Conall O'Ciarmaic was then a chief of some 
distinction in the Leinster army. 

" A. D. 1087. Cacli Raclia Goaip eccip f-ai^nilj ajup piopa ITIuman, co po 
paeimio pia ITIuipcheapcach Ua m-6piam ajup pe K-peapaiB ITIuriian pop taijnio, 
5 u r FP mac t>oriinaill, mic ITIaoil na m-bo, ajup ap t)iapmaio Ua m-6piam, 
a 5 u F a P na, mac Oiapmaoa, co po lao ap mop ann pin pop taijniB, im mac 
niupchuoa Uf Ooiiinaill, im cijeapna h-Ua n-"Opona, ajjup im Conull Ua Ciap- 
maic, agup im ua NeiU ITlaije oa con, ec peliqui." 

" A. D. 1 087- The battle of Rath Edair [was fought] between the Lagenians and 
the men of Minister, in which the victory was gained by Muircheartach O'Brien and 
the men of Monster over the Lagenians, and over the son of Domhnall, son of Maol na 


m-bo [king of Leinster], and over Diarmaid O'Brien, and Enda, son of Diarmaid, and 
a great slaughter was therein made of the Lagenians, together with the son of Mur- 
chadh O'Domhnaill, lord of Hy-Drone, and Conall O'Ciarmaic, and O'Neill of Magh 
da chon, and others." 

I may also remark, that the name O'Ciarmaic is still numerous 
in the county of Kilkenny, thougli usually metamorphosed into the 
English name Kirby by those speaking English. The name of the 
female in this inscription is probably that of the wife of Mathghamhain, 
or Mahon, as it was the custom anciently in Ireland, and indeed still 
is to some extent, for married women to retain their paternal names. 
An instance of this usage is also found in an inscription on the tomb 
of Maeleachlainn O'Kelly, in the abbey of Knockmoy, in which in- 
scription his wife is called by her maiden name Finola, the daughter 
of O'Conor. Of the name O'Cuirc, which is now anglicised Quirk, 
there were two chieftain families in Ireland, as appears from the 
Book of Lecan, fol. 105, b, and fol. 115, 6, one seated in the territory 
of Fothart Airbreach, in Leinster, and the other in Muscraighe Chuirc, 
now the barony of Clanwilliam, in the county of Tipperary ; but it 
would be idle to conjecture to which of these families this Lady 
Niam belonged. 

Of the third name, which is undoubtedly an Irish one, it is only 
necessary to remark, that as it was clearly that of the architect, it may 
not have belonged to the district, as professional men of that descrip- 
tion exercised their art wherever they found employment ; and that 
many of them were of distinguished celebrity in their day is suffi- 
ciently proved from records of their deaths, which have found place 
in the authentic Irish annals". 

a It would be scarcely worth while, as a characteristic example of the charlatanism 
of some of the Irish antiquaries of the last century, to notice here a copy with a 
translation of the preceding inscription, which was originally published in the Antho- 
loffia Hibeniica, by Mr. Beauford, one of the original contributors to that work, and 
also to Vallancey's Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis, if his interpretation of it had not 
found its way into Gough's edition of Camderi'g Britannia, and other topographical 
works of character. The article to which I refer is as follows : 

" No. 2 is an inscription over the door of the old church of Freshford, in the county 
of Kilkenny. It is in old Irish, engraven on several stones, as shewn in the drawing, 
and runs thus : 

" ' Aodos M'Roen ocas cuce cneabdocum doiamrac neibnisan cuirce . acos dor 
eacleag amarc mearg use acos elar shi deorsoich en argis.' 

" In modern Irish 



The erection of this church may then, with every appearance of 
certainty, be referred to a period not much earlier than the close of 
the eleventh, or beginning of the twelfth century ; and that the gene- 
ral character of this doorway, as well as its ornaments, has a more 
decided resemblance to those of the Norman churches in England, 
than any of those previously noticed in this work, will, I think, be 
at once obvious from the prefixed outline. This resemblance is found 

not only in the greater richness of its decorations, and the boldness 
of its sculpture, which is in high relief, but also in the forms of its 
capitals and bases. And I should also notice, as a characteristic of 
Irish architecture, of this period at least, the grotesque lions' heads, 
which are sculptured on the soffit of the external arch, immediately 
over the imposts. 

The next example, which I have to adduce, is a church of pro- 
bably somewhat later date than that of Freshford, and whose age is 
definitely fixed by the most satisfactory historical evidence. It is the 
beautiful and well-known stone-roofed church on the Rock of Cashel, 
called Cormac's Chapel, one of the most curious and perfect churches 

" ' Aoda M'Eoen agus coighe flatli teampall talamh as dlightheach deaglais coirce 
agus dorais ea cloch amairc sleas usa agus e fcarann do shin devirseach en archios.' 

" That is 

" ' The Priest, M'Roen, and chief, gave to this church the glebe of arable land ; 
and, over the door placed this stone, as a true token ; and, with this favour, the land, 
slaves, and tribute.' 

" There being no date, the time of this gift cannot be determined. Freshford (in 
Irish Achadhur, or Waterfield) was an ancient monastery of regular canons in the 7th 
century, and at present is called the Prebend of Aghour." Vol. i. p. 35 1 . 



in the Norman style in the British empire. The erection of this 
church is popularly but erroneously ascribed to the celebrated king- 
bishop Corrnac Mac Cullenan, who was killed in the battle of 
Bealach Mughna, in the year 908 ; and it is remarkable that this 
tradition has been received as true by several antiquaries, whose 
acquaintance with Anglo-Norman architecture should have led them 
to a different conclusion. Dr. Ledwich, indeed, who sees nothing 
Danish in the architecture of this church, supposes it to have been 

erected in the tenth or beginning of the eleventh century, by some 
of Cormac's successors in Cashel; but he adds, that it was "prior 
to the introduction of the Norman and Gothic styles, for in every 
respect it is purely Saxon." Dr. Milner, from whose reputation as a 
writer on architectural antiquities, we might expect a sounder opi- 
nion, declares that " the present cathedral bears intrinsic marks of 
the age assigned to its erection, namely, the twelfth ; as does Cor- 
mac's church, now called Cormac's hall, of the tenth." Milner's 
Letters, p. 131. And lastly, Mr. Brewer, somewhat more cau- 
tiously indeed, expresses a similar opinion of the age of this building: 

2 P 


" This edifice is said to have been erected in the tenth century ; and 
from its architectural character few will be inclined to call in ques- 
tion its pretension to so high a date of antiquity." Beauties of Ire- 
land, vol. i., Introduction, p. cxiii. 

A reference, however, to the authentic Irish Annals would have 
shown those gentlemen that such opinions were wholly erroneous, 
and that this church did not owe its erection to the celebrated 
Cormac Mac Cullenan, who flourished in the tenth century, but to 
a later Cormac, in the twelfth, namely, Cormac Mac Carthy, who was 
also king of Munster, and of the same tribe with the former. In the 
Munster Annals, or, as they are generally called, the Annals of Innis- 
fallen, the foundation of this church is thus recorded : 

" A. D. 1127- Sluaj mop le Coipoealbach Ua Concubmp 50 piacr Copcaij, 
7 e pern ap rip, 7 coblac ap muip tiomcul 50 Copcaij, 50 n-oeapnaio pem 7 
Oonncha mac Capcaij 50 n-a mumcip Copmac, mac ITIuipeaoaij, TTlijj Capraij, 
o'airptojab, 50 mo h-eigion oo ool a n-oilicpe 50 iop mop, 7 bacall DO jabcul 
ann ; 7 tDonnca, mac TTluipeaoaij, meij Capraij, DO piojao n-a piajnaipe. 
****** ) a CJheampul a iop mop, 7 ceampul a j-Caipiol, le Copmac." 

"A. D. 1127. A great army was led by Turlough O'Conor to Cork, he himself 
going by land, and a fleet by sea round to Cork, and he and Donough Mac Carthy 
with his people caused Cormac, son of Muireadhach, son of Carthach, to be dethroned, 
so that he was obliged to go on a pilgrimage to Lismore, and take a staff there ; and 
Donogh, son of Muireadhach, son of Carthach, was inaugurated in his presence. 
****** Two churches [were erected] at Lismore, and a church at Cashel, by 

Thus also, in the same annals, we have the following record of 
the consecration of this church seven years afterwards : 

"A. D. 1134. Coipiopjao ceampuill Copamaic mac Caprai^ a j-Caipiol leip 
an Gpoeppoj 7 h-eppojaib" na murhan, 7 le maciB 6peann, loip laoc 7 cleipeac." 

"A. D. 1134. The consecration of the church of Cormac Mac Carthy at Cashel 
by the archbishop and bishops of M,unster, and the magnates of Ireland, both lay and 

And again, in the same annals, the erection of this church is thus 
distinctly stated in the following record of Cormac's death, at the 
year 1138: 

" A. D. 1 138. Copmac, mac muipeaoaij;, mac Caprai j, mac Saopbpeirij, mac 
tDonncha, mac Ceallacain Caipil, Rij Deapmuman, 7 lomcopnarhach TTluman 
uile, 7 an oume ba cpaibcije, 7 ba calama, 7 ba peapp pa biuio, 7 pa eaoach, lap 
g-cumoach ceampuill Copamaic a j-Caipiol, 7 DO ceampull a Ciop mop, DO 
mapbao le t>iapmaio Sujach h-Ua Concubaip Ciappuioe, aip paoparii Coip- 
oealbaij li-Ui 6piain, a cliamam, 7 u caipoiop Cpiopc, 7 a alcpom a B-peall." 


" A. D. 1 138. Cormac, son of Muireadhach, son of Carthach, son of Saorbhrethach, 
son of Donough, son of Ceallachan Cashel, king of Desmond, and a man who had con- 
tinual contention for the sovereignty of the entire province of Munster, and the most 
pious, most brave, and most liberal of victuals, and clothing, after having built [the 
church called] Teampull Chormaic, in Cashel, and two churches in Listnore, was 
treacherously murdered by Dermot Sugach O'Conor Kerry, at the instigation of 
Turlough O'Brien, who was his own son-in-law, gossip, and foster-child." 

The consecration of this church is also recorded in all the other 
Irish Annals, except those which are defective about this period : 
thus, for example, in Mageoghegan's translation of the Annals of 
Clonmacnoise, at the year 1135 : 

" A. D. 1 135. There was a great assembly of Leath Moye in Cashell at the conse- 
cration of the church of Cormac Mac Carthie King of CashelL" 

Thus also in the Annals of Kilronan, which are preserved in the 
Library of Trinity College, Dublin : 

" A. D. 1134. Coippecao cempoill Copmaic." 

Thus again in the Chronicon Scotorum: 

"A. D. 1134. Coippecao cempoill Copmaic i j-Caipiol la mairiB imoa." 
" A. D. 1 134. The consecration ofCormac's church at Cashel by many dignitaries.'* 

Thus again in the continuation of the Annals of Tighernach : 

" A. D. 1134. Coippejab ceampuill Copmac a j-Caipiol maicluB imoa, loip 
laech 7 cleipeach." 

" A. D. 1 134. The consecration of the church of Cormac at Cashel by many chiefs, 
both lay and ecclesiastical." 

And, lastly, thus in the Annals of the Four Masters : 
" A. D. 1134. Ceampull DO ponao la Copbtnac, mac TTlic Capcaij, pi Caipl, 

DO coippeccao la peanao clepeach n-fepeno i n-aom lonao." 

" A. D. 1134. The church which was built by Cormac, the grandson of Carthach, 

King of Cashel, was consecrated by a synod of the clergy of Ireland [assembled] in one 


The preceding authorities will, I think, leave no doubt as to the 
true age of this structure, and therefore an examination of its charac- 
teristic features will not only enable us to obtain an intimate know- 
ledge of the style of architecture prevalent in Ireland in the early 
part of the twelfth century, but also to mark the differences between 
that style and those found in buildings, which, there is every reason 
to believe, should be assigned to earlier periods. 

It may indeed be objected, that the word cumoac, which is used 
by the annalists to express the erection or foundation of this church, 
does not literally bear that signification, but rather a restoration or 

2 p 2 



covering of the building, as the word is employed in that sense to 
denote the covering or casing of a book ; and, in fairness, I should 
confess that, in the translation of the Annals of Inisfallen, preserved 
in the Library of the Royal Irish Academy, the word curhoac is 
rendered doubtfully " built, or restored ;" and I should also add, that 
the verb curhoaijim is explained in O'Brien's Dictionary as signify- 
ing " to keep or preserve, to maintain or support, also to build, rather 
to roof and cover a building." But this latter part of the explanation 
is an inference of Dr. O'Brien's, and it is not warranted by any au- 
thority found 'in Irish manuscripts. In these documents the word 
curhoac is beyond question employed to denote the erection as well 
as the founding of a building, and sometimes the building itself; as 
in the following example in Cormac's Glossary, at the word Qicoe : 

"Gicoe, .1. ecooe J$P ece aeoipicium Cacme, .1. cumoac." 

" Aicde, i. e. ecdoe [recte txdofif] Grsece, cedificium Latine, i. e. cumoach." 

And, in like manner, the verb curhocnjim is used to translate the 
Latin condo, with which it is very probably cognate, as in the follow- 
ing example from the Book of Ballymote, in which condita est is 
translated po cumoaijectb : 

" Roma condita est, .1. po curiioaijeao in Roirii." Fol. 3, b, a. 

In its general plan, as above shown, Cormac's chapel exhibits 
many points of resemblance with the earlier stone-roofed churches 
of the Irish, as in its simple division into nave and chancel, and in 
the crofts or apartments placed over them ; but, in most other re- 
spects, it is totally unlike them, and indeed, taken as a whole, it 
may be considered as unique in Ireland. For example, there is no 



east window in the chancel, which has at its eastern end an arched 
quadrangular recess, or apsis, apparently designed to receive an altar, 
or perhaps a throne, and which forms externally a third division to 
the church. 

Another peculiarity in this structure is the absence of an original 
entrance doorway on the west side, for the present one is obviously 
of later date, and its having both a northern and southern entrance : 
but the most remarkable of these peculiarities is its having a square 
tower at each side of the termination of the nave, at its junction 
with the chancel, and thus giving the church a cruciform plan. These 
towers are of unequal heights, that on the south side, which wants 
its roof, being about fifty-five feet in height, while the other, in- 
cluding its pyramidal roof, is but fifty feet. The southern tower is 
ornamented with eight projecting belts, or bands, the lowest being 
but three feet from the ground, and a projecting parapet, which 
is apparently of later erection. The northern tower is similarly or- 
namented with bands, but ex- 
hibits only six of them. The 
southern tower contains with- 
in it a spiral staircase of stone, 
leading to the crofts already 
spoken of, where it terminates; 
and the upper portion of this 
tower was occupied by small 
apartments over each other, 
the uppermost of which was 
lighted by four small qua- 
drangular apertures, as if this 
apartment had been intended 
as a look-out station. There 
is also a small aperture be- 
tween each of the belts, ex- 
cept the sixth and seventh, 
to light the staircase. The 
northern tower has neither staircase nor upper apertures ; but it was 
divided into a series of apartments, the floors of which rested on offsets 
and joists, the holes for which were left in the ashlar work. 

In the ornamental details of the building a similar peculiarity will 



be found to distinguish them from those in churches of earlier date. 
Externally the walls are decorated with blank arcades of semicircular 
arches, arranged in two stories, resembling very much the churches 
sculptured on the marble fonts in Winchester cathedral, and in the 
neighbouring one of East Meon, as figured by Dr. Milner and others, 
and the lower of these arcades is carried round the southern tower. 
Internally the side walls are decorated with similar arcades, except 
that, in the nave, the arches do not spring from columns, but from 
square pilasters. These pilasters have impost mouldings resting on 
billets, and are ornamented with the lozenge, hatched, checked, star, 
and other mouldings, characteristic of the Norman style ; and the 
arches exhibit the zig-zag moulding both on their faces and soffits. 
Above these arcades the north and south walls of the nave are 
ornamented with a series of stunted semicolumns, resting on a pro- 
jecting string-course chamfered underneath ; and from the capitals 
of these spring square ribs, which support and decorate the semi- 
circular roof. 

The entrance doorways are also richly ornamented, both on their 
shafts, capitals, and arches, and they present, moreover, very curious 
grotesque sculptures on their lintels. The ornaments on the south 



doorway, which exhibits on its lintel a figure of a grotesque animal, 
will be sufficiently understood from the annexed illustration, which 
represents the doorway, as at present, built up. 

The north doorway, which was obviously the grand entrance, is 
of greater size, and is considerably richer in its decorations. It is 
ornamented on each side with five separate columns and a double 
column, supporting concentric and receding arch mouldings, and has 
a richly decorated pediment over its external arch. The basso re- 
lievo on the lintel of this doorway represents a helmeted centaur, 
shooting with an arrow at a lion, which appears to tear some 
smaller animal beneath its feet. The design of this sculpture, and 
the general character of the doorway, will be seen from the illustra- 
tion on the next page, and outlines of ks capitals will be found on 
pages 298-300. 

In addition to these doorways, there are two others in the nave, 
leading to the towers, but considerably less ornamented than those 
already noticed. That on the south side is only ornamented in its 
architrave ; but that on the north, which is of much greater size, has 
two semicolumns on each side, and its innermost arch moulding is 
enriched with the chevron ornament. 



The chancel arch is composed of four recessed divisions, and 
two of its shafts are twined, or fluted, spirally. The arch mouldings 
are also richly sculptured, one exhibiting the usual chevron, and 
another a series of human heads, which extend also along the faces 
of the piers. At present this arch exhibits, to some extent, the 
horse-shoe form ; but this is only an accident, resulting from the 
pressure of the wall. 

The chancel is ornamented, in its side walls, with an arcade like 
those of the nave, but of a richer character, the arches being sup- 
ported by columns ; and the apsis, or quadrangular recess for the 
altar, is similarly ornamented, its arcade, however, being open, and 
its columns enriched with fluted, spiral, and chevron mouldings. 
The ceiling of the chancel is groined with ribs, springing from the 
angles, and is ornamented with four human heads at their point of 
intersection. Grotesque human heads are also placed immediately 
beneath the vault on the east and west walls ; and the whole of the 
vaulted roof, as well as the sides of the chancel, appear to have been 
richly painted in fresco, in which the prevailing colours used were 
red, yellow, brown, and white. In the small side recesses curtains 
were represented, and arches were depicted on the ceiling. These 
frescoes are obviously cotemporaneous with the building. 

The apartments placed above the nave and chancel are on diffe- 
rent levels, the floor of the apartment over the chancel being six feet 


six inches lower than that of the apartment over the nave ; and the 
communication between these apartments is by a plain semi-circular 
headed doorway, within which is a flight of six stone steps. The 
smaller apartment, or that over the chancel, is lighted by two small 
windows, round externally, but square, and splaying considerably 
internally : these are placed in the east wall, and are about ten inches 
in the diameter of the circle. The larger apartment, or that placed 
over the nave, is also lighted by two windows on the east side ; these 
windows are oblong and semi-circular headed on the outside, but 
square, and splayed considerably on the inside, and are each inclosed 
in a low and semi-circular headed niche. This apartment is also 
lighted on its south side by two square windows, which are of modern 
construction, but may possibly occupy the place of more ancient aper- 
tures. At the west end, in a wide recess, there is an original fire- 
place, with a flue passing through the thickness of the wall ; and on 
each side are small flues, extending round the side walls, close to 
the present level of the floor, and which were evidently intended to 
heat the apartment. 

In both these apartments the side walls converge from their bases, 
so as to form a sharp-pointed arch ; and, in the larger apartment, a 
series of corbels project from the side walls, at the height of about 
six feet from the level of the floor, apparently for the purpose of 
supporting a wooden floor, and thus forming a second apartment, 
which was lighted by a square window placed at the summit of the 
east gable. The formation of the roof of this apartment is worthy 
of notice, inasmuch as it exhibits a considerable knowledge of the 
art of construction. It consists of two distinct layers of stone, of which 
the external one is formed of sandstone ashlar, and the internal one 
of squared blocks of calc tuffa, a construction admirably calculated 
to lessen the superincumbent weight, and obtain a greater security 
against moisture, without decreasing the stability of the building. 

I have described the general features of this curious building with 
a minuteness which, I fear, may be deemed tedious, but which its 
importance seemed to me to deserve ; and under this impression, I 
shall now present the reader with detailed illustrations of its most 
characteristic sculptures, including those on its capitals, which, as 
will be seen, present a singular variety in their designs, and are 
never in any two instances exactly similar to each other. I shall 

2 Q 



begin with a selection of the capitals of the shafts of the great nor- 
thern doorway, which, as I have already observed, is the richest 
architectural feature in the building. The richest of these capitals 
are those which decorate a double column on each side. 

In the curious capital next represented we have an interesting 
example of the intersecting semicircular arches, which, by forming 
acute arches, gave, in England, according to the ingenious theory so 
zealously advocated by the late Dr.Milner, the first suggestion of the 
pointed style of architecture, and which was afterwards so generally 
adopted in Europe, and refined into a beautiful and harmonious 
system. This theory is, however, I believe, now very generally re- 
jected, even by English antiquaries, who have thus given a proof that 
they do not love the glory of their country better than truth ; and I 

have only alluded to it here in consequence of the cotemporaneous 
example which this capital affords of an acquaintance with this form 


in Ireland, and which is the more curious inasmuch as no example 
of its architectural use occurs in this country. Similar instances of 
its use, as an ornament on capitals, occur in England, as in Appleton 
church, Berks, circa 1190. 

The capitals which follow are those of the single columns in the 
same doorway, and are but little varied in their designs. 



The next two are more remarkable, particularly the second, which 
in its subdivision into small shafts, has an approximation to the clus- 
tered column of the pointed style. 

The capitals of the smaller north doorway, or that leading into 
the northern tower, are ornamented, like those of the larger doorway, 
chiefly with varieties of the Norman truncated and inverted semicones, 
with escallopped edges ; but they present one exception worthy of 
notice, namely, an imitation of the Ionic volute : and I should also 

2 Q 2 


observe, that the shafts of two of the columns of this doorway are 



semi-octagonal. The six capitals which follow are those of the 

semicolumns which decorate the south side of the nave, and which 

support the ribs of the ceiling ; these are arranged in the same order 
as in the building, proceeding from east to west. The six which 



next follow are those of the north side, proceeding from west to 
east ; and it will be observed that the fourth of these capitals was 


never finished. The next three illustrations represent the capitals of 

the outermost double semicolumns of the chancel arch, and which are 


of a different style of design from any of the preceding : and the two 
following illustrations represent the capitals of the double semi- 


columns placed on the faces of the piers of the innermost divisions of 

this arch. These capitals are of the more ordinary Norm an types, as 

are also those of the chancel, of which the two illustrations at the 
top of the next page will serve as examples. 

The two illustrations following these are given as characteristic 


examples of the bases of the shafts, the first representing the bases of 

the single shafts of the nave, and the second, those of the double shafts 
on the piers of the chancel arch. 

In describing the smaller doorway, at the north side of the nave, 
entering the north tower, I should have noticed the sculptured label, 

or dripstone, terminations, on its interior face, as peculiarly charac- 
teristic of the Norman style; and of these I now annex illustrations. 



Similar grotesque ornaments terminate some of the mouldings of the 
larger doorway, bvit on its external face. 

Of the two following illustrations, the first represents one of the 

. ' i vi". 1 " M,i;i. M HjIljuL") I'llii. 

!'''.- ' '' r ni"piniiin ii^ 

i l i f nrrr i 

decorated arches of the blank arcade which ornaments the sides of 
the nave ; and the second, one of the arches of the open arcade which 
ornaments the apsis, or recess, at the end of the chancel. 

The two following illustrations will serve as examples of the most 

peculiar of the windows of this building, the first representing one 
of the small round windows at the east end of the croft over the 


chancel ; and the second, one of the oblong apertures of the south 
tower, splaying externally, and curved at the sill. 

I should not conclude this description of Cormac's Chapel with- 
out noticing a curious quadrangular recess, which is placed in the 
north wall, between the doorway and the tower. This recess is at 
present occupied by a tomb, and was obviously intended originally 
for such a purpose ; and according to the popular tradition, it was 
the place of the tomb of the founder, Cormac Mac Carthy. The 
present tomb, however, is obviously not the original one, which, as 
I was informed by the late Mr. Austin Cooper, had been removed 
into a small chapel in the north transept of the Cathedral, more than 
a century since, after the abandonment of that noble edifice to ruin 
in Archbishop Price's time, and where, divested of its covering stone, 
it still remains, and is now popularly called " the Font." 

It is said that the covering stone of this tomb was ornamented 
with a cross, and exhibited an inscription in Irish, containing the 
name of Cormac, king and bishop of Munster, and that this sculp- 
ture and inscription were ground off its surface by a tradesman of 
the town, who appropriated the stone as a monument for himself and 
family ; and I may remark, that the probability of these traditions 
being true, is greatly increased by the character of the interlaced or- 
naments, which are sculptured on the front of the tomb, and which 

2 R 



are obviously of the twelfth century, and similar in style to those 
on the base of the stone cross now remaining in the cemetery adjacent 
to the Chapel, and with which it is obviously cotemporaneous. I 
should further add, that the length and breadth of this tomb is such 
as to fit it exactly to the recess from which it is said to have been 
removed. But, strong as these circumstances appear, there is yet a 

fact to be stated, which may throw some doubt on the truth of these 
traditions, or at least so far as they relate to the tomb having been 
that of the founder of the church, namely, that, on the opening of the 
tomb, there was discovered a crozier of exceedingly beautiful work- 
manship, and which, from its form and style of ornament, there is 
every reason to believe must be of cotemporaneous age with the 
Chapel. It is certain, at all events, that its age cannot be many years 
later ; and I may remark, that a perfectly similar head of a crozier, 
which is preserved among the antiquities in the Museum of Cluny, 


is ascribed by the learned author of " Les Arts au Moyen Age" 
to the commencement of the twelfth century. The Cashel crozier, 
after having been in the possession of the Cooper family, of Cashel, 
for a considerable period, passed into my possession at the sale of 
the museum of the late Dr. Tuke, it having been purchased by him 
at the sale of the library of the celebrated Joseph Cooper Walker, 
author of the Memoirs of the Irish Bards, and other works, and to 
whom it had been given by Mr. Austin Cooper. The question then 
naturally arises, was Cormac Mac Carthy, the founder of this Chapel, 
a bishop as well as a king, or, are we to reject the tradition, and 
adopt the alternate conclusion that the monument must have been 
the tomb of some cotemporaneous bishop ? 

As this is a question which has been already made a subject of 
interesting controversy, it is greatly to be regretted that the only 
evidence that could perhaps have settled it, namely, the inscription 
upon the tomb, should be irrecoverably lost; for, under existing 
circumstances, much may be said on either side without leading to 
any satisfactory conclusion. It will be recollected that in one of the 
passages already cited, that from the Annals of Innisfallen, at the 
year 1127, it is stated, that on his expulsion from the throne of 
Cashel in 1127, Cormac was obliged to take refuge in Lismore, 
where he was forced to receive a bachall, or crozier : but though 
there is nothing improbable in the circumstance that a deposed prince, 
of his high character for piety, should have received the episcopal 
rank to reconcile him to his fallen condition, the statement in the 
Annals is not sufficient to establish that such was the fact, as the 
word bachall is used in the Irish authorities not only to denote the 
crozier of a bishop, abbot, or abbess, but also the penitential staff of 
a pilgrim. But there is another historical evidence of much higher 
authority, because a cotemporapeous one, which would go far indeed 
to establish the fact that Cormac had received an episcopal crozier, 
and enjoyed the dignity of a bishop, when he was restored to his 
throne. This evidence is found in the last of the following entries in 
a manuscript copy of the Gospels, written in Ireland, and now pre- 
served amongst the Harleian MSS. in the British Museum, n, 1802. 

At the end of the Gospel according to St. Matthew : 

" Op DO Dlaelbpijre qui pcpibpic hunc libpum. If mop in jnim Copmac 
niuc Capchaij DO mapbao o Caipoelbuch h-uu 6piam." Fol. 60. 

2 R 2 


" Pray for Maelbrighte <?' scripsit hunc librum. Great the deed, Cormac Mac Car- 
thaig to be killed by Tairdelbhach O'Brien." 

At the end of the Gospel according to St. Luke : 

" Off DO TTIaelbpijre qui pcpibpic hunc libpum rjcuiii anno aecacip puae. In 
oapa bliaoam lapp in joechaig moip pin." 

