Old Map of Killeshin
- (Click to enlarge)
above map is of Killeshin and clearly shows the location of The Round
Map provided by Carloman
"The site of an old monastery founded allegedly by St. Comdhan or
Comghan towards the end of the 5th century. The last historical
reference to the monastery is in 1082. An oratory here was destroyed in
1041 and the monastery was burned in 1077. The present church was built
in the 12th century, and has one of the finest Romanesque doorways in
the country. The doorway has four orders, with capitals bearing heads
with intertwined hair, an arch with foliage and animal motifs, the whole
being topped by a partially modern hood.
An inscription on the door which may possibly read 'A prayer for
Diarmait King of Leinster' might refer to a king of that name who died
in 1117, but the church was probably built some decades later. The
chancel is a later addition to the church and in the north wall it has a
window which is round-headed inside and pointed outside. There is an old
font beside the door. A round Tower, 105 feet high, lay to the
north-west of the church, but this was taken down in 1703 because the
owner feared that it might fall on his cattle!"
Source: Carlowman c2004
The Round Tower
The ancient Round Tower of Killeshin was
destroyed at the beginning of the XVIIIth century. The record of this
wanton vandalism reads:
“Monday 8th March. 1702/3 the steeple of
Killeshin, undermined and flung down by one Bambrick, employed by
Colonel Wolseley in three days’ work. At three o’clock in ye afternoon
ye steeple fell to ye grounds, being measured it was 105 feet high”
And thus it came to pass that the venerable
Round Tower that had cast its shadow over twenty generations of the
ancient barony folk of Sliabh--Mairge, was wantonly destroyed.
Sir Thomas Molyneux, who made a tour of
Ireland in 1709 and who visited Killeshin from “Cousin Best’s at
Knockbeg.’’ Now Knockbeg College, writes: “Near the foot of the mountain
on this road stands the old church of Killeshin, which is a very old
Here lately stood, over against the door of the church one of
the old round Steeples, which, I am told, was very high and well built,
so that when the owner of this place had it fallen, it came to the
ground in one solid piece, and was not even by the fall against the
ground so broke but that several vast pieces yet remain sticking
together so that you easily discover what this building was. It plainly
appears to be of the same building and age as the adjacent church, and
this was certainly an Irish building as appears from two inscriptions on
each side of the door as you enter, which I transcribed.’’
On 16 December I 838 Petrie wrote to
“I have read your account of that most
interesting church of Cill Oissean . . . I grieve that the inscriptions
are more mutilated than I had supposed . . . and that many of these
mutilations are recent. There can be no doubt that these inscriptions
are coeval with . . . the church and ... the round tower, for according
to a writer in Ware’s Antiquities these buildings were of the same age”
Petrie then refers to the barbarian who had
the tower pulled down, one Colonel Wolseley, for which act of vandalism
the "Protestant Bishop of Leighlin was very displeased with him. This
Col. Wolseley got estates in that part of the country after the
revolution of 1688 and they are still in possession of his descendants,
one of whom is a baronet. I will hand him down to posterity with
additional honours, in my work on the Round Towers of Ireland.
Tower of Cill Oissean was a high one and from the elegance of the
contemporary church to which it belonged. I should not be surprised if
it had been raised, as you state, on four small pillars. The thing is
quite possible and the effect would have been singularly striking.
I quite concur with you that this church and tower were erected in the
12th century, though it is most probable that the church occupied the
site of an earlier ecclesiastical edifice. I had caused drawings of the
church and doorway to be made for me some years ago when the
inscriptions were more perfect than now and it is from these drawings of
the doorway that I got my first clue to the date of the church.
About the same time (1708) the chancel arch of the church and a great
part of the south wall were also demolished. It is said that the latter
contained two round-headed windows, widely splayed on the inside and
similar to those yet remaining on the north wall.”
Yet Dr. O’Donovan wrote: "I never saw nor
heard of a Round Tower which stood on pillars. I incline to the belief
that it was a real Cloighteach, coeval with the doorways, but I think
that the pillars mentioned as having supported it might have been added
in later times when the lower part had become holed". Adjoining
the old church in Castlequarter is an extensive mound about thirty feet
high and surrounded by a deep fosse. A castle is said to have stood here
and to have been pulled down about 1791. There is or was a tradition
that a large town extended from Killeshin to Sletty.
Sir Charles Coote
in his Statistical Account of Queen’s Co. states that a town stood at
Killeshin in modern times: that at Killeshin were the (‘n. Gaol and
Courthouse where the Assizes were held: also the Governor’s mansion, a
fort and public buildings. The elevation on which the Church of the Holy
Cross stands was called Cnoc an Chrochaire or Gallows Hill. 0’ Donovan
however thinks ii. highly improbable that there ever was anything like a
large town at Killeshin.
The humble chapel which preceded the present
church of the Holy Cross stood at the crossroad of Clonmore on the road
to Carlow. Opposite the site of the old chapel was the Spa of Killeshin,
the healing qualities of which are eloquently set out by Dr. Francis Hayden in his pamphlet, the
- 1. A small shed which belonged
to the Spa is there still.
- 1. Medical Hall, Carlow. 1822.
Comerford, Collections I.
- Previously published in 'The Parish of
KILLESHIN, Graiguecullen'. by P.MacSuibhne. 1972.
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