Monday, 20 May 2013

Grangefertagh Church and Round Tower

Today I visited this wonderful Round Tower and ruined church near Johnstown in County Kilkenny. The monastery was probably founded by St. Ciarán of Saighir in the late 5th or early 6th century close to a crossing point on the River Goul. The site was called Fearta-Caerach in the Annals of the Four Masters. The Annals record that in 861 King Cearbhall of Ossory killed a host of Vikings at Fearta Na gCaireach, and took forty of their heads.  
The killing of the foreigners at Fearta Na gCaireach, by Cearbhall, so that forty heads were left to him, and that he banished them from the territory.
Today the site is a sub-rectangular graveyard with a well-preserved Round Tower and remains of a church but the original site would have been a much larger, probably oval to circular area. The Round Tower, which acted as the bell tower of the monastery, is the only surviving part of the original monastery. The Tower, one of the tallest in Ireland  has 8 floors and is 33m high. Each level was reached by a ladder. The other upstanding remains are of an Augustinian monastery church, west of the tower. The Abbey was founded by the Blanchfield family in the thirteenth century. The remains of the church have been converted to a handball alley. A better preserved side chapel contains the fine late gothic tomb of Brian Mac Giolla Phádraig, Lord of Ossory, who died about 1540. The tomb has effigies of Brian in armour and his wife with fine gothic carving. 

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