" Pray for Maelbrighte qui scripsit hunc librum, xxviii. anno cetatis suce. This 
was the second year after the great storm." Fol. 127, b. 

At the end of the Gospel according to St. John : 

" Off DO ITlaelbpijre h-Ua TTlaeluanaijj, qui pcpibpic hunc libpum, .1. in 
n-Opo maclia, ocup ip in ampip t)onnchacha h-Ua Cepbaill apopij Qipjiall po 
pcpibao,.i.m bliaoam oan pepioe oeac popKal. Gnaip, .1. ip in bliaoampo mapbao 
Copmac ITlac Capoaij, pijepcopTTIuman 7 h-Gpenn ap chenu in n-a ampip. Oreac 
po h-aucem pijpa h-6penn ip in n-ampip pein, .1. IDuipcepcac, mac Neill Ui 
toclamo, Qiliuch ; Cu Ulao, mac Conchobuip, pij Ulao ; ITlupcach Ua TTIael- 
pechlamo, pij; TDioe ; tDiapmaic TTlac mupchaoa, pij 6a^en ; Conchobop Ua 
6piam, pij Tlluman ; Caipoelbach Ua Conchobaip, pij Connaclic; 5'^ a Hlac 
C.iac, mac mic Ruaiopi (.1. mac mo ip oana DO Ib 6ipim), h-i comapbap pacpaic. 
6ennach ap cech oen lejpap ppip in libup pa ; jebeo paicip ap anmain in pcpi- 
baeoa, uaip ip mop hacetep ecip copp 7 cpaccao ic." Fol. 156, b. 

" Pray for Maelbrighte h-Ua Maeluanaig, qui scripsit hunc librum, i.e. at Armagh, 
and in the time of Donnchat O'Cerbhaill, chief king of Airgiall, it was written, i. e. the 
year on which the sixteenth was on the Calends of January, i. e. the year in which 
Cormac MacCarthaig, royal bishop of Munster and of all Ireland also in his time, hath 
been killed. These are the kings of Erin at this tune, i. e. Muirchertach, son of Niall 
O'Lochlainn, of Ailiuch ; Cu Ulad, son of Conchobhar, king of Ulad ; Murcath Ua 
Maelshechlainn, king of Meath ; Diarmait Mac Murchada, king of Leinster ; Con- 
chobhor Ua Briain, king of Munster ; Tairdelbhach Ua Conchobhair, king of Con- 
riaught; Gilla Mac Liac, the grandson of Euaidhri (i. e. the son of the poet of the 
Hy-Briuin), in the successorship of Patrick. A blessing on every one who shall let 
this book pass [without censure"], let him repeat a pater for the soul of the scribe, 
for it stands much in need of indulgence both in its text and commentaries." 

This interesting passage has been already published by Dr. O'Brien 
in his Irish Dictionary, under the word CURMAC or CORMAC, and also 
by Dr. O'Conor in his Rerum Hibernicarum Scriptores, Prolegomena, 
p. cxliii, who also gives a fac simile of the original ; and both these 
writers show, from collateral authorities, that the entry was written 
in the year 1138. That Cormac was really a royal bishop, as he 
is here called, Dr. O'Conor seems to have entertained no doubt; 
but, in fairness, I should acknowledge that his predecessor, Dr. 
O'Brien, who correctly translates pi-epcop TTluman, royal bishop of 
Munster, gives it as his opinion that the writer, Maelbrighde, " had no 


other foundation for styling Cormac Royal Bishop ofMunster than 
because he had repaired the cathedral church of Cashel and two 
churches at Lismore, and was otherwise reputed a man of a pious 
and holy life, which is the character St. Bernard gives of him in his 
book De Vita S. Malachice, according to Malachy's reports to him 
concerning Cormac, to whom he was doctor and director during his 
retreat at Lismore, after his dethronement by the faction of his bro- 
ther Donogh." 

But this reasoning of Dr. O'Brien, though it has received the cor- 
roborative support of the usually judicious and critical Dr. Lanigan, 
is far from being satisfactory, as there is no example to be found in 
Irish authorities for such a loose application of words, so simple and 
significant ; and as to the silence of St. Bernard with respect to the 
episcopal rank of Cormac, it can scarcely be considered of sufficient 
weight to upset the direct authority of a native and cotemporaneous 
ecclesiastical writer, because it is obvious that if Cormac were a 
bishop at all, he could have been only so in the then Irish and irre- 
gular way, which St. Bernard would have been the last to acknow- 
ledge or recognize, and of which he thus speaks : 

" Verum mos pessimus inoleuerat quorundam diabolica ambitione potentum sedem 
sanctam obtentum iri hsereditaria successione. Nee enim patiebantur Episcopari, nisi 
qui essent de tribu et familia sua. Nee parum processerat execranda successio, de- 
cursis iam hac malitia quasi generationibus quindecim. Et eo vsque firmauerat sibi 
ius prauum, imo omni morte puniendam iuiuriam generatio mala et adultera, vt etsi 
interdum defecissent clerici de sanguine illo, sed Episcopi nunquam." Vita Malachice, 
cap. viL 

The arguments of Dr. Lanigan add but little weight to those of 
Dr. O'Brien, and are, in some instances, unworthy of his learning. 
The following are his remarks on this difficult question : 

" Dr. O'Conor (Rer. Hib. Scriptor. 2 Proleg. 141) calls Cormac M'Carthy not only 
king but bishop of Munster. He quotes Maelbrigte, (of whom see Not. 94 to Chap. 
xxi.) who styles him rig escop Muman. But if escop mean bishop, as Dr. O'Conor 
thinks, it cannot in this passage be taken in a strict literal sense. Escop is not in 
several Irish dictionaries, ex g. those of Lhuyd and O'Reilly, who have no other word 
for bishop than ea-sboff or easbug. O'Brien, however, has, besides easbog, also eascop. 
Yet, admitting that riy escop signifies king bishop, either Maelbrigte was mistaken, or, 
what is more probable, he gave Cormac the title of bishop in an honorary manner on 
account of his piety and attention to ecclesiastical matters, similar to that, in which 
Constantine the Great was styled bishop. Or, perhaps, escop indicates an allusion to 
his having taken a pilgrim's staff at Lismore (see Not. 57 to Chap, xxvi.) 


" That Corinac Mac-Carthy was not a real bishop is evident from the Annals of 
Innisfallen, which often make mention of him, as a king, a warrior, &c. Had he been 
also a bishop, it is impossible but that we would find him so called somewhere in said 
Annals. Or would not St. Bernard, who speaks so highly of him, have told us that 
he was not only a king but a bishop ? Keating relates (History, fyc., B. 2, p. 103, 
Dublin ed.) his murder ; and Lynch (Cambr. ever. cap. 21) treats of him rather mi- 
nutely ; but neither of them has a word about his having been a bishop." Ecclesiastical 
History of Ireland, vol. iv. p. 108. 

In reference to these remarks I may observe, that Dr. Lanigan's 
doubts as to the meaning of the word epcop are quite puerile, for 
there cannot be a question that it is one of the older Irish forms of 
the modern word eapboj, which in ancient inscriptions, and manu- 
scripts, is generally written eppcop, and which, is but a corruption of 
the Latin episcopus. And if, as Dr. Lanigan conjectures, the word 
escop had any allusion to Cormac's having taken a staff at Lisrnore, it 
must have been to an episcopal staff, and not that of a pilgrim, unless 
he could show that the word escop was applied to a pilgrim. Nei- 
ther can the silence of St. Bernard, as I have already remarked, be 
considered sufficient to settle the question, for though Dr. Lanigan 
deems such silence sufficient to overturn the assertions of Colgan, 
Ware, and Harris, in the case of the second usurpation of the arch- 
bishopric of Armagh by Nigel, in opposition to St. Malachy, indeed 
St. Bernard goes even farther, and states that Nigel was obliged to 
remain quiet during the remainder of his life, yet the fact of that 
second usurpation is most clearly proved by the Irish annals. 

Neither, again, can any great weight be laid on the fact that the 
Annals of Innisfallen and the other annals are silent as to king 
Cormac having been a bishop, because it should be recollected that 
the old Annals of Innisfallen, which should justly be regarded as a 
valuable authority, are defective at the period in which he flourished, 
and the Dublin Annals are only a compilation made subsequently to 
the year 1459. It is, indeed, a singular fact, that in our most ancient 
annals, that portion of them which would have preserved to us the 
events of Cormac's time, by a strange fate, are defective; and the 
oldest authority which I have found, namely, the continuator of 
Tighernach, throws no light upon the subject. And it is no less re- 
markable that, in the annals of later age, the death of Cormac is 
stated in such a way as to leave it optional with the reader whether 
he should consider him a bishop in reality, or only in a figurative 


sense. Thus in the Annals of Kilronan, which were compiled in 
Connaught in the fifteenth century : 

" A. D. 1138. Copmac, mac mej Cappchaij, aipopij tDepmumari 7 epp pi 
n-Gp. m-a p^imep ap cpabaio 7 ap rionacul peo 7 mame DO cleipcibo 7 cellaib, 7 
cip lapmapc nejlapoajjoa a leopuio, 7 a naibmiti, DO t)hia, 7 DO ruieim a mea- 
Buil la diuomumain : 7 bennachc le na anmum." 

"A. D. 1138. Cormac, grandson of Carthach, chief king of Desmond and bishop 
king of Ireland in his time for piety and the bestowal of jewels and wealth to the clergy 
and the churches, and for ecclesiastical wealth to God, in books and implements, fell 
treacherously by Thomond: and a blessing on his soul." 

Thus, also, in the Annals of the Four Masters : 

"A. D. 1138. Copbmccc, mac muipeaoaij, mic Capchaij, ci^eapna t)eapimi- 
man 7 eppojj pijh Gpenn i na peivheap ap cioonacal peo 7 maome DO cleipciB 7 
ceallaio, peap leapaijre cuach 7 ecclap, DO tiiapBao i na rij pern i o-pioll lu 
CoipoealBach, mac Diapmaoa Ui-6piain, 7 la oa mac Ui Choncliobaip Ciap- 

" A. D. 1 1 38. Cormac, son of Muireadhach, son of Carthach, lord of Desmond and 
bishop king of Ireland in his time for his bestowal of jewels and wealth to the clergy 
and to the churches, the improver of territories and churches, was treacherously slain 
in his own house by Toirdhealbhach, the son of Diarmaid O'Brien, and by the two 
sons of O'Conor Kerry." 

Here it will be perceived that in both these entries, if we put 
a comma after the word eppog, we must clearly understand that 
Cormac was truly a bishop ; while, on the other hand, if we choose 
to suppose the words eppoj and pig to form a compound term, and 
connected with the remaining clauses of the sentence, we may con- 
sider him as only honoured with the title of bishop for his piety and 
liberality to the Church, as Drs. O'Brien and Lanigan have sup- 
posed, and not as a bishop-king virtually, as Dr. O'Conor under- 
stands the words of the entry in the Annals of the Four Masters, 
but which in fairness I must state he does not translate correctly, as 
will appear from a comparison of his version with the strictly literal 
one already given : 

" A. D. 1 138. Cormacus filius Muredachi filii Carthii, Princeps Desmonise, et Epis- 
copus Eex. Hibernise durante rcgimine suo, Donator munerum pretiosorum et divi- 
tiarum Clero et Ecclesiis, optimus Consiliarius Clero et populo, occisus est dolose in 
domo propria, a Tordelbacho filio Diarmitii O'Brian, et a duobus filiis O'Conori Re- 
gionis Kerry." 

On the whole, however, the evidences appear to me to favour 
the conclusion that Cormac was really a bishop, as well as king, of 


Munster ; and particularly when we take into consideration the facts, 
that it was a usual circumstance amongst the Munster princes to 
step from the church to the throne, as in the case of the celebrated 
Cormac Mac Cullenan, and his successor, Flahertach Mac Inmui- 
nen ; that we have evidence in the old Annals of Innisfallen, or 
Munster, that both Cormac's father and grandfather had been comh- 
arbas, or successors, of St. Ailbhe in Emly, and that the former was 
also king of the Eoganachts, or Desmond ; that Cormac was but 
a second son, and succeeded to the throne on the fatal illness of his 
elder brother, Teige, in 1106, and was therefore likely to have been 
previously provided for in the Church, as his predecessors had been ; 
and lastly, that the church built at Cashel by Cormac Saint 
Cormac, as Lynch styles him was always called Temple Cormac, 
thus retaining the name of its individual founder, which no church 
in Ireland, within my knowledge at least, ever did, when such founder 
was not an ecclesiastic, and hence, as I conceive, the popular tradi- 
tion which has so long ascribed its erection to the royal bishop 
Cormac Mac Cullenan, to disprove which I have been led into this 
somewhat tedious digression. 

As many of my readers may desire to see a representation of 
the crozier, which has principally led to the preceding investigation, 
I annex an outline of its head or crook, the only part which, from 
the durability of its material, now remains, the staff having been of 
wood This head is formed of copper, and measures twelve inches 
in length, and five in the diameter of the crook, or circular head. 
The crook, or upper portion of the crozier, represents a serpent, 
terminated by a double faced head. Its surface is covered with a 
sunk lozenge carving, filled with a vitreous enamel of a blue colour, 
and the intervening elevations of which are gilt, a design obviously 
intended to represent the scales of the reptile. Within the curve is 
a human figure, standing, with one leg placed on the neck of the 
serpent, and the other on the back of a double-faced wingless dragon, 
which he has pierced in the back with a spear, which the dragon 
bites. This human figure is dressed in a simple tunic, tied round the 
waist ; and the feet are covered with buskins, which extend above 
the ankles. This figure had wings fastened to the shoulders and to 
a central bar, which connects the figure with the circle ; but these 
wings have been detached and lost. Both the figures were gilt, and 



their eyes, as well as those of the serpent, are formed of small gems ; 
and the sides of the dragon are ornamented with a line of turquoises, 
placed at equal intervals from each other. The bowl, or middle 
portion, which is hollow, is en- 
circled by a central belt, or- 
namented with nine turquoises 
and nine sapphires, placed al- 
ternately and at equal distances 
from each other, the inter- 
vening spaces being filled with 
sculptured beads. Above and 
below this belt there are figures 
of four dragons, gilt, and with 
eyes formed of gems. The tail 
of each of these animals is 
brought round the head of the 
other, so as to form a very 
symmetrical ornament; and the 
surrounding ground is filled 
with a blue enamel. Imme- 
diately above the bowl, and 
encircling the upper portion of 
the staff, is an ornament re- 
sembling the Irish crown, con- 
sisting of eight radii, orna- 
mented above the fillet with 
the same number of gems. The 
lower portion of the head, 
or cylindrical socket, is orna- 
mented with a very graceful 
pattern, composed of leaves, or flowers, in three vertical ranges. The 
ground in these ornaments is also of a blue enamel, but the stems are 
gilt, and the flowers are filled with an enamel of white and red, now 
a good deal decayed. These ranges are separated" from each other by 
three figures of a fish, the well-known mystical symbol of the early 
Christians ; and these figures are each ornamented with a range of 
seven gems, turquoises and sapphires alternately, placed at equal 
distances along the back. 

2 s 


Independently of any other consideration, this crozier is of the 
highest interest as a specimen of the jewellery art in Ireland before 
the arrival of the English ; and, like the cotemporaneous archiepis- 
copal crozier of Tuam, it may, perhaps, as a work of art, challenge a 
comparison with any Christian monument of the same class and age 
now remaining in Europe. 

Having now proved, as I trust satisfactorily, that the architectural 
features found in Cormac's Chapel are not only strongly marked 
with the known characteristics of Norman architecture, and that these 
characteristics are very different from those which distinguish build- 
ings of undetermined age, but which I would assign to an earlier 
period, it might be considered unnecessary to pursue this comparison 
further, and particularly as several characteristic examples of this 
Norman style of architecture of the twelfth century, equally well 
marked, will be found in the Third Part of this Inquiry. I cannot, 
however, resist the temptation to notice in this place the remaining 
fragments of a church of somewhat later age, in which the same well- 
marked peculiarities are found, and which was originally, as would 
appear, of far greater splendour; I allude to the cathedral church of 
Tuam, which Ware states to have been rebuilt " about the year 1152, 
by the Archbishop Edan O'Hoisin, by the aid and assistance of 
Turlogh O'Conor, king of Ireland." 

I have not, indeed, been able to discover what authority Ware 
had for this statement ; but that the cathedral was rebuilt by those 
distinguished persons may be considered certain from the following 
cotemporaneous inscriptions, on a slab of sandstone, found near the 
communion table of the present choir, and which seems to have been 
mistaken by Harris for a monument to the archbishop; for, in his 
notice of O'Hoisin he states: "He died in 1161, and was buried in his 
own cathedral, under a monument, on which is inscribed an Irish 
epitaph, giving him the title of Comarban or Successor of Jarlath." 
These inscriptions are as follows : 

OR DO chomcm&a iamaiche t>o aet> u OSSIN 6as IN t>e- 



This inscription runs in two parallel vertical lines along the length of 
the stone. A second, on the other side, runs horizontally, in a series 


of short lines, and is unfortunately in part obliterated : as far, how- 
ever, as the letters can be deciphered with certainty it reads as follows : 
"OR DON R15 t>0 COlROet&UCh U ChONChO&dlR OR OON- 

chaeR* Do ^ittu CR u ch* Do ." 


FOR **. 

It may be doubted, however, that the date assigned to the erection 
of the church of Tuam, by Ware, is the true one, and there is, I 
think, greater reason to believe that it was erected many years ear- 
lier, or, at least, previously to O'Hoisin's having received the pall 
as an archbishop in 1152, or even to his succession to the archbishopric 
in 1150. For though, in one of the inscriptions above given, he is 
called the Comharba of larlath, which might equally imply that he 
was archbishop or abbot of Tuam, yet in the following inscription, 

on the base of the great stone cross, now lying in the market-place, 
he is distinctly called abbot ; and it is not in any degree likely that 
this inferior title would have been applied to him after his elevation 
to the archbishopric ; for in one of the inscriptions on the cross, or 
crozier, of the archbishops of Tuam, or Connaught, now, through 
the liberality of Professor Mac Cullagh, preserved in the Museum of 
the Royal Irish Academy, his predecessor, Domhnall, the son of 
Flannagan O'Dubhthaigh, is expressly called Gpipcop Connachc; 
and that O'Hoisin was Comharba of St. larlath, or abbot of Tuam, as 
early as 1134, is proved by an entry in the Annals of Innisfallen at 
that year, stating that he was sent by King Turlough O'Conor to effect 
a peace between Munster and Ulster ; and indeed there is no reason 
to doubt that he became abbot as early as the year 1128, on the death 
of Muirges O'Nioc. 

The above inscription reads as follows : 

" OR OO U OSS1N : t>ONt>a&6CIlt> : LdS IN OeWNQt)." 

A second inscription on the opposite side of the same base, pre- 
serves the name of the king, Turlogh O'Conor, as in that on the slab 
already noticed, and reads as follows : 

2 s 2 



"OR t)O ChOlROet&UCh UO CONChU&UlR. DON ********* 

ICfRtaCh 6QS IN OeRNQO INSae ******. 


That this cross was of cotemporaneous age with the church, and 
was intended as a memorial of its founders, or rebuilders, there can 
be no reason to doubt. Such was the Cross of the Scriptures at 
Clonmacnoise, which, as I have already shown, was designed as a 
memorial of the erection of the great church there ; and such also 
was the triple-shafted cross at Cashel, just noticed in connexion with 
Cormac's Chapel, though the inscriptions on it are now wholly obli- 
terated. It seems more probable, therefore, that this church was 
erected previously to 1150, when O'Hoisin became bishop, and be- 
tween the year 1128, when he became abbot, and 1150, when he 
succeeded as archbishop. But the precise year of its erection must 
remain a matter of doubt, till some definite authority be discovered 
to determine it. If, however, I might indulge in conjecture, I should 
assign its erection to a period not very long after his succession to 
the abbacy, and this not only from the perfect similarity of the inter- 
laced tracery which decorates the base of this cross, of one side of 
which I annex a sketch, to that on the archiepiscopal crozier of 

V//I Pt) o ch o T ft ue Lhuch-u0!OOHchubum:>oH o. 

'''' "^ 

Tuam, which, according to the Annals of Innisfallen, was made in 
the year 1123, but also to the traceries on the base of the cross at 
Cashel made in 1134, and still more with those on the tomb of 



Cormac, sculptured, as we may assume, in 1138. And I may add, 
that in the general form of this cross there is an equal similarity 
with that at Cashel, the arms in both instances being supported by 
external and detached shafts, a peculiarity of form not found in any 
crosses of earlier date in Ireland. The cross of Tuam, however, is of 
far greater magnificence and interest, and may justly rank as the 
finest monument of its class and age remaining in Ireland ; and yet, 
to the disgrace of the inhabitants of that ancient city, its shaft, head, 
and base, though all remaining, are allowed to be in different loca- 
lities, detached from each other. It is formed of sandstone, and 
measures, in the pedestal, five feet three inches in breadth, and three 
feet eight inches in height ; and in the shaft and head, ten feet in 
length, or, including the base, thirteen feet eight inches. 

Of the ancient church of Tuam the chancel only remains ; but, 
fortunately, this is sufficient to make us acquainted with its general 
style of architecture, and to shew that it was not only a larger, but a 
more splendid structure than Cormac's church at Cashel, and not 
unworthy of the powerful monarch to whom it chiefly owed its erec- 
tion. This chancel is a square of twenty-six feet in external mea- 
surement, and the walls are four feet in thickness. Its east end is 
perforated by three circular-headed windows, each five feet in height 



and eighteen inches in width externally, but splaying on the inside to 
the width of five feet. These windows are ornamented with the 
zig-zag and other mouldings, both externally and internally, and they 
are connected with each other by label, or stringcourse mouldings, 
of which the external one is enriched with patera?,. In the south 
wall there is a window similarly ornamented, but of smaller size. 

But the great feature of this chancel is its triumphal arch, 
now erroneously supposed to have been a doorway, which is, per- 
haps, the most magnificent specimen of its kind remaining in Ireland. 
It is composed externally of six semicircular, concentric, and recessed 
arches, of which the outer is twenty feet six inches in width at its 
base, and nineteen feet five inches in height ; and the inner, fifteen 
feet eight inches in width, and sixteen in height. The shafts of the 
columns, which, with the exception of the outermost at each side, 
are semicircular, are unornamented ; but their capitals, which are 
rectangular, on a semi-circular torus, are very richly sculptured, 
chiefly with a variety of interlaced traceries, similar to those on the 
base of the stone cross ; and in two instances, those of the jambs. 
with grotesque human heads. 



The imposts are, at one side, very richly sculptured with a scroll 
and other ornaments ; and, at the other side, present a kind of in- 
verted ogive ; and these imposts are carried along the face of the wall 
as tablets. The bases are unornamented, and consist of a torus and 
double plinth. The arch mouldings consist of the nebule, diamond 
frette, and varieties of the chevron, the execution of which is re- 



markable for its beauty. I have only to add, that all the ornamental 
parts of this chancel are executed in red sandstone. 

During the short reign of Turlogh's successor, Muirchertach Mac 
Loughlin, and that of Turlogh's son, Roderic O'Conor, the last of the 
Irish princes who claimed the sovereignty of Ireland, many churches 
were erected in the Romanesque style, of which notices will be 
given in the Third Part of this Inquiry ; and in several of these we 
find a more refined taste of design and beauty of execution than in 
those of earlier date. The material, also, selected for the ornamental 
parts, is of a different and better kind, being usually of grey limestone 
or marble. Such, for example, was the beautiful abbey of Cong, of 
which, as a characteristic architectural example, I annex an out- 
line of the capitals and arch mouldings of one of the doorways. I 

have, indeed, found no authority to enable me to fix with precision 
the date of the re-erection of this noble monastery, or ascertain the 
name of its rebuilder ; but the characteristics of its style are such as 
will leave no doubt of its being a work of the close of the twelfth 
century, while its magnificence indicates with no less certainty the 
pious bounty of the unhappy Roderic, who, in his later years, found 
refuge and, as we may hope, tranquillity within its cloistered walls. 


In tins beautiful abbey, as well as in other monastic edifices of 
the same age, we find indications of that new and more harmonious 
style of ecclesiastical architecture denominated Gothic, which became 
fully developed in France and the British Islands early in the thir- 
teenth century ; and amongst the finest specimens of this latter style 
erected in Ireland, many owed their origin to the Irish princes. But 
the struggle for dominion which thenceforth ensued between the Irish 
and the Anglo-Norman chieftains, and which was for so many ages 
continued in Ireland, was fatal to the progress of the arts ; and, with 
very few exceptions, the architecture, sculpture, and, as exhibited 
in our illuminated manuscripts, painting, not merely ceased to keep 
pace in improvement with these arts in England and other Christian 
countries, but, as their monuments prove, gradually declined almost 
to utter extinction. 

But I have extended this section to a tedious length, and though 
the evidences which I would wish to adduce are still far from being 
exhausted, I must endeavour to bring it to a close. I trust, however, 
that enough has been adduced to prove the two following conclu- 
sions : first, that churches of stone and lime cement, in a rude style 
of architecture, were erected commonly in Ireland from a period 
coeval with the introduction of Christianity ; and secondly, that or- 
namented churches in the Romanesque, or, as it is usually called in 
England, the Norman style, were not uncommon anterior to the 
English invasion. I have also, with what success the reader must de- 
termine, endeavoured to sustain the conviction which has forced itself 
on my own mind, that much of this ornamental architecture remain- 
ing in Ireland, is of an age anterior to the Norman Conquest of Eng- 
land, and probably, in some instances, even to the Danish irruptions 
in Ireland. I am aware, indeed, that in this latter opinion I run 
every risk of being considered rash or visionary, and therefore I 
trust I shall be excused if, in my desire to sustain it, I avail myself in 
this place of another and more decided example of such early orna- 
mental architecture, sketched for me by my friend Mr. Burton, since 
the preceding sheets have been printed off; as, though this example 
is but a rude one, its antiquity will hardly, as I conceive, be doubted. 
This example is found in the doorway of the church of St. Dairbhile, 
which is situated in the wild and hitherto little explored district 
within the Mullet, in the barony of Erris and Co. Mayo. The church 



is, in form, a simple oblong, measuring internally forty feet in length, 
and sixteen in breadth, and is lighted at its east end by a small, un- 
adorned, semicircular-headed window, splaying considerably on the 
inside ; and its doorway, which is also semicircular-headed, is placed 
in the west wall. In both instances, however, the arch is formed in a 
single stone. The walls, which are constructed wholly of gneiss, or 
stratified granite, are two feet seven inches in thickness ; and the 
massive masonry, which is polygonal, is of the oldest character, the 

stones being unchiselled, except in the window and doorway, which 
constitute the chief features of the building. This doorway measures, 
at present, but four feet ten inches in height, two feet in width at 
the spring of the arch, and two feet four inches at the base ; and the 
lintel, or arch-stone, is ornamented on each face with a rude architrave 
in low relief, now greatly time-worn. The stones immediately be- 

2 T 


neath these extend the entire thickness of the wall, and on one of 
them we find a sort of tablet, enriched with simple interlaced tracery 
shown in the prefixed view of the doorway, as seen from the interior 
of the church. 

That this church is that erected by St. Dairbhile, whose name it 
bears, and whose tomb is situated within its cemetery, I cannot 
entertain the slightest doubt ; and, therefore, if I am not in error, it 
must be regarded as a church of the sixth century, within which 
St. Dairbhile unquestionably flourished. This fact appears from her 
pedigree, as preserved in the Book of the Genealogies of the Irish 
Saints, from which we learn that she was the fourth in descent from 
the monarch Dathi, who was killed, according to the Chronicon 
Scotorum, in the year 427, so that, allowing the usual number of 
thirty years to a generation, she must have lived about the middle of 
the sixth century. If, indeed, we could give credit to a statement 
in the Life of St. Farannan, as published by Colgan in his Acta 
Sanctorum, at 25th of February, it would appear that she was living 
at the close of this century, as her name is included in the list of 
illustrious religious persons who assembled at Ballysadare to meet 
St. Columbkille, immediately after the great Council of Druim Ceat, 
in 590 ; but as some of the persons there enumerated were dead, and 
others not born, at the time, the statement must be regarded as of 
no authority, except as referring her existence to the sixth century, 
in which Dr. Lanigan properly places her : St. Dairbhile was of the 
second class of Irish saints, and her festivals are set down in the 
Irish Calendars, at the 3rd of August and 26th of October. 

