Monday, 24 October 2016
These ancient ruins are of the Church of St Michael. It is believed to have been constructed before 1297 as attested on a plaque positioned on the South wall. It is also believed to have been commissioned by the De St Michael family notable Normans who were patrons of The Crouched Friars having built a monastery for them. This parish Church may have been built for the friars or perhaps the Dominicans who were also preaching in the area at the time although it would lean more towards the Crouched Friars in light of their patrons. It appears to have been in use until the new Church was built in the 1800’s but it was already in disrepair from the 1650’s onward.
You enter the graveyard in which the ruins lie from a roadside gate on the N78 on the East side of Athy. The older section of this graveyard even predates the Church as a place of burial and it is also thought that the dead of the Battle of Ardschull are buried here following the ransacking of Athy by Robert the Bruce in 1315.
The remains of the Church consist of the West Gable, a section of the Southern wall and a small section of the Northern wall. The East gable and remains of The North wall and South Wall have completely collapsed and only foundations or rubble remain. Indeed the rest of the ruins have now been deemed unstable and so some unsightly fencing has been erected around it blocking the still existing doorway in the South wall. The font of the Church is reputedly buried in a grave within the Church.
The ruins are in a very bad state and there is ivy encroaching on the West gable. An unsightly warning sign has been erected on the outside of the gable just adding to the general malaise of the place. This ancient Church is in need of some restoration soon or it may be lost forever. Even in its dilapidated state it has a commanding aspect especially when viewed from the lower graveyard under the West gable.
Throughout our visit we were observed intensely by the only other live occupant of the graveyard, a black & white cat who crouched by the ruins (a sentinel maybe! ) but other than that there was absolutely nobody else about.
To find the ruins take the junction 3 exit on the M9 and take the exit for the N78 heading West. Drive for approx. 8KM and you will reach a roundabout. Go straight through and continue on the N78 for approx. 900m and you will see the semi-circular entrance gate to St Michael’s cemetery on your right. There is no parking allowed anywhere close outside of the cemetery but there is room just inside the gate to fit one or two cars, so this is your best option.
Wednesday, 12 October 2016
This is a very ancient site and I wasn’t sure if there were any remains of the old Church left but in fact a remnant does exist.
The Church must have been constructed before 1220AD as that is when it was recorded as being annexed by Archbishop of Dublin Henry De Loundres. There was also the cell of a Hermitess here at Ballymadun at this time. The Church was dedicated to All Saints and was probably abandoned after the dissolution in the mid sixteenth century. Indeed it is recorded in John D’Alton’s History of Co Dublin in 1838 as being in complete ruin with one side covered in Ivy. The graveyard was taken under the control of Fingal Co Council in 1939.
The graveyard in which the ruins lie is located at the bottom of a narrow lane adjacent to the Fox Inn pub on a back road from Ashbourne in the townland of Ballymadun. A gate remains unlocked but there is also a large stone stile for access. What remains of the Church now is scant to say the least. All that exists is a long section of the Southern wall standing a little over 2 feet in height with a gap which one might suppose to have been the doorway. The low wall is capped with a flat stone and now seems to serve as a place of rest where you can sit and reflect on the surroundings. The location itself is a very calm and beautiful place and is well maintained and there are some very striking Yew trees in the enclosure. I’ve come across yew trees in many ecclesiastical sites and some have existed for many hundreds of years. apparently their longevity can stretch into thousands of years. It is thought that they were revered in ancient times because of their all year round foliage. While other trees lay bare in the winter the yew flourished providing cover from the weather and in the summertime, shade. This and the fact that the strong toxins in the roots created a clear area around them provided an ideal location to hold ceremonies. This reverence seems to have transferred to the later Christian times and many Churches and Abbeys were built in the vicinity of yews.
So, only a little to see here ruin wise but I’m glad we stopped to visit. It was a beautiful day and this part of the County is so tranquil that it set a good tone to the rest of our ruin hunting that day.
To find the remains of Ballymadun Church take the N2 Northbound from the M50. After approx. 4KM it becomes the M2. Continue until you reach a roundabout where the N2 continues to the left. Turn right at the roundabout onto the R135 for Ashbourne and about 350m later take the first left hand turn onto Ballymadun Road. Drive for approx. 1.2KM until you come to a fork in the road with a small triangular grass margin with a tree on it. Turn onto the right lane and drive until you reach the Fox Inn pub. The lane to the graveyard is to the right of the pub and you can drive down to the graveyard entrance gate where there is room for a couple of cars to park.