Friday, 2 January 2015

Taghmon Church & Castle Co Westmeath

                              Above Image: The entrance gate & stile (to the left)


                                    Above & Below Images: The Sheela-na-gig


                              Above Image: An ecclesiastical head carving above
                                                   Northern door

                                Above Image: Large machiolation on South wall

                                Above Image: An interior view of part of the cell



                               Above Image: View of the Castle from the Church

                                      Above & Below Images: Taghmon Castle




Located in the pleasant Westmeath countryside this impressive structure when first viewed from the road really demands your attention.
It was constructed as a parish Church in the mid 15th century on the site of an ancient 7th century monastery founded by St Munna (Aka St Fintan). The Church was greatly fortified primarily by it's stocky tower and also by its numerous crenellations. The Church had been ransacked in 1452 by Farrell MacGeoghegan and so the tower became a refuge for the clergy in the event of any further attack. After the reformation the Church was passed to the Nugent family who found out later during their tenure that Cromwell's army and according to rumour Cromwell himself was using it as a bivouac in order to attack their Castle. The Church being disused became almost ruinous by the early 17th century. Records show it as being revived in the 1750's and some restoration done around a century later creating a place of worship for the Church of Ireland Community. It is now no longer in use and under state care.
The two bay single cell interior has a vaulted roof as do some of the floors in the four storey tower. The interior is now an empty shell and usually locked up but there a few interesting features to the exterior.
The site is accessed by a stone stile directly to the left of a wrought iron gate. The first exterior feature that greets you is that of the Sheela-na-gig over the window in the North wall. These type of carvings that appear at first to be rude figures are actually an ancient form of effigy designed to ward off evil. They are found quite prolifically in both Ireland and Britain.There are also some ecclesiastical head carvings to be found on the other walls. On the South wall is a large machiolation which is another defence feature normally associated with fortified castles. This could be used to pour down boiling liquids or cast rocks on any assailants below.
The great fortified tower itself almost diminishes the nearby Taghmon Castle tower which now sits in a farm field slowly crumbling away and being increasingly infested by ivy. We were very impressed by the Church at Taghmon and it was well worth the time to visit. The Castle, which is accessed up a narrow lane way across from the Church, seems less impressive and in fact looks like it might have once been a corner turret for a larger structure. Access is possible over a field gate but bear in mind it is on private farm land. When we visited, a rather vocal hound of some sort was tearing at the hedgerow between us and him on the lane way to the Castle. Dogs and Bulls, the bane of Castlehunters!
To find Taghmon Church take the N4 heading West from Mullingar and take the junction 17 exit for the R394 signposted for Castlepollard & Crookedwood. Drive along the R394 for approx. 7KM and then take the right hand turn onto the L1618 at Murray's "The Wood" pub at Crookedwood. Drive for approx. 2KM and you will spot the Church on your right. You can park alongside on the road safely enough.

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