If, then, in a church erected in the middle of the sixth century, 
as I assume this of St. Dairbhile to be, situated too in a remote 
corner of the island, where we should least expect to meet with any 
traces of ancient civilization, or knowledge of arts, we find an example, 
however rude, of the use of architectural ornament requiring the 
sculptor's aid, is it not a legitimate inference that it could hardly 
have been a solitary example, and that ornaments of a higher cha- 
racter must have existed in churches in more civilized parts of the 
country, and be perpetuated, at least to some extent, from age to age ? 

That I may be in error as to the exact ages to which I have 
assigned some of the examples adduced, is, lam satisfied, not wholly 
impossible, as the style of a peculiar class of ornaments which they 


exhibit, and on which I have grounded my opinions, may have been 
continued, by imitation, to a later period than that to which they 
originally belonged ; and, to some extent, such a continuation is, I 
have no doubt, the fact. But I have felt it difficult, if not impos- 
sible, to resist the impression that buildings which exhibit a class 
of ornaments, that differ in a remarkable degree from those usually 
seen on the Norman buildings in England, but which have a perfect 
similarity to those found in our illuminated manuscripts, jewelled 
reliquaries, sculptured stone crosses, inscribed tombstones, and, in- 
deed, in every ecclesiastical monument of antiquity preserved to us, 
of ages prior to the period of the Norman Conquest of England, must, 
in some instances, be cotemporaneous with those monuments. Of this 
similarity of ornament a thousand evidences might be adduced from 
the various classes of remains to which I have alluded, but I shall 
content myself with a notice of a few of the more striking examples 
of the characteristic ornaments found on those monuments, as well as 


on our ecclesiastical buildings. Of these, one of the most general 
and remarkable is that curious triangular figure, known among me- 
dallists by the name oftriquetra, and which is formed by the ingenious 
interlacing of a single cord or line. In the creation of varieties, almost 
endless, of this figure, the Irish ceards, or artificers, as well as the 
scribes, found an ample field for the exercise of their fancy in design, 



as will sufficiently appear from the first of the prefixed illustrations, 
which represent two of the bosses of an ancient crozier in my own 
cabinet, the crozier of the virgin and martyr, Damhnad Ochene, or 
" The Fugitive," whose memory was venerated by the people of the 
extensive region of Oriel, as being their chief patroness. This saint 
is supposed by Colgan and Dr. Lanigan to be the same person as the 
martyr St. Dympna, who is venerated as patroness at Ghent in Bra- 
bant, and of whom a Legend, or Life, has been published by Mes- 
singham and the Bollandists, who suppose she flourished about the 
close of the sixth century. If, however, she were the same person as 
the Irish Damhnad, she must have lived at an earlier period, as her 
genealogy shows. But with this question I have no present concern, 
and I have only to remark that the form, size, and ornaments of her 
crozier, in its present state, indicate an age not later than the tenth 
century. The triquetra appears on coins of the Dano-Irish kings, 
Regnald and Anlaff, who flourished in the tenth century ; and on a 
hitherto unpublished Irish bracteate penny, which is probably eccle- 
siastical, in the collection of my friend, Dr. Aquilla Smith. It is 

also a usual ornament upon the Irish stone crosses of that age ; and, 
from its frequent appearance on all our ecclesiastical antiquities an- 
terior to this period, would appear to have been used as a mystical 
type of the Trinity. This figure is found on the doorway of the 
smaller church at Rahen, and is also figured on one of the stones of 
the chancel arch of the monastery at Glendalough, already given in 
p. 264, and which Dr. Ledwich considered as a Runic knot. That 
it is not, however, an ornament derived from the Danes, but one in 
use in Ireland long anterior to the irruptions of that people, is fully 
proved by its frequent occurrence in the oldest of our manuscript 
copies of the Gospels, even in those of the sixth and seventh centu- 
ries ; and its mystical signification seems to be proved by the fact of 
its being represented as an ornament on the breasts of three of the 
four figures of the Evangelists, which illustrate the copy of the Gos- 
pels written by the scribe Dimma for St. Cronan of Roscrea, about 



the close of the sixth century, and now preserved in the Library of 
Trinity College, Dublin. Its antiquity in Ireland is therefore un- 
questionable, and the period in which it was most used as an ornament 
on sepulchral monuments, appears from the inscribed tombstones at 
Clonmacnoise to have been during the ninth and tenth centuries, 
after which I have seen no example of it on such monuments. The 
latest is that on the tombstone of Maelfinnia, who was probably the 
abbot Maelfinnia, the son of Spellan, and grandson of Maenach, of 
Clonmacnoise, and whose death is recorded in the Chronicon Scoto- 
rum, at the year 992, and in the Annals of Ulster and of the Four 
Masters at the year 991. Of this tombstone I here annex an outline : 

The inscription reads : 

OROIC t>o 


Another characteristic ornament of more palpable meaning which 
also occurs in some of our oldest churches, is that form of cross some- 
times produced by the interlacing of two ovals, and at other times 
more complicated, being formed by the intersecting of four semi- 
ellipses and lines parallel to their major axes, of which an example 
occurring in the monastery church of Glendalough has been already 



given at p. 264. Of the more simple of these ornaments there is 
an example on one of the upper apertures of the Round Tower of 
Roscrea; and though I do not recollect many examples of these 
crosses on the inscribed tombstones, they are commonly introduced 
as ornaments on the monumental stone crosses of the tenth century, 
as in the example of one of those crosses at Glendalough, given at 
p. 266, and they are also common in the illuminated ecclesiastical 
manuscripts of still earlier date. 

But there is another form of cross which is found on some of the 
sculptured stones of the monastery church at Glendalough, which, 
with slight variations, is not uncommon on the Irish inscribed tomb- 
stones of the ninth and tenth centuries, and of which I here adduce 
as an example that of Blaimac, abbot of Clonmacnoise, whose death 
is thus recorded in the Chronicon Scotorum at the year 896 : 

"A. D. 896. 6lacmac, ppmcepp Cluana mac Noif% ' mac Caijiceoaich oo 
Gpegmamib, o'ec." 

" A. D. 896. Blathmac, chief" [Abbot] " of Clonmacnoise, i. e. the son of Tairce- 
dach, of Breghmaine" [Brawney] " died." 



Another and more common ornament on our inscribed tombstones 
anterior to the twelfth century, and which is equally common in 
our most ancient ecclesiastical manuscripts of the earliest date, is that 
boss-shaped figure formed of radiating eccentric lines, merging into 
one another as they approach the margin, and leaving between them 
pear-shaped spaces, generally three in number, but sometimes two or 



four, or even a greater number. This ornament is usually found 
within a circle, which forms the centre of a cross carved on such 
monumental stones, and, like the triquetra, may possibly be symbolic 
of the Trinity. As an example of this ornament, in its most usual 
and simple design, I annex an outline of the tombstone of Flann- 
chadh, who was probably the abbot of Clonmacnoise of that name, 
whose death is recorded in the Chronicon Scotorum, at the year 
1003, and in the Annals of Ulster and of the Four Masters, at the 
year 1002. The entry of his death in the latter annals is as follows : 

" A. D. 1002. planochao Ua Ruaione, comapba Ciapatn, mic an c-paoip 
[o'ecc]. Oo Chopca moccha a cenel." 

" A. D. 1002. Flannchadh Ua Ruaidhne, comharba of Ciaran, son of the Artifex 
[died]. He was of the race of Corca Mogha." 

The inscription reads : 

" OR01C DO 


As an example of the more complicated figure of this design, I 
annex an illustration of the tombstone of the celebrated Suibhne 
Mac Maelhumai, one of the three Irishmen who visited Alfred the 
Great in the year 891, and whose death is recorded in the Saxon 
Chronicle and by Florence of Worcester, at the year 892, by Ca- 
radoc of Llancarvon at the year 889; and, in the Irish Annals, by 
the Four Masters at the year 887, in the Chronicon Scotorum and 
the Annals of Innisfallen at 890, and in the Annals of Ulster at the 
year 890 or 891, the entry in which I here give, as presenting the 
name nearly letter for letter the same as inscribed on the stone : 

"A. D. 890, al. 891. Suibne mac ITIaele humai ancopica, ec pcpiba opcimur 
Cluana mac Noip oopmiuic." 



" A. D. 890, or 891- Suibne MacMaele humai, anchorita et scriba optimus Cluana 
mac Nois, dormivit." 

The inscription reads : 

" OROIC oo svi6iNe mac mcntae hvmai." 


It is to be regretted that the works of this celebrated person, whom 
Florence of Worcester calls " Doctor Scotorum peritissimus," have 
not been preserved to us, or at least are not found in Ireland, and, 
as Ware tells us, that even the titles of them are lost. 

Such complicated combinations of this figure are not common on 
the inscribed tombstones, for amongst all those at Clonmacnoise, 
which I have drawn at various times, I have only met with two other 
examples, and of these one was of cotemporaneous date with that of 
Suibhne, and, as we may believe, the work of the same sculptor. I 
allude to the tomb of the celebrated abbot and bishop, St. Coirpre 
Crom, who, according to the Irish annalists, died on the 6th of 
March, 899. Like most monuments of this time, it is simply inscribed 
with the bishop's name, and the usual request for a prayer, thus : 

"OR OO COR6K1V ChRVmm." 



The other is thus inscribed : 

" OK DO Chat>5dN." 

This tomb was probably that of Tadhgan, chief of Teffia at the 
close of the ninth century, from whose eldest son, Catharnach, are 
descended the ancient family of O'Catharnaigh, of Kilcoursey, now 
Fox, and from whose second son, Duibhcen, the family of O'Duiginan 
derived their name and origin. The tomb of this Duibhcen is also 
at Clonmacnoise, and as it exhibits a good specimen of Irish monu- 
mental carving, of an earlier date than those preceding, and at the 

same time furnishes a remarkable evidence of the truth of the Irish 
genealogies, I have been induced to insert a copy of it in this place. 
It will be seen that the inscriptions on this stone commemorate two 
persons, and should be read as follows : 

2 u 


OROIC Do coNaiNS mac 
" oreoic DO t)U6cew mac 


I have not been able to find in the Irish Annals an entry of the 
death of Dubcen, the son of Tadgan, whose name occurs in the 
second of these inscriptions, nor of his father, Tadgan ; but the pe- 
riods at which they flourished may be determined with tolerable 
accuracy from the records of the deaths of Agda, the son of Dubcen, 
prince of Teffia, who, it is stated in the Annals of the Four Masters, 
died in the chair of St. Kieran, after having spent a good life, in the 
year 979, or, according to Tighernach, in the year 980 ; and of his 
grandson, Gilla Enain, the son of Agda, who was slain in the year 
977. The other inscription, which is less perfectly preserved, is 
obviously older, and cotemporaneous with the carvings ; and, as it is 
in the highest degree improbable that Dubcen would have been in- 
terred in a grave appropriated to any but a predecessor of the same 
family, we should naturally expect to find the name in the upper 
inscription in the Irish annals at an earlier period, and among the 
princes of Teffia. Accordingly, on a reference to these annals, we 
find the death of Conaing, son of Congal, king of Teffia, recorded at 
the year 822 in the Annals of Ulster, and at 821 in the Annals of the 
Four Masters. 

That many of the chiefs of Teffia should have been interred at 
Clonmacnoise is only what might naturally be presumed, from the 
celebrity of that place as a cemetery of the chiefs of the southern 
Hy-Niall race ; and among other evidences of the connexion of this 
family with Clonmacnoise, we find in the Annals of the Four Masters, 
at the year 996, a record of the death of Dubthach, another son 
of Dubcen, and grandson of Tadhgan, who was priest of Clonmac- 
noise ; and from the following inscription upon the cumdach, or case 
of the MS. Irish ritual, preserved in the library at Stowe, we find 
that the artifex who made that case was another of the family, and a 
monk of Clonmacnoise : 

" t OR Do t)UNChdt> u caccaiM t>o muiNcm cajcma t>o 



This Dunchad flourished previously to the middle of the eleventh 


century, as appears from the other cotemporaneous inscriptions on 
the case ; and, it may be presumed, was a great grandson of Tadhgan, 
as the O prefixed to the name at this period must not be understood 
as meaning grandson, but descendant, as the wseof family names was 
then generally established in Ireland. Yet it is probable that this 
family ordinarily had their burial-place at the great rival monastery 
of Durrow, which was anciently within their own territory, and 
originally endowed, as Tighernach tells, for St. Columb, by their 
ancestor, Aed, the son of Brendan, who died in the year 589. More- 
over, we find from the Annals of the Four Masters and of Clon- 
macnoise, that one of this race, Flann O'Tadhgain, was Erenach of 
Durrow, where he died in 1022, a clear proof of the continued 
influence of the family in this monastery : and it is worthy of obser- 
vation, that of the two monumental inscriptions yet remaining above 
ground at Durrow, both apparently belong to chiefs of this family. 
Of these, one bears the name of Cathalan, who was probably the son 
of Catharnach, from whom the name O'Catharnaigh, the true family 
name of the Foxes, was derived. The second may be ascribed with 
greater certainty to a chief of this family, named Aigidiu, as no other 
person of this name is referred to in the Irish annals. The period at 
which he flourished is ascertained from an entry in the Annals of 
Ulster at the year 955, and in the Annals of the Four Masters at 
954, which records the death of Aedh, the son of Aicide, king of 
Teffia, who was killed by the Danes of Dublin and Leinster. Of this 
monumental stone I annex an illustration, as a further example of 
the style of ornaments in use in Ireland in the ninth and tenth cen- 

turies, and which may interest the reader, from its historical con- 
nexion with those already given of other members of the same family. 

2 u 2 



Examples of the use of the pear-shaped ornament in architecture 
have been already given in the description of the monastery church 
at Glendalough, p. 258, and the larger church at Rahen, p. 242. The 
ornaments now described, together with the interlaced tracery, 
typical, as I conceive, of the cross, and which, with characteristic 
varieties, is found in ecclesiastical antiquities of every age previously 
to the thirteenth century, are some of the principal varieties pecu- 
liarly in use in Ireland anterior to the eleventh century ; and a cha- 
racteristic example of their combination will be seen in the following 
outline of one side of the leather case made to hold, with its silver 
cover, the celebrated Book of Armagh, so well known to the readers 
of Irish ecclesiastical history. 

In the preceding illustration we are presented with the ornament 
called the triquetra, the interlaced cross of two ovals, the cross formed 
between four segments of circles within a circle, as well as several 
varieties of the interlaced tracery forming crosses. 


As a specimen of the triplicate, pear-shaped ornament already 
described, I annex the following outline of the lower side, or bottom, 
of the same case : 

I should remark, that the ornaments on this case are all in a kind 
of basso relievo, produced by stamping the leather, a fact which 
may account for the irregularities which appear in their forms, and 
which would be produced by the unequal contraction of the leather 
in drying, after it had been in a moist or soft state when stamped. 

The history of the very remarkable and interesting manuscript, 
of which this leather bag, or satchel, was the external case, is, I am 
aware, sufficiently known to many of my readers, and particularly 
those of the Academy, for whom I especially write ; but for others, 
it may not be unnecessary or uninteresting to state, that this manu- 
script was that celebrated book of the Gospels called the Canoin 
Patraic, or Patrick's Canons, which was considered of such ines- 
timable value, that its safe stewardship became an hereditary office of 
dignity in a family connected with the church of Armagh, who de- 
rived their name, Mac Moyre, or son of the Stewart, from this cir- 
cumstance, and as a remuneration for which they held no less than 
eight townlands in the county, still known as the lands of Bally Mac 
Moyre, or Mac Moyre's Town. So great, indeed, was the veneration 
in which this book, together with the crozier of Patrick, was held 
by the Irish, that, as St. Bernard tells us, in his Life of St. Malachy, 
it was difficult to persuade the people to receive or acknowledge any 
one as the rightful Archbishop of Armagh but the possessor of them. 

" Porro NigeUus videns sibi imminere fugam, tulit secum insignia quasdam aedis 
illius, textum, scilicet Euangeliorum, qui fuit beati Patritij, baculumque auro tectum 
gemmis pretiosissimis adornatum : quein Dominant baculum lesu, eo quod ipse Do- 
minus (vt fert opinio) cum suis manibus tenuerit atque formauerit. Et ha3C sunima; 
dignitatis et venerationis ingente ilia. Ncmpc notissima sunt celeberrimaq ; in populis, 
atque in ea reuereutia apud omnes, vt qui ilia habere visus fuerit ipsum habeat 
Episcopum populus stultus et insipiens." Vita Malachice, cap. v. 

The subsequent history of this book is comprised in the following 


account of it, written by the celebrated antiquary, Humphry Lhwyd, 
and published in the Rerum Hibernicarum Scriptores, vol. i. 

" Codex hie, ultra omne dubium, perquam antiquus est, sive maim ipsius S. 
Patricii partim conscriptus, (uti habetur ad calcem folii 24ti,) sive sit, quod mihi 
verisimilius videtur, alicujus posterioris sevi opus. Et forsan est ille ipse Textus Evan- 
ffeliorum, quern divus Bernardus, in Vita Malachice, inter insignia J&dis Ardmachanse 
numerat, et Textum ipsius 8. Patricii fuisse narrat. Ab Usserio et Warseo Liber 
Ardmachanus, ab indigenis vero Liber Canonum S. Patricii nuncupatur, a Canonibus 
concordantium inter se Evangelistarum, folio 26to incEeptis, sic (ut opinor) nominatus. 
Liber hie ab Hibernigenis magno olim habebatur in pretio, adeo ut familia ilia, 
vulgo vocata Mac Maor, Anglice Mac Moyre, nomen suum a custodiendo hoc libro 
mutuatum habeat ; Maor enim Hibernice Gustos est, et Maor na Ccanon, sive Custos 

Canonum, tota ilia familia communiter appellata fuit; et octo villulas in agro 

terras de Balli Moyre dictas, a sede Ardmachana olim tenuit, ob salvam hujus libri 
custodiam ; in quorum rnanibus, multis jam retro sajculis liber hie extitit, usque dum 
Florentinus Me Moyre in Angliam se contulit, sub anno salutis humans 1680, ut 
testimonium perhiberet, quod verear non verum, versus Oliverum Plunket Theologise 
Doctorem, et regni hujus, secundum Komanos, Archiprassulem, qui Londini immerito 
(ut creditur) furca plexus est. Deficientibus autem in Moyro nurnmis, in decessu suo, 
Codicem hunc pro quinque libris sterl. ut pignus deposuit. Hinc ad manus Arthur! 
Brownlowe gratissime pervenit, qui, non sine magno labore, disjuncta tune folia debito 
suo ordine struxit, numeros in summo libri posuit folia designantes, aliosque in mar- 
gine addidit capita distinguentes, eademque folia sic disposita priseo suo velamine (ut 
jam videre liceat) compingi curavit, et in pristina sua theca conservari fecit, una cum 
bulla quadam Romani Pontificis cum eodem inventa. Continet in se quondam frag- 
menta Vita; S. Patricii a diversis authoribus, iisque plerumqiie anonymis, conscripta. 
Continet etiam Confessionem S. Patricii, vel (ut magis proprie dicam) Epistolam suam 
ad Hibernos, tune nuperrime ad fidem converses. Continet etiam Epistolam quam 
scripsit Divus Hieronymus ad Damasum Papam, per modum Prooemii ad Versionem. 
Continet etiain Canones decem, in quibus ostenduntur Concordantia? inter se Evange- 
listarum, ac etiam breves causas, sive interpretationes uniusctij usque seorsim Evange- 
listse, necnon Novum Testamentum, juxta versionem (ut opinor) Divi Hieronymi, in 
quo reperitur Epistola ilia ad Laodiccnses cujus fit mentio ad Colossenses. In Epistola 
prima Johannis deest versus ille, Tret sunt in coelo, &c. Continet etiam Hebrasorum 
nominum qua? in singulis Evaugeliis reperiuntur explicationes, una cum variis variorum 
argumentis ad singula Evangelia, et ad unamquamque fere Epistolam seorsim referen- 
tibus. Continet denique Vitam S. Martini Episcopi Turonensis, (avunculi, ut fertur, 
S. Patricii,) a Sulpitio Severe conscriptam Nota quod in Evangelic sec. Matthamm, 
desiderantur quatuor (ut ego existimo) folia, scilicet a versu tricesimo tertio capitis 
decimiquarti, usque ad vers. 5, capitis xxi Nota etiam quod Epistolse Apostolorum 
non sunt eodem ordine dispositse, quo vulgo apud nos hodierno die reperiuntur." 
Epist. Nunc. pp. Ivii. Iviii. 

But though we have the high authority of St. Bernard for the 
belief, at the time, that the Gospels in this work were those possessed, 


or transcribed, by St. Patrick himself, the statement is as little entitled 
to credit as, we may well believe, that other one of the crozier having 
been originally that of our Lord. There is no part of the manuscript 
older than the close of the seventh century, or perhaps than the 
eighth ; and the leather case, made for its protection, is of still later 
date, its exact age being fixed by the following entry in the Annals 
of the Four Masters, at the year 937, of which period its ornaments 
are, in my opinion, decidedly characteristic. 

" A. D. 937. Canom pacrpuic oo curiioach la Oonnchao mac plamo, pi 

" A. D. 937. The Canoin-Patraic was covered by Dounchadh, sonofFlaim, King 
of Ireland." 

It must not be supposed, however, that this leather case is itself 
the cumdach noticed by the annalists, and which, no doubt, like our 
other ancient cases for books, was formed of silver, and enriched with 
gems. This leather case was only the covering of that more precious 
box in which the manuscript was enshrined, but obviously cotempo- 
raneous with it, and made as much for its preservation as to render 
it easy of carriage. 

As a specimen of earlier and more beautiful work of this kind, I 
am tempted to present an outline of one of the sides of the leather 


case of the shrine of St. Maidoc, or Aidan, the first bishop of Ferns, 
the age of which, in the opinion of some of the most skilful antiquaries 
of Great Britain, can hardly be later than the eighth century. 

It will be observed that the whole of the ornament on this side is 
produced by the interlacing of a number of flat bands, having a line 
running down their centre, as well as five small circles, ornamented 
with a bead ; and I should remark, that, unlike the case of the Book 
of Armagh, the ornaments are produced, not by a stamp, but by a 
carving in very low relief, or, as the French term it, grave en creux. 

The two leather cases from which the preceding illustrations 
have been copied, are, as far as I know, the only specimens of the 
kind remaining in Ireland, or, as I should suppose, in the British 
Islands ; yet it cannot be doubted that such leather cases were 
anciently as common in Ireland as the sacred books, shrines, and 
other reliquaries, which they were designed to preserve, such cases 
being necessary, in consequence of the usage of the Irish, to carry 
the honoured memorials of their primitive saints from place to place 
on necessary or important occasions : and hence these relique covers 
are provided with broad leather straps fastened to them at each end, 
by which they could be suspended round the neck. 

And these covers, as we may suppose, shared, in some degree, 
the veneration paid by the people to the sacred treasures which 
they contained. The reliquaries thus sent through the districts of 
the patron saints, most usually for the collection of dues or offerings 
to the church, were generally known by the name of Minister, a 
term signifying " a travelling relique," being compounded of the 
words mionn, a relique, and cnpcpe, of journey, as it is explained in 
an old glossary in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, H. 1, 15, 
p. 975, though it would, with equal probability, appear to be derived 
from the Latin ministerium, as being employed for the service of the 
Church. But the leather cases made to carry such reliquaries, were 
known by the term polccipe, which was applied, at least in later 
times, to a satchel for books, as it is thus explained in an old MS. 
Irish glossary preserved in Trinity College, Dublin, H. 3, 18, PO- 
laijie, .1. ainm Do ceig liubaip, "polaire, i. e. a name for a book 

The original application of the word, however, to the leather cases 
in which the sacred books and reliquaries were carried, is proved by 


our most ancient authorities. Thus, in the legend of St. Patrick's 
contention with the Magi at Tara, as given in the Tripartite Life of 
the saint, it is related how his favourite disciple, the boy Benen, 
escaped the machinations of Patrick's enemies, to whom he appeared 
as a fawn bearing a pack or budget on his back. And it is afterwards 
distinctly stated that the object in reality thus carried by Benen was 
Patrick's book of the Scriptures, or in fact the Book of Armagh 
itself, for such this book was believed to be, at the time when this 
legend was written. 

" Obtutibus enim ipsorum solum apparuerunt octo cerui cum vno hinnulo, in cujus 
dorso videbatur aliqua sarcina jacere. Sic ergo mirificus vir socijque cum beato puero 
Benigno sacrum Bibliorum codicem in humeris gestante, per medics hostes salui & 
incolumes Temoriam vsque peruenerunt, saluifico orationis viri Dei prsesidio, velut 
sacra segide, muniti." Pars I. cap. LX., Trias Thaum., p. 126. 

It may be objected that, in the preceding passage, there is no 
distinct reference to the polaire, or case in which the sacred volume 
was carried; but it is obvious that the book could not have been 
carried, as stated, on Benen's back, except in a case ; and in an old 
Irish version of this legend, preserved in the Leabhar Breac, the 
case, or bag, carried by Benen on this occasion, is called the polaire 
of St. Patrick; and, indeed, I have no doubt that this was the word 
used in the original Irish of the Tripartite Life, which Colgan has 
translated sarcina. The passage to which I allude is as follows : 

" Gnloej i n-a n-oiaio, 7 it\ pino pop a ftualaino, .1. 6men pin, 7 polipe 
phncpaic pop a riiuin." Fol. 14, a, a. 

" One fawn [appeared] behind them, and a white bird on his shoulder, i. e. this 
was Benen, and Patrick's polire on his back." 

Thus also, in another version of this legend, preserved in the 
Library of Trinity College, Dublin, H. 3, 18, p. 523, the same word 
is used, and glossed by a commentator : 

" lapnooe i n-a n-oeajai^, 7 guile pop a jualamo, .1. pacpaic 7 a ocrap 7 
6enen m-a n-oeajais, 7 u polaipe [.i. amm oo ceig liubaip] pop a mum." 

" A fawn after them, and a bag on his shoulder, L e. Patrick and his eight [com- 
panions'], and Benen behind them, and his polaire [i. e. a name for a book satchel] on 
his back." 

It would appear, moreover, from the following passage in the 
Annotations of Tirechan, in the Book of Armagh, that the polaire, 
as well as the minister, was an article in some degree necessary to 
the episcopal character, as it is enumerated among the ecclesiastical 

2 x 


presents given to Fiac, Bishop of Sletty, when Patrick conferred the 
episcopal dignity upon him. The passage is as follows : 

" Dubbepc 5pao n-eppcoip poip, Conroe eppcop mpm cicup uoipcneo la .015- 
niu, 7 oubbepc pacpicc Cumcach ou place, aoon clocc 7 menpnp 7 bachall 7 
poolipe; ec pacab moppepep laip oia tnuinap." 

" He [Patrick] conferred the degree of bishop upon him [Fiacc], so that he was 
the first bishop that was ordained among the Lagenians, and Patrick gave a Oumtach 
[a box] to Fiacc, viz. [i. e. containing] a bell, and a menstir, and a crozier, and a 
poolire; and he left seven of his people with him." 

This same passage occurs in the MS. H. 3, 18, p. 526, glossing 
the word meimycip by nnnna cnpciji, travelling relics, but omitting, 
probably through an error of the transcriber, the word bacctll; thus: 

" t)o bepr can pacpaic cumrac oa piacc, .1. cloc, meinipcip, .1. mmna aipcip, 
polaipe 7 popaccaib mop-peipep oia mumnrip leip." 

" Patrick then gave Fiacc a cumtach, i. e. a bell, a meinistir, i. e. travelling relics, a 
polaire, and left seven of his people with him." 

And here I may remark, that the learned Colgan has committed 
an egregious oversight in his translation of the original Irish of this 
passage in the Tripartite Life, in which these articles are enume- 
rated, namely, in rendering the word mimpcip as if it were an 
adjective in connexion with cloc, and, still worse, rendering the 
word poolaipe as the Epistles of St. Paul. 

" Ecclesiam ffidificauit primo S. Fiechus in loco, qui ex eius nomine Domnach-Fiec, 
.i. Ecclesia Fieci postea appellata est : eique reliquit sacram supellectilem, cymbalum 
nempe ministeriale, Epistolas Paulinas, et baculum pastoralem." Pars 3, cap. XXII. 
Trias Thaum., pp. 152, 153. 

