Monday, 7 August 2017

Tullaherin Monastic Site Co Kilkenny


                                              Above Image: Entrance gate




                           Above Image & Below 2 Images: Interior of the church




                                       Above Image: The large Ogham stone


                     Above Image: The tower entrance now looks like a gaping maw


                                Above Image & Below 2 Images: Stroan Fountain




This monastic site is associated with St Ciaran the elder who on returning from twenty years in Rome founded a monastery at Saighir and also here in Tullaherin sometime in the 5th-6th century. While none of the original structures survive at Tullaherin the site was deemed very important and was built upon during the next few centuries. The incomplete Round tower we see today stands approx. 73 feet high and was constructed in the 9th century and as with most towers was designed to protect the monks and their valuables from marauding Vikings. The tower is missing its conical top and indeed shows evidence of leaning somewhat. St Ciaran is reputed to be buried here, some believe in  the vicinity of the tower. The large ruins adjacent to the tower are of an 11th or 12th century Church which was added to in the 1400’s by the construction of a chancel. It is divided into two sections. After the dissolution the Church changed hands to serve the Protestant community and was greatly renovated in 1616. However, the 1837 ordnance survey map lists the church as being in ruins.
The site is very impressive. It is somewhat off the beaten track but is well worth a visit. We were directed here whilst visiting nearby Kilfane Church (see post here) by a local man binging his kids to see the magnificent medieval Knight effigy. We later ran into them again at Tullaherin. A combination of both places makes for a really rewarding journey.
Two Ogham stones were discovered here in the past one of which was removed from the site and rediscovered in the 1980’s propping up a gate on nearby lands. It was brought back to Tullaherin and placed adjacent to the South wall and close to the base of the tower. It still has some inscriptions upon it but they are fairly illegible.
I’m not sure if there is work going on here at the moment but there are warning signs placed on the church ruins to avoid entering the ruins. However you can pretty much get around what you need to see.
Two asides of interest. The first is the existence here of a cillin which is a rather sad thing to encounter. It is basically a kind of potter’s field for children. A mass burial site where unfortunately deceased and unbaptized infants were buried. This was usually situated nearby the consecrated graveyard but still outside the walls leaving them in some respect divorced from the normal populace. It was a common practice in early Ireland and there are numerous examples around the country. Very sad indeed. The other item of interest is on one of the approach roads to Tullherin. It is an ornate fountain called the Stroan fountain It was commissioned by Colonel Bushe of Kilfane House in 1766 using local limestone. Its purpose was to supply water to the tenants of his estate. It is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and was renovated but unfortunately the tantalisingly clear water flowing from it has at the moment a warning not to consume direct from the fountain due to bacteria present. Hopefully this will be resolved at some stage. 

Take the M9 heading South and exit at Junction 7 and at the top of the exit ramp take the left hand exit for the R448 (signposted for Thomastown). Continue straight through the next roundabout and on the subsequent roundabout turn right on to the continuance of the R448. Continue on through the villages of Gowran and Dungarvan and approx. 4KM out of Dungarvan you will find a right hand turn. Unfortunately there are no direction signs but if you pass the Long Man restaurant & bar on your right then you need to turn and go back approx. 500m and take the first left turn. Follow this road for approx. 1.75KM and you will reach a crossroads at Tullaherin Church. Turn left and you can park in the car park of the modern church. The monastic site is directly opposite.