And I should remark that these words, menstir and poolire, in 
the original passage in the Annotations of Tirechan, have received 
an equally blundering, though different, interpretation in the Anti- 
quarian Researches of Sir W. Betham, in which the first is rendered 
" a mitre" and the second " a cloak (pallium)" I am not, of course, 
so unreasonable as to expect that the author of the Etruria Celtica 
should have any acquaintance with historical facts of this late period; 
these do not lie in the way of his researches : but my late ingenious 
friend, Mr. Edward O'Reilly, who translated this passage for him, 
should have known that no allusion to the use of the mitre at this 
period, or for some ages after, is found in any of our ancient autho- 
rities, for Archdall's statement as to the mitre of St. Ailbhe, which, 
he says, was burned in 1123, is founded on an erroneous translation 


of the Irish word bearnan, which was unquestionably applied to a 
gapped, or broken, bell ; and he should also have known that, as 
St. Bernard tells, and as the whole stream of our ancient ecclesiastical 
history proves, the use of the pallium was unknown in Ireland till 
the middle of the twelfth century. St. Bernard's words are : " Metro- 
politicEe sedideerat adhuc et defuerat ab initio pallii usus." Vita 
Malachicp, cap. 10. 

Sir William Betham, indeed, tells us that the word pallium, by 
which the word poolire in the original is rendered, " is applied to the 
veil, as taken by a female, and means nothing more here than a cloak, 
not a, pall, as now understood." But where is the authority to show 
that a cloak, which was not a pall, should be necessary to a bishop, 
as well as a crozier and bell? or does he wish us to suppose that the 
cloak was intended as a veil for Fiach's wife ? 

The prevalence of the use of these leather cases amongst the 
ecclesiastics in Ireland anciently, may be inferred from the following 
passage in the ancient life of St. Columbkille, preserved in the 
Leabhar Breac, in the Library of the Academy, fol. 16, b, b. 

" Oip ba beY oopum cpopra, 7 polaipe, 7 riaja lebep 7 aiome eclapcacoa DO 
oenum, uc nixie : 

" Senaip .ccc. cpoppa buuoach, 
Noioppao .ccc. cippaic DO ba oian, 
.C. polaipe an, anachach. 
6a .c. bachall, La .c. ciaj." 

" For it was a habit with him to make crosses and pdaires, and book satchels, and 
ecclesiastical implements, ut dixit [/we/a] : 

" He blessed three hundred miraculous crosses, 
He blessed three hundred wells which were constant, 
One hundred pdaires noble, one-coloured, 
With one hundred croziers, with one hundred satchels." 

It will be seen from the preceding passage, moreover, that in 
addition to the polaire, or leather case for containing reliquaries or 
sacred books, the ancient Irish ecclesiastics used bags or satchels, 
known by the name tiag, for the ordinary carriage of books ; and it 
would appear, from several passages in the most ancient lives of the 
Irish saints, that such satchels were also of leather, as in the following 
legend, which constitutes the eighth chapter of the second book of 
the Life of St. Columba, by Adamnan : 



" ALIUD miraculum sostimo non tacendum, quod aliquando factum est per contra- 
rium elementum. Multorum namque transcursis annorum circulis post beati ad 
Dominum transitum viri, quidam juvenis de equo lapsus in flumine mersus, et mor- 
tuus, viginti sub aqua diebus permansit, qui sicuti sub ascella, cadens, libros in pellicio 
reconditos sacculo habebat, ita etiam post supra memoratum dierum numerum est 
repertus, sacculum cum libris inter brachium et latus continens. Cujus etiam ad 
aridam reportato cadavere, et aperto sacculo, folium Sancti COLUMBJE Sanctis scriptum 
digitulis, inter aliorum folia librorum non tantum corrupta, sed et putrefacta, inven- 
tum est siccum, et nullo modo corruptum, ac si in scrinio esset reconditum." 
PINKEETON'S Vitce Antiques Sanctorum, pp. Ill, 112. 

A similar example occurs in the same Life, in the next chapter, 
and many others might be adduced from other Lives ; but the evi- 
dences already given appear to me sufficient to illustrate the antiquity 
of those curious leather cases for sacred books and reliquaries, called 
polaire by the Irish, as well as to show the difference between such 
cases and the iiagha, or ordinary book satchels. I shall, therefore, 
dismiss the subject with the following characteristically Irish story, 
which will, at least, serve to show the reverence which was paid to 
the travelling reliquaries, the manner in which they were carried, and 
the penalties which were inflicted for any dishonour or inj ury offered 
them. The passage occurs in the Leabhar Breac, fol. 10, b, a, and 
in the Book ofLeinster, fol. 239, a, from which, as an older authority, 
it is here given. 

" Pecc oa came Semplan, pacapc Cipi oa jlap co dp Cporun oo 6icc an 
pinnae pi coipcib, ip ano boiOiapmaio oc jlanao upopocicu roiji 7 a pluapac'n-a 
lairh, luio lapom a cu po na cleipcib, co po lecpuo in pacapc. l?o buail in 
pacapc in coin lappin. Ro buail imoppo t)iapmaio in pacapc oi'n epluapaic, copo 
bpip menipcip Column, po bui pop a tnum. Oolluio lapom accam, comapba 
Coluim, DO acpa in 5mma pin co plair h-Ua n-t)pona, .1. co Ruioen. mac Camnen ; 
co capcpac h-Ui t)pona un. cumala oOiapmaio DO mumcip Coluim, 700 taccam, 
7 DO pac 6accam na un. cumala pin DO aipctnnech 6emopomma, .1. DO Uamnach." 

" On one time that Semplan, priest of Tir da glas, came on business to Tir Cronin 
to Lice na sinnach, Diarmaid was clearing away the front-bridge of his house, having 
his shovel in his hand, and set a dog at the clergymen, so that the priest was torn. 
The priest then struck the dog. Diarmaid struck the priest with the shovel, and 
broke the menistir of Colum, which was on his back. Lachtain, the comarb of Colum, 
afterwards went to complain of this deed to the chief of Ui Drona, i. e. Ruiden, the 
son of Lainnen ; and the Ui Drona gave [adjudged] seven cttmals* from Diarmaid to 
the people of Colum, and to Lachtain, and Lachtain gave these seven cumala to the 
airchinneach of Lemdruim [Lorum, County Carlow] i. e. Uamnach." 

* The word cumol is explained in the commentaries on the Brehon Laws as three 
cows, or an equivalent of that value. 


Thus also, in the following record in the Annals of the Four 
Masters, we have an example of the expulsion of a chieftain from his 
lordship for dishonouring the Canoin Phatraic, or Book of Armagh : 

" A. D. 1 179. Ua Wuaoacun, ciccheapna Ua n-6achDach, DO 6cc DO galop cpi 
M-OIDCI lap n-a lonnapbao, cpe papu jab Canoine pacpaicc DO, jap poirhe." 

" A. D. 1179- O'Rogan, Lord of Iveagh, died of three nights' sickness, after his 
expulsion, for having violated the Canoin-Patraic." 

To the preceding observations I have to add, that while this 
sheet was going through the Press, I have discovered the following 
curious passage in the fragment of Duald Mac Firbis's Glossary of 
the Brehon Laws, preserved in the Library of Trinity College, Dub- 
lin, which, more distinctly than any of the passages already given, 
explains the use to which the minister was applied : 

" Dlinipceap, .1. mionna aipoip oJop ap aipoeap ip in cuair le cabaipc roionn ap 

" Ministear, i. e, travelling relics which are carried about in a district to administer 

oaths to all." 

I may further remark that, from the use to which the mionna, or 
enshrined relics, were thus applied, the same word came to denote 
both a relic and an oath, and originated the verb mionnaim, I swear. 
The Irish Annals notice the use of the principal relics of Ireland, 
which were often transferred from their original localities, on solemn 
occasions, to distant places, in order that rival chieftains might be sworn 
upon them, to future peace and mutual fidelity ; and hence Mageoghe- 
gan, and the other old translators of the Irish annals, render the 
word minna of their originals by the English word oathes, as, " the 
coarb of St. Kieran with his oathes" " the coarb of St. Columb with 
his oathes ;" by which they meant, the abbot of Clonmacnoise with 
his relics, &c. And, as must be well known to most of my readers, 
this ancient custom of swearing on the relics of the saints of the 
ancient Irish Church is still continued amongst the peasantry in many 
parts of Ireland, by whom it is often supposed that thieves would 
exonerate themselves from the guilt of which they were suspected, by 
a false oath on the holy Gospels, but would not dare to do so by 
an oath on one of these ancient reliquaries. And hence, also, we 
find the following curious inscription on an ancient reliquary in my 
own Cabinet, and which is in the form of a brass shoe or slipper, gilt 
and richly ornamented. This shoe was popularly known as St. 


Bridget's slipper, and, no doubt, originally encased a real shoe, which 
was supposed to have belonged to the great patroness of Ireland. 
The inscription to which I have alluded is as follows, and clearly in- 
dicates the use to which the reliquary was applied : 


From the following inscriptions, also on this reliquary, we find that it 
was preserved in Loughrea, in the County of Galway, where there is 
still remaining, at a short distance from the Carmelite Friary, a small 
church dedicated to St. Bridget, in which, no doubt, this relic was 
preserved. These inscriptions are : 

"COCh RGlCh ANNO * DOMINI * 1410." 

And over a head in relievo there is the following inscription : 

" S * IhON * BAPTIST." 

Of other ornaments found on our ancient churches, numerous 
examples are also to be met with on the inscribed tombstones at 
Clonmacnoise, but of which I shall content myself with a single 

example from one now in my possession, and which may be interest- 
ing as an instance of the simple customs of the times, the stone 
having been originally a quern, or hand-mill stone. This stone exhibits 
four of these ornaments, namely, the zig-zag, rope, bead, and Etruscan 
fret ; and though it is not easy to fix its exact date, it will be suifi 
ciently evident, from the absence of a surname in the inscription 
that it is at least anterior to the eleventh century. The inscription 
is simply the name SECHNASACH, which is not an uncommon one in 


the Irish annals and pedigrees, and signifies one who shuns, or 
avoids ; but the person whose name is here inscribed is probably 
the Sechnasach, " Priest of Durrow," whose death is recorded in 
Mageoghegan's translation of the Annals of Clonmacnoise at the year 
928, and in the Annals of the Four Masters at the year 931. 

I have now brought this Dissertation on the Irish churches to a 
conclusion. It has, indeed, extended to a length far beyond what I 
had originally intended, but not, I trust, greater than the subject de- 
manded ; for the ignorance of our antiquaries on this most important 
class of our architectural antiquities has been not only disgraceful in 
itself, but the fruitful source of all those fantastic and erroneous 
theories which have been advanced relative to the origin, uses, and 
age of the Round Tower Belfries, and other classes of ecclesiastical 
architectural remains, of which I have yet to treat. 

That I may possibly err, in some instances, in the opinions offered 
as to the age of some of the examples of decorated architecture 
which I have adduced, I have already freely acknowledged ; but the 
subject is now, at least, submitted to the learned on new grounds, 
and whatever may be their ultimate decision upon a matter so inte- 
resting, as illustrating the history of ecclesiastical architecture in 
Europe, my object must necessarily be attained that of leading 
others to the discovery of truth however I may myself have failed 
occasionally to see it. 


THE class of antiquities of which I have next to treat, namely, 
the duirtheachs, or dertheachs, has been, to modern Irish writers, 
as much involved in mystery as even the Round Towers ; and yet it 
is perfectly certain that, prior to the twelfth century, the buildings, 
thus designated, were a class of churches, or religious edifices, essen- 
tially differing from those noticed in our Annals under the appel- 
lation of daimh/iag, as will appear from the following notices from 
the Annals of Ulster : 

" A. D. 824. topcac Dlaiji bile, co n-a oepcigib, 6 

" A. D. 824. The burning of Magh bile, with its derthechs, by the Gentiles [Danes]." 

" A. D. 839. .opcao Gipoo TTlachae, co n-a oepehijib 7 a ooimliag." 

" A. D. 839. The burning of Armagh, with its derthechs and daimhliag." 


But, though the notices of the duirtheachs, as a distinct class of 
buildings, are as numerous in our Annals and other ancient autho- 
rities as those of the daimhliags, or stone churches, modern writers 
have failed to form a definite idea of the class of buildings which 
the term denoted, and consequently have given very inaccurate 
translations of the term, whenever it came in their way. This will 
abundantly appear from the following examples : 

In Peter O' Council's MS. Irish Dictionary it is explained thus : 
" Ouijiceac, a house of austerity, rigour, and penance." In the Dic- 
tionaries of O'Brien and O'Reilly the word is thus explained : " Oecqi- 
ceac, a certain apartment in a monastery calculated for prayers and 
other penitential acts." In the older Glossary of O'Clery, we find 
the name explained, " Ouipfeac, .1. ceampall," " Duirtheach, i. e. 
a church." Dr. O'Conor, in his translation of the Irish Annals, 
usually renders it by Nosocomium, as I have already shown in p. 121, 
and sometimes by Hospitium pauperum, Hospitium peregrinorum, 
and Nosocomium peregrinorum. And he thus explains the term in 
a note in the Annals of Ulster, at the year 823 : 

" Glossaria Hibernica confundunt Deartach et Doimliag, quas voces plane separant 
Annales Ultonienses ad ann. 839- ' Dertighibh 7 Doindiag.' Deartach proprie Nosoco- 
mium, seu Hospitium ad usum peregrin antium, Doindiag Ecclesiam principalem, seu 
Cathedralem significat." 

As I have already shown, Colgan, who translates it pcenitentium 
cede [asdes], and domus pasnitentium, is nearer to the truth, as it 
does not appear that there was any other word in use amongst the 
Irish to designate a chapel for penitential prayer. But, as I shall 
presently show, this explanation is too limited ; and, indeed, it would 
appear that Colgan had no accurate notion of the meaning of the word, 
as he sometimes translates it ecclesia, and sometimes, plurally, sacris 
cedificiis. See his Annals of Kildare at the year 835, and his Annals 
of Armagh at the year 890. But, that the word was understood by 
the Irish themselves to signify an oratory, or consecrated chapel for 
private prayer, will fully appear from the following passages in the 
Irish Annals : 

" A. D. 804. Cell Achaidh cum oratorio novo ardescit." Annal. Ult. 

Thus given in Irish by the Four Masters, under the year 800, 
these annalists being usually in error a few years in their dates about 
this period : 


" A. D. 800. Ceall achaio DO lopccao, co n-a oepchmj; nui." 
" A. D. 800. Ceall achaidh was burned, with its new derthach." 

Again, in the Annals of Ulster at the year 808 : 

" A. D. 808. Ignis celettii percussit virum in oratorio Nodan." 

Thus given in Irish in the Annals of the Four Masters : 

" A. D. 804. Cene DO comiuo DO mm, lap po mapBuo ouome i n-oepchoij 

" A. D. 804. Fire came from heaven, by which people were killed in the derthach 
of Aedan." 

And again : 

" A. D. 815. Oratorium Fobair combustum ett." Ann. Ult 

Thus in Irish in the Annals of the Four Masters : 

" A. D. 812. Oepcech Pobaip DO lopcao." 
" A. D. 812. The derthech of Fore was burned." 

This fact being, as I conceive, satisfactorily proved, it remains now 
to inquire what were the peculiar characteristics which distinguished 
the duirtheach from other ecclesiastical structures, whether in mate- 
rial, size, or use, or all these circumstances combined. First, then, of 
their material. On this point we might expect to find a satisfactory 
elucidation in the derivation given of the word by the old glossogra- 
phers ; but unfortunately it appears that its etymology was as doubtful 
to them as I have shown it to be to modern lexicographers. In 
the oldest authority of the former class, that of the vellum MSS., 
H. 2, 16, preserved in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, we are 
offered our choice of the following conjectural explanations : 

" t)uprhech, .1. oaiprech, .1. cech oapach ; no oeipchech, .1. rech i celjcep 
oe'pa ; no ouaipcech .1. rech a celjrep ouaip, pocail .1. ouap, pocal." 

" Durthech, i. e. dair-thech, i. e. a house of oak ; or deir-theck, L e. a house in 
which tears are shed ; or duair-thech, i. e. a house in which words are poured out ; 
i. e. duar, a word." 

It is scarcely necessary to observe, that of these three etymolo- 
gical conjectures, the first is the most likely to be the true one; for, 
as we know that the word daimhliag, which literally signifies a house 
of stone, became the Irish name for the larger churches, which were 
usually of this material, it is in the highest degree probable that in 
the same manner the name duirtheach, literally a house of oak, would 
be applied by the Irish to designate the smaller chapels, or oratories 
of oak, if any were built of such material, which there is every 
reason to believe were originally, for the most part, of oak wood. 

2 Y 


Nor is it to be wondered at, that in the erection of structures for 
the use of religious persons, possessed of little or no wealth, a material 
always at hand, and of little cost, should be used where stone and 
lime cement might be remote, and consequently be obtained with 
cost and difficulty. And that such class of structures was frequently, 
if not generally, of this material, can be proved from a number of 
MS. authorities, from which I shall here select a few examples. 

In an ancient tract of Brehon Laws, preserved in the Library 
of Trinity College, Dublin, H. 2, 16, and also in the Book of Bally- 
mote, and which, amongst other subjects, treats of the different 
stipends given to poets, and the various artificers for their labours, 
the following curious entry is found, relative to the payment of the 
ollamh saer, or chief builder, who was required to be equally skilled 
in the art of building in stone and in wood, and of which the highest 
examples of his combined arts of stone-masonry and carpentry were 
the daimhliag and duirtheach. 

" mat) CHxamh suao saeira, sai^m co pici sec IN a t>irai, 

.1. mao ollarii oc a m-bia paioecc na paippi, .1. mopaijeep peo 7 pici i n-a emec- 
lamn. 60 ap picio lao-pioe oo'n ollam paeip. OCUS CURCU^Ctt) 1TIIS t)O, 
.1. mi a Ian paepam bio 7 ponamoa, uaip cio cian o olijpeo in c-ollarh paip ni 
buo mo ma pin DO a oualjup a pechamlachup, no paippi ilapoa no bee 051 ap 
neiclub eiamlaib, aoeicig lap in ujoap ni bub mo DO na cuopoma pip in ollarh 
pile, no pip in ollam m-bepla, no pip in pep lejino. Conio e ni DO pomoi in 
c-ujoap oa ppim-oan DO bee aici i pora, .1. cloch paippi 7 cpann paippi, 7 in oapa 
oan ip uaiple oib DO bee aici i pora, .1. oamliag 7 oupeech. tDu ba oeg oppo 
pin, .1. pe ba a ceccup oe, 7 a pechamlace DO pejao ap na oariaib aile o pin 
amach, 7 cuopumup a pepeo DO bean allog caca oana Dib, .1. a pepeo pein. Se 
ba ap ibpopacc, 7 pe ba ap coicchijip 7 pd ba ap muilleopacc; bean cpi ba 
epnb pin pip na oa ba oej; puil aici i pora, conio ;cu. ba pin. Ceepi ba ap lon- 
jaib, 7 mi. bapcaib, 7 1111. ba ap cupca ; bean oa ba epcib pin pip na .;cu. ba 
pomaino, conio .;cuii. ba. Cerpi ba ap cpano lepcpa, j. lana, 7 opolmaca, 7 oabca 
oapach, 7 mm-lepcaip oilcena, 7 oa ba ap puamaipecr; bo epcib pin pip na .;cun. 
buaib pomamo conio ;EUIM. t)a ba ap rochpa, 7 oa ba ap caiplib, 7 DO ba ap 
clocanaib ; bo epcib pin pip in pcuin. m-buaib pomamo, conio ^ipe. m-ba. t)a ba 
ap pinoaijecc, 7 oa ba ap cpopa, 7 oa ba ap caippri ; bo epcib pin pip na ;ri;t. 
m-buaib pomaino, conio^. bo. t)a ba ap chigtb plac, 7 oa ba ap pciaraib, 7 
oa ba ap opoccib ; bo epcib pin pip in pichec bo pomaino, conio bo ap pichec 
oo'n ollarii paip amail pin, cona m-ber pin uile aici o'elaonaib." Col. 930. 

TITLED TO TWENTY COWS AS HIS PAY, i. e. if he be an ollave who possesses 
the mastership of trades, it is ordained that twenty-one cows be his pay. These are 
twenty-one cows for the Ollave of trades. AND A MONTH'S REFECTION TO 


HIM, that is, a month ia his full allowance of food and attendance, for although of 
old the Ollave tradesman was entitled to more than this, in reward for the versatility 
of his ingenuity, or for his perfect knowledge of dissimilar arts, still the author [of 
this law] refused to allow him more than the ollave in poetry, or the ollave in language, 
or the teacher. Wherefore what the author did was, to allow him two principal 
branches of the art as from the beginning, i. e. stone-building and wood-building, 
the most distinguished of these branches to remain as formerly, i. e. the DanMiag, 
and the Durthech. Twelve cows to him for these, i. e. six cows for each, and to 
examine his original pay for the other departments, and to take a sixth part of the 
established pay for each of these departments [when not exercised by one and the 
same person] as his pay. Six cows for ibroracht (making yew vessels ?), and six 
cows for coicthiyes (kitchen-building), and six cows for mill-building; take three cows 
from these, which added to the twelve cows which he has fundamentally, and it 
makes fifteen cows. Four cows for ship-building, and four cows for barque-building, 
and four cows for curach-building ; take two cows from these, which added to the 
fifteen above, will make seventeen cows. Four cows for the making of wooden vessels, 
i. e. ians and drolmacks (tubs) and vats of oak, and smaller vessels in like manner, and 
two cows for ruamairec/tt (plough-making ?) ; a cow from these, added to seventeen 
cows above, will make eighteen cows. Two cows for causeways, and two cows for 
cashels, and two cows for clochans (stepping stones) ; a cow from these, added to the 
eighteen above, will make nineteen cows. Two cows for carving, and two cows for 
crosses, and two cows for chariots ; a cow from these to the nineteen above, makes 
twenty cows. Two cows for houses of rods, and two cows for shields, and two cows 
for bridges ; a cow from these added to the twenty above, makes twenty-one cows 
for the Ollave builder, provided he has all his arts in proficiency." 

It is greatly to be regretted that of the preceding curious passage, 
which throws so much interesting light upon the state of society in 
Ireland anterior to the twelfth century, but two manuscript copies 
have been found, and of these one is probably a transcript from the 
other, for it seems in the highest degree probable that by the occa- 
sional omission or change of a letter the sense of the original com- 
mentary has been vitiated. Thus where it is stated that six cows 
was the payment for kitchen-building, which is the same as that for 
building a daimhliag, or duirtheach, it would appear much more 
likely that the word originally used was cloicthiges, or belfry-building, 
which, we may assume, was a much more important labour than the 
other, and which, if the word be truly coicthiges, is omitted alto- 
gether, though, as I shall show in the succeeding section from another 
commentary on the Brehon Laws, ranked, amongst the Irish, as one 
of the most distinguished works of the saer or builder. But till 
some older or better copy of the passage be found, it must, of course, 
remain as of no authority in reference to the Round Towers ; and I 

2 T 2 


have only alluded to it with a view to directing attention to the 
MS. copies of the Brehon Laws not immediately within my reach. 

The next authority to which I shall refer, for it is too long for 
insertion, is an account of the building of a duirtheach of wood 
for St. Moling of Tigh Moling, now St. Mullin's, in the County of 
Carlow, the artificer being the celebrated St. Gobban, whose repu- 
tation as a builder, under the appellation of Gobban Saer, is still so 
vividly preserved in the traditions of most parts of Ireland, and of 
whom, in the ancient life of St Abban, as published by Colgan, it is 
prophetically said, that his fame as a builder, in wood as well as stone, 
will exist in Ireland to the end of time. 

" Quidam famosissimus in omni arte lignorum et lapidum erat in Hibernia nomine 
Gobbanus, cuius artis fama vsque in finem sasculi erit in ea." Acta SS. p. 619. 

This account is preserved in an ancient Irish Life of St. Moling, 
written on vellum, now in the possession of Mr. Hardiman; and 
though, like most of the stories in the Lives of the Irish Saints, it is 
strongly marked by the legendary character of such works, still it 
may be received as sufficiently authentic as to the material of the 
building there erected, and which is distinctly stated to have been 
wood. Thus, according to the legend, when the artificer demanded 
the payment agreed on with Moling for his labour, namely, the full of 
the duirtheach of rye, the saint bid him turn its mouth up, and it 
should be so filled. This condition was at once complied with. 

" t)o beip ^oban tpar ecpe a lam 7 a moinj paip, co po ivnpoo in oaipcheach, 
7 ni oeachaio clap ap a inao oe, 7 n! po cumpcaio oluru claip oib peach a cile." 

" Goban laid hold of it by both post and ridge, so that he turned the duirtheach 
upside down, and not a plank of it started from its place, nor did a joint of any of the 
boards move from the other." 

Again, from the following note in the Felire Aenguis, at the 4th 
of April, we learn that the duirtheach of St. Derbhfraich of Druim 
Dubhain, near Clogher, in Tyrone, the mother of St. Tighernach of 
Clones, was a wooden structure. Derbhfraich nourished towards 
the close of the fifth century. 

" tDepbppaich, maraip Cijepnaij Cluana Goip. Ip ppia apbepc Coechoamaip 
tDpoma Oubain in po, tap perniuo in cpomo DO oluiji eci oc oenum a oeppcije: 
" ' a Oepbppaich, 

Q macaip Chijepnaij noeim, 
Coer DO chobaip, nap ba mall, 
Oluig in cpano hi pail in c-paeip.' 


" Derbfraich, the mother of Tighernach of Cluain Eois. She is called Coechdamair 
of Druim Dubhain here, for having refused to split the timber at the erection of her 
Duirtheach : 

" ' Derbhfraich, 

O mother of holy Tighernach, 

Go to help, be not slow, 

Split the tree along with the carpenter.' " 

But the strongest evidences in favour of this conclusion, that the 
duirtheachs were usually of wood, are those supplied by the Irish 
Annals, which so frequently record the burning of this class of 
buildings by the Northmen, while the daimhliags escaped the flames. 
Of this fact I have already given several instances ; and I shall only 
now add the following remarkable record, from the Annals of Ulster, 
which clearly shows that the duirtheachs at this period must have 
been generally of wood : 

" A.D. 891. Uencup majnup in pepia ITIapcini, con oappcap pio-cip mop ip naib 
cailliB, 7 con puc na oaupcaiji ap a lurpaijib, 7 na rmjji olcena." 

" A. D. 891. A great wind occurred on the festival of St. Martin, which pros- 
trated a great quantity of trees in the woods, and carried the duirtheachs from their 
places, and the [other] houses likewise." 

And lastly, that the custom of building oratories of wood was 
continued in Ireland even to the twelfth century, appears from St. 
Bernard's Life of Malachy, in which the following notice of the 
building of an oratory at Bangor by the latter is found,: 

" Porro oratorium intra paucos dies consummatum est de lignis quidem leuigatis, 
sed apte firmiterque contextum, opus Scoticum pulchrum satis. Et exinde seruitur 
Deo in eo sicut in diebus antiquis, siinili quidem deuotione, etsi non pari numero." 
Cap. V. 

The modicum of praise which St. Bernard bestows on this ora- 
tory is of some interest, and we may well believe that such wooden 
temples were not wholly without ornament or beauty. That they 
were coloured with lime, or whitewash, appears certain from a pas- 
sage in the LeabharBreac, relating to the mystical significations of 
the colours used in the vestments of a priest, and in which the 
white, which was typical of purity, is compared to the colour of the 
calx or lime on the gable of a duirtheach. 

" lp eao DO popne injel m can pejup in pacapc paip, cupa immoepjchap imme 
ap pele 7 naipe, menip jenmnaio caicnemach a cpioe 7 a menma, amcnl uan 
cuinoe, no amail chailc pop benochobap oaupcluje, no amailoach je^pi ppi 5pm, 
cennch n-epnail pecao, DO Lie no mop, DO cuppipium in a cpioe." Fol. 54, now 44. 


" What the white is intended for, when the priest looks upon it, is, that he should 

. blush at it with sensitiveness and shame, if he should not be chaste and pure in heart 

and mind, like the froth of the wave, or like the cailc on the bendchobar of a duirtkeacfi, 

or like the colour of the swan before the sun ; without any kind of sin, small or great, 

remaining in his heart." 

But though it may thus be considered as certain that the duir- 
theachs, or oratories, were usually of wood, and that their name was 
originally significant of their material, in contradistinction from those 
larger churches built of stone, it by no means follows that they were 
always erected of this material, or even that the word would not be 
applied to stone oratories, after its etymology had been popularly 
forgotten. And that oratories were indeed erected of the latter ma- 
terial, at a very ancient period, not only in districts where wood was 
scarce and stone abundant, as in the rocky islands of Aran, where 
so many ancient structures of this kind still remain, but also in dis- 
tricts where wood was abundant, appears certain from various pas- 
sages in our Annals. Of these, I have already referred (p. 144) to 
that curious one in the Annals of Ulster, at the year 788, in which 
the stone oratory at Armagh is spoken of, and from which we may 
safely infer that the other duirtheachs there were not, at that period, 
of this material. And a similar inference may, indeed, be drawn 
from all the notices which we have of other oratories built of stone, 
for if such buildings were usually of this material, it would have 
been unnecessary to distinguish them in this manner. 

A still earlier example of a stone oratory, in the neighbourhood 
of Armagh, one even coeval with St. Patrick himself, and of which 
some ruins yet remain, is preserved to us in St. Evin's, or the 
Tripartite Life of St. Patrick, as translated by Colgan. The passage 
is as follows : 

" Vnam autem ex his Crumtherim appellatam, mirse virtutis virginem, ab aliis 
segragauit, et in cella siue lapideo inclusorio in monte vulgo Kenngobha vocato, Ard- 
macha? versus orientem vicino, inclusit : curamque tradidit S. Benigno, vt singulis 
diebus advesperum de coenula ei curaret prouideri." Trias Tkaum., p. 163. 

I might adduce additional examples, but these are sufficient for 
my purpose ; and I shall only add, that such notices of stone oratories 
clearly indicate that it was not the usual custom to erect such struc- 
tures of this material, for if it were, there would be no necessity to 
distinguish such as were so, in this manner. 


2. SIZE. That the duirtheachs were distinguished from the 
daimhliags as much by their inferiority of size, as difference of mate- 
rial, is quite obvious ; and it is highly probable that, as the stone 
churches and other sacred edifices originally built by St. Patrick, be- 
came the models for subsequent structures of those classes, there may 
have been a similar model originally to regulate the size of the 
duirtheach. Such model, however, would be, in course of time, if 
not forgotten, at least occasionally deviated from, when the means, 
or other circumstances of the builders, made it necessary to do so. 
Thus, amongst the existing stone buildings of this class, as amongst 
many of the ancient parish and abbey churches, we find a great want 
of uniformity as to size ; but their average may be stated to be about 
fifteen feet in length, and ten in breadth, interior measurement ; and 
that this was about the usual size, we have an ancient evidence in a 
fragment of the Brehon Laws preserved in the Library of Trinity 
College, Dublin, H. 3, 17, p. 658, relating to the payment of artificers 
employed in the construction of duirtheachs, daimhliags, and cloig- 
theachs. But as I shall give the whole of this curious document in 
the following subsection, I need only refer to it here. Such is very 
nearly the internal measurement of the duirtheach at Glendalough, 
now popularly called the Priest's House, of which I have already 
given sufficient illustrations, p. 248, et sequen., and also of several 
other stone oratories already noticed, as that of St. Mac Dara, on the 
island of Cruach Mic Dara, off the western coast of Galway, noticed 
in p. 190, and that of St. Cenannach, on the middle island of Aran, 
in the Bay of Galway, noticed at p. 189. And I may add, that the 
stone oratories on the great island of Aran are all either exactly of 
these dimensions, or very nearly so; as the Teampull Beag Mhic 
Duach, or the smaller church of St. Mac Duach, which is situated 
near the greater church of the same saint, called his Teampull Mor, 
and which is obviously of the same age ; St. Gobnet's oratory, which 
measures externally eighteen feet in length, and thirteen feet and a 
half in breadth ; Teampull na Sourney, which is nineteen feet six 
inches in length, and fifteen feet six inches in breadth ; and the ora- 
tory of St. Benen, or Benignus, which is, externally, but fifteen feet 
in length, and eleven feet in breadth. 

Such also is usually the size of the remarkable stone oratories 
in Kerry, built without cement, with the exception of that at Kil- 


malkedar, which is sixteen feet four inches in length, and eight feet 
seven inches in breadth. The most beautiful of these oratories, that 
at Gallerus, described, with illustrations, at p. 133, is, however, 
exactly the prescribed measurement, and not ten feet in breadth 
externally, as there inadvertently stated. 

In the general plan of this class of buildings there was an equal 
uniformity. They had a single doorway, always placed in the centre 
of the west wall, and were lighted by a single window placed in the 
centre of the east wall, and a stone altar usually, perhaps always, 
placed beneath this window. That such oratories, as well as the 
larger churches, were usually consecrated by a bishop, appears cer- 
tain from a very ancient vellum MS. in the Library of the Royal 
Irish Academy, giving the form in which a church, or duirtheach, 
was to be consecrated, and which, judging from the language, ap- 
pears to be of very considerable antiquity ; and many examples of 
such dedications occur in the lives of the Irish saints who flourished 
in Lombardy, Switzerland, and other parts of the Continent, in the 
seventh and eighth centuries, as published by Messingham, Colgan, 
Surius, and the Bollandists. From these lives we may also infer 
that the oratories erected abroad by these Irish ecclesiastics were 
similar in size and material to those in their native country, as in 
the following example, from the Life of Columbanus, describing the 
oratory erected by him at Bobbio : 

" Vbi etiam Ecclesiam in honorem almas Dei genetricis, semperque Virginis 
Marise, ex lignis construxit ad magnitudinem sanctissimi corporis sui." Miracula 
S. Columbani Abbatis. Florilegium, p. 240. 

I should also remark, that, in those lives, such oratories are often 
designated by the term oraculum, a word which was also sometimes 
applied to oratories in Ireland, under the corrupted form of Aireagal, 
and anglicised Errigal, as in Aireagal Dac/iiarog, now Errigal 
Keeroge, in the County of Tyrone, and Aireagal Adhamhnain, now 
Errigal, in Derry. 

But, as I have already said, the duirtheachs were not always of 
these very circumscribed proportions, for it appears from several 
entries in the Irish Annals that they were, at least occasionally, of 
much greater size. Thus, in the Annals of Ulster, at the year 849, 
there is a record of the burning of two hundred and sixty persons in 
the duirtheach of Trevet, a number which certainly could not be 


contained within a duirtheach of the ordinary proportions, and which 
would seem to require, not only a room of greater size, but that upper 
haraber which is found in some of the buildings which appear to 
belong to this class. Moreover, we are not without evidences to 
show that some of the duirtheachs ranked as of more importance than 
others in their immediate vicinity, as the epithet mor, or great, applied 
to them, clearly proves ; and, as the same epithet, when applied to 
a stone church, was unquestionably intended to denote its greater size, 
as compared with the contiguous churches, so we must also conclude 
that it was applied to the duirtheach with a similar object. The fol- 
lowing example of such evidences will, however, suffice. It is found 
in an account of the circumstances which occasioned the writing of 
a poem for the Galls, or foreigners of Dublin, by the celebrated Irish 
poet, Rumann, who has been called, by the Irish writers, the Virgil 
of Ireland, and whose death is thus entered in the Annals of Tigher- 
nach at the year 747 : "Human Mac Colmain Poeta optimus quievit." 
It refers to the building of the duirtheach mor, or great oratory of 
Rathain Ua Suanaigh, now Rahen, in the King's County ; and the 
original, which is preserved in an ancient vellum MS. in the Bod- 
leian Library at Oxford, is said to have been copied from the Book of 
Rathain Ua Suanaigh : 

" Rumuno, mac Colmain, .1. mac pi C-ae^aipe, DO ClannaiB Neill, pij-pilio 
Gipeno, ip 6 DO pijrte an ouan pa, 7 laio luapcacli amm na h-aipce ap a n-epnao. 
Ip 6 aobap imoppu a oenma DO, .1. oia ailicpi cainicc pd co Racan, i n-aimpip 
jopca moipe. Ra bo meipci la luce an barle a cuioechc oo'n baili, con ann a 
oubpacap ppip in paep, po bin ic oenum in oupcaiji moip, oiulcao DO oenum 
ppip in pep n-ouna ; conio ann ac bepc in paep ppi pep oia mumcip, epij a 
n-ajaio Rumuino, 7 abain ppip na cicceo oo'n bailiu, no co n-oepnao p6 pano 
i m-bia aipim na pil DO clapaib puno, DO chum in oupcaiji ; conio ann oo poin- 
piom in pano pa : 

" ' Ct mu coimom ! cio DO oe'n-pa, 

ppip in aobup mup pa ? 
Cum bup aicoi popceim oluru, 
Na ; clap pa ?' 

" Ipeo pin po bui DO clapaib ano, .1. mile clap, 7 nt po pe'cao Diulcao ppip 
ap pin, 6 pa paillpij t)ia DO, cpia n-a 6icpi, in lin clap po bui oc un paep. 

" t)o pome mop ouain DO Jjallaibh Ocha cliach ap pin a cecdip, 7 a oubpacap 
na 7>aiU, co nu cibpicfp luach a otiame DO ; conio ann DO pom-piom in pano 
ipopaic, co n-ebaipc: 

" ' ni'eppa maoail ooneocli DO jena, 
7 ap pein bepac-pa emech DO pjena.' 

2 z 


" Co cuccao a bpech pein DO ap pin ; conio pi bpech pucpum, .1. pinjino cech 
opoch 5 a '^) 7 Da pfn^inn cech oe-^aill, co na ppich acu ^all noc cue oa pmjino 
DO, ap nip piu pe ^Jall oib opocli ^ull DO puo ppip pein icip, co n-ebpucap ppip 
na JJaill mo paipge DO molao, co pincatp in Dan bunu bui aicje. Conio ann 
po tnol-pom in paipje, 7 pe 1 ap meipce, co n-ebuip. 

" ' Cfnpchme mop ap muij tip.' 

" Co cue-pom imoppu in ecail pin leip co Cell belaij, ap TTluij Conpcancin, 
ap ba DO cellaib Ua Suanaio in cell pin, 7 Dlajj Conpcancin uile. Cac mag oan, 
7 cec pepann oa peijeo Conpcancin ba pe DDucucu. Conio DO Conpcancin 
ammnijcep in maj. Ip ariilaio bui cell belaijjan can pin, 7 UN pjiaicce DO ^ullaib 
ann, 7 ap a meic DO pac Rumunn cpian a ecala 01, 7 cpian DO pcoil, 7 cpian leip 
pdm co Raichen ; conio ann ip mapb, conio aonuchc a n-enleabaio pe li-Ua 
Suanaij, ap meo a anoipe la t)ia 7 la oume." Laud. 610, fol. 10, a, col. 1, 2. 

" Rumann, son of Colman, i. e. the son of the King of Laegaire, of the race of 
Niall, royal poet of Ireland, was he that composed this poem, and Laidh Luascach is 
the name of the measure in which he composed it. He came on his pilgrimage to 
Eathan in a time of great dearth. It was displeasing to the people of the town that he 
should come thither, and they said to the architect, who was making the great duir- 
t/ieach, to refuse admittance to the man of poetry. Upon which the builder said to one 
of his people, ' Go meet Rumann, and tell him that he shall not enter the town, until 
he makes a quatrain, in which there shall be an enumeration of what boards there are 
here for the building of the duirtheach. And then it was that he composed this quatrain : 
" ' O my Lord ! what shall I do 
About these great materials ? 
When shall be seen in a jointed edifice 
These ten hundred boards ?' 

" This was the number of boards there, i. e. one thousand boards ; and then he 
could not be refused [admittance], since God had revealed to him, through the poetic 
inspiration, the number of boards which the builder had. 

" He composed a great poem for the Galls of Ath cliach (Dublin) immediately after, 
but the Galls said that they would not pay him the price of his poem ; upon which he 
composed the celebrated distich, in which he said : 

" ' If any one wish to refuse me, let him, 
And on him I will take revenge of daggers.' 

" Upon which his own award was given him. And the award he demanded was a 
pinginn from every bad Gall, and two pinginns from every good Gall, so that there was 
not found among them a Gall who did not give him two pinginns, because none of 
them deemed it worth while to be styled a bad Gall [for the price demanded]. And the 
Galls then told him to praise the sea, that they might know whether his was original 
poetry. Whereupon he praised the sea, while he was in a state of inebriety, and com- 
posed [the poem beginning] 

" ' A great tempest on the plain of Lear,' [i. e. the sea]. 

" He then carried this wealth with him to Cell Belaigh, in Magh Constantine, for 
this was one of the churches of Ua Suanaigh, and the whole of Magh Constantine 


belonged to him. For every plain and land which Constantine had cleared belonged 
to St. Mochuda ; so that the plain was named after Constantine. At this time Cell 
Belaigh had seven streets of Galls in it ; and Rumann gave the third of his wealth to 
it, from its size, and a third to schools, and he kept a third with himself at Rathain, 
where he died, and was buried in the same bed [i. e. tomb] with Ua Suanaigh, for his 
great honour with God and man." 

It is not necessary to the value of the preceding extract that it 
should be considered as authentic history in every respect, for its 
authority, as to the materials and more than ordinary size of the 
duirtheach atRahen, can hardly be doubted, though some of the facts 
stated, in connexion with its erection, may be legendary, and opposed 
to chronological history ; and that they are so, would seem, indeed, 
to be the fact. Thus, it can hardly be true that Rumann was interred 
in the same grave with O'Suanaigh, as the latter, according to the 
accurate Annals of Tighernach, did not die till 763, unless we sup- 
pose a tomb to have been made for O'Suanaigh more than sixteen 
years previously. And again, it is difficult to believe that Rumann's 
poem, in praise of the sea, was written, as stated, for the Galls of 
Dublin, if by Galls we are to understand the Scandinavian invaders, 
as we find no allusion to their devastations or settlements in Ireland, 
in the Irish Annals, previously to the year 794. Yet the poem 
ascribed to Rumann is unquestionably of very great antiquity, and, 
may be the composition of that poet, though not written on the occa- 
sion stated. And, as the Irish applied the word Galls to all foreigners, 
those alluded to may not have been the Danes, but the Saxons, who, 
as we learn from Venerable Bede, infested Ireland long previously. 
At all events, the story told in connexion with this poem, which 
seems obviously to be the tradition preserved at Rahen, with respect 
to the poet Rumann's connexion with that place, is, on many accounts, 
of high interest, as furnishing an evidence, hitherto unknown, of the 
fact stated in some of the oldest Irish calendars, but which I, in com- 
mon with Dr. Lanigan, had heretofore doubted, namely, that a Briton, 
named Constantine, was abbot at Rahen, and whose memory was 
there venerated on the llth of March. In the Festilogy of ^Engus 
this Constantine is set down as Rex Rathenice, which, as Colgan 
understands, did not mean that he was king of the place, but that 
having abdicated his kingdom, he became a monk there, or, as other 
calendars state, abbot. So the Calendar of Cashel, as translated by 

2 z 2 


Colgan, has, " S. Constantinus ex Britannia ortus Abbas de Cut 
Rathain Mochuddce in regions de Delblina Ethra in Media" The 
Martyrology of Tallaght, " Constantini Britonis, vel filij Fergussii 
de Cruthenis." Marian Gorman. " Constantinus Brito :" and the 
Scholiast of Marian adds : " Constantinus filius Fergussij de Cru- 
thenis oriendus ; vel iuxta alias, Brito ; Abbas de Rathenia S. Mo- 
chudce" So also the Martyrology of Donegal has the same words ; 
and Cathal Maguire has the following notice of him : " Constantinus 
Rex Britonum regnum abdicauit : et peregrinationis causa, venit 
Ratheniam tempore S. Mochuddce. Fuit enim Comorbanus (suc- 
cessor) S. Mochuddce Rathenice, et ante Rex Albania : vel est Con- 
stantinus filius Fergussij de Cruthenis oriendus" See Colgan's Acta 
Sanctorum, pp. 574, 575. 

It would be foreign to my purpose to inquire more minutely into 
the history of this distinguished person, who, whatever may have 
been his country, there can be little doubt, was really located at 
Rahen or its vicinity, though not, as stated, at so late a period as to 
have been the successor of St. Mochuda, who was driven from Rahen 
in the year 630, at least if he be, as Dr. O' Con or supposes, the Con- 
stantine noticed in the Annals of Ulster at the year 587, and in those 
of Tighernach at the year 588, in these words, " Conversio Con- 
stantini ad Dominum," and to whom Hector Boethius seems to 
allude in his History of Scotland, L. 9, where he says : " Pmnitentem, 
abdicato regno, secessisse in Hiberniam, ibique, tonso capite, Christi 
militice se prcestitisse." 

The passage is moreover curious for its reference to the seven 
streets inhabited by the Galls, in the town of Cell Belaigh, as well as 
for the allusion to the pinginns, or pennies, at this early period ; and 
I may mention, as a curious fact, that in my own time there has 
been found, in the immediate vicinity of Rahen, not only an exten- 
sive hoard of pennies of the Saxon chief monarchs of the ninth cen- 
tury, but also, subsequently, a considerable number of the pennies 
of Egbert, 801-837, circumstances which would seem to indicate 
that Saxons were established in this locality at an early period. 

To return, however, from this digression. It is from a consi- 
deration of the greater size of some of the Duirtheachs than of others 
that I am inclined to refer to this class not only such curious build- 
ings as Declan's Dormitory at Ardmore, in the County of Waterford, 


and Molaigi's House on Devenish Island, in Fermanagh buildings 
of very contracted dimensions but also those similar buildings, 
though of larger size, at Kells and Glendalough, the first called 
St. Columb's House, and the second St. Kevin's, which have habi- 
table apartments between the stone roof and the coved ceiling of the 
oratory. That all these buildings are . of a remote antiquity their 
architecture sufficiently shows ; and that they may have been erected 
by the celebrated personages whose names they bear, I see no good 
reason to doubt. The great difference between some of these build- 
ings and those which are unquestionably duirtheachs is, that they 
combined within them, under the same roof, the double object of 
an oratory and a dwelling, a difference not very essential, and which 
might have owed its origin to local circumstances. And the greater 
size of St. Columb's House at Kells, and St. Kevin's at Glendalough, 
might be attributable to the rank of the illustrious ecclesiastics for 
whom they were erected. 

Should it be objected that St. Kevin's House at Glendalough, 
unlike that of St. Columb at Kells, had all the features which cha- 
racterize a church for public worship, as nave, chancel, sacristy, 
and belfry, the answer is, that it certainly had not all these features 
originally ; the chancel, with its connecting arch, and sacristy, are 
obviously subsequent additions, as an examination of the structure 
clearly shows ; and it is extremely probable that the small, round, 
turret-belfry, placed upon the west gable of the nave, was also added 
at the same time. Illustrations of these curious structures will be 
given in a subsection following, headed HOUSES. 

3. USE. It can scarcely be questioned that this class of buildings 
were originally erected for the private devotions of their founders 
exclusively ; and if there were any doubts of this, they would be 
removed by the fact that, in the immediate vicinity of such oratories, 
we usually find not only the cells, or the ruins of them, which served 
as habitations for the founders, but also the tombs in which they 
were interred. And it is worthy of observation that in the great 
island of Aran, in the Bay of Galway, called Ara na Naomh, as 
O'Flaherty says, from the multitude of saints interred there, such 
oratories and tombs usually belong to the most distinguished of the 
saints of Ireland, who passed into it to spend the evening of their 
life in prayer and penance, and to be interred there : and hence, I 


think, such structures came, in subsequent times, to be used by 
devotees as penitentiaries, and to be generally regarded as such ex- 
clusively. Nor is it easy to conceive localities better fitted, in a reli- 
gious age, to excite feelings of contrition for past sins, and of 
expectations of forgiveness, than these, which had been rendered 
sacred by the sanctity of those to whom they had owed their origin. 
Most certain, at all events, it is, that they came to be regarded as 
sanctuaries the most inviolable, to which, as our annals show, the 
people were accustomed to fly in the hope of safety, a hope, how- 
ever, which was not always realized. 


THE class of buildings of which I have now to treat, and which 
gave origin to this lengthened Inquiry, though only holding the places 
of accessories to the principal churches in Ireland, have yet, from the 
peculiarity of their form, and the wild theories which have been 
promulgated respecting their age and uses, been regarded as objects 
of greater interest and importance than even the ancient churches 
themselves, or, indeed, than any other class of ancient monuments 
remaining. The inconclusiveness of the arguments and evidences 
which have been adduced to sustain the various theories assigning 
them a pagan origin, have been amply discussed in the first Part of 
this Inquiry, and to those who have accompanied me through that 
investigation, as well as through the preceding sections in this Part, I 
can hardly imagine that it will appear necessary to occupy much 
space now with evidences to prove either their Christian origin, or 
the uses to which, by Christians, they were applied. I, at least, am 
persuaded that to any one having a tolerable acquaintance with me- 
dieval architecture, a sight of a few of these remains, or of accurate 
detailed drawings of them, would be alone sufficient to convince 
him, not only of their Christian date, but of the primary purposes for 
which they were constructed. But, as I have to write not only for 
such persons, but for those also who are less instructed in such know- 
ledge, and, as a consequence, are, for the most part, imbued with 
prejudices difficult to be removed, it is necessary that I should pre- 
sent them with such more direct evidences, on these points, as must 
necessarily lead their minds to a conviction of the truth. 


Previously, however, to my entering on those evidences, I feel it 
necessary to impress on the memories of those who may still cling 
with tenacity to the theory of the pagan origin of these structures, a 
summary of the facts which, in refutation of that theory, I conceive I 
have already established. 

1. That not even the shadow of an historical authority has been 
adduced to show that the Irish were acquainted with the art of con- 
structing an arch, or with the use of lime cement, anterior to the 
introduction of Christianity into the country ; and further, that though 
we have innumerable remains of buildings, of ages antecedent to 
that period, in no one of them has an arch, or lime cement, been 

2. That in no one building in Ireland assigned to pagan times, 
either by historical evidence or popular tradition, have been found 
either the form or features usual in the Round Towers, or charac- 
teristics that would indicate the possession of sufficient architectural 
skill in their builders to construct such edifices. 

3. That, previously to General Vallancey, a writer remarkable 
for the daring rashness of his theories, for his looseness in the use 
of authorities, and for his want of acquaintance with medieval anti- 
quities, no writer had ever attributed to the Round Towers any 
other than a Christian, or, at least, a medieval origin. 

4. And lastly, that the evidences and arguments tendered in sup- 
port of this theory by Vallancey and his followers, excepting those 
of the late Mr. O'Brien and Sir William Betham, which I have not 
thought deserving of notice, have been proved to be of no weight 
or importance. 

In addition to these facts, the four which follow will be proved 
in the descriptive notices of the ancient churches and towers which 
will constitute the Third Part of this Inquiry. 

1. That the towers are never found unconnected with ancient 
ecclesiastical foundations. 

2. That their architectural styles exhibit no features or pecu- 
liarities not equally found in the original churches with which they 
are locally connected, when such remain. 

3. That on several of them Christian emblems are observable ; 
and that others display, in their details, a style of architecture univer- 
sally acknowledged to belong to Christian times. 



4. That they possess, invariably, architectural features not found 
in any buildings in Ireland ascertained to be of pagan times. 

For the present, however, I must assume these additional facts 
as proved, and will proceed to establish the conclusions as to their 
uses originally stated ; namely, I. that they were intended to serve 
as belfries ; and, II. as keeps, or places of strength, in which the 
sacred utensils, books, relics, and other valuables, were deposited, 
and into which the ecclesiastics to whom they belonged could retire 
for security, in cases of sudden predatory attack. 

These uses will, I think, appear obvious to a great extent, from 
their peculiarities of construction, which it will be proper, in the first 

place, to describe. These Towers, then, as will be seen from the 
annexed characteristic illustration, representing the perfect Tower 
on Devenish Island in Lough Erne, are rotund, cylindrical struc- 
tures, usually tapering upwards, and varying in height from fifty to 


perhaps one hundred and fifty feet ; and in external circumference, 
at the base, from forty to sixty feet, or somewhat more. They 
have usually a circular, projecting base, consisting of one, two, or 
three steps, or plinths, and are finished at the top with a conical 
roof of stone, which, frequently, as there is every reason to believe, 
terminated with a cross formed of a single stone. The wall, towards 
the base, is never less than three feet in thickness, but is usually 
more, and occasionally five feet, being always in accordance with 
the general proportions of the building. In the interior they are 
divided into stories, varying in number from four to eight, as the 
height of the Tower permitted, and usually about twelve feet in 
height. These stories are marked either by projecting belts of stone, 
set-offs or ledges, or holes in the wall to receive joists, on which rested 
the floors, which were almost always of wood. In the uppermost of 
these stories the wall is perforated by two, four, five, six, or eight 
apertures, but most usually four, which sometimes face the cardinal 
points, and sometimes not. The lowest story, or rather its place, is 
sometimes composed of solid masonry, and when not so, it has never 
any aperture to light it. In the second story the wall is usually per- 
forated by the entrance doorway, which is generally from eight to 
thirty feet from the ground, and only large enough to admit a single 
person at a time. The intermediate stories are each lighted by a 
single aperture, placed variously, and usually of very small size, 
though in several instances, that directly over the doorway is of a 
size little less than that of the doorway, and would appear to be 
intended as a second entrance. ^ 

In their masonic construction they present a considerable va- 
riety : but the generality of them are built in that kind of careful 
masonry called spawled rubble, in which small stones, shaped by the 
hammer, in default of suitable stones at hand, are placed in every 
interstice of the larger stones, so that very little mortar appears to be 
intermixed in the body of the wall ; and thus the outside of spawled 
masonry, especially, presents an almost uninterrupted surface of stone, 
supplementary splinters being carefully inserted in the joints of the 
undried wall. Such, also, is the style of masonry of the most ancient < 
churches ; but it should be added that, in the interior of the walls 
of both, grouting is abundantly used. In some instances, however, 
the Towers present a surface of ashlar masonry, but rarely laid in 

3 A 


courses perfectly regular, both externally and internally, though 
more usually on the exterior only ; and, in a few instances, the lower 
portion of the Towers exhibit less of regularity than the upper parts. 

In their architectural features an equal diversity of style is obser- 
vable ; and of these the doorway is the most remarkable. When the 
Tower is of rubble masonry, the doorways seldom present any deco- 
rations, and are either quadrangular, and covered with a lintel, of a 
single stone of great size, or semicircular-headed, either by the con- 
struction of a regular arch, or the cutting of a single stone. There 
are, however, two instances of very richly decorated doorways in 
Towers of this description, namely, those of Kildare and Timahoe. 
In the more regularly constructed Towers the doorways are always 
arched semicircularly, and are usually ornamented with architraves, 
or bands, on their external faces. The upper apertures but very 
rarely present any decorations, and are most usually of a quadran- 
gular form. They are, however, sometimes semicircular-headed, and 
still oftener present the triangular or straight-sided arch. I should 
further add, that in the construction of these apertures very frequent 
examples occur of that kind of masonry, consisting of long and 
short stones alternately, now generally considered by antiquaries as 
a characteristic of Saxon architecture in England. 

The preceding description will, I trust, be sufficient to satisfy 
the reader that the Round Towers were not ill-adapted to the double 
purpose of belfries and castles, for which I have to prove they were 
chiefly designed ; and keeping this double purpose in view, it will, 
I think, satisfactorily account for those peculiarities in their struc- 
ture, which would be unnecessary if they had been constructed for 
either purpose alone. For example, if they had been erected to 
serve the purpose of belfries only, there woxild be no necessity for 
making their doorways so small, or placing them at so great a dis- 
tance from the ground j while, on the other hand, if they had been 
intended solely for ecclesiastical castles, they need not have been of 
such slender proportions and great altitude. I shall now proceed to 
a consideration of the evidences which have forced this conviction 
upon my own mind. And first, with respect to their original use 
as belfries. 

1. It is most certain that the Irish ecclesiastics had, from a very 
early period, in connexion with their cathedral and abbey churches, 


campanilia, or detached belfries, called in the Irish annals, and other 
ancient authorities, by the term cloijreac. 

2. It is equally certain that, in all parts of Ireland where the Irish 
language is yet retained, these Towers are designated by the same 
terra, except in a few districts, where they are called by the synony- 
mous term clogoip, or by the term cuilgreac, which, as I have 
already shown, is only a corrupted form of cloigceac, by a transpo- 
sition of letters very usual in modern Irish words. 

3. It is also certain that no other building, either round or square, 
suited to the purpose of a belfry, has ever been found in connexion 
with any church of an age anterior to the twelfth century, with the 
single exception of the square belfry attached to a church on Inis 
Clothrann, or Clorin, an island in Lough Ree, and which seems 
to be of earlier date. 

4. And lastly. It is further certain that this use is assigned to 
them by the uniform tradition of the whole people of Ireland ; and 
that they are appropriated to this use, in many parts of the country, 
even to this day. 

To facts so demonstrative of this primary purpose of the Towers, 
it is not easy to imagine an objection of sufficient weight to invalidate 
them, nor have any been advanced. It has, indeed, been urged by 
several, that their internal diameter at top is too small " for a bell 
of moderate size to oscillate in ;" and by Dr. O'Conor, and others after 
him, that the ancient Irish belfries must have been of wood, because 
the annalists state that, like the churches, they were frequently burned 
by the Northmen. Of these objections, however, the first is refuted 
by the fact that bells of larger size than any which the ancient Irish 
ever possessed, are hung in many of the Towers at the present day ; 
and the nullity of the second objection has been already fully de- 
monstrated at p. 64. 

I may, moreover, add here, and particularly as the passage to 
which I am about to refer, had escaped my memory when I was 
noticing Dr. O'Conor's arguments in the First Part of this Inquiry, 
that Dr. O'Conor, as far as this point is concerned, has refuted his 
own arguments, and, indeed, acknowledged the appropriation of the 
Towers, at a very early period, to the uses which I assign to them, 
as their original ones. This will fully appear by a comparison of the 
opinions stated in the following passage, which appears as a note in 

3 A 2 


his Annals of Tighernach, p. 89, with the opinions already quoted 
from his Prolegomena, p. 49 ; the former published in 1826, and the 
latter in 1814, and which will show that within this period Dr. 
O'Conor's opinions must have undergone a very material change. 

" HKC a quodam vetere Hibernense scripta fuere, qui Turres Ecclesiasticos 
Hibernorum, eorumque intentum, ac usum noverat, atque ab Anachoretis, Orientalium 
more viventibus, et campanas, aliasque res Sacras, Libros et Thesauros custodientibus, 
habitabantur ; utpote a petra construeti ab imo ad summum, quia Ecclesiae, aliaque 
sedificia Hibernica, cum e ligno constructa essent, faoillime et frequentissime combure- 
bantur. Ante Campanilium usum invectum, construct! fuere turres isti, referente 
Gratiano Lucio, pag. 133. Postea tamen usus inolevit, ut campanis in eorum culmine 
appensis, carnpanilium vices gererent." 

But, if there be any who may still doubt that the Irish cloictheachs 
were stone structures, and distinct buildings from the churches, they 
must be convinced of the fact by the following very curious pas- 
sage, which occurs in a vellum manuscript in the Library of Trinity 
College, Dublin, H. 3, 17, p. 653. This passage is, unfortunately, 
but a fragment of a Commentary on a Brehon Law, relative to the 
payment of artificers for the erection of the three chief buildings, 
which are usually found grouped together in ecclesiastical establish- 
ments, namely, the duirtheach, daimhliag, and cloictheach, and hence 
it should be premised that, as well from the want of the original 
law, which it was intended to elucidate, as from the technical 
character of the rules laid down, it is by no means easy to arrive 
at a clear understanding of its entire meaning. But this is a matter 
of little consequence to the present inquiry, as the passage will 
clearly show, what is essential to my purpose, that the belfry was a 
distinct building, constructed of stone ; and that there was a law 
regulating not only the price of its construction, but determining its 
height, as proportioned to the daimhliag, or stone church : 

" mapa oupcac .u. cpoijio n-oec, no ip lua map, .1. cuic cpaijio .p. in a par, 
1 .pc. epaijio in a leeee, ip pamaipc ap cac cpaijeo cappna oe, no ap cac epaijeo 
co lee ap pur ; cona cuije ame pin: 7 mapa epuioe plmneo, ip bo ap cac cpoijjeo 
rappna oe, no ap cac cpoijeo gu lee ap pue. fDapa mo e ma .u. cpoijio .p. pa- 
maipc ap oa epian cpoijio cappna oe, no ap epoi^eo ap ue: co na euj^i ame pin. 
mapa cuije plmneo, bo ap oa cpian rpoijjio cappna oe, no ap cpoijjeo ap uc. 

"toj na n-ouprac oo pep olijio pin; ocup a cpian oo elaoain, 7 cpian ooaobup, 
7 a cpian oo aobup, 7 a cpian oo biuo, 7 oo ppiccnam, 7 oo jobnib ; 7 po'n 
comae pe pecap a lep jabeino aichpejrap pin ooib, 7 lee in cpm oo jjoibmb 
onaenup, .1. pepeo ; in .ui. aili a pomo ap oo icep biao 7 ppicjnam, aili .p. ceccap 


6e ; 7 oa paib peann na pecap a lep jobano, ippoino ap DO annpioe icep biao 
7 Fpichjnam. ITlapa jnnnpaio 05 a pecap u lep cip 7 ac na pecap jobano, rpian 
o'elaounn, 7 cpian DO cip, 7 cpian o'aobup, 7 DO biuo, 7 DO ppirjnutn; a ler poe 
o'aobup anaenup, .ui. ; in .ui. aili DO biuo 7 DO ppieh^natn, .t.aili .?. DO ceccap oe. 
In oamliaj5 : mapa cuje plmneo puil aip, comlog e 7 in oupcac ip cucpumu 
pip. ITIapu cuije aine pil aip, in r-amm painne jubup in cloc in a cpann, jupub 
e in c-amm painne pm DO lan-loj bep F a 'P ! 7 ln e-amm painne jabup in cpann 
in a cloic jupub e in c-amm painne pin oo ler-loj bep f-aip, 7 ip e pamn pachup 
ap nu anmannaib painne pin in pomri ceic 05 un oupchac. 

" In cloiccech : a ichcup pioe oo comup, a comup pioe pe h-iccup in oaiTnliaj pe 
n-a cucpumuoe, 7 in imapcpaio a ca ap a pac, 7 ap a leceo in oaiTnliaj o pin imach 
o chocoriiup in cloccige imac, ipu piajail poe pe aipoe in cloccije; 7 oa paib 
imapcpaio aip, .1. ap aipoe in cloccije pip in oaimliag, ip comop log pip, in cue- 
puma loijioecca pm DO cabaipc ap in cloccech." 

" If it be a duirtheach of fifteen feet, or less than that, that is, fifteen feet in its 
length, and ten feet in its breadth, a heifer for every foot of it in breadth, or for every 
foot and a half in length ; this is when the roof is of rushes : but if the roof be of 
tlinn* [shingles], it is a cow for every foot of it in breadth, or for every foot and a half 
in length. If it be more than fifteen feet, a heifer for [every] two-thirds of a foot of 
it in breadth, or for [every] foot in length ; this it when the roof is of rushes : if the 
roof be of shingles, a cow for [every] two- thirds of a foot of it in breadth, or for [every] 
foot in length. 

" That is the price of the duirtheachs according to law ; and a third of it for trade 
[i. e. for the builder], and a third for materials, and a third for diet, and for atten- 
dance, and for smiths ; and it is according to the right of the smiths when they are 
required, that [third] is apportioned between them ; and half the third to the smiths 
alone, that is, a sixth ; the other sixth to be divided into two parts between diet and 
attendance, one-twelfth to each of them ; and if it be an apportionment for a work in 
which the smith is not required, to divide it [the third] into two parts between diet 
and attendance. If it be a work for which land is required [i. e. the site of which 
must be purchased], and for which a smith is not required, a third for trade, and a 
third for land, and a third for materials, and for food, and for attendance ; the half of 
that [last third] for materials alone, [that is] a sixth ; the other sixth for diet and 
for attendance, that is a twelfth for each of them. 

" The daimhliag: if its covering be of shingles, it is of equal price with the duir- 
theach, which is proportioned to it. If its covering be of rushes, the proportion which 
stone [work] bears to wood [work] is the proportion of full price that shall be for it ; 
and the proportion which wood [work] bears to stone [work] is the proportion of half 
price that shall be for it ; and these proportions will be distributed according to the 
rule applied to the duirtheach. 

" The doiclheach: its base to be measured ; that [again] to be measured with the 
base of the daimhliag for [determining] its proportions ; and the excess of the length 
and breadth of the daimhliag over it [i. e.] over the measurement of the doictheach, 

* Slinn is now used to denote slates, but the word is rendered shingles by Ma- 
geoghegan. The use of slates for roofing seems to be of no great antiquity in Ireland. 


that is the rule for the height of the cloictheach ; and if there should be an excess, i. e. 
in the height of the cloictheach compared with the daimhliag, which is of equal price 
with it, a proportionate excess of price is to be paid for the cloict/ieacfi." 

Difficult of explanation as the preceding passage is, we may at 
least safely infer from it that the cloictheach, or belfry, was a distinct 
building, constructed of similar materials with the daimhliag, and 
having its height and the expense of its erection determined by a 
certain rule bearing on its usual proportion to that of its accompany- 
ing church. When this proportion was observed, the expense of 
building each was the same ; and when the height of the Tower 
exceeded that specified, its expense was increased accordingly. 

It is not, of course, necessary to my purpose, to attempt an ex- 
planation of the rule for determining the height of the belfry; yet, as 
a matter of interest to the reader, I am tempted to hazard a conjec- 
ture as to the mode in which it should be understood. It appears, 
then, to me, that by the measurement of the base of the Tower, must 
be meant its external circumference, not its diameter ; and, in like 
manner, the measurement of the base of the daimhliag must be its 
perimeter, or the external measurement of its four sides. If, then, we 
understand these terms in this manner, and apply the rule as di- 
rected, the result will very well agree with the measurements of the 
existing ancient churches and towers. For example, the cathedral 
church at Glendalough, as it appears to have been originally con- 
structed, for the present chancel seems an addition of later time, 
was fifty-five feet in length and thirty-seven feet in breadth, giving a 
perimeter of 184 feet. If from this we subtract the circumference of 
the Tower, at the base, or foundation, which is fifty-two feet, we shall 
have a remainder of 132 feet, as the prescribed height for the latter. 
And such, we may well believe, was about the original height of this 
structure ; for, to its present height of 110 feet, should be added from 
fifteen to eighteen feet for its conical roof, now wanting, and perhaps a 
few feet at its base, which are concealed by the accumulation of earth 
around it. In cases of churches having a chancel as well as nave, the 
rule, thus understood, seems equally applicable ; for example, the 
church of Iniscaltra gives a perimeter of 162 feet, from which de- 
ducting forty-six feet, the circumference of the Tower, we have 116 
feet as the prescribed height of the latter ; which cannot be far from 
the actual original height of the Tower ; for, to its present height of 


eighty feet must be added ten or twelve feet for the upper story, 
which is now wanting, fifteen feet for its conical roof, and a few feet 
for a portion concealed at its base. 

Additional evidences on this primary purpose of the Round Towers 
would, I think, be superfluous ; and I shall therefore proceed, without 
further delay, to a consideration of the evidences which have led me 
to conclude that these buildings were designed to combine with their 
primary object of belfries the secondary, though not less original one, 
of ecclesiastical keeps. Previously, however, to entering on these 
evidences, I should premise that they are by no means of so direct a 
character as those adduced in support of my first conclusion. But 
though only inferential, they will, I trust, be found scarcely less weighty. 
1. That the Round Towers were designed, in part, for ecclesias- 
tical castles, as well as belfries, must, as I think, necessarily be in- 
ferred from some of the peculiarities found almost universally in their 
construction, and particularly in their small doorways placed at so 
great a height from the ground. It is scarcely necessary to remark, 
that this obvious mode of securing safety is a common one in ancient 
castles ; but I should observe, that the most ancient military towers 
subsequent to Roman times, found in the British Isles, and which are 
built with stone and lime cement, are invariably of this round and lofty 
character, having their doorways small, and considerably elevated from 
the ground, and their floors composed of wood. Such were the cas- 
tles of Launceston, in Cornwall; of Brunless, in Brecknockshire; of 

Dolbaddern, in Carnarvonshire, &c. 
And even the Saxon, or Norman, 
castle of Conisborough, in York- 
shire, preserves, in some degree, the 
same peculiarities. 

As an instance of this remarkable 
agreement of the British castles with 
the Irish Round Towers, I annex an 
outline of the castle of Brunless, in 
its present state, taken from King's 
Munimenta Antigua, vol. iii. p. 32, 
a work in which much curious in- 
formation will be found relative to the ancient British castles. If 
we restore the outline of this castle to its probable original height, it 



will be found to be almost identical, in most of its features, with 
several of our Irish Towers, as shown in the annexed outlines of the 
existing Round Tower of Clondalkin, and of the Tower of Rosscar- 
bery, copied from an ancient seal of the diocese, as published in 
Harris's Ware. 

Mr. King is of opinion that this tower, or castle, as well as 
others of the same description, was erected by the Silures, or Dam- 
nonii, during the occupation of the island by the Romans; and that its 
form was derived from the Phoenician or Carthaginian traders : but 
as the origin of the form of our Irish Round Towers shall be inquired 
into at some length in the concluding section of the Third Part of 
this work, I will not occupy the reader's time with any remarks on it 
in this place. I deem it important, however, to state that Mr. King 
had no doubt that these British castles were designed for treasuries 
and places of refuge ; and that, though their inside, or timber work, 
might be " burnt and refitted over and over again," they could, in 
no other way, be injured by fire. 

1 l 

2. This secondary purpose may be still further inferred from the 
fact, that many of the remaining doorways of the Towers exhibit 
abundant evidences of their having been provided with double doors; 
and I may remark that this was in itself sufficient to satisfy the mind 
of the most accomplished and scientific architect this country has 
given birth to, the late Mr. William Morrison, that this was one of 
the purposes for which the Towers were designed. Having directed 
his attention to an examination of some of the Towers, with a view 
not only that I might have the advantage of his judgment as to their 



construction, but also with the hope of satisfying him that my opinions, 
as to their uses, had not been erroneous, as my lamented friend had 
previously believed, I was favoured with the valuable opinion result- 
ing from such examination, " that the means resorted to for the pur- 
pose of preventing forcible entry, namely, by means of double doors, 
fully establish their design for places of safety and defence." The 
opinion which I have now quoted occurs in a letter addressed to me 
from Roscrea, in 1832. On his return to Walcott, his residence, near 
Bray, shortly after, my friend favoured me with a letter, containing a 
sketch, from the interior, of the doorway of the Tower of Roscrea, as 

it now exists, and another, with a section, of the same doorway re- 
stored, for the purpose of exhibiting the manner in which this door- 
way had been provided with double doors. Of these 
interesting sketches it affords me great pleasure to 
- - ' lay copies before my readers, as well as the explana- 
tions which accompanied them. 

In the first the letter a exhibits a semicircular 
groove, being the remains of a stone socket-hole, 
since chiselled off, but leaving the section of the 
original circular hole. 

In the second, a restored view, the same letter 
exhibits a projecting stone socket to receive the 
upper iron of the door. 

b. Pivot hole. 

c. Projecting stones, to receive iron bolts. 

3 B 


d. Aperture in a stone at either side of the doorway, to receive 
a moveable door, placed in time of siege. 

e. Bolt hole. 

f. Eabbet, or stop, to receive the door, and prevent it from being 
pulled out. 

The letter which accompanied these sketches is in itself so curious 
and characteristic of the inquiring mind of its author, that I feel re- 
luctant in abridging it, and shall therefore present it to the reader in 
its original integrity. 


" I am really ashamed at not having ere now sent you the sketches ; 
but, in truth, I have been so tormented at once with business and ill health, that it 
was out of my power to do so ; you now have them in a sort of way, which your know- 
ledge of the subject and ingenuity will, I trust, enable you to unravel. I have made 
you two views of the doorway, as it is ; and a restoration, showing what I conceive to 
have been its original state. The value of this specimen, as it strikes me, is the 
proof it affords, first, that the Towers have been, at a certain and very remote period, 
employed as places of defence, or safety, which is fully established by the means 
here resorted to, to prevent forcible entry ; and secondly, and most important, that at 
a subsequent period those defences have been designedly removed, owing either to the 
increased security of the country, or the increased veneration shown to its religion : it 
may be that its members were desirous of thus evincing their confidence and security ; 
or it might be, that a successful spoliator thus deprived the possessors of the means of 
future defence against renewed attack. But be that as it may, it affords, I should 
think, a satisfactory refutation of the argument founded on the occasional absence of 
such defences : having, from whatever cause, been here carefully removed, it is fair to 
infer that like motives have induced a similar removal elsewhere, thus accounting 
for [their] occasional absence. 

" Believe me, dear Petrie, 

" Tour's very faithfully, 

" WALCOTT, Thursday, 19 [July], 1832. 

" P. S. At Rattoo, as I remember, the bolt-holes for fastening the exterior, and 
removeable door exist, whilst there does not remain any apparent means of hanging, 
or securing, the interior door ; further, I believe, the inner jambs are not chiselled to 
receive a door ; it must, however, be presumed, that where the exterior door, placed 
necessarily in an innermost position, was deemed indispensable, that the interior one, 
which could occasion no inconvenience, and have effectually answered any purpose of 
a door, would not be omitted ; if you conceive it hung within the interior face of the 
wall from projecting sockets of stones, subsequently removed, the difficulty is got over. 
It may be urged that the Towers are unprovided with offensive means of defence ; 
but to employ such means might have been held inconsistent with the religious cha- 
racter of their possessors, or such a garrison might have been unwilling to excite 
increased irritation in its assailants ; or, which is most likely, a sufficient means of 



offence was thought to be afforded by the upper windows, as the door alone could be 
pregnable, and a stone falling seventy feet would be no soothing application to a Dane's 

Amongst the letters of my friend I find another, which I consider 
worthy of publication, not only as affording another example of the 
custom of double doors in the Towers, but also as giving his valuable 
opinion on the fact that the Tower and its accompanying church are 
cotemporaneous structures. The buildings described in this letter are, 
the church and Round Tower of Dysart, in the County of Limerick. 

" NEWCASTLE, Wednesday, 29 [May, 1832]. 

" I hope you will consider the promptness with which I have attended 
to your commission, as some proof of the satisfaction it affords me to contribute, in 
any manner within my power, to your wishes. On reaching Limerick yesterday I 
immediately set out for Dysart, as my first object, whence it is distant twelve miles, 
of which I found it necessary to walk the last four across the country. The accom- 
panying sketches will, I believe, afford you all the information which you can require. 
The construction of the Tower at Dysart is quite similar to that at Rattoo, only differ- 
ing in the quality of the material, which is somewhat more massive ; it bears a strong 
resemblance to the Etruscan masonry of Italy, a mode of building likewise adopted in 
some of the early Greek churches, of which you have a good representation in one of 
the plates of the 'Unedited Antiquities of Attica.' The adjacent church is, manifestly, 
coeval with the Tower, the mode of building and the forms perfectly corresponding. 
The coverings of its opes are gone, but from what remains there can be no doubt of 
their having been finished as those of the Tower, the entrance being semi-circularly 
arched, and the windows either arched or covered with horizontal lintels of long stone. 
"You observe that the Tower is divided into stories, as at 
Rattoo, but with this difference, that here there is a window to 
each story, and that the intermediate corbelle stones are omitted. 
" The door of entrance bears you out in your opinion, and 
establishes the fact of the Tower having been employed occa- 
sionally as a place of defence. There are, you observe, bolt-holes 
for double doors (a, a, a, with corresponding ones opposite), the 
one exterior of the other, but there is not any apparent means for 
the hanging of the door itself ; the form of the ope, however, 
would supply this seeming deficiency ; narrowing to the exterior 
a timber frame might have been inserted, and wedged to the inside, 
to which the door might have been hung, with leather hinges. 
The narrowing of the ope would itself prevent the frame being 
drawn out ; and the bolts and wedges insured its not being 
driven in. 

" There is no appearance of more than the one church in the immediate vicinity; 
about half a mile off there is another, but it is of a much later period, pointed 
opes, splayed reveals, &c. 

3 B 2 


" You shall hear from me again from Carlow, if I can obtain the information you 

require there. 

" Your's ever, 


I have annexed a copy of his sketch of the section of this door- 
way, as a necessary illustration of the description in the preceding 
letter; and sketches of the details of the Tower will be found in the 
Third Part of this work. 

To this portion of my evidences I do not feel it necessary to add 
another word. 

3. An examination of our ancient literature leads strongly to the 
conclusion that the Irish people so generally recognized this use of 
the Round Towers as a primary one, that they but very rarely applied 
to a tower, erected for defence, any other term but that of cloictheach, 
or belfry. Thus, for example, in an Irish translation of an old Life 
of Charlemagne, preserved in the Book of Lismore, we find the term 
cloictheach thus applied : 

"Do Bi lapla na tauoame a n-impepecc an impep po, 7 DO puachai^ in c- 
impep he ap a bee oipeac cponuipeac, 7 DO cuip in r-impep mopan ecla ann ap a 
peaBup; innup jup reir in c-iapla 7 a ben a njlenncaiB pupat j 7 a coillciB oiampu, 
7 DO ponpac cloicceac 6oiB pern a n-a coioeloaip ap ecla il-piapc in papai^. Oo 
chuaio in c-impep oimam po DO Denarii piaoaija papai^pein, 7 caplachum cloicci^ 
an laplu po h-e ip in n-oijri, 7 DO b' eicm DO comnui^i DO oenum ann in oijri pi. 
Do Bi ben in lapla coppac, 7, 516 DO bi, DO pmoi umla 7 ppicolurii an impepi 7 a 
mumnrepi in oijci pin." Fol. 119, b, a. 

" The Earl of Laudaine \Lauden ? ] lived in the empire of this emperor, and the 
emperor hated him on account of his being upright [and] merciful, and the emperor 
was much afraid of him for his goodness ; so that the earl and his wife fled into 
desert valleys and into solitary woods, and made for themselves a cloictheach, in which 
they slept, through fear of the many monsters of the forest. This vain emperor set out 
to hunt in his own forest, and happened [to arrive] at the cloictheach of this earl in 
the night ; and he was obliged to tarry there for the night. The wife of the earl was 
pregnant, and, although she was, she did homage to and attended upon the emperor 
and his people [on] that night." 

In the following example from an ancient tract in the Leabhar 
Breac, we find the word cloictheach applied synonymously with coji, 
to a tower. 

" 6a mop, cpa, oiumup 7 aoclop 7 bocapach in pij cholai pin, uaip ip e oop 

jjm in biumup na oepnao pemi piam, .1. cop aipjic oen-jit DO oenam DO pein ; 7 ba 

oepmaip mec 7 lechac 7 aipoe in cuip pin, 7 ba h-aipoe h-e inbac cije in baile o 

em imach, i n-a cloicrech gel-apo. Ro puioijeo lapum gemma j^loinioe 7 leaju 

lojmapa ano : 7 DO pi^ne in pi puibiujao opoa DO buoein immullach in cuip pin. 


lap pn cpa DO P'jne h-imajm 7 oeilb n-ulmno n-mjuricuij chappaic cerheppiaca 
na Jjpene ano." Fol. 108, a, a. 

" Great, indeed, was the pride, vanity, and pomp of this sensual king [Castroe, 
king of the Medes and Persians], for it is he who performed an act of pride, [such us] 
was never accomplished before, i. e. he erected for himself a tower of bright silver ; 
and great was the size, and breadth, and height of that tower, which was higher than 
all the other houses of the town, being a bright lofty doictheach. Brilliant gems and 
precious stones were afterwards placed in it : and the king made for himself a golden 
throne on the top of that tower. After that he made an image, and beautiful, wonderful 
representation of the four-wheeled chariot of the sun there." 

And lastly, that these double purposes, for which I contend that 
the Towers were erected, were recognized by the Irish to a very 
late period, may be inferred from a passage in the ancient Registry 
of Clonmacnoise, as translated from the original Irish for Sir James 
Ware, by the celebrated antiquary, Duald Mac Firbis, and which is 
now preserved in the British Museum. In this Registry the great 
Round Tower of Clonmacnoise, popularly called O'Rourke's Tower, 
which, according to this authority, was erected by Fergal O'Rourke, 
is called " a small steep castle or steeple, commonly called in Irish 
claicthough" The entire of the passage will be found, in connexion 
with the description of this Tower, in the Third Part of this work. 

4. It may be clearly inferred, from several records in the Irish 
annals, that the Towers were used for the purpose of safety and de- 
fence. One of the most important of these records, as given by the 
Four Masters, has been already quoted in the examination of Dr. 
O'Conor's theories, in the First Part of this work ; but I feel it ne- 
cessary to repeat it here from the various annals, as signally support- 
ing the hypothesis under consideration. The passage I allude to is 
as follows : 

" A. D. 949. Cloiceeach Slaine DO lopcao DO 5 a W a '& Ctca cliach : bacall 
im> eplariia 7 cloc ba Dec DO clocaiB ; Caenechaip pepleijinn, 7 rochuioe imbe, 
DO lopcao." Annals of Ulster. 

Thus rendered in the old translation of these annals in the British 
Museum : 

" A. D. 949. The steple of Slane burnt by y" Gent [Gentiles] of Dublin ; and 
burnt y e Saints Crostaff and a ston" [correctly bell'] " most p'tious of stones" [correctly 
bells'] ; " Cinaoh and a great number about Mm burnt, being the Lector." 

This event is thus recorded in the Chronicon Scotorum, which 
is a condensed copy of the Book of Clonmacnoise, corrected, in its 
chronology, from the Annals of Tighernach : 


" A. D. 950. Cloijceac Slaine oo lopjao DO jencib co n-a lun DO ooinib ann, 
.1. im Conecap peplejmn Slaine." 

" A. D. 950. The doigtheach of Slane was burnt by the Pagans, with its full of 
people in it, i. e. with Conecar, the reader of Slane." 

Thus rendered by Mageoghegan in Ms translation of the original 
Annals of Clonmacnoise, under the year 945 : 

" A. D. 945. The steeple of Slane was burnt by the Danes, which was full of 
worthy men, and relicks of saints, with Kennyagher, Lector of Slane." 

The same passage is thus given more fully in the Annals of the 
Four Masters, into which it was evidently transcribed from the ori- 
ginal Annals of Clonmacnoise. 

" A. D. 948. Cloicchec Slaine DO lopccao DO ^Jhallaib, co n-a Ian bo riiionnaib' 
ajup bejoaoimb, im Chaomechaip peap leijinn Slaine, agup bacall an eplarha, 
ajup clocc ba beach DO cloccaib." 

" A. D. 948. The cloictheach of Slane was burnt by the Danes, with its full of 
reliques and good people, with Caoinechair, Reader of Slane, and the crozier of the 
patron saint, and a bell, the best of bells." 

The preceding passages relate to a Tower which no longer exists. 
Those which follow relate to Towers still remaining. The first 
relates to the Tower of Kells, and is given as follows in the Annals 
of Tighernach : 

"A. D. 1076. TTlupcab ua plains h-Ui TTIaelpeclilaino bo mapbaolu h-Ctmlaim, 
mac TTlaelan, pi 5 al ^ en S> ' cloicceach Cenanbpa a mebuil, 7 a mapbab pen po 
ceooip cpe pipe Coluitn Cille, la TTlaelpechlainb, mac Concobaip." 

" A. D. 1076. Murchad, grandson of Flann O'Maelsechlainn, was treacherously 
killed by Amlaff, son of Maelan, king of Gaileng, in the doictheach of Kells, who was 
himself slain immediately after, through the miracle of Columbkille, by Maelsechlainn, 
the son of Conchobhar." 

The same event is thus recorded in the Annals of Ulster : 

" A. D. 1076. mupchao, mac plainD, h-Ui ITIaelpechlainD, pi Cempach ppi pe 
cpi n-oibce, Do mapbao i cloiccich Cheanannpa DO mac TTlaelan, pi^ailenj." 

Thus rendered in the old translation of these Annals in the British 
Museum : 

" A. D. 1076. Murch. m c . Floin O Melachlin, king of Tarach, being 3 nights in 
the steeple of Kells, was killed by Maolan's sonne, king of Gaileng." 

The same event is also entered by the Four Masters evidently 
from the Book of Clonmacnoise : 

" A. D. 1076. niupchao mac ploinn, Ui TTlaoileachlamn, DO mapbao, i jj-ceno 
ceopa n-omce co n-a laib lap n-gabail poplariiaip Cerhpac, i j-cloicceach Cenannpa, 
cpe peill, la cijepna 5 ai ^ en 5> ' ta h-Qmlaoib, mac mic TTTaolain ; asup a mapbao 


pioe pern po che'Doip, cpia pepcaiB De ajjup Colaim Cille, la ITIaolpeachlainn, 
mac ConcoBmp." 

Thus rendered by Mageoghegan, in his translation of the original 
Annals of Clonmacnoise : 

" A. D. 1076. Murrogh Mac Flyn O'Melaughlyn, that reigned king of Meath but 
three days and three nights, was killed by Amley Mac Moylan, prince of Gaileng, in 
the borders of Leinster. He was killed in the steeple of Kells ; and afterwards the 
said Amley was killed immediately by Melaughlyn Mac Connor O'Melaughlyn, by 
the miracles of St. Columb, who is Patron of the place." 

The notice which I have next to adduce relates to the burning of 
the Round Tower of Monasterboice, in the County of Louth. It is 
thus given in the Chronicon Scotorum : 

"A. D. 1097- Cloijcech niuinipcpech DO lopcao jup an pcpipcpa ann." 

" A. D. 1097. The doictheach of Mainistir was burnt, with the manuscripts there." 

It is thus better given in the Annals of Ulster : 

" A. D. 1097. Cloiccech Rlainipcpech co n-a leGpaiB, 7 caipceouiB imoaib DO 

Thus correctly translated by Dr. O'Conor : 

" A. D. 1097. Campanile Monasterii (Butensis), cum suis libris et rebus pretiosis 
pluribus, combustum." 

And thus in the old translation in the British Museum : 

" A. D. 1097- The steeple of Manistrech, with the books and much goods, thereat 
to be kept, burnt." 

The event is thus similarly entered in the Annals of the Four 
Masters : 

" A. D. 1097. Cloiccheach nflainiprneach, ' .1. ITIainipcpeach 6uice,'co leaBpaiB 
ajup co o-caipceoaib lombaiB, DO lopccao." 

" A. D. 1097- The doictheach of the Monastery, ' L e. of Monasterboice,' with 
many books and treasures, was burnt." 

The passage I have next to adduce relates to the burning of the 
doictheach of Trim, a Tower which does not now remain. It is found 
in the Dublin copy of the Annals of Innisfallen : 

" A. D. 1127. Sluaj mop le Concubap mac peapjjaill h-Ui 6octumn, ocup 16 
ruaip^eapc 6ipionn Do'n TTlhioe ; jup loipj piao Q Cpum [Qc Upuim, in margin], 
iDip cloicrech ocup ceampull, 50 n-a Ian DO baomiB innca." 

Thus rendered in the translation of these annals, preserved in the 
Library of the Royal Irish Academy, which was made by Theophilus 
O'Flannagan : 

" A. D. 1127. A great hosting by Connor MacFarrell O'Loghlinn, together with 


the northern people of Ireland, to Meath ; they burnt the steeple and church of Trim, 
and both full of people." 

And thus by the venerable Charles O'Conor, in his translation of 
these annals, now preserved in the Library of the Royal Irish Academy : 

" A. D. 1127- Conor, son of Feargal O'Lochluin, marched at the head of a great 
Army of the forces of the North of Ireland, into Meath ; they burnt the steeple and 
church of Ath Truim, in which was a great number of people." 

And thus in an old translation of certain Munster Annals, as 
quoted by Archdall in his Monasticon : 

" A. D. 1127. Conor, the son of Feargal O'Lochluin, and the northern forces, 
burnt the Steeple and Church of the Abbey of Trim, both of which were filled with 
unfortunate people, who had fled thither for safety." 

Again, in the Annals of the Four Masters, the following passage 
occurs, relative to the existing Round Tower of Ferta, in the county 
of Kilkenny : 

" A. D. 1156. eochuio Ua Cumn, an c-apo-rhaijifcep, so lorccao i j-cloic- 
chech na pepca." 

" A. D. 1156. Eochaidh O'Cuinn, the Chief Master, was burnt in the doictheach 
of Ferta." 

The last notice, in reference to this subject, which I have to ad- 
duce, relates to the Round Tower of Telach Ard, near Trim, which 
fell about the year 1764. It occurs in the Annals of the Four Masters : 

"A. D. 1171. Cloiccheach Celcha Qipo DO lopccab la Cijeapndn Ua Ruaipc, 
co n-a lun DO oaoinib arm." 

" A. D. 1171. The doictheach of Telach Ard was burnt by Tighearnan O'Ruairc, 
with its full of people in it." 

The various evidences which I have now adduced must, I think, 
furnish a sufficient answer to the only objection which has been 
urged against the use of the Round Towers as places of safety and 
defence, and satisfy the most sceptical inquirer, that such was one of 
the primary objects for which they were erected. Nor should it be 
forgotten that, even without an acquaintance with such historical 
evidences, the very nature of their construction alone has led several 
distinguished inquirers to regard such purpose as the primary and 
only one. Thus, Colonel Montmorency, in his Historical and Critical 
Inquiry into the Origin and primitive Use of the Irish Pillar-tower, 
remarks : 

" The Pillar-tower, as a defensive hold, taking into account the period that pro- 
duced it, may fairly pass for one of the completest inventions that can well be imagined. 


Impregnable every way, and proof against fire, it could never be taken by assault. 
Although the abbey and its dependencies blazed around, the Tower disregarded the 
fury of the flames ; its extreme height, its isolated position, and diminutive doorway, 
elevated so many feet above the ground, placed it beyond the reach of the besieger. 
The signal once made, announcing the approach of a foe, by those who kept watch on 
the top, the alarm spread instantaneously, not only among the inmates of the cloister, 
but the inhabitants were roused to arms in the country many miles round. Should 
the barbarian, in the interval, before succour arrived, succeed in ransacking the con- 
vent, and afterwards attempt to force his entrance into the Tower, a stone, dropped 
from on high, would crush him to atoms." pp. 65, 66. 

Thus also the judicious Sir Walter Scott, in his Review of Ritson's 
Annals of the Caledonians, Picts and Scots, in the forty-first volume 
of the Quarterly Review, 1829 : 

" It is here impossible to avoid remarking, that at Abernethy and at Brechin there 
are still in existence two of the round towers, of which so many occur in Ireland. 
Abernethy is said, by uniform tradition, to have been the capital of the Picts, and 
Brechin in the same district (now the county of Angus) was certainly a place of early 
importance. In Ireland there exist nearly thirty of these very peculiar buildings, 
which have been the very cruces anliquariorvm. They could not have been beacons, 
for they are often (at Abernethy in particular) placed in low and obscure situations, 
though there are sites adjacent well calculated for watch-towers. They could not be 
hermitages, unless we suppose that some caste of anchorites had improved on the idea 
of Simon Stylites, and taken up their abode in the hollow of such a pillar as that of 
which the Syrian holy man was contented to occupy the top. They could hardly 
be belfries, for though always placed close or near to a church, there is no aperture 
at the top for suffering the sound of the bells to be heard. Minarets they might have 
been accounted, if we had authority for believing that the ancient Christians were sum- 
moned to prayers like the Mahometans by the voice of criers. It is, however, all but 
impossible to doubt that they were ecclesiastical buildings ; and the most distinct idea 
we are able to form of them is, from the circumstance that the inestimably singular scene 
of Irish antiquities, called the Seven Churches in the County ofWicklow, includes one 
of those round towers, detached in the usual manner, and another erected on the gable 
end of the ruinous chapel of St. Kevin, as if some architect of genius had discovered 
the means of uniting the steeple and the church. These towers might, possibly, have 
been contrived for the temporary retreat of the priest, and the means of protecting 
the ' holy things' from desecration on the occasion of alarm, which in those uncertain 
times suddenly happened, and as suddenly passed away. These edifices at Brechin and 
Abernethy, however, were certainly constructed after the introduction of Christianity, 
and were, in all probability, built in imitation of the same round towers in Ireland, 
under the direction of the Irish monks who brought Christianity into Scotland. We 
may notice, however, that the masonry of these towers is excellent, and may be held, 
in some sort, to bear witness to the popular tradition, that the Picts were skilful in 
architecture." pp. 147, 148. 

And lastly, the able and learned John Pinkerton recognizes the 

3 c 


principle of defence as an original object in the construction of these 
Towers, though he considered their use as belfries as the primary 
one. Speaking of the Round Towers in Scotland, he thus writes in 
the advertisement prefixed to the new edition of his Enquiry into 
the History of Scotland, published in 1814: 

" There was probably a round tower at Dunkeld, as at Abernethy and Brechin, 

" That these round towers were belfries is sufficiently evident, from the simple cir- 
cumstance of their having windows, or openings at the usual height, necessary to emit 
the sound of a bell. Separate belfries are not uncommon in many countries, and even 
in some parts of England at this day ; and must have been necessary for security, 
when the rude churches were of wood. When the cathedral of Brechin was built, 
the round tower was preserved as a memorable relic, like the chapel of St. Regulus, 
close by the cathedral of St. Andrews." pp. ix. and x. 

In the confident belief that I have now satisfactorily established 
the two primary and essential objects for which the Round Towers 
were erected, I proceed to a consideration of the grounds on which I 
rest the arguments for my third conclusion, namely, that they may, 
very probably, have also been occasionally used as beacons, and watch- 

It will be observed that I put this conclusion forward only as a 
probability, and it is but fair that I should acknowledge that a most 
careful examination of our ancient Irish manuscripts has led to no 
discovery that would give it certainty. Yet, the probability of their 
having been occasionally used for such a purpose seems to me by no 
means a weak one, for, in the first place, the very fact of their having 
been used as places of defence and safety, coupled with their great 
height and aptitude for such a purpose, almost necessarily leads to 
the conclusion that they would be used as watch-towers, and perhaps 
signal towers, at least in times of trouble. 

In like manner, if we consider the usages of the monastic esta- 
blishments, to which these Towers belonged, the hospitality and 
protection which they afforded to travellers and strangers, in times 
when roads were few, and the country generally covered with wood, 
we will find it difficult to resist the conviction that the Towers would 
be used at night as beacons to attract and guide the benighted tra- 
veller or pious pilgrim to the house of hospitality or prayer. Their 
general fitness for such a purpose must be at once obvious; and 
this fitness seems, in a great degree, to have led the learned Doctor 


Lingard to the opinion that our Irish Round Towers were chiefly, if 
not exclusively, intended for this purpose. In a passage in his Anti- 
quities of the Anglo-Saxon Church, for calling my attention to 
which I acknowledge myself indebted to my respected friend, Dr. 
Hibbcrt Ware, of York, he makes the following remarks on the 
uses of the Anglo-Saxon and Irish detached Towers : 

" The church at Ramsey was ornamented with two towers, one at the western 

entrance, and another in the centre of the transept, supported by four arches Hist. 

Kames., c. 20. The tower of the new church at Winchester was at the eastern extre- 
mity Wolst, p. 630. But I conceive that originally the towers were distinct from 
the churches, like the celebrated Round Towers that are still remaining in Ireland. 
Thus a tower had been erected before the western entrance of the old church at Win- 
chester, as we learn from Wolstan. 

' Turris erat rostrata tholis quia maxima qusedam 
Illius ante sacri pulcherrima limina templi,' &c. 

Act. SS. Ben. vol. ij. p. 70. 

" If I may be allowed a conjecture on a subject which has exercised the ingenuity 
of many writers, I conceive such towers to have been originally built at a short dis- 
tance from the church, that the walls might not be endangered by their weight, and 
that they were not considered merely as an ornament, but used as beacons to direct 
the traveller towards the church or monastery. Lights were kept burning in them 
during the night. At least such was the fact with respect to the new tower at Win- 
chester, which, we learn from Wolstan, consisted of five stories, in each of which were 
four windows looking towards the four cardinal points, that were illuminated every 
night. Wols., p. 631." See p. 479, second edition : Newcastle, 1810. 

In this opinion of the learned English historian, my friend Dr. 
Hibbert Ware entirely concurs, as communicated to me in the follow- 
ing memorandum in the year 1836 : 

" Mr. Petrie mentioned to me that he had not seen the comments of Mr. [Dr.] 
Lingard on the Anglo-Saxon churches and the towers incidental to them. I have 
copied his remarks on this subject, which many years ago appeared to me the only 
rational theory on the subject which I had read. But I am now taught to consider 
the Round Towers as being devoted to other uses besides affording beacon lights 
during the evening to direct the traveller to the church or monastery. Yet, at the 
same time, I am not disposed to renounce the opinion that this might have been one, 
and not the most subordinate, of the miscellaneous uses to which the building of these 
structures was rendered subservient." 

I have only to add, that I am indebted to another friend, the 
late Mr. Matthew O'Conor, of Mount Druid, for directing my atten- 
tion to the following curious reference in Mabillon's Iter Germani- 
cum a work of which, unfortunately, there is no copy in any of the 

3 c 2 


public libraries in Dublin to a pharus, or beacon-tower, at the Irish 
Monastery of St. Columbanus, at Luxovium, now Luxeuil, in Bur- 
gundy, and which seems to give some support to the conclusion I 
have thus hypothetically advocated ; 

" Luxmium. 

"Cernitur propeMajorem Ecclesiae Portam Pharus, quam Lucernam vocant, eujus 
omnino consimilem vidi aliquando apud Carnutas. Ei usui fuisse videtur, in gratiam 
eorum, qui noctu ecclesiam frequentabantur." 

I have now to enter on a question of perhaps greater difficulty 
than any of those already examined, namely, as to the probable eras 
of the erection of the Towers, and which I have assumed to have 
been at various periods between the fifth and thirteenth centuries. 

The great difficulty which I have to contend with, arises chiefly 
from the general absence of distinct notices of buildings in the ancient 
lives of the Irish saints, and the extreme meagreness of the Irish 
annals anterior to the tenth century. Thus, in the latter, the first 
notice which occurs of a doictheach, or Round Tower, is that at the 
year 950, relative to the burning of the doictheach, or Round Tower 
of Slane, as already given at p. 373 ; and the earliest authentic record 
of the erection of a Round Tower is no earlier than the year 965. 
This record is found in the Chronicon Scotorum, and relates to the 
Tower of Tomgraney, in the County of Clare, a Tower which does 
not now exist, but of which, according to the tradition of the old 
natives of the place, some remains existed about forty years since. 
The passage is as follows : 

"A. D. 965. Copmac h-Ua Cillin, oo uib o-piacpac Oione, comopba Ciapam 
7 Comam 7 comopba Cuama 5P ene i 7 a r a '5 e &o ponab cetnpul mop Cuama 
5pene, 7 a claijceac. Sapienp 7 penepc ec epipcopiip quieuir in Chpipco." 

Thus translated by Colgan, who seems to have found it in his 
copy of the Annals of the Four Masters, though that part of it re- 
lating to the erection of the church and tower is not given in the 
Stowe copy of those annals, as published by Dr. O'Conor, or in the 
MS. copies of them preserved in Dublin : 

" A. D. 964. Cormacus Hua-Killene, Comorbanus SS. Kierani, Coemani [Comani], 
et Cronani, Episcopus, sapiens, vir valde longajuus, qui extruxit Ecclesiam de Vuaim- 
grene" [Tuaim-grene]" cum sua turri, decessit." Acta SS., p. 360, b. 

But, though the Irish annalists preserve to us no earlier notices 
of the Round Towers than these now adduced, the many references 


which occur to those buildings, as existing in the tenth and eleventh 
centuries, sufficiently prove that they were common in the country 
at an earlier period; and, moreover, their early antiquity may be 
lairly inferred from the frequent allusions to them which occur inci- 
dentally in our oldest manuscripts. Thus, in the ancient Life of 
Christ, preserved in the Le.abhar Breac, which is unquestionably 
older than the eleventh century, the following allusion to the height 
of the Towers occurs in relation to the star which guided the eastern 
kings to Bethlehem : 

"Came lapum uiui na .;cii. mip ppi .;cii. la; 7 cm ba h-aipoi ma cloicrech h-f 
pemaino." Fol. 60, a, a. 

" It [the star] came afterwards a journey of the twelve months in twelve days ; 
and it was higher than a cloicthech before us." 

Thus also, in a tract of much higher antiquity, entitled Imraimh 
Curaich Matiduin, the Wandering of the Curach of Maelduin, the 
illegitimate son of an Irish chief, in the seventh century, the fol- 
lowing passage occurs, from which it can be fairly inferred, that a 
belfry, separate from the church, existed at Kildare before his time. 
Copies of this tract are preserved in the Library of Trinity College, 
Dublin, and in the British Museum : 

"Do Gojanacc Nmaip DO ITIaeloum ap m-bunaoup. Qilell Qcep Qja a 
acaip ; cp6npep epoe 7 oajlaec 7 cijepna a ceneoil pen. TTIaccaillec, 7 ban- 
aipcmnec CiUe cailleac a macaip. Ip amlaio om popcaemnacaip acornpepc pom. 
peccup oo luio pi Sojanacca pop cpeic 07 mpuo ilcenoaoac 7 Qilell Ocaip Qja 
ma comaicecc, 7 gubpao ounab a pleib' arm. 6ui cell cuillec a compocup ip an 
maij-in pin, .1. Cell oapa a n-oiu. TTIeoon aioci lapam 6 po an cac DO imcecc ir 
ounao, luio Qilell oo'n cill, 7 ip e rpach pon ranic an ban-aipcinoeac DO bein 
cluij na cille DO luprheipje, oopcuip DO Qilell, 7 gabaip Qilell a lairii laip, 7 DO 
oaqiapcaip, 7 DO jm coibliji ppia; 7 apbepr an caillec pptp: ' ni pejoa,' ol pi, 
' ap compuc, ap ip ampip compepra oam.'" H. 2, 16, col. 370. 

" Maelduin was of the Eoganacht Ninais as to his origin. His father was Ailell 
Acher Agha, a mighty man and goodly hero, and lord of his own tribe. A young nun, 
and [who was] the Ban-airchinneach of a church of nuns, was his mother. In this 
manner, then, was he begotten. On one occasion, the king of Eoghanacht set out to 
prey and spoil many territories, and Ailell Acher Agha in his company, and they 
encamped in a certain mountain. There was a church of nuns near that place, i. e 
Kildare at this day. At midnight, when all remained quiet within the camp, Ailell 
went to the church, and this was the time when the Ban-airchinnech came [out] to 
ring the bell of the church for midnight prayer. She met Ailell, and Ailell took her 
to him, and laid her down, and cohabited with her ; and the nun said to him : ' not 
fortunate,' said she, 'our meeting, for this is my time for conception.'" 


The next passage which I have to adduce is of still more impor- 
tance than the preceding, and should properly have been inserted 
amongst the 'evidences adduced to prove that the Towers were 
erected as places of safety, inasmuch as that it shows that they were 
regarded in the light of sanctuaries, which should on no account be 
violated. This passage is found in an authority of unquestionable 
antiquity, namely, a poem addressed to Aedh Oirdnighe, monarch of 
Ireland from 799 to 819, by the celebrated poet Fothadh, usually 
called Fothadh na Canoine, or of the Canon, and who obtained 
from that monarch the exemption of the clergy from military service. 
Copies of this poem are preserved in the Library of the Royal Irish 
Academy, and in the valuable manuscript in the Library of Trinity 
College, called the Book of Leinster ; and it would appear to have 
been addressed to Aedh Oirdnighe on the occasion of his inaugura- 
tion. The passage, as found in the Book of Leinster, is as follows : 

" Cipe DO jne in ri^aic 
6m mop a mela buir, 
TTlaD oia pajba a Din 
1 cij pi no cluic." H. 2, 18, foL 106, b, b. 

" He who commits a theft, 
It will be grievous to thee, 
If he obtains his protection 
In the house of a king or of a bell." 

Thus again, in a tract of the Brehon Laws, called Seanchus beag, 
preserved in the Book of Lecan, on the duties and rewards of the 
seven ecclesiastical degrees, the following account of the duties of 
the aistreoir, or aistire, occurs : 

" Qipcpeoip, .1. uap aicpeoip, .1. uapal arpeoip, in can ip cloc cloiccije; no, 
aipcpeoip, .1. ipil aicpeoip, in can ip lam-cloc," &c Fol. 168, p. b, col. 2, line 32. 

"Aistreoir, i. e. uas aitreoir, i. e. noble his work, when it is the bell of a doictheach; 
or, aistreoir, i. e. isil aithreoir, (L e. humble or low his work) when it is a hand-bell." 

A different reading of this commentary is quoted in O'Reilly's 
Irish Dictionary under the word aipcjieoip, which he explains, "an 
officer whose duty it was to ring the bell in the steeple of the church. 
The lowest of the seven degrees of ecclesiastical officers." And as 
it more clearly defines the duties of this officer, and identifies the 
name with Ostiarius, I avail myself of it here. 

" Gipcpeoip, i. e. aipcpeac a cpeoip, i. e. beim cluic, no eacpopacc ; no, uaip- 
cpeoip in can ap cloc clo^ci^e ; no ipcpeoip, i. e. ippeall aicpeoip, in can ip lam- 


" Aiatreoir, i. e. changeable his work, i. e. to ring the bell, or use the keys ; or, 
uaittreoir (high his work) when the bell is that of a doictheach; or istreoir, i.e. low his 
work, when it is a hand-bell." 

Thus also, in another version of this commentary, in a vellum 
MS. in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin : 

" Cfipcpeoip, .1. aipcpeach a cpeoip aj beim chluij 7 05 oployao cempaill ; 
no, uaipcpeoip, .1. uaip bip a cpeoip, in can ip cloj 'clojcio ; no, ipcpeoip, .). ipel 
a rpeoip, in can ip lamchloj." II. 3, 18, fol. 94. 

" Aistreoir, i. e. changeable his work in ringing the bell and opening the church ; 
or, uaistreoir, i. e. high his work, when it is the bell of a doictheach ; or, istreoir, i. e. 
low his work, when it is a hand-bell." 

In like manner, in another tract of the Brehon Laws, entitled, 
Aithgedh Eicis, the Punishments of the Eicis, or Professional 
Classes, preserved in an ancient vellum MS. in the Library of Tri- 
nity College, Dublin, the following allusion to the belfry occurs : 

" Gicheo aepa ecolpa cpopcab, 7 apao lapam nao njeba a paicep nric a 
cpeoo, 7 nao cec DO pacappaic, 7 DO aubaipc; mao aep jpaio, no aep cpeiome 
im eoij a cluicc, no im coip a alcoipe, 7 apao napo oipppichep puippi, 7 nao 
m-bencep cloc DO cpacaib." 

" The punishment of the. people of a church is fasting, and afterwards a restraint 
that they say not their pater nor their credo, and that they go not to communion, 
nor to the offering ; if they be the aes graidh [ecclesiastics], or the aes creidmhe [re- 
ligious] about the house of their bell, or at the foot of their altar, and the restraint 
is, that they [the former] offer not on it, and that they [the latter] ring not a bell for 
[canonical] hours." 

From the preceding notices it appears certain that one of the 
principal duties of the aistire a name obviously formed from the 
Latin ostiarius was to ring the bell in the cloidheach, or Round 
Tower ; and, if it can be shown that the office of aistire existed in 
the Irish Church under St. Patrick, in the fifth century, a not impro- 
bable inference may be drawn that bell-towers were then in exis- 
tence, as otherwise this duty could not have been performed. Now 
it is perfectly certain not only that bells, of a size much too large 
for altar bells, were abundantly distributed by St. Patrick in Ireland, 
as appears from his oldest Lives, those preserved in the Book of 
Armagh, but also, that the office of aistire existed in his time, as 
even the name of the very person who held this office is preserved. 
Thus, in the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick, which is supposed to have 
been originally written, partly in Irish and partly in Latin, by his 
disciple St. Evin, in the sixth century, and which has been translated 


by Colgan, we find in the list of the various persons who composed 
the household of St. Patrick, at Armagh, the name " Sanctus Senellus 
de Killdareis, Campanarius ;" and from the prose tract treating of 
those persons, preserved in the Books of Lecan and Ballymote, we 
find this Sinell called " his aistiri." 

"Smell Cilli Ctipip, a aipcipi." L. Ballymot. fol. 119, L. Lecan. fol. 44. 
" Sinell of Cill Airis, his aistiri." 

And that the word aistire as above given, was understood by the 
Irish in the sense of bell-ringer, appears from the poem of Flann of 
Monasterboice, which enumerates the household of St. Patrick, and 
which was written in the tenth century, and evidently drawn by the 
writer from the most ancient authorities then extant : 

" Smell, a peap bem in cluic." Lib. Ballymot., et Lecan. ibid. 
" Sinell, the man of the ringing of the bell." 

It may, indeed, be objected, that if bell-towers had been erected 
in St. Patrick's time, it is scarcely possible but that some notice of 
such structures would be found in the ancient Lives of that saint. 
But it should be remembered that the only passage in those Lives 
which gives any notice, in detail, of the group of buildings which 
constituted a religious establishment in his time, is one found in the 
Tripartite Life relating to the establishment at Armagh, and of this, 
unfortunately, we have only Colgan's translation ; and hence, though 
there is a passage in this account which might very well apply to 
one of the primary purposes of the Round Towers, but little weight 
can be attached to it, till the original be found. The passage is as 
follows : 

"Istis namque diebus sanctissimus Antistes metatus est locum, & jecit funda- 
menta Ecclesise Ardmachanas juxta formam, & modum ab Angelo prajscriptum. Dum 
autem fieret ha?c fundatio, & metatio forma;, & quantitatis Ecclesise redificandse, col- 
lecta synodus Antistitum, Abbatum, aliorumque vniuersi regni Prselatorum : & facta 
processione ad metas designandas processerunt, Patricio cum baculo lesu in manu 
totum Clerum, & Angelo Dei, tanquam ductore & directore Patricium prascedenti. 
Statuit autem Patricius juxta Angeli prsescriptum quod murus Ecclesia? in longitudine 
oontineret centum quadraginta pedes (forte passus) ; sedificium, siue aula maior tri- 
ginta; culina septem & decem ; Argyrotheca, seu vasarium, vbi supellex reponebatur, 
septem pedes. Et hse sacra? sedes omnes iuxta has mensuras sunt postea erect." 
Trias Tkaum., p. 164. 

But, whatever uncertainty there may be as to the existence of 
these buildings in St. Patrick's time, there can, I think, be little, if 


any doubt, that they were not uncommon in the sixth and seventh 
centuries. Of this fact we have a striking evidence in the archi- 
tectural character of many of the existing Towers, in which a per- 
fect agreement of style is found with the original churches, when 
such exist. As a remarkable instance of this, I may point to the 
church and tower at Kilmacduagh, the tower and churches of Glen- 
dalough, and many others, which it is unnecessary here to name. 
Nor can I think the popular tradition of the country is of li ttle value, 
which ascribes the erection of several of the existing Towers to the 
celebrated architect, Goban, or, as he is popularly called, Goban 
Saer, who flourished early in the seventh century ; for it is remark- 
able that such a tradition never exists in connexion with any Towers 
but those in which the architecture is in perfect harmony with the 
churches of that period, as in the Towers of Kilmacduach, Killala, 
and Antrim. And it is further remarkable, that the age assigned to 
the first buildings at Kilmacduach, about the year 620, is exactly 
that in which this celebrated Irish architect flourished. See page 
348. It is equally remarkable that though the reputation of this 
architect is preserved in all parts of the island, in which the Irish 
language is still spoken, yet the erection of the oldest buildings in 
certain districts in the south and west of Ireland is never ascribed to 
him, the tradition of these districts being that he never visited or 
was employed on buildings south-west of Galway, or south-west of 
Tipperary. I have already alluded to the historical evidences which 
prove that the Goban Saer was no imaginary creation, however 
legendary the memorials remaining of him may be considered ; and I 
may here add, that it would appear from a very ancient authority, 
namely, the Dinnsenchus, preserved in the Books of Lecan and Bally- 
mote, that he was the son of a skilful artisan in wood, if not in stone 
also ; and that this artisan was, if not a foreigner, at least very pro- 
bably of foreign extraction, and thus enabled to introduce arts not 
generally known in the country ; and further, that the Goban himself 
was probably born at Turvy, on the northern coast of the County of 
Dublin, which, it is stated, took its name from his father, as being 
his property, and which, as he was not a .person of known Milesian 
origin, it is but fair to infer he received as a reward for his skill in 
mechanical art. This passage, the text of which is corrected from 
the two copies, is as follows : 

3 D 


Uuipbi ca n-ap po h-ainrnnijeo ? Nm. Cuipbi Upajmap, acaip "fio- 
bain c-Saeip, ip 6 pooup peilb ip in popbbai. Ip 6 pin pocepoao upcup oia biail a 
Culaij an b'lail ppia 01510 in cuile, cona f po anao in paipje, 7 ni chijeao caipip. 
Hi peap a genealach pamopmo, ace mump aen ou na cepbaoacaiB ac pullaoap a 
Cempaij piap in pab n-iloanach a pil i n-t)iampaib 6pej. Unoe Cpaij Cuipbe 

" Cpaij Cuipbi cupcbaio a amm, 
t)o peip ujoaip pim apnaiotn ; 
Cuipbi Cpajmap, op cac cpaij, 
Qcaip jpaomap jup ^obain. 

" Q euaij DO celjao lap pcup, 
Qn jilla mepjeach mop oub, 
O Chulaij in biail m-buioi 
ppip in m-benann mop cuile. 

" Cian noo cuipeao a ruaij oe, 
Qn muip n5 ruile caipppi; 
Cio Cuipbi reap na ruaich rpen, 
Ni pep ca cuan a cinel ; 

"JTIinab oo'n r-pil oejoaip oub, 
6uio a Chempaij la laec 6u j, 
Hi pepp a can, ppi oail 06, 
pep na cleap o Chpaij Chupbi." 

" Traigh Tuirbi, whence was it named ? Not difficult. Tuirbi Traghmar, the father 
of Goban Saer, was he who had possession in that land. He was used to throw casts of 
his hatchet from Tulach in bhiail [i. e. the hill of the hatchet], in the direction of the 
flood, so that the sea stopped, and did not come beyond it. His exact pedigree is not 
known, unless he was one of those missing people who went off with the polytechnic 
Sab, who is in the Diamars [Diamor, in Meath], of Bregia. Unde Traigh Tuirbe 

" Traigh Tuirbi, whence the name, 

According to authors I resolve; 

Tuirbi of the strand, [which is] superior to every strand, 

The affectionate keen father of Goban. 

" His hatchet was used to be cast after ceasing [from work] ; 
By this rusty large black youth, 
From the yellow hill of the hatchet 
Which the mighty flood touches. 

a In the copy preserved in the Book of Lecan, fol. 260, b, b, piap an pab n-iloa- 
nach, reads la 6uj tampaoa, i. e. with Lugh of the Long Hand. He was a Tuatha 
De Danann monarch, A. M. 2764, according to OTlaherty's chronology ; but the story 
of his going away from Tarah, with a number of his people, has not yet been disco- 


" The distance he used to send his hatchet from him, 

The sea flowed not over it; 

Though Tuirbi was southwards in his district mighty, 

It is not known of what stock his race ; 
" Unless he was of the goodly dark race, 

Who went from Tara with the heroic Lugh, 

Not known the race, by God's decree, 

Of the man of the feats from Traigh Tuirbi." 

It is not, of course, intended to offer the preceding extract as 
strictly historical : in such ancient documents we must be content to 
look for the substratum of truth beneath the covering of fable with 
which it is usually encumbered, and not reject the one on account 
of the improbability of the other ; and, viewed in this way, the pas- 
sage may be regarded as in many respects of interest and value, for it 
shows that the artist spoken of was not one of the Scotic, or domi- 
nant race in Ireland, who are always referred to as light-haired ; and 
further, from the supposition, grounded on the blackness of his hair 
and his skill in arts, that he might have been of the race of the 
people that went with Lughaidh Lamhfhada from Tara, that is of 
the Tuatha De Danann race, who are always referred to as superior 
to the Scoti in the knowledge of the arts, we learn that, in the tra- 
ditions of the Irish, the Tuatha De Dananns were no less distin- 
guished from their conquerors in their personal than in their mental 
characteristics. The probability, however, is, that Turvy was a 
foreigner, or descendant of one, who brought a knowledge of art into 
the country not then known, or at least prevalent. 

I should add, also, that we have, at least, one historical authority 
which, to my mind, satisfactorily proves the erection of a Round 
Tower in the sixth century, namely, in the Life of St. Columba, 
written about the year 680, by St. Adamnan, and which is found in 
the fifteenth chapter of the third book of this life. The chapter, with 
its original heading, as published by Pinkerton in his Lives of the 
Scottish Saints, from a MS. of the twelfth century, preserved in the 
British Museum, is as follows : 

" CAP. XV. De Angela Domini, qui alicuifratri, lapso de monasterii culmine rotundi, 
in Roboreti Campo opportune tarn cito eubvenerat*.'" 

" ALIO in tempore vir sanctus dum in tuguriolo suo scribens sederet, subitd ejus 
immutatur facies, et hanc puro de pectore promit vocem, dicens : ' Auxiliare, auxiliare.' 

* Cumin, c. 10. 

3 D 2 


Duo vero Fratres ad januam stantes; videlicet COLGIUS filius CELLACHI, et LUGNEUS 
MOCUBLAI, causam talis subitse interrogant vocis ; quibus vir venerabilis hoc respon- 
sum dedit, inquiens : ' Angelo Domini, qui nunc inter vos stabat, jussi, ut alicui ex 
Fratribus de summo culmine magnse domus lapso tarn cito subveniret, qua? his in 
diebus Roboreti Campo fabricatur.' Hocque sanctus consequenter intulit famen, in- 
quiens. ' Valde admirabilis et pene indicibilis est angelici volatus pernicitas, fulgureas, 
ut aestimo, celeritati parilis. Nam ille ccelicola, qui hinc a nobis nunc illo viro labi 
incipiente avolavit, quasi in ictu oculi priusquam terram tangeret subveniens, eum 
sublevavit ; nee ullam fracturam, aut Isesuram ille qui cecidit sentire potuit. Quam 
stupenda hsec inquam velocissima et opportuna subventio, qua: dicto citius tantis maris 
et terrse interjacentibus spatiis tarn celerrime effici potuit !'" Vitce Antiquce Sancto- 
rum, &c., p. 169. 

I should state, that the important heading prefixed to this chapter 
is not found in some of the editions of the work previously published, 
as in the first, published by Canisius in 1604, from a vellum MS. 
preserved in the monastery of Windberg ; nor in that of Messingham, 
in 1624, which is but a reprint of the former ; nor in that of the 
Bollandists ; but it is found in the better edition of Colgan, which 
is taken from an ancient vellum manuscript, preserved at Augia ( Aux), 
in Germany, and which agrees with the manuscript in the British 
Museum, except that the phrase " de monasterii culmine rotundi" is 
printed " de monasterii culmine rotunda" This difference is, how- 
ever, of little importance, as the real question is, what the author 
could have meant by either " monasterii culmine rotunda" or monasterii 
culmine rotundi. Not, certainly, that the monastery itself had a rotund 
roof, because we know that the monasteries of those days were a 
collection of small and detached cells, each devoted to a single monk ; 
and certainly not that the church had one, .as it appears from the 
notice in the text of the chapter that the culmen was that of the 
magna domus; and besides, from the quadrangular forms of all the 
Irish churches of this period, they could not have admitted of a dome 
roof. But more than all, supposing it were from the roof of the 
v church that the monk was falling, or from any other building, such 
as we know to have existed in connexion with the monasteries of 
'this period, the Tower excepted, where would have been the danger, 
to escape which, the miraculous interposition of an angel would have 
become necessary ? Surely not to prevent him from a fall of twelve 
feet or so, which is the usual height of the side walls of the abbey- 
churches of this period ; nor from the roofs of either the abbot's house 


or monks' cells, which, though usually round, were seldom, if ever, 
of a greater height than twelve feet, and from which, having rarely 
upright walls, there could have been no serious danger in falling. In 
short the miracle, to be a miracle at all, requires the supposition that 
the round roof on which the brother was at work must have been 
that of a building of great altitude, and from which a fall would be 
necessarily productive of certain death, such a building, in fact, as 
a Round Tower, which was the only one of the kind the Irish had, 
either in those days, or for many ages afterwards. 

I should remark that the same legend forms the tenth chapter of 
the Life of Columba by the abbot Cumian, which was written about 
the year 657 ; but it is of little value to the question, as the important 
phrase, both in the original heading and the text, is simply " de cid- 
mine domus." But I may add, that several passages, both. in this 
Life and in that by Adamnan, allude in such a manner to the use of 
bells, for summoning the brotherhood to religious worship, as would 
lead directly to the inference that belfries must have existed in St. 
Columba's time. Take, for example, the following passage from the 
eighth chapter of the first book of the Life of Columba by Adamnan : 

" In tempore alio, hoc est, post multos a supra memorato bello annorum transcur- 
sus, cum esset vir Sanctus in Hyona insula, subito ad suum dicit ministratorem, 
Cloccain pulsa : cujus sonitu Fratres incitati, ad Ecclesiam ipso Sancto Prsesule prse- 
eunte ocyus currunt, ad quos ibidem flexis genibus infit. ' Nunc intente pro hoc 
populo, et AIDANO rege Dominum orernus, hac enirn hora ineunt bellum.' " Vitce 
<s Sanctorum, fyc., edit. Pinkertone, p. 65. 

But, though I am thus disposed to assign this early antiquity to 
some of the existing Towers, I have no doubt that the great majority 
of them were erected in later times, and more particularly, as their 
ornamented architecture indicates, in the ninth and tenth centuries. 
The destructive ravages of the Danes would have rendered the re- 
erection or restoration of such structures necessary, especially at the 
close of the latter century ; and, as I shall show in the Third Part of 
this Inquiry, many of the Towers afford sufficient evidence, in the 
various styles of masonry, and difference of material, which they exhi- 
bit, that they have been in part rebuilt in times long subsequent to 
that of their original foundation. Nor are we wholly without autho- 
rities historical authorities for such restorations. Thus Keating 
informs us, that the cloictheach, or Round Tower of Tomgraney, 


which, as I have shown, was erected in 964, was repaired by the 
monarch Brian Borumha ; and from an ancient fragment, supposed 
to be a part of Mac Liag's Life of that king, preserved among the 
manuscripts in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, it would ap- 
pear that this powerful monarch erected, or, at least, restored for the 
clergy, no less than thirty-two of these structures : 

" &ci Imp DO cumoai5ioD ceullo 7 ecalpa, 7 DO ponca oaimliac, acup cloic- 
riji, 7 oupciji, innci." 

" By him were founded cells and churches, and were made daimliacs, and cloic- 
theachs, and duirtheachs, in it" [Ireland]. 

And again : 

" lp e &pian cue .uti. mamipcpeaca eicip aiome 7 eallac 7 peaponn amac ; 
7 Da cloicceac cpicac ; 7 ip laip po oainjneao an c-opo popoa ; 7 ip pi a linn 
cucao plomnce ap cup, 7 ouchaoa DO na plomnce, 7 DO pinne cpicaipecc caca 
cuaice, 7 jaca cpica ceo ; 7 ip pi a linn po h-oipneao jpaoa placa, 7 pilm, 7 
eclaipi. Ip e 6pian umoppa nac capo epa pop ealaoam o oioce a gemeariilai j co 
h-oioce a baip." 

" It is Brian that gave out seven monasteries, both furniture and cattle and land ; 
and thirty-two cloictheachs ; and it is by him the marriage ceremony was confirmed ; 
and it is during his time surnames were first given, and territories [were allotted] to 
the surnames, and the boundaries of every lordship and cantred were fixed ; and it is in 
his tune the degrees of chief, and poet, and ecclesiastic, were appointed. It is Brian 
also that never refused science from the night of his birth to the night of his death." 

The state of the country preceding the usurpation of Brian, and 
the necessity for such reforms and improvements by that monarch as 
are alluded to in the preceding notice, are very well illustrated by 
the following passage in Mageoghegan's translation of the Annals of 
Clonmacnoise, under the year 996, which is the date of Brian's ac- 
cession, according to the chronology of that work, but which should 
be the year 1002, according to the more correct chronology of Tigh- 
ernach : 

" A.D. 996. Bryan Borowe took the kingdome and government thereof out of the 
hands of King Moyleseaghlyn, in such manner as I do not intend to relate in this place; 
he was very well worthy of the Government, and reigned twelve years the most famous 
king of his time [or] that ever was before or after him, of the Irish nation, for Man- 
hood, Fortune, Manners, Laws, Liberality, Religion, and other many good parts, he 
never had his peere among them all, though some Chroniclers of the Kingdom made 
comparisons between him and Conkedcagh, Conaire More, and King Neale of the 
Nine hostages ; yett he in regard of the state of the Kingdome when he came to the 
government thereof was judged to bear the bell all ways from them all. At his first 
entrie into the Kingdome, the whole Realme was overrunn and overspread every 


where by the Danes : the Churches, Abbeys, and other religious places, were by them 
quite rased and debased, or otherwise turned to vile, base, servile, and abominable 
uses. Most of all, yea almost all the Noblemen, Gentlemen, and those that were of any 
accoumpt, were turned out of their Lands and Livings without any hope of recovery 
or future redressc, yea some of the best sort were compelled to servitude and bounden 
slavery, both Human La we and Gods fear were sett aside. In sume it was strange 
how men of any fashion cou'd use other men as the Danes did use the Irish-men at 
that time. But King Bryan Borowe was a meet salve to cure such festered Scares, all 
the phissick in the world cou'd not help it else where, in a small tune he banished the 
Danes, made up the Churches and Religious houses, restored the nobility to their 
Antient patrimony and possessions, and in fine brought all to a notable reformation." 

In addition to the devastations of the Northmen, the original 
Towers must, from the nature of their structure, have often suffered, 
or been destroyed from natural causes, as lightning and tempests ; 
and of such casualties we have a remarkable record in the Annals of 
Clonmacnoise, as translated by Mageoghegan, and which is particu- 
larly valuable, as indicating the number of structures of this kind 
that was in Ireland in the tenth century : 

" A. D. 981. There was such boisterous winds this year that it fell down many 
turrets, and amongst the rest it fell down violently the steeple of Louth and other 

I am further persuaded that some of the Towers were erected as 
late as the twelfth century, as their architectural characteristics suffi- 
ciently prove : and it is not improbable that the great Round Tower 
of Clonmacnoise, which is so remarkable for the beauty of its ma- 
sonry, may be of this late period ; for though the Registry of Clon- 
macnoise, a document of the fourteenth century, ascribes the erection 
of this Tower to Fergal O'Rourke, king of Connaught, about the 
middle of the tenth century, yet, as I have already shown, in treating 
of the church at the same place, called Teampull Finghin, Part II, 
pp. 267, 268, that document is of a character too apocryphal to en- 
title it to much weight, when opposed to the authentic annals of the 
country. The passage in the Registry, relative to the erection of 
this Tower, as translated from the original Irish for Sir James Ware, 
by the celebrated Duald Mac Firbis, is as follows : 

" And the same O'Euairk of his devotion towards y e church undertook to repair 
those churches, and keep them in reparation during his life upon his own chardges, 
and to make a Causey, or Togher from y e place called Cruan na Feadh to lubhar 
Conaire, and from Jubhar to the Loch ; and the said Fergal did perform it, together 
with all other promises y l he made to Cluain, and the repayring of that number of 


Chapels or Cells, and the making of that Causey, or Togher, and hath for a monument 
built a small steep castle or steeple, commonly called in Irish Claicthough, in Cluain, 
as a memorial of his own part of that Cemetarie : and the said Fergal hath made all 
those Cells before specified in mortmain for him and his heirs to Cluain ; and thus 
was the sepulture of the O'Ruairks bought." 

It might be inferred, however, from the following entry in the 
Chronicon Scotorum, that this Tower was of much later date than 
that ascribed to it in the Registry : 

"A. D. 1124. Qn cloicreach mop Cluana JTlac Noip o'opbuo la JJ'olla Cpipc 
h-Ua ITIaoileoin, 7 la CoipoealBac h-Ua Concupaip." 

"A. D. 1124, The great cloictheach of Clonmacnoise was finished by Giolla Christ 
O'Malone, and by Turlogh O'Conor." 

Thus also in a similar entry in the Annals of the Four Masters at 
the same year : 

" A. D. 1 124. popbao cloicccije Cluana TTlac Hoip la h-Ua TDaoileoin co- 
riiapba Chiapam." 

" A. D. 1 124. The finishing if the cloictheach of Clonmacnoise by O'Malone, suc- 
cessor <;f St. Ciaran." 

Dr. O'Conor, indeed, translates the preceding entry as if it only 
recorded the covering or roofing of the Tower, thus : 

" A. D. 1 124. Operimentum Campanilis Cluanse Mac Nois factum per O'Maloneum, 
Vicarium Ciarani." 

But though it is possible that the annalists intended to record 
the making or restoration of the roof only, the verb popbao, which 
they employ, properly signifies to finish, or complete. However, it 
seems in the highest degree unlikely that an ecclesiastical establish- 
ment of such high importance for many centuries earlier, and the 
seat of a bishopric at least from the ninth century, should have been 
without an abbey or cathedral belfry till so late a period : and this 
improbability will appear stronger when we call to mind that one of 
the inferior churches of the place had its own little cloictheach, as I 
have already shown, of a much earlier date, and that one of its abbots 
was the erector of the cloictheach of Tomgraney nearly two centuries 
previously: and it is therefore not likely that this abbot would have 
left Clonmacnoise without such a usual and necessary appendage, if 
it had been previously wanting. I am, therefore, of opinion that the 
great cloictheach of this place was erected at least as early as the year 
908, when the daimliag mor, or cathedral, standing opposite it, in the 
usual position, was erected by the monarch Flann O'Melaghlin and 


the abbot Colman ; and I think it most probable that the fact rela- 
tive to its erection by Fergal O'Rourke, as stated in the Registry, 
was only a tradition founded on the circumstance of the O'Rourkes 
having their place of sepulture near it ; and, consequently, that the 
entry in the annals only relates to a subsequent restoration of it, ren- 
dered necessary by some accidental circumstance not recorded. 

That this Tower was, indeed, repaired at a period long subse- 
quent to its erection, there is abundant evidence in the masonry of 
the building itself, the upper portion being of coarse jointed masonry 
of limestone, while the greater part of the tower below it is of close 
jointed ashlar sandstone ; and besides, it is quite obvious that the 
Tower, when such restoration was made, was reduced considerably 
in its original height, as proportioned to its circumference. It can 
scarcely be doubted, however, that this restoration is of still later 
date than that recorded by the annalists at the year 1124, as we find 
the following entry in the Chronicon Scotorum, and the Annals of 
the Four Masters, relative to the destruction of the top of the Tower 
by lightning, in the year 1135. 

"A. D. 1135. Ceme paijne'm DO Be^m a climb DO cloicreach Cluana mac 
Noip, ajup DO rollao cloiceeac Ruip Cp6." 

" A. D. 1135. Lightning struck its roof off the doictheach of Clonmacnoise, and 
pierced the doictheach of Roscrea." 

But, be this as it may, we have a decisive evidence in the Annals 
of the Four Masters to prove that this Tower of Clonmacnoise, if 
not the smaller one also, was appropriated to the use of a belfry, and 
known by the same name as originally, so late as the year 1552, when 
Clonmacnoise was plundered by the English garrison of Athlone, 
an event of which the tradition of the place still preserves, with all 
its details, as lively an impression, as if it had been only of recent 
occurrence. It is thus pathetically recorded: 

"A. D. 1552. Innpao 7 opccam Cluana mac Noip la 5 a '-l' al ^ CIca luam, 
7 na cluicc mopa DO Bpeic tip an j-cloiccceac. Nt po paccaBao pop clocc beaj 
na mop, lovhaij, naalcoip, na leaBap, na jemao, piu jlome h-i B-pumneoicc 6 
Balla na h-eccailpi amac nac puccao eipce. 6a cpuaj cpa an jjniom pin, inopao 
carpac Ciapain, an naom eplaiih." 

" A. D. 1552. Clonmacnoise was plundered and devastated by the Galls (English) 
of Athlone, and the large bells were carried from the doictheach. There was not left, 
moreover, a bell, small or large, an image, or an altar, or a book, or a gem, or even 

3 E 


glass in a window, from the wall of the church out, which was not carried off. 
Lamentable was this deed, the plundering of the city of Ciaran, the holy patron." 

But, whatever may be the period of the erection of the great Tower 
of Clonmacnoise, I have found a decisive evidence of the erection of 
many Towers, as late as the middle of the twelfth century, in the fol- 
lowing curious and important entry in an ancient Antiphonarium, 
formerly belonging to the cathedral church of Armagh, but preserved 
inUssher's collection of manuscripts ( Class B, Tab. I. No. 1), in the 
Library of Trinity College, Dublin. I should add that the age of the 
original of this entry is obviously that of O'Carroll, prince of Oriel, 
whose death it was intended to record, and that the authenticity of the 
facts enumerated is unquestionable. 

" Kal. Ian. .u. p. 1. ;c. Qnno t)omim m.c.lxpc. Opaib ap t)honnchao h-Ua 
CepbaiU, ap aipb-pij; Qipjiall, lap a n-bepnao leabup Cnuic na n-Qppcal a 
/ujma6, 7 ppim-lebuip uipt> bliabnaibe, 7 ppim-leabuip aipppmn. Ip e Don an 
an-pi cebna po cumbai^ an mumipcip uile icip cloic 7 cpann, 7 cue epic 7 pepanb 
ppia, bo pair a anma u n-anoip p6il 7 pecuip. Ip leip bon pc h-arnui^eb an 
eajlup a rip Oip^iall, 7 bo ponub epjjoboibe piajjulla, 7 cucab an eujlup pop 
comup epcoip. Ip 'n a aimpp po jabuo becrhao, 7 po paemab popao, 7 po 
cumbaijrea ecalpa, 7 bo ponca ceampaill 7 cloicri^i, 7 po h-arnurn^cea mai- 
nipcpe manac 7 cananac 7 caillec n-bub, 7 bo ponair neiriieba. Ip lac po co pe 
5pepa bo ponaic ppia pair, 7 pe pi^e i cip Oip^iall, .1. mamipcep na manac pop 
bpu 6omne ibep cloic 7 cpann aibrhe, 7 libpa 7 epic 7 pepanb i pil .c. manac 7 
rpi .c. conuenp 7 mamipcep cananac C"epmamb peicin 7 Hlainipcep cailler, 7 
ceampoll mop Cepmamn pheicm, 7 ceampoll tepca Peicm 7 ceampoll # * ." 

" Kalend. Januar. v.feria, lun. x. Anno Domini m. c. Ixx. A prayer for Donnchadh 
O'Carrol, supreme king of Airgiall, by whom were made the book of Cnoc na n-Apstal 
at Louth, and the chief books of the order of the year, and the chief books of the 
mass. It was this great king who founded the entire monastery both [as to] stone 
and wood, and gave territory and land to it, for the prosperity of his soul, in honor of 
[SS.] Paul and Peter. By him the church throughout the land of Oirghiall was re- 
formed, and a regular bishoprick was made, and the church was placed under the 
jurisdiction of the bishop. In his time tithes were received, and the marriage 
[ceremony] was assented to, and churches were founded, and temples and cloictheachs 
were made, and monasteries of monks, and canons, and nuns were re-edified, and 
nemheds were made. These are especially the works which he performed, for the pros- 
perity [of his soul] and reign, in the land of Airghiall, namely, the monastery of monks 
on the bank of the Boyne [both as to] stone and wooden furniture, and books, and 
territory and land, in which [monastery] there are one hundred monks, and three 
hundred conventuals, and the monastery of canons ofTermannFeichin, and the monas- 
tery of nuns, and the great church of Termann Fheicin, and the church of Lepadh 
Feichin, and the church of * * * ." 


In conclusion, I have only to add, that it would appear probable, 
from the following record in the Annals of the Four Masters, that 
at least one Round Tower was erected so late as the year 1238, at 
Annadown, in the County of Galway : 

" A. D. 1238. Cloicceac Ganai^ oum DO o6nam." 

" A. D. 1238. The Cloictheach of Eanach duin was erected." 

As there is no belfry now remaining at Annadown, it may be t 
uncertain whether this cloictheach was of the usual ancient round form, 
or of the quadrangular shape, and connected with the church, as 
generally adopted in Ireland at the period of the Anglo-Norman in- 
vasion ; but if it be remembered that this Tower is mentioned as a 
distinct structure, and that its locality was one still peculiarly Irish, 
while, on the other hand, the square belfry never appears as a distinct 
structure, it will be scarcely doubted that this was a tower of the 
original Irish kind, and if so, probably one of the last of its class 
erected in the kingdom. 

But whether this cloictheach of Annadown was of the regular 
Round Tower form or not, it cannot be doubted that some of the 
Towers existing, or recently so, and particularly those attached to the 
churches, were of a date but little anterior to the thirteenth century, 
as that of Trummery, in the County of Antrim, and the Tower which 
was attached to Trinity Church at Glendalough, and those at Dungiven 
and Tamlaghtfmlagan, in the County of Londonderry, of all which 
descriptions will be given in the Third Part of this Inquiry. Such 
deviations from the ancient custom of keeping the belfries detached 
from the churches are in themselves sufficient evidences that they 
belong to a later period, and their architectural peculiarities in all 
these instances satisfactorily prove the fact. In like manner, it might 
be inferred that the round turret belfries placed upon the churches, 
of which there are two or three examples remaining, are also of com- 
paratively recent date, and indicate the transition to the more modern 
and general usage with respect to belfries ; and this inference would 
be sustained by a passage of great antiquity in the Life of St. Moling, 
preserved in the Rook of Leinster, a compilation of the twelfth cen- 
tury. This passage occurs in a prophecy attributed to the saint, who, 
it is stated, had had a vision, in which it was revealed to him that 
he himself was the person predestined to bring about the abolition 

3 E 2 


of an oppressive tax called the Borumha Laigliean, which the people 
of Leinster had for centuries paid to the royal family of Tara, but 
which had been remitted for a time by the reigning monarch, Fin- 
nachta Fleadhach. But the king coming afterwards into Leinster, 
with a numerous army, to enforce its payment, was met by St. Moling, 
who told him of his vision, and predicted, in the following verses, 
what impossibilities and strange occurrences should take place be- 
fore this revelation would be nullified : 

" Copbap caippje ap baipje oonna, 
Copbap conna ap jl-app linne, 
Copbap clocrije op cella, 
Nipap ella aiplmje." 

" Until rocks grow upon brown oaks, 
Until boisterous waves be on green pools, 
Until cloictheachs be [placed] over churches, 
This vision shall not prove delusive." 

But, though this ancient passage clearly indicates the general and 
prevailing custom of the country, in the seventh century, as to the 
separateness of the belfries from the churches, it does not necessarily 
follow that no example of their junction had existed in St. Moling's 
time, as it should, perhaps, be rather inferred that a knowledge of 
the existence of some such example, considered as a singularity, had 
suggested the improbability of such a general innovation ; or, that the 
verses were fabricated at a period, when the tribute referred to was 
reimposed, and when the innovation had been, to some extent, adopted. 

But, however this may be, some of the specimens of Round Tower 
belfries, placed upon the churches in Ireland, indicate a very early 
antiquity ; and though, possibly, they may not be in every instance 
coeval with the churches on which they are placed, they can hardly 
be of a date long subsequent to them. At all events, examples of 
belfries upon the churches must have been familiar to the Irish in 
the ninth century, as we find that, at least, one such, and most pro- 
bably a round one, as the Lombard steeples usually were, was 
erected on the church of St. Columbanus, at Bobbio, when the abbot 
Agilulfus, who flourished between the years 883 and 905, re-erected 
that church, as appears from the following passage in the Miranda S. 
Columbani Abbatis, cap. 1. 

" Ipsam denique eandem Ecclesiam venerabilis Abbas Agilulfus exlapidibus struxit, 



turrimque super earn acdificauit, et campanas in ea fecit pendere, sicut mine cerni- 
tur." Fleming, Collectanea Sacra, p. 245. Florilegium, p. 240. 

This is a question, however, which will be more particularly con- 
sidered in connexion with the remaining examples of such church 
towers in the Third Part of this Inquiry. 

From the preceding evidences it will be perceived, that in deter- 
mining the respective ages of the several Round Towers in Ireland, 
we must be almost entirely guided, as in the case of the early 
churches, by their architectural details, always comparing such de- 
tails with those of the churches whose dates are determined, or may 
be fairly presumed ; and such